Liz Currently Loves…Dodger by James Benmore.



So I recently read “Dodger” by James Benmore – review to follow – but first I tracked him down to find out some more about the novel as well as some other things and here is what he had to tell me.


How did it start for you, this road of bringing the Artful Dodger back to life?


The Artful Dodger is one of my favourite characters in all fiction and I’ve always been interested to know what his continuing adventures might be like. The scene in Oliver Twist in which Jack Dawkins is up in court for stealing a silver snuff box and proceeds to give the magistrate and the arresting officer nothing but lip is a great example of the comic exuberance that Dickens was such a master of. That said, I’ve often been disappointed that we never saw the irrepressible boy thief again after that. He’s packed off to Australia for six years and Dickens never even tells us what became of him. Soon after he leaves England the rest of his criminal community – Fagin, Nancy, Sikes, etc, are all destroyed in horrible ways and I wondered what it would be like for him to return home and discover that. I imagined that he would be furious with Oliver Twist for bringing about those events and this thought was the one that really inspired my novel. I don’t just want to tell his story but I also wanted to tell it from his point of view.

Do you have a favourite original character from “Dodger”?

That would definitely be Warrigal, the aborigine who returns with Dodger from his time in Australia and is fraudulently posing as his colonial valet. He’s the dark shadow to Jack throughout the book, following him silently throughout his journey and his motives are mysterious. I liked writing him because he’s the opposite of Jack in many ways. Jack never stops talking but Warrigal communicates largely through behaviour. Jack is a thief but Warrigal – he is told – is a killer. But Warrigal became more of a moral character as I continued to write him because he doesn’t lie and has a greater sense of honour than Jack does.


Are you a Dickens fan generally?

Hugely. There are few writers I admire more. It was a great honour for me last year when I was asked to be writer-in-residence at Gad’s Hill School in Rochester, Kent which was his former home. The best part of my first visit was when the Head of English took me into his old study – the one from all those illustrations – and I saw a copy of Dodger there on the shelves. I hope the ghost of Dickens isn’t too disgusted by my impertinence in writing it. I have visions of it being found lying on the floor on the office every morning after he’s tossed it across the room.


Can you tell us what’s next for Dodger and friends?


The sequel to the book is called Dodger of the Dials and is out in June. Its two years later and Jack is now running his small criminal gang from the Seven Dials vicinity in London and trying to approach the criminal life in a more professional way. He’s a burglar to order and he gets hired to steal particular items from particular properties. This, as you can imagine, gets him into all sorts of trouble.


Desert Island Book


If I was stuck on a desert island I would want a fat classic to keep me company. I’ve always been interested in Don Quixote by Cervantes but its so massive that its just sat on my book shelf gathering dust for years. Perhaps on a desert island I would finally get around to reading it.


Something you wish you were good at but are not


Poetry. I love reading it and hearing it but when it comes to writing it myself I get paralysed. I’m a very self-conscious poet and the only time I’ve ever really tried was as part of a writing course. I’m much more comfortable telling stories.


What would be your dream job not involving writing


I’d like a job that pays a lot of money for very little effort. If you hear of anything then do let me know.


No 1 item on your bucket list


I’ve always wanted a red metal bucket with the word FIRE on in white letters. The sort that clowns use when they are pretending to be firemen. Have I misunderstood the question?

Ha! Thanks James!



London, 1850s.

After five years in an Australian penal colony, the Artful Dodger returns to London in search of a hidden fortune. Unaware of the fate that befell Twist, Fagin and Sikes, Dodger revisits the criminal underworld of Dickensian London to seek out his old comrades, any of whom might possess the key to the treasure.

I had my eye on this one for a while before I actually read it – I’m not a huge Dickens fan (Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities being the two I loved)  but one of his characters I always adored was The Artful Dodger. So I wavered between not wanting that character spoiled for me but also extremely intrigued to see what a new writer could do.

Well I loved it. Pretty much perfectly done I would say. Still capturing the ambience and feel of the times, giving Dodger new heart and voice then sending us on a rollicking adventure all around the streets of London and beyond, this was the most fun I’d had with a novel in a long long time.

A “treasure hunt” of a tale, this expands beautifully on Mr Dickens original mythology, giving extra heart to Fagin’s kitchen, a well imagined expansion of some well loved characters and introduces us to some new ones all of whom are extremely well drawn. Oh I did love Warrigal, and there is also a most terrifically villainous villain to boot. It is addictive, humerous, fascinating and most of all, fun to read.

