Liz Currently Loves…We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.


Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. And thank you to the lovely Leilah Skelton of Waterstones fame for being very insistent that I read this one…

Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind.
Now her adored older brother is a fugitive, wanted by the FBI for domestic terrorism. And her once lively mother is a shell of her former self, her clever and imperious father now a distant, brooding man.
And Fern, Rosemary’s beloved sister, her accomplice in all their childhood mischief? Fern’s is a fate the family, in all their innocence, could never have imagined.

So where to start. Well lets start in the middle….hey its a thing. I was about halfway through this one when it struck me that I came seriously close to missing out on this novel entirely – hence the huge thanks to good friend Leilah for bringing it to my attention. Frankly my reading life has been greatly enriched by reading this beautifully written, utterly utterly brilliant and absolutely compelling tale about one rather unconventional family. Why are they unconventional? Well I’m not telling although I’m sure you could easily discover that prior to reading it. Please don’t. Just trust me.

This is Rosemary’s story first of all. She tells it in her own way and in her own time. While she does this you will fall irrevocably in love…with the girl, with the story, with the sheer perfection of the writing and the following things will probably happen. You will laugh. You will cry. You will want to skip to the end but don’t do it. You will want to re-read bits. Ok you can do that. You may find that it takes over your life and you will find Rosemary peering over your shoulder while you do the mundane, begging you to come back and find out what comes next…I could barely put it down but I forced the issue because I didnt want it to be over too soon.

Amazing characters, superb prose, storytelling genius and a healthy dose of irony, all wrapped up in a most profound and extraordinary fictional life – Don’t be like me and almost miss this one.

There is a lot to be taken from this book, it will make you consider things that perhaps you have never thought about before. It will make you question certain things but most of all it will give you a unique perspective on life, love and family. I have absolutely no hesitation at all in recommending this as highly as I recommend The Humans by Matt Haig. And that says it all right there.


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Read it. Live It. Love it.

Happy Reading Folks!

Liz Nugent is Unravelling Oliver. Happy Publication Day.


I was lucky enough to read this brilliant debut novel early, and also lucky enough to persuade Liz Nugent to answer some questions for me about the book – here is what she had to tell me.


Tell us a little about how idea for the story started coming together.


I initially wrote the first chapter as a short story and I was delighted when it got shortlisted in a competition. I had raised a lot of questions within those 1800 words and afterwards, I wanted to find out the answers, so that’s how I went on to develop it. I picked a few characters mentioned in the short story and began to tell it from their perspective. I had the first three chapters done and then put them aside for a few years while I was busy with other things but the plot was percolating in my head. Eventually, I just dropped everything for a week and went away to a writers retreat and plotted the entire novel, and after that, it was just a matter of finding the time to write it up.
Oliver is an enigma and a fascinating character – how much did he change over the course of the writing?


I deliberately wrote an utter monster when I started out, but as I was writing from his point of view, I realised he doesn’t think he’s a monster. He will defend and justify everything and that led me back to finding his humanity and exploring what could have shaped his personality. By the time I was finished writing him, I could not condone his actions, but I could understand them. He is as much a victim as everyone he hurts along the way. His arrogance is a smoke-screen for his overwhelming insecurity.


The characters surrounding Oliver all view him very differently – did you have a favourite?


I loved Barney. He’s not intellectually bright like most of the other characters but he probably has more emotional intelligence than anyone else. He really knew how to love, and unfortunately gave up that love because he thought Alice deserved better than him. His fondness and patience with her learning-disabled brother Eugene speaks volumes about his character.

Eugene also is close to my heart. Because of his intellectual disability, nobody would take Eugene seriously, but Eugene is the only one who instinctively knows that Oliver is bad. Eugene is the prophet of the story.
We only really hear about Alice via others – would you have liked to give her more of her own voice?


I had at one stage written a chapter from Alice’s point of view, in the form of a letter to Barney towards the end of the book, but really, her story was already told and it did not add any new information. I had wanted her to say to Barney ‘I’m sorry, I was wrong’, but it didn’t make sense as a chapter in itself. I think Alice fell in love with Oliver because of his stories and the effect they had on Eugene. She was shocked and flattered that someone as handsome as successful as Oliver should take an interest in her. Throughout their marriage, she always felt that he was more important. Her needs were secondary.


Can you tell us anything about your next project?


I don’t really want to say anything yet because I’m not even at the plotting stage yet and it could all change. I’m currently reworking the first three chapters for the seventh time. They have to be right.


