Wednesday, 16 May 2018

He Said / She Said by Erin Kelly

Reviewer : Gillian Hamer, author of The Charter, Closure, Complicit, Crimson Shore, False Lights & Sacred Lake. (

What we thought : There’s nothing better than discovering exciting new authors whose work you soon become addicted to – and that is certainly the case with Erin Kelly.

He Said / She Said takes the reader on a complex journey starting at a lunar eclipse festival in Cornwall through to eighteen years down the line when everyone involved has lived with the shadow of that weekend for the rest of their lives. But what is the truth?

When Laura, our lead protagonist, witnesses a sexual attack and intervenes, resulting in a gruelling court case, her comfortable life seems over for good. She becomes involved in a dependency-style friendship with Beth, the victim of the assault, and when her actions turn bizarre and then dangerous, Laura and husband Kit, change their names and move home. But Laura suffers several years of anxiety and PTSD, and when the story begins in the current day, with her pregnant with twins, it’s only now her life feels normal again.

But the shadow of the past is never far away, and when Kit travels to the Pharaoh Islands in search of his latest eclipse siting, pregnant Laura is left alone feeling more anxious than ever. And when Beth turn up on her doorstep, spilling secrets Laura could never have imagined, the reader is gripped to see where this twisting tale will end.

The switches in POV and periods here make this quite a challenging read, but for me it is worth it. The characters are crystal clear, the pace works really well, and some of the court scene dialogue was brilliantly written. I’ve already downloaded another book by this author and I hope it is as gripping a read as this one.

You’ll enjoy this if you like : Clare MacKintosh, B.A. Paris, Louise Doughty.

Avoid if you don’t like : Not knowing what is round the next corner.

Ideal accompaniments : Pear cider and a Ploughman’s lunch.

Genre : Thriller.

Available on Amazon

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Review by JJ Marsh

What We Thought

To state what happens in the book would give an impression of dark, bleak hopelessness, which is not the feeling it engenders in the process of reading. Ward's lyrical prose and descriptive talent transport the reader to the dusty yard, hot car, bland gas station, prison plantation and guarantees our sympathy. Somehow, no matter how miserable the situation, she manages to sustain hope.

The story is told through the eyes of a young boy, Jojo, and his mother, Leonie. From the start, there is a haunted atmosphere of loss, an absence of someone who should be there, but that someone is different for each of them. Leonie is a drug addict and neglectful mother, so that the most influential figure in Jojo's life is Pop, his grandfather. Pop teaches Jojo how to work the farm and tells him about the harsh days when he was in Parchman Penitentiary. Pop's sadness is both for the past and the present, as his wife is dying of cancer. Meanwhile, Leonie is preparing to drive across the state to meet Michael, her lover and father of her children, when he gets out of jail. And she wants to take Jojo and his little sister Kayla with her.

Part road trip, part social critique, part American nightmare, this beautifully written novel makes us feel the weight of the past in a visceral sense. There is an inexorable feeling of tragedy, as if we know what must happen in the end, but cannot help hoping things will turn out differently. The book won America's National Book Award 2017 and was selected as Book of the Year by The New York Times amongst others. I can see why.

You'll like this if you enjoyed: Beloved by Toni Morrison, Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward or Meridian by Alice Walker.

Avoid if you dislike: Dysfunctional families, violence, ghosts.

Ideal accompaniments: Gravy and biscuits with a glass of cold water

Genre: Literary fiction

Available on Amazon

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Smash all the Windows by Jane Davis

Reviewer: Liza Perrat, author of The Bone Angel trilogy (Spirit of Lost Angels, Wolfsangel, Blood Rose Angel) and new release, The Silent Kookaburra.

What we thought: I have loved all of Jane Davis’s novels, and her latest, Smash all the Windows, was no exception. This story starts twenty years after a terrible disaster, which I could easily visualise occurring in our times. It explores it effects on different people, and helps us to imagine how we might be equipped, or not, to cope with, and survive, such tragedy.

As usual, the author tells the story from the viewpoint of several excellently portrayed characters, her remarkable observational skills making us identify and sympathise with each character.

I enjoyed every character, admiring some more than others. Some simply struggle to get through each day as best they can. Others constantly search and dig, others lose their childhood during the years of grief. Jules was probably my favourite though, a poignant character; an artist able to pick apart the wreckage and rubble, and create something incredibly beautiful and defined. An exhibition entirely fitting for the Tate Modern art gallery in London.

Weaving between the past and the present, Smash all the Windows manages, somehow, to be both heartbreaking and hopeful. It does not give the reader resolution, but it does offer acceptance and the ability to attain a certain type of harmony with the tragedy.

I cannot recommend Smash All The Windows highly enough!

You’ll like this if you enjoy: character-driven, emotional tales.
Avoid if you don’t like: poignant literary fiction.

Ideal accompaniments: comfort food such as dark chocolate.

Genre: Literary fiction.

Available on Amazon