Not that I presume to speak for long gone authors, but I’m fairly convinced Mr Dickens would approve. As a reader I certainly approve – another adventure awaits in “Dodger of the Dials” coming later this year and I will be the very first in line. No doubt about it.

Highly Recommended.

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Happy Reading Folks!






Cherringham – A Mystery for every month of the Year – Author Interview.


The latest instalment of the Cherringham mysteries is now available – Murder by Moonlight – and I was lucky enough to get co-authors Neil Richards and Matthew Costello to answer a few questions for me on writing together and other interesting titbits – here is what they had to tell me.


What gave you the idea to write a series together?

Matthew: Neil had been talking to people at Bastei Luebbe who wanted to create an episodic cosy mystery series, set in the UK. We on our own had been discussing a different kind of sleuthing ‘team’, so as talks went along we started to work on a small outline of what would become Cherringham, anchored by the fact that the team would be the retired NYPD detective, Jack Brennan, working with single mum, Sarah Edwards.

Neil : Matt and I have worked together as TV writers since the late 90’s and even from the beginning we’ve been looking for a format which takes advantage of my UK background and his life-long knowledge of New York. We wrote a YA novel together last year and realised that we could use the same writing processes we developed for TV in the world of mystery crime novels.

A lot of people are interested in how it works – do you each write for separate characters and/or parts of the plot? Chapter by chapter?

Matthew: Ideally, and when we can, we brainstorm ideas in person, snippets really, of what would make a good mystery.

Then — again best face to face — we begin to zero in on those that most interest us and seem to best fit the Cherringham world. The outlines have been fairly detailed, though writing does change everything. But that level of detail allows us to swap pages back and forth., usually after 25-30 or so. We edit each other before hitting new pages. And in a month’s time—you have a new Cherringham mystery!

Neil: Sometimes we have to make do with Skype. But for Cherringham we’ve rented cottages in the Cotswolds for a week at a time and spent full-on days building the world, finding the characters, looking for story ideas etc. It’s vital that we both ‘see’ the same world. In fact, our fictional Cherringham has become so detailed that we’ve had to create a street map for the village marked with characters (80 so far and counting) plus unfortunate victims of course…

Are you fans of cosy mysteries yourself – or perhaps Agatha Christie?

Matthew: I just gave a speech on the series aboard Queen Victoria (where we arrive at Easter island tomorrow)…and someone asked that very question. Before I began writing, I devoured everything. I had my favourite genres….horror, suspense, SF…. but loved Holmes, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and a host of other mystery writers.

With my first novels, I was pulled into what seemed like a best fit for me, suspense and horror—which is a very different style. But this collaboration has allowed me to play with Neil in a world, and with a tone and voce, that I love.

Neil : I grew up in a house full of books – and my parents were both lovers of crime fiction. So I’ve inherited shelves of green Penguins. Many of those great mystery writers were my first adult fiction – and since then I’ve also become an inveterate crime and thriller reader. Before embarking on this series I went back into some of those classics – Josephine Tey, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh etc. And of course Agatha Christie.  I’m avoiding contemporary cosies – I really don’t want to steal someone’s plot by mistake!

Is there a lot of future planning involved for Jack and Sarah or is it more organic?

Matthew: Think I hit this a bit above…we have a host of possible mysteries. We are currently finishing #6, and number 7 has a pretty solid outline. But should the series continue, or even morph into full-length novels, we have a lot of ideas. And like a lot of reviewers and readers, we’ve grown to love our characters, the village and of course the mysteries!

Neil: Yes, as Matt says – we’ve fallen in love with the world and the characters.  In our first week of planning we came up with around 30 plots.  And – this is something we learned in TV – if the stories come thick and fast then you can really tell that the architecture of the world is solid.
It would make a great TV series – if you could cast it who would you give the lead roles to?

Matthew: I might be telling tales out of school, but for Jack Brennan, Tom Selleck would be perfect. You can ‘hear’ him saying Jack’s lines. For Sarah—I would defer to Neil (in my mind I see a younger Emma Thompson…) Perhaps Kate Winslet?

Neil : I feel I really know Sarah the single mum, whose real-life obstacles will be familiar to anyone who’s got teenage kids (I have two!). Matt’s right about Kate Winslet – she is about the right age. But I’d rather stay out of the casting game – I’m happy for the Sarah in my head to remain anonymous!
Favourite author/comfort reading.

Matthew: After devouring all genres, all the great authors, I have become a rather committed reader of non-fiction. I think (or believe) this is because when I read fiction…it draws me back to my own work, problems unsolved, plot points needed…and then there’s the matter of comparing the writing (mine versus whoever)…and suddenly, it’s definitely not r&r.