Favourite place to read.


In bed before sleep. I just started The Luminaries last night. 800+ pages! It’s so big that I’m thinking of getting a bigger bed.



Any writing habits?


I find that I have to write first-person narrative. I have to live in the character’s head to know what they sound like.


Desert Island book


Ulysses. To my shame, I’ve never read it but if I was on a desert island, I’d be forced to!

Something you wish you were good at but are not.


Any sport.


Thank you so much!


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.

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Lucy Lawrie and Tiny Acts of Love.


I recently read Lucy Lawrie’s debut novel “Tiny Acts of Love” and it headed straight into my “will read over and over again” chart, a wonderfully witty and insightful novel about new Parenthood which will capture your heart whether or not you have ever been a first time Mum or Dad. I caught up with Lucy and asked her a few questions and here is what she had to tell me.

Tiny Acts of Love captures new parenthood SO well. Is it based on any of your own experiences?


The events in the book aren’t based on my own life, but I did draw on my own experience to capture Cassie’s state of mind as a new mum. I remember how, in those first few days and weeks after the birth, I saw everything in terms of survival – whether that be making it through another sleepless night, getting Emily to take a feed, or even pushing her pram through the park, which had suddenly become a terrifying place, full of unpredictable dogs and sinister-looking pigeons! I was on high alert all the time and it was exhausting. But, as well as that, I wanted to capture the funny side of parenting, and those moments of sheer joy that come out of nowhere, when it feels impossible that you could love anybody so much.


Are any of the characters based on real people?


There’s a lot of me in Cassie, but she’s still her own, quite distinct, person. Often, while writing the book, I used to ask her out loud what she thought about things – once I even wrote her a letter to ask why she didn’t get on with her mother, when I felt she wasn’t telling me the whole story! As for other characters, I suppose you inevitably borrow bits and pieces from people you know – a mannerism here, a particular speech pattern there, or perhaps a certain sort of mindset. But I wouldn’t base a character squarely on someone I knew. I don’t think you could successfully do that anyway – characters always change as you progress with the writing. They become their own people, in all sorts of ways you never predicted. That’s the most magical part of writing.


Do you have a personal favourite character from the book?


Jonathan was lovely to write. He kept saying things that made me laugh. Out of everyone, he surprised me most with how much he grew and evolved. In the first draft of the novel it was all about Cassie. By the final version, it was as much about him, too, and his journey as a new dad, a husband and a son.


 I’m going to miss Cassie – can you imagine a sequel in the future ?


I’d like to write a sequel at some point, yes. I’d need to throw some more problems at the characters, though, which feels like a bit of a shame! I can just imagine Cassie rolling her eyes at me, asking me to give her a break! I think I’ll let them live happily ever after for a bit first, before I start bothering them again.


Favourite Author/Comfort book


I love Alexander McCall Smith’s books. My ultimate comfort reads are the 44 Scotland Street books, which are set in Edinburgh, my home town.


Tea, coffee or other?


I like herbal tea – peppermint, and also some strange lime and ginger concoction I’ve recently grown fond of. My vice is Diet Coke – I always have one in the afternoon, and two if I’m particularly tired. (Actually, who am I kidding – I always have two!)


3 people alive or dead you would have over for dinner.


I’d invite Emily Dickinson, if she’d leave her attic room, and also Charlotte Bronte. That might get a bit intense, though, so we’d need someone to balance that out. Can I invite a fictional character? I’d love to meet Anne of Green Gables. I think she’d have us all giggling!

Thank you SO much Lucy.


Surviving motherhood? It’s all about having the right network. Lawyer and new mum Cassie has a husband who converses mainly through jokes, a best friend on the other side of the world, and a taskforce of Babycraft mothers who make her feel she has about as much maternal aptitude as a jellyfish. Husband Jonathan dismisses Cassie’s maternal anxieties, but is he really paying attention to his struggling wife?

Gosh and Golly this was an amazing read. From the brilliantly hilarious but absolutely real opening few pages, where the immediate aftermath of Sophie making her debut into the world become clear to new Mum Cassie, throughout the heart wrenching, glorious intensity of the first year of childcare, this one will have you laughing out loud, shedding the odd tear, completely immersed into the ever changing maelstrom of life and nodding sagely along as Cassie and Husband Jonathon traverse the waters of that wonderfully ironic thing called Parenthood.

