Liz Currently Loves…The Ties that Bind by Erin Kelly.


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Release date UK: 8th May 2014

Thank you kindly to Hodder and all involved for the advance reading copy.

Could a soul, once sold, truly be redeemed?

Luke is a true crime writer in search of a story. When he flees to Brighton after an explosive break-up, the perfect subject lands in his lap: reformed gangster Joss Grand. Now in his eighties, Grand once ruled the Brighton underworld with his sadistic sidekick Jacky Nye – until Jacky washed up by the West Pier in 1968, strangled and thrown into the sea. Though Grand’s alibi seems cast-iron, Luke is sure there’s more to the story than meets the eye, and he convinces the criminal-turned-philanthropist to be interviewed for a book about his life.

Yes I know its early to start talking about this one but when it dropped through my letterbox what did you expect exactly? That I would wait until nearer publication day? Pfft. You don’t know me very well…I mean for a start its Erin Kelly, add to that its me and my chronic impatience. So just to start this review (babble?) off lets take a “previously on” type look at things.

My favourite book of its year was “The Poison Tree” a book that haunted my soul long after reading, had one of my (still) most loved characters, Bohemian free spirit Biba and is also in my top 5 “Most Satisfying Endings Ever” list. Most. Satisfying. Ending.Ever. Then she followed that up with “The Sick Rose” (Also known as The Dark Rose) this time making me loathe some characters so deeply that I wanted to spit at them – in a good way of course, I was compelled to read the entire thing, and whilst it is not my favourite of hers it got me on the same emotional level. Then came “The Burning Air” which I have spoken about frequently, is in my hall of fame, and gave me that jaw dropping, throw the book on the floor, immediately re-read several chapters moment that doesnt happen to me often.

Each one has a high standard of writing, brilliant psychological insight,  all giving an addictive reading experience but something a little different each time. This author doesnt stagnate having found a formula that works, she pushes the boundaries and tries out new things, whilst still, well, having found a formula that works!

So we come to “The Ties That Bind” . Here we meet True Crime Writer Luke who has found himself entangled in an obsessive controlling relationship – to escape from those bonds he flees to Brighton and stumbles upon a crime story that could make his career. But at what cost?

Its interesting really when I try and analyse the reading experience – it is again a different kind of read in a lot of ways from each of the others, compelling as ever, magical storytelling with a fascinating ebb and flow of twists and turns – but the ambience of it, as always, lies just below the surface. You just sense there is danger coming from somewhere for Luke but you are not sure where.

Its because the characterisation is top notch. Absolutely.  Joss Grand, a character I fell madly in love with, is intelligent and scary,with an extremely intriguing edge to his personality. Luke himself is driven yet naive in a lot of ways. Ex Boyfriend Jem is stunningly well drawn – compulsive yet strangely sympathetic. Those three on their own could hold an entire novel but it doesnt stop there. As Luke tracks down witnesses, gets help from unexpected quarters, follows the trail towards the guilt or innocence of Joss Grand in the murder of his friend, you will barely be able to look away. This one is not about the result…its about the journey. And what an amazing journey it was.

The sense of an era is captured here beautifully, alongside an updated and colourful look at Brighton in the present day, I’d live there in an instant – add to that a resourceful, imaginative and creative story with some truly truly fascinating characters and this one comes HIGHLY recommended from me.

The whole thing had me turning pages late into the night, I turned away from it for a while yesterday, I did NOT want to finish it, at the same time, I needed to KNOW…so this morning in a glorious hour of locking the world out I sadly came to the end…and now the long wait begins again for another offering from an author who is right up there solidly now in my top ten of must read novelists.

Read it. Live it. Love it.

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M R Carey talks The Girl With All The Gifts. A reminder of why I read.


I did have a bit of a fangirl moment when Mr Carey agreed to answer some questions for me it has to be said – The Girl with all The Gifts was an amazing read (you can find my review in a while) and one of a couple of books I’ve read lately that reminded me why I love to read in the first place, all reviewing aside. So here is what he had to tell me.


Tell us a little about how the story came into focus for you.

It started out fairly traumatically.  I’d committed to producing a short story for an anthology of dark fantasy and horror on the theme of “school days”.  Charlaine Harris and Toni Kelner were editing, and I’d had to back out of their previous collection because of time problems, so I was determined not to miss the boat again.

But having said I’d do it, I couldn’t come up with a single workable idea.  The deadline started to loom, and everything that came into my head was sort of a grimdark Harry Potter riff – not the slightest bit original, and not appealing either.

Then I woke up one morning with the idea of Melanie in my mind.  There was no story, to start with – there was just her.  This little girl sitting in a classroom, writing an essay about what she was going to do when she grew up.  Only that was never going to happen because she was already dead and didn’t know it.

Everything flowed from that first image, and it flowed really quickly.  I wrote the short story, Iphigenia In Aulis, in four days, and for two of those I was in Norway for a comics convention.  It was one of those rare situations where the story obsesses you so much that you use every spare moment to write some more of it down.  I was sneaking away to the hotel room in between panels to add a few more paragraphs, and writing in bed before I got up to shower.