So for me, history, biography…current amazing and string recommendation, The Trip to Echo Spring,  by Olivia Laing, a book on the lives of some of America’s most important writers (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, etc) and their relationship to drinking. The tales are incredible, the insights marvellous…and the author’s writing is so clear and powerful. Best book I’ve read in a long time.

Neil : Well, I’ve worked my way through Scandi-crime (I fell in love with Wallander years ago)… If there’s a Jack Reacher at the airport that I haven’t read I’ll definitely grab it. I absolutely love the works of Alan Furst. Right now I’m in the middle of Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy, triggered by the current WW1 anniversaries – serious bed-time reading to stop my wife telling me that all I ever read are thrillers…

Dream job if you were not a writer.

Matthew: Gee. I have been a teacher, which I loved. And I could still love it. Kids, not adults. They are a gift to work with.

Neil : I’ve had a spell as a university teacher. I do like mentoring – especially to do with my first love, movie screenwriting.  Should have been an actor? Would love to be a director…

Favourite thing to do on a lazy Sunday.

Matthew: On each and every Sunday, my wife and I run a program, gratis, where we have been trained to help family members deal with their loved ones who have mental illness. (For information see;

Not exactly relaxing, but to help people in a world where such help is rare….that is another gift. Then home to a yummy lunch (I cook!), shovel snow (that’s all it does in NYC anymore!), play a round of one of my miniature wargames (shh…don’t tell anyone) then, as the sun sets, like our hero Jack, a pre-dinner martini with my wife.

Having written the above, does not sound like such a bad way…to spend a Sunday.

Neil: I’m terrible at taking time off.  Takes at least a week on holiday before I stop urging the family not to get up early and go off to ‘see things’.  Just have to be active – the result of doing a job which involves sitting at a keyboard for long days.

So I guess I’d start with a run (I’m so lucky, living in the New Forest that I have my own deserted trails to run), long bath, ALL the Sunday papers… Better still all the family would be home (my eldest is now off at uni) so a busy lunch then a walk (if I can drag the mob with me) then Sunday roast. Like Matt, I’m the cook in the family – we’re very careful when we cook for each other, I can tell you!

Murder By Moonlight – Episode Three. Review.


Just two weeks to go before the Cherringham Charity Christmas Concert. Choir rehearsals are in full swing. Then the worst thing happens: Kirsty Kimball, one of the singers, is found dead from a severe allergic reaction to one of the home-made rehearsal cakes. Jack is pulled in to help bolster the depleted choir – and soon he’s convinced that Kirsty’s death was no accident. Sarah agrees, and quickly the two of them are immersed in the jealousies, rivalries and passions of Cherringham’s Rotary Club choir …

Another adventure for Jack and Sarah and I have to say these get better and better – mainly I think because the more I read, the more I come to love the characters. Extremely well drawn and feeling more and more like real people as we go, I can easily imagine them in the Cherringham setting, chasing down clues and discovering hidden secrets. This time murder by cake it seems, which certainly appealed to me!

Each new instalment brings us a lovely little mystery to solve and develops the setting and the people beautifully – I’m actually becoming more of a fan of this “series” idea as we go, even  though I was sceptical at first, usually wanting a longer read. These really are perfect to pick up on a Sunday afternoon or on a train journey when you want a complete reading experience in a shorter amount of time.

Perfect little chunks of reading joy, I would certainly recommend them and look forward to Part 4.

Oh and as an aside – Kate Winslett and Tom Selleck. Exactly who I had in my head. I can’t help it…

You can follow Neil on Twitter here:

Purchase Information: (Part One)

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Happy Reading Folks!

Liz Currently Loves….Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey.


Coming June 5th From Penguin.

Thank you for the advanced copy via Netgalley.

Maud’s been getting forgetful. She keeps buying peach slices when she has a cupboard full, forgets to drink the cups of tea she’s made and writes notes to remind herself of things. But Maud is determined to discover what has happened to her friend, Elizabeth, because Elizabeth is missing..

I seem to have done something without realising it at the time and that is to read a few books all in a row that use memory as a tool to tell a story. I recently re-read the magnificent “Before I go to Sleep” by S J Watson and just after that Emma Chapman’s “How to be a Good Wife”. Both very different books, looking at memory in very different ways and both utterly compelling.