At turns both emotional and heart warming, the very real highs and lows of maintaining a relationship under the sheer pressure and joy of having a new member of the family are SO well described here, alongside an absolutely insightful and realistic look at how becoming parents can affect both men and women. One of the things I absolutely loved about this was the fact that, although it is mainly Cassie’s story, it avoided the pitfall of allowing it to be all about Mum. Jonathon is well drawn and just as realistic as Cassie – the hopes and fears and dreams and nightmares are just as real for him as for her.

Using a set of absurd yet extraordinarily believable set of events that see Cassie reconnecting with her first love, helping a client with a workplace safety Supernatural issue ( the night of the documentary had me in stitches) and desperately trying to live up to the expectations of the absolutely hilarious but lovely BabyCraft crew, Lucy Lawrie takes us on a journey of emotional depth, ingenious observations and absolute understanding of post natal perceptions and sensitivities. If you have ever been a new Parent every moment of  this novel will resonate with you. If you have not, you are still in for a fantastic and invigorating peek into one fictional family’s life.

Really cannot recommend this highly enough.

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Happy Reading Folks!


Steve McHugh talks Hellequin. With Silent Screams.


Having recently read the 3rd book in the Hellequin series I thought it was high time I dragged Mr McHugh kicking and screaming back onto the blog – its ok, he answered the questions and is now safe back at home….


So, third outing for Mr Garrett – how do you feel he has developed since we first met him back in “Crimes Against Magic”?

Well in Crimes he didn’t really know who he was, so behaved in quite a cocky manner. He slept around and became a thief, mostly because it was a fun way to make a living. By the time Born of Hatred and now, With Silent Screams, comes around he’s back to having all of his memories, so his confidence is less cocky and more assured of his abilities.

The blending of well known mythologies into Nate’s own story is really intriguing – How did the idea for that first start to form for you?

I’ve always loved mythology and wanted to use it in the stories, but I figured instead of just having Norse or Greek, I’d have all of them as being real. By the time it came to write Crimes, Nate had already been fully created in my head, so the story formed around him and the various mythological characters were used as the story warranted.

I have spreadsheets that just lists mythological beings and their relationship with Nate and each other.

The stories have some adult themes and violent aspects, but very well balanced – is that quite hard to achieve?

It was in Crimes. After I wrote that book I pretty much decided that sex scenes weren’t really for me, so from the 4 or so that are in book 1, there’s 1 short one in book 2 and the same in book 3. I’m not prudish or anything like that, but I felt that they were a weak part of book 1, and with Nate’s returning memories and personality they didn’t need to be continued for the remaining books unless they were utterly necessary.

The violence part is quite strong in all of the books, mostly because Nate lives a violent life with violent people. You can’t just have continuing action and fights, you’ve got to actually have a story to put it all in.

Can you tell us anything about what’s next?

I’m currently writing book 4, Prison of Hope, and then I’ll be going on to write the first book in a new trilogy called Chimera. After that Hellequin book 5 needs writing. Because, as I’ve learned, books don’t write themselves. Which is probably an oversight for my career choice.

Best book you’ve read in the last few weeks.

Probably The Black Angel by John Connolly. I’ve only recently started to read the Charlie Parker books, and the first 4 are very good, but 5 was just fantastic. Can’t wait to read the rest.

Book you WISH you had written.

I don’t really wish I’d written anything else, mostly because when I read something by an author I enjoy, I know there’s a part of them in that book. Saying that, I wish I’d written Neil Gaiman’s, Fortunately, the Milk, because it’s astoundingly brilliant.

Dream job that doesn’t involve writing.

Astronaut. Seriously there’s no cooler job anywhere than being an astronaut. Maybe an astronaut ninja. That would be awesome, although I doubt there’s a big need for one.
Something you wish you were good at but are not.

I wish I could draw. I have zero artistic abilities in terms of actually drawing anything that isn’t a stick figure. If I’d been able to draw I think I would have written a comic book by now.


Thanks Steve!


With thanks to the author and publisher for the review copy.

His name is Nathan Garrett, but he’s also known as Hellequin. And murdering one of his friends and trying to blow him up is a good way to get this centuries-old sorcerer’s full attention…

A long time ago (It feels like now) I impulsively purchased “Crimes Against Magic” the first in the Hellequin series from Steve McHugh featuring sorcerer Nate Garrett and immediately and irrevocably fell in love.