And once the short was done, I had the very strong feeling that the story wasn’t.  I persuaded my editors at Orbit to vary out my contract so I could write The Girl With All the Gifts.  Fortunately they were really flexible and helpful.  Of course, it helped that they were sold on the story.
How difficult is it to put a new spin on a popular type of fiction ?


It’s both difficult and nebulous.  Sometimes you think you’re doing something that’s new and fresh, but then when you read it back you discover that it’s really not.

And of course the genre changes under you, because other works are being published all the time.  Early readers of The Girl With All the Gifts started to compare it to Justin Cronin’s The Passage, which I hadn’t read and hadn’t been aware of, and I was scared for a while that I’d made a blind jump into a rolling bandwagon.  Then I read The Passage, which I loved, and realised that it was okay.  There are definitely thematic and tonal parallels, but we’re not doing the same thing.

It’s really noticeable now that we’re entering a new, secondary phase of zombie fictions – where the zombie apocalypse is backdrop and the core situation is something else.  The Scandinavian short The Unliving by Hugo Lilja would be a good example.  And I assume this movie that Arnie Schwarzenegger is working on, Maggie, would be another.  But when I was writing that wasn’t really in my mind.  If I was inspired by any other existing work, it was that moment at the start of Land Of the Dead where the zombie musicians are trying to play their instruments.  The human mind trying to break free of the meat and find itself.
Will there be any more novels set in this world?


I don’t have any plans to write a sequel – but there is a sequel to be written.  It would just be such a different book, in tone and even in genre, that I’d need to think long and hard about how to approach it.  The protagonist would be a human child adopted by type two zombies and growing up among them.  That would be a really poignant situation, I think, but I have no idea yet where I’d go with it.
Do you have a personal favourite character from the book?


Well Melanie was the most fun to write!  The main aim of using the present tense and the slightly staccato, declarative style was to portray the world as a ten-year-old girl – bright but massively ignorant on most topics – might see it.  I loved working the changes, once they were all on their journey; showing how the balance of power shifts and how Melanie’s relationship with all the adults has to shift with it.

Sergeant Parks was also a favourite, in a very different way.  The short story ends with Melanie and Parks reaching a sort of grudging respect as they prepare to fight and die back-to-back as the base falls.  I wanted there to be an analogue for that moment in the novel, too, and it took me a long time to figure out what it would be.  That moment when they’re talking after the fire and he asks one last favour of her – it felt very right.


As a writer of comic books, novels and films do you prefer one in particular or are you in love with all 3?


I wouldn’t say I have a preference, but it’s felt recently as though my centre of gravity has been shifting.  For a long time, comics felt like my real job.  I was a comics writer who sometimes dabbled in other media.  Then prose fiction became a bigger and bigger part of my professional life and my imaginative life, and I thought of myself as a comics writer and a writer of prose.  And last year, very much to my surprise, I started to think of myself as a screenwriter too.  I mean, in the sense that I didn’t feel like I was faking it any more – I felt like I was really doing it.


The truth is, though, working in different media is an amazing blessing and an amazing opportunity.  It doesn’t come easily, but I think it ensures that you keep experimenting.  You don’t stay within your comfort zone quite so much, because you’re constantly putting one point of view down and picking up another.
Last book you read that stayed with you


NOS4R2, by Joe Hill.  I’ve loved pretty much everything Hill has written, barring maybe one or two of the short stories, but NOS4R2 felt like something totally new and totally enthralling.  Epic fantasy has been with us for a long time: epic horror takes some doing.
3 people dead or alive you would like to go for a drink with.


Mervyn Peake, Ursula LeGuin and the aforementioned Joe Hill.


Thank you so much!



Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her ‘our little genius’. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favourite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

So. Mr Carey. I have been waiting for another book in another series, some folks will know what I mean, but I thought hey, this one will do to be going on with. Especially when good blogger friend Kate waxed lyrical about it and told me I must read it. Frankly it wasnt a hard sell..

This is an INCREDIBLY difficult book to review without spoilers – I had no idea why Melanie was so special going in, and I’m not going to tell you either, but special she is. And not just because this is a clever, fascinating, addictive story about – ha see you nearly had me – its about THINGS OCCURRING –  but because she is ridiculously easy to love, so well written is she. In fact all of the characters pop right off the page for one reason or another.You will either want to protect them with your life or shoot them in the head. Often with no inbetween.

Its a horror story. But not really. Its a fantasy. But then, no not really. There is certainly love there. And loss. And some stand out scene setting. And a heck of a lot of jaw dropping moments. And don’t start reading it just before bed time. You won’t sleep. For various reasons…not all of which will have to do with how eager you are to find out what happens.

When I read a book like this it reminds me why I love to read. Utterly compelling, taking you away from the madness of the real world and into the madness of another…offering a new twist on a popular theme and getting you right at the heart. RIGHT at the heart. Its only the end of January but I would be MOST surprised if this one doesnt end up in my top 5 of the year. And trust me, choosing last years top 5 was hard enough..

And a note for Mr Carey: Yes. I did. VERY much. Almost perfect. And if you are reading this – I’ll have more like this please. AND more of the other. You will certainly know what I mean.

PLEASE be careful which reviews you read of this one before you dive in my reading friends. It really is best arrived at with a beautiful blissful ignorance.

Highly Recommended. HIGHLY.

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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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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…

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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…

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Happy Reading Folks!