Now here we have “Elizabeth is Missing” where again, how our memory works is at the heart of the story and again with another twist and completely and utterly compelling. Maud suffers from dementia, she is forgetful, has to write herself notes to keep up with her own life and often stumbles in her quest to do the simplest things. Watched over by carers and by her daughter, despite her ups and downs, she keeps insisting that Elizabeth is missing. This is extremely frustrating to those around her but even more, one would imagine, to Maud as she keeps losing the threads of her discoveries, but always ends up at the same place. No matter what anyone else says – Elizabeth IS missing. So is she?

There are two sides to this novel  – the mystery element – where is Elizabeth and is she actually missing and the more emotional raw side when it comes to issues of age and memory loss . Told entirely by Maud we see how her mind works – or doesnt – and it is both sad and yet extraordinarily addictive reading. As she flits from one thought to another a picture emerges – of her life growing up, things that affected her, and how much more clearly she remembers her past in comparison to her present. As she writes more and more little notes about the things she needs to remember, then forgets what the note meant in the first place, its heartbreaking and fascinating all at the same time. Beautifully done with a realistic touch and cleverly written so that you can feel not only Maud’s frustration but that of those around her, this really is the most amazing read.

Memory is a strange thing. Never stranger than when it isnt working as it should. And as a basis for a heartbreaking, emotional rollercoaster of a reading experience it is brilliant. And used to stunning effect here in what I am sure will be one of the debut’s of the year.

Highly Recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!




The People in the Photo – Interview with Helene Gestern.


Hélène Gestern was born in 1971. She teaches and researches in the field of linguistics at CNRS and sits on the editorial committee of a literary review dedicated to autobiographical writing. Her first novel, The People in the Photo, won more than 20 literary awards and draws upon, among other things, her interests in photography and cats. She lives and works in Nancy.

Recently I read the magnificent “The People in the Photo” from author Helene Gestern, translated by Emily Boyce and Ros Schwartz. It was a wonderful emotional story. I was lucky enough to be able to ask her a few questions recently and here is what she had to say.

The People in the Photo is a wonderful emotional story – was it inspired by an actual photograph or event?

The whole story is a fiction; except the description of Saint-Malo’s strand, pictures described in the novel are fictive. What is actual (some elements are) appear in the book after deep transposition.
The characters go on an amazing life affirming journey – for you, was it very much a tale of redemption?

I don’t think in terms of redemption: the word would suggest that the main characters, Hélène and Stéphane, have committed a fault, and they haven’t. What they attempt together, step by step, is to understand why their respective families have chosen to keep so heavy secrets; but mainly to accept their parents’ past without blaming them. Although some revelations are painful, they will also learn to love, maybe in a different way, these two persons they knew so briefly or so few. When I’m asked what The People in the Photo is about, I sometimes answer that its main issue is indulgence.
Does the concept of how past events can influence and affect our present intrigue you?

Certainly. Our family history is a legacy, and it can be poisoned by ancient tragedies, silences, mistakes… I read many autobiographies and I’m struck by the endless same dialectic: parents who want to shelter children by hiding the darkest part of their own history, and children suffering, sometimes deeply, because of this silence. Nevertheless, everyone is right, because there is no rule, no “good way” to deal with a painful past, and one can understand that some things can’t be told as easily. That’s why I found it relevant to introduce two characters seeking their parents’ history, not as victims of sort of generational fate, but as free adults: they also have to make their own decision about the place they want to attach to these unveiled in their memory. That encompasses the decision to refuse the worst part of this legacy.
Do you have a favourite character from the book?

Sylvia. She’s a really loving and good person and she takes care of Hélène as if the child was her own daughter. She’s very lucid about her own mistakes, but she prefers turning into life and try to make people as happy as possible around her.


Can you tell us anything about your next project?

The book I’m now working on deals again with a picture, but a in a very different way. It tells the story of two friends wounded in an accident; they are “snapped” at this moment by a paparazzi. The aftermaths of this picture’s publication (especially on internet) are so serious that they are forced to elaborate a counterattack. The story is a reflexion about the internet and its ability to destroy private life: do we have any power against it?


Thank you so much to Helene for taking the time.


Translated from the French by: Emily Boyce and Ros Schwartz

Thank you to Gallic for the lovely surprise of a copy of this book in the post.

The three figures in the photograph are frozen forever, two men and a woman bathed in sunlight . . .

The chance discovery of a newspaper image from 1971 sets two people on the path to learning the disturbing truth about their parents’ pasts.

Helene Hivert discovers a photograph of her mother, a woman she knows little about, and advertises for information about the two men pictured with her – so starts a correspondence with Stephane Crusten, and a journey of discovery. As the two start to piece together the past, painful possibilities arise.