I had only just started my foray into Urban Fantasy and was looking for another fix and here it was right here. Now we are onto Book 3 (with a short story bridge as well) and these just get better and better. For sheer reading fun, it rarely gets better than this- a glorious mix of known mythology, a brand new world to explore, some tremendous characters and always a heartstopping and well constructed story.

In this instalment someone makes the rather extreme error of killing a person Nate is fond of. Then attempting to blow him up. Follow all that with a good deal of smug goading and your fate is probably sealed. And so it begins.

Once again we have a past/present twist to the tale, some magnificently evil bad guys and some beautifully imagined settings where magic and reality collide. WereLions, Cave Trolls and Guardians, other realms, wizardry and mayhem all tied up together in a fantastic package of adrenalin rushing goodness. Like a Rollercoaster ride in novel form, you are in for one hell of a ride.

These are adult in nature – the violence is as violent as real violence is.. the fights are down and dirty with no holds barred and Nate himself is the very definition of anti hero. He kind of follows his own moral code but when the chips are down if you are in his way he really is not going to give much thought before wiping you off the face of the planet. I love that about him. Flawed yes, not indestructible by any means but if you are going to annoy him you had better be sure you can either beat him at his own game or that you can run REALLY fast.

The supporting cast of characters are all superb. I am absolutely in love with Nate although he does now have a rival for my affection after this story in the form of Galahad.  Caitlin is my favourite kind of kick ass female – one who stands no nonsense but is very aware of both her limitations and her surroundings. As for Hades well, who DOESNT love Hades? I am definitely an unapologetic fangirl all round for this series. All the way.

This is definitely a set of books that has grown in stature since its humble beginnings as Nate and the mythology surrounding him has grown, developed and taken on a life of its own. So, all in all a terrific 3rd book in a series that is now absolutely one of my favourites in the Urban Fantasy stakes alongside Felix Castor and Alex Verus. Possibly not for the faint hearted but if you like your Urban fantasy absolutely Urban and fantastical these will probably bring great satisfaction.

Note: With Silent Screams can easily be read as a standalone book with no problem whatsoever, so if you fancy starting with this one, go right ahead!


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 Author information.

Steve’s been writing from an early age, his first completed story was done in an English lesson. Unfortunately, after the teacher read it, he had to have a chat with the head of the year about the violent content and bad language. The follow up ‘One boy and his frog’ was less concerning to his teachers and got him an A.

It wasn’t for another decade that he would start work on a full length novel that was publishable, the results of which was the action-packed Urban Fantasy, Crimes Against Magic.


Steve McHugh lives in Southampton on the south coast of England with his wife and three young daughters. When not writing or spending time with his kids, he enjoys watching movies, reading books and comics, and playing video games.




With Silent Screams –


Traitors Blade by Sebastian De Castell – A Great Adventure.


I recently read “Traitors Blade” and it really was a most terrific adventure! In a while you can see my review and how you can get 30% off your very own copy! First though I caught up with author Sebastien De Castell and asked him a few questions about the book. Here is what he had to tell me.


Tell us a little about where the story came from?

Like most novels, Traitor’s Blade doesn’t come fully-formed from any one single place. The first scene in the book – three once idealistic swordsmen realizing their lives have been in vain – was always the starting point of the novel for me. The thought of devoting oneself completely to a sort of code of conduct only to discover that it has completely and utterly failed felt like a story that would intrigue me in any genre.


So that’s where Traitor’s Blade (originally inarticulately titled ‘Three of Traitors’) began. But from there, every element in the story came from a variety of experiences and influences. The idea for the Greatcoats – these sword-wielding travelling magistrates – came from reading about the English itinerant judges in the Middle Ages. These were judges appointed by the King and sent on year-long circuits of towns and villages where they would hear cases and render verdicts. I wanted to take that idea and explore what would happen if these travelling magistrates had to deal with local nobles who might not like their verdicts and might decide it was easier to kill off the judge than pay the fine.


The coats that the characters wear came from an actual greatcoat my brother gave me. I was working as an actor and kept finding myself on night shoots, freezing my butt off waiting to for the next shot and I discovered that this coat was perfect – it kept me warm, had tons of pockets large and small where I could hide things I’d need between takes, and felt like something I could live in if I had to. That gave me the idea for the greatcoats that Falcio, Kest, and Brasti wear – a combination of mantle of office and flexible armour perfectly suited for a travelling duelist. Now if I could only just find one like theirs for myself…


The fight scenes are magnificent – as a fight choreographer, did that make it easier to bring them alive on paper or harder?