This is classic, beautiful storytelling – a tale of family secrets and age old dilemma’s coming to light in a compelling, sometimes sad, perfectly paced novel. Written with a rich, evocative prose and giving voice to two elegantly drawn people who are seeking answers about their childhoods and their parentage, Ms Gestern breathes life and soul into her characters as the people in the photo come to life.

Told via letters between Helene and Stephane, interspersed with descriptive chapters of other discovered photo’s, we follow avidly in their wake as they begin to learn more about their history and where they have come from. Each newly discovered nugget leads on to the next – like a literary game of pass the parcel, each layer reveals another and another until finally the gift of full disclosure emerges. At turns fascinating, heartbreaking, passionate and astonishing, this one will touch your reading soul.

It may bring a tear to your eye – it did to mine- ultimately this was that very wonderful thing, an absolutely fulfilling reading experience. Exquisite and inspiring.

My thanks to the translators without whom I may never have read this story – an outstanding job.

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Happy Reading Folks!



Happy Publication Day – The Dead Wifes Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

18623494Hannah website profile

So I was lucky enough to read the amazing “The Dead Wifes Handbook” in advance of its release today, a wonderful story of love, loss and moving on.Hannah was kind enough to answer a few questions for me – Review to follow but first here is what she had to tell me.

What inspired you to write a story of loss from such a unique perspective?

A friend had been discussing with me her feelings about her ex-husband starting a new relationship: her fears and vulnerabilities about secrets of hers that he might share with his new partner. I suspected it was something that a lot of us might feel unnerved by and as I thought about it more, it struck me that the most extreme version of that is when you die. And then I got to thinking about how you might feel if you could actually watch the evolution of your ex-partner’s new relationship but be powerless to intervene. Hence the dead wife came into being.

Did you find yourself getting emotional while you were writing?

It’s probably not the done thing to acknowledge that your own writing makes you cry, but yes! There were some mornings when I’d be up early writing and by the time my husband came into the study I’d be in tears. When I’m in the midst of writing, I do feel like the characters are real people I care about: so I’m sad when they’re sad and happy when they are. It does mean you get through quite a lot of tissues.

Apart from Rachel, did you have a favourite character or one that resonated with you?

I rather love all three of the lead female characters: Rachel, Eve and Harriet. I think they’ve all got their strengths (and weaknesses) and I suspect there’s a little bit of me in all of them.  I think Harriet’s pragmatism and sheer force of character are really refreshing (although I suspect she’s not everyone’s idea of a best friend!) and I love Eve’s vulnerability and generosity. And I feel incredible empathy with Rachel’s mum, Celia, too. She was actually a much less significant character in early drafts but after I had my daughter and started to imagine what it might be like to lose a child, her role and voice in the story became much more important.

Can you tell us anything about your next project?

Oh, Liz, you always ask everyone that and the answer is always the same! It’s under wraps at the moment – I’m just working on edits right now – but as soon as I’m ready to share it, I promise you’ll be the first to know. Well, one of the first…


Desert Island book

American Pastoral by Philip Roth.

One book you wish you had written

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing.

First thing you would rescue apart from pets and family from a burning building

Not the most poetic of answers but my hard-drive – it’s got all my photos on (and I take a LOT of photos) and everything I’ve ever written. It’s one of the only truly irreplaceable things I own.

Something you wish you were good at but are not.

Sleeping. The upside to insomnia (reading a lot of books) has a limited shelf life. To be able to sleep for 6 hours straight would revolutionise my life.


Thank you so much Hannah!


‘Today is my death anniversary. A year ago today I was still alive.’As Rachel grieves for the life she’s lost and the life she’ll never lead, she learns that sometimes the thing that breaks your heart might be the very thing you hope for.

I had been looking forward to this one, something slightly out of my “comfort” zone but one that sounded like it might end up being quite beautiful in the right hands and that was exactly how it turned out.

We follow along with Rachel, who died suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart problem, as she is allowed glimpses into the lives of the people she left behind..and in this creatively imagined way we ourselves catch a glimpse into the very real stages of grief. It is a gorgeous heartwarming tale, often bringing a tear to my eye…at the same time being full of a rather hopeful cathartic feel as all concerned come to terms with tragedy.

It is quite difficult to put into words how emotive this one was for me – so I’ll try and use my own perspective to give you an insight. I lost my Father when I was very young (not nearly as young as Ellie but far too young none the less) so it was easy for me to identify with her and understand what she was going through…and indeed what Max was going through as he tried to help her and himself. Then I am a mother of children similarly aged to Ellie – the very thought of not being around to see them through their childhood is horrific. Any mother will feel the same and will therefore be able to relate to Rachel, looking down occasionally but being unable to take back what was lost.

This novel captures the sense of so many things – love, loss, friendship, sadness, and hope..and how all things move forward over time. A tale of grief told from a unique perspective, beautifully written, heartfelt and impassioned, this one will have you reaching for the tissues..some of those tears will be happy ones. Most of all this is about love…and how sometimes that means letting go…

Highly Recommended.

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Happy Reading Folks!


Liz Currently Loves….The Glass Republic by Tom Pollock.


Thank you to Jo Fletcher Books for the review copy.

Pen’s life is all about secrets: the secret of the city’s spirits, deities and monsters her best friend Beth discovered, living just beyond the notice of modern Londoners; the secret of how she got the intricate scars that disfigure her so cruelly – and the most closely guarded secret of all: Parva, her mirror-sister, forged from her reflections in a school bathroom mirror.

So a little while back I read the first of the SkyScraper Throne novels “The City’s Son” – review can be found here and I entered the world discovered by Beth and Pen, getting utterly lost there for a wonderful few hours. So imagine my utter joy at being able to make a return visit.

Oh second books. They ALWAYS worry me especially if I have adored the first part with the whole of my reading soul, so yes ok a bit pensive going in – How on earth could it match the sheer addictive dancing joy of Book One? Well, I guess by doing exactly what Mr Pollock does here – take the strands of the tale told, give it a new perspective, a little twist, let the characters do their thing and open up the beauty of the world so far only partially discovered.

In this instalment we find Pen, dealing with the aftermath of previous events, trying to return to a normal existence but having to keep secrets…and when her mirror twin Parva goes missing, Pen must return to the magical underbelly of London and find a way to track her down. The cost however may be high…

When I use the dancing analogy in my description of these books that is the exact feeling the reading of them gives me – a fascinating, magical, magnificent jig of a story, taking you into a world beyond imagination that you can truly live in and let it become real around you. Following along on Pen’s journey, meeting up with both new and fondly remembered characters, it is a perfect adrenalin rush of experiences tempered by some downright emotional moments that cut to the heart.

For me this is right at the top of the tree when it comes to Urban Fantasy – a series I wish would run and run, one that definitely has a lot more to offer and all I can say now is – WHERE IS BOOK 3 – it had better come soon. We don’t want a total Liz meltdown…

Happy Reading Folks!



Natchez Burning by Greg Iles. Worth every MINUTE of the wait.


To be Published 13th March by Harper Collins

Thank you THANK YOU to Kate and Bob at Killer Reads for the advance copy. Probably THE best book post I have ever had.

Penn Cage is facing a son’s worst nightmare – having his father stand accused of murder. Worse, each effort to defend the legendary Dr Tom Cage unearths new, shocking secrets, leaving Penn to question whether he ever really knew his father at all.

So for those of you who have not read the previous Penn Cage novels from Greg Iles (the first being “The Quiet Game” ) I would encourage you to do so, however you CAN start here – the first part of a planned trilogy featuring the character, as there is enough information for a new reader without actually spoiling the previous books.

There are reasons why this is one of the best “presents” I have received since reviewing seriously – a few years back I read the last Penn Cage novel, “The Devils Punchbowl” which was as brilliantly addictive as all the rest. When it ended there was a hint, a taster if you like, for what might happen next. In the notes Mr Iles told us that, unusually, there would be a further Penn Cage novel the following year (usually there is a bigger gap – he also writes TREMENDOUSLY gripping standalone books and never actually intended to write a series but Penn wouldnt go away) then of course disaster struck. Mr Iles was involved in a serious accident – all that mattered after that was recovery. I, for one, am extremely grateful that recover he did over a period of time, otherwise the world would have lost another great writer on top of the obvious horror of personal loss for his family.I prayed. I’m sure his other readers did as well. And now here we are..

And what a glorious, once again addictive, seriously mind blowing read we have here. Absolutely gripping. A deeply involving story about the effects and events surrounding racial tension in the Deep South Mr Iles blends fact and fiction with terrific effect. Past leaks into present with terrifying results and as well as being a most fascinating tale, for this reader it was also an education. These subjects are dealt with in previous books but for me this was a revelation.