That’s a good question. I think it made it easier but not for the reasons people might think. A great action scene isn’t about describing every move and weapon. I personally don’t enjoy reading fight scenes where the author is determinedly showing off how much historical knowledge he or she has. Violence in and of itself is actually pretty boring.


But my time choreographing sword fights for the theatre taught me something that I think is vital: every fight has to be its own story. It has to have a beginning, middle, and end. Each one has to be distinct and meaningful, and every movement has to be a reflection of the character. I love writing Falcio’s fights because he sees each one as a problem to be solved – he tries to intellectualize the battle and find some ingenious way to survive. But his own past sometimes comes to the fore and takes him over. In those moments, all of his skill and intellect disappears, replaced by rage and recklessness, and we realize he’s not the man he thinks he is.


Ultimately the writer’s job isn’t so much to meticulously choreograph the fight – it’s to give the reader the bits of insight that enable them to build the scene in their minds. In that sense, it’s really the reader who choreographs the fight and the author simply gives them the tools to do so.  One of the most dramatic fights in Traitor’s Blade doesn’t happen on the page at all: Falcio is about to face a smiling armoured man with an axe – a fight he doesn’t think he can win – when the tragedy of his past comes crashing down on him. We shift from the fight into that horrific memory, and when we come back, Falcio’s opponent is dead on the ground and he himself is in a state of shock. At no point is a single move of that fight described but when I ask readers about it they remember it happening in detail.


Who are your writing heroes?


You know, it’s a funny question because I tend to separate the writer from the book. When I first read Moonheart by Charles de Lint as a teenager I was simply blown away by this fantastical world he created inside of our own. Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep is still one of the best noir novels I’ve read. I see some of that style inside of Roger Zelazny’s classic work, Nine Princes in Amber and both of those voices have had an influence on me.


But I think that a hero (writing or otherwise) is someone you want to model yourself or your career after. Looking at it from that standpoint, I think Neil Gaiman would be a writing hero to me. He’s created so many great stories, across multiple mediums, and always does it with his own style and voice without chasing trends. When I’ve heard him talk, he seems to genuinely like his audience and his peers. Most importantly, he seems like he’s having fun along the way!


I’ve definitely joined the greatcoats – are you allowed to tell us a little about what’s next?


I can tell you that there are four books in the Greatcoats quartet and that the second is with my publishers getting ready for editing. Books 3 and 4 are plotted, and at about four o’clock in the morning a few weeks ago I suddenly woke up, walked into my office and typed the opening page of the third book.


The second book is tentatively entitled, Greatcoat’s Lament, and it takes our heroes on a darker and more perilous journey than they’ve faced before.  Falcio will come to question his idealized memories of King Paelis, Kest will pay the price that comes with wanting to be the greatest swordsman in the world, and Brasti will discover he can no longer get away with simply playing the charming rogue. Valiana, Aline, and the Tailor all take more central roles in the second book than they did in the first, and the clash between their different visions of right and wrong will shake Tristia’s very foundations.


Although The Greatcoats is a four-book series, I’m committed to ensuring that each book is a complete story in and of itself. I was determined with Traitor’s Blade to end the novel at a point that would give readers a satisfying conclusion rather than simply a cliffhanger, and I’ve worked very hard to do the same with Greatcoat’s Lament, so I very much hope that readers will enjoy it.

Thank you so much for taking the time!



Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.
Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.

So here we have the start of a brilliant new series, a glorious adventure of a novel with terrific characters, and a sprawling magnificent  story which gives a truly addictive reading experience.

It put me in mind of The Three Musketeers but with a wonderful humerous yet ironic undertone, some laugh out loud moments (Falcio and gang are both driven yet realistic and this leads to some extraordinarily witty and whimsical exchanges) and a whole load of action of the swashbuckling variety that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Intrigue,  betrayal, redemption, sword fighting, mystery, mayhem, you name it you will probably find it somewhere in the pages. The story romps along at a tremendous pace, holding you in its thrall until you  get to the last moments which WILL leave you wanting more.

The mythology and world building are perfectly constructed, I loved the simple flowing yet beautifully written descriptive prose and I fell in love completely with the characters and the world they inhabit…I truly can’t wait to find out whats next.

Brilliantly concieved, cleverly executed and a whole bucket of fun, this will be one of the most entertaining novels you read this year.

If you would like 30% off, simply become a Greatcoat for a day – find out how here!

What is YOUR GreatCoat name? Do come back and tell me!

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Happy Reading Folks!




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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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!