On top of all that, there is the well drawn, compelling story of the relationship between father and son. Tom Cage is a local hero, known as a moral man, loved by many, the backbone of his community and a much admired Doctor. He grew up during the troubled times where the colour of your skin determined how you were treated, viewed, what you were allowed to do with your life, where you could eat, sleep, drink. Always assuming him to be on the side of truth and justice, Penn has always had the greatest love and affection for his Dad and an instinctive trust about who he is. All that is about to be thrown up into the air, who knows where the pieces will land or what will be left of this trust when it is all over.

Amazing. The only word that springs to mind. As dark secrets begin to emerge, you will be swept along with the sheer beauty of the writing, the absolute emotion of each moment and often sitting on the edge of your seat awaiting answers to, frankly, unanswerable questions about the way human beings treat each other. Will Tom Cage ultimately turn out to be exactly who Penn thought he was? Or is he as fallible as the rest…

I am in awe. And I cannot wait for the next part of the story, it has buried itself deep within my reading soul and I imagine that overall this is one that will stay with me for life.

Read it. Love it. Live it.

Happy Reading Folks!




The Three by Sarah Lotz – THIS is why I love books.


Coming May 22nd from Hodder and Stoughton

Thank you to publisher and author for the ARC.

They’re here … The boy. The boy watch the boy watch the dead people oh Lordy there’s so many … They’re coming for me now. We’re all going soon. All of us. Pastor Len warn them that the boy he’s not to­­–
The last words of Pamela May Donald (1961 – 2012)

Four disasters. Three Survivors. A message to change the world…

Yes well. For those of you who were hanging out on Twitter a few days ago if I say “What Sarah Pinborough said” you know you have to immediately add this to your reading list right? If you missed that absolute little gem, sorry, you’ll have to make do with my random rambling. I will attempt to write a more articulate review nearer publication…or I may just leave it at this…

So you know when you finish a book and then sob quietly into your pillow thinking “WHY did I read it, now I can NEVER read it again for the first time?”. There is that. And you know when you are reading a book and you have to keep going back and reading sections again because they are so delicious? Yep there is that as well. And very occasionally a book captures your imagination SO much that you look up half expecting to see Kay Burley on Sky News trying desperately to interview random passers by about an event from the book? Yep got that a lot as well…

Here we go then. One dark day, four planes crash for different reasons on different continents…from the wreckage of those planes emerge three survivors. All children. One woman who briefly survived leaves a message…and what follows is a series of events that really will change the world. Told as a “book within a book” in an expose style we get an absolutely addictive narrative mixing up interviews, articles and letters from various people involved in the aftermath of that day…and watch open mouthed as the world goes mad. Conspiracy theories are rampant and its all so terribly realistically scary, hence my many “Kay Burley” moments…

And creepy children. My achilles heel. See I do NOT get scared by books, movies, random noises in the night but show me a child who is creepy and I’m behind the sofa immediately. But ARE they “creepy”? Or is it just me? It MIGHT be just me. Its probably just me…right? Read the book. Its probably just you….

Imaginative, intelligent, brilliantly written, giving any mind an intense work out of the kind that extends into your dreams (or nightmares) and takes over your life for a while, this is absolutely one NOT to be missed. When you can, grab a copy, find a day that is YOURS, find yourself a corner and enter the world of “The Three”…it may be closer than you think…

Find out more here if you dare

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Happy Reading Folks!

Liz Currently Loves….Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent


Coming 6th March from Penguin

Thank you to the publisher for the advance copy.

Oliver Ryan is a handsome and charismatic success story. He lives in the leafy suburbs with his wife, Alice, who illustrates his award-winning children’s books and gives him her unstinting devotion. Their life together is one of enviable privilege and ease – enviable until, one evening after supper, Oliver attacks Alice and puts her into a coma.
In the aftermath, as everyone tries to make sense of his astonishing act of savagery, Oliver tells his story. So do those whose paths he has crossed over five decades. What unfolds is a story of shame, envy, breath-taking deception and masterful manipulation.

To say this book was gripping would be to put it mildly. And I don’t think I have seen a book so aptly titled in a long time. Unravelling Oliver is exactly right. Oliver and Alice seem to have the perfect marriage – he writes childrens books, she illustrates them, and a fair few people are envious of what they have together. Then one night for no apparent reason, Oliver beats Alice, severely and without mercy. But why? What exactly made him crack?

What follows is a compelling and comprehensive “unravelling” of the man behind the mask – told from various points of view, including Oliver’s, we begin to build a picture of the true nature of both the marriage and the people. As those that crossed Oliver’s path over the years tell their story you will be  fascinated, sometimes horrified but always urged onwards, unable to look away.

This is terrific writing because there are many strands to this one – Oliver’s childhood, his formative relationships, background filled in by those who knew him. The juxtapositions between how they view Oliver and how he views himself are completely and utterly engrossing…as an  intriguing look at one man’s psyche this works perfectly. I was completely and utterly unravelled myself.

I won’t say too much about the other characters you will meet along the way – they are all extraordinarily well drawn and as much as you learn about Oliver you will learn about them – and possibly fall in love with one or two. I know I did. And this has a great “finish” to it as well. Clever. Loved it.

As an intelligent psychological suspense novel, this is top notch. If you enjoy a book that gets to the heart of people then this one is for you. Highly Recommended.

Follow Liz Nugent on Twitter here :

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Happy Reading Folks!

Echo Boy by Matt Haig. A Book is a Map…


Coming March 27th from Random House Children’s Publishers UK

I made a wish upon a star and it was granted via netgalley….

Audrey’s father taught her that to stay human in the modern world, she had to build a moat around herself; a moat of books and music, philosophy and dreams. A moat that makes Audrey different from the echoes: sophisticated, emotionless machines, built to resemble humans and to work for human masters. Daniel is an echo – but he’s not like the others. He feels a connection with Audrey; a feeling Daniel knows he was never designed to have, and cannot explain. And when Audrey is placed in terrible danger, he’s determined to save her. The Echo Boy is a powerful story about love, loss and what makes us truly human.

Well, here we are. The funny thing is, I was dreading and anticipating this one in equal measure. Its Matt Haig, author of “The Humans”, THAT book. So I was equal parts faith and panic before I started reading. The faithful side of my reading soul told me that whatever market it was aimed at Mr Haig would be incapable of writing a book that I didnt get absorbed into. The PANIC button in my brain kept saying “What if you don’t like it. How could you say. You couldnt say. You would have to leave the country. Heck you would have to leave the PLANET” Yes ok I’m a little weird. Its just the way I am. All the best people are you know…

Anyway as I am still here on planet Earth and not writing this review from Mars I think its safe to say that the faithful part of my soul was satisfied..and I’ll tell you a little bit about why. In two sections if you like. The first part being straight up review and the second part being me and mine.

Echo Boy tells the story of Audrey and Daniel – one a Human teenage girl and one an Echo – an artificial lifeform built for service – but Daniel is unique amongst Echo’s and when Audrey’s life falls apart, redemption may come from an unexpected place.

There are many themes woven seamlessly into the narrative – love, loss, the pursuit of power, the ethical arguments on scientific breakthroughs and what they can be used for, all wrapped up in a story about life. What it means to BE alive.

For Young Adult readers it has some familiar twists – Boy Meets Girl but heck it aint easy, a future world that is harsh yet recognizable, the bad guys, the good guys, and a classic battle to survive in an untenable environment. So as far as that goes you can tick all the boxes and say, yep, young readers are going to love this one. They have protagonists they can root for, a book adventure to be had, an easy flowing narrative that keeps you involved and both some emotional moments and some full on action..Everyone is happy. Not everyone will love it of course. I’m sure that there will be more “picky” reviews than mine popping up but I would have no hesitation in recommending it as a top notch example of Young Adult fiction that Adults can also get their teeth into. And that would usually be that. But this is me reading and Matt Haig writing soooooooo….

Lets talk about me. Its one of my favourite subjects.  I bring a little bit of me to each of my reviews I hope and in this case its more important than ever that I do so. For me more than for anyone else. So bear with me…

Like Stephen King, Matt Haig is one of my absolute Idols when it comes to the written word, hence the Panic button and the faith and all those things that happened prior to me staying up until 3.30 am this morning reading this on and off, and getting up at stupid o’ clock on a Saturday morning to finish it. I knew without actually thinking about it that there would be something in there to feed my soul. I think every reader has a writer that does that for them. I have two. Oh lucky me. Truly.

This book is not The Humans. That kind of thing probably only happens once in a lifetime and I’ve had mine – but still, in a lot of ways it IS. About humanity anyway…and for that reason this one will also stay with me, just in different ways.

Every so often, in amongst the story and the action and the compelling fascinating tale, one character would think or say something that just spoke to the very living heart of me. Things that are FELT but not vocalised because they are hard to put into words. Mr Haig can do it though. Oh boy can he. And I now have a few more quotes added to my life rules that I took from “The Humans” that will help me in the darker moments that still plague me. To remember that to feel is to be alive. And to be alive is one of the most amazing gifts we have.

A Book is a Map…

So thank you Matt Haig.

Killing me softly with his words. Again.

Matt on Twitter:

Book information:

Happy Reading!