Thursday, 14 February 2019

The Darkest Hour: WWII Tales of Resistance by Roberta Kagan, Jean Grainger, Marion Kummerow, Ellie Midwood, Alexa Kang, Mary D. Brooks, Deborah Swift, Kathryn Gauci, John R. McKay, Ryan Armstrong

Reviewer: Liza Perrat, author of the French Historical, The Bone Angel trilogy (Spirit of Lost Angels, Wolfsangel, Blood Rose Angel) and new Australian 1970s series: The Silent Kookaburra and The Swooping Magpie.

What we thought: I live in a rural French village that suffered under Nazi Occupation during WWII. The region became an important resistance centre, and my personal interest in this topic was what first drew me to The Darkest Hour.

A collection of ten novellas by some of today’s bestselling WWII historical fiction authors, The Darkest Hour moves from the brutality of the Warsaw Ghetto and the determination of the Jewish Resistance, strong Catriona searching for her beloved father, to reluctant informer, Sabine, struggling to save her husband from the Gestapo. There is Josef and Jan’s order to assassinate the cruel and terrible Nazi elite, Reinhard Heydrich, Chinese resistor, Yuan Wen-Ying determined to avenge her countryman after the Japanese rape of Nanking, young Zoe’s anger at the occupation of Greece, Céline and the German invasion of Jersey, Nathalie Fontaine, determined to join the Parisian Résistance, young Charles, sneaking out at night to chalk the letter “V” onto buildings (Vive la France), and last, but by no means least, young American Charlie, who finds himself in Germany, but does not believe his sadistic uncle’s Nazi ideology.

Each novella in this eclectic collection is a gripping and compelling account of those courageous and committed people who chose not to surrender, but to fight for their country and their cause, whatever the outcome.

Readers can enjoy the whole book from start to finish or, from the short synopsis at the beginning of each novella, just dip into any particular story that appeals. However, I would recommend reading every one of these wonderful resistance stories.

I would highly recommend The Darkest Hour, and urge you to purchase this book not just because it is a fascinating read but because all proceeds are donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC.

You’ll like this if you enjoy: Historical Fiction. WWII tales.

Avoid if you don’t like: Nazi brutality stories. Strong heroes and heroines.

Ideal accompaniments: A creamy hot chocolate.

Genre: Anthology, Historical Fiction.

Available on Amazon


Thursday, 7 February 2019

Gift Horse by Jan Ruth

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

I'm a big fan of this author as her books are based in North Wales - one of my most favourite places in the world and her talent for writing brings alive the location in all of her books.

I loved Gift Horse for many reasons. Firstly, the authors knowledge and passion for horses and associated therapy through animals shone out in the writing and added another level of interest for me, I even found myself Googling the subject whilst reading! Also, I loved the human layers and morals in the storyline. How a drunken one-night stand can have life-long ramifications and how so many lives can be affected by one bad decision.

The plot in general was gripping and unpredictable - another trait of this author - and I thought the ending was well thought out and cleverly written. As ever, the characters were perfectly drawn – engaging and still yet littered with human failings that many of us can associate with. I liked the push and pull of the romance in the story and felt drawn to each of the characters for different reasons.

Gift Horse was a total page turner for me and I hope there's a follow up to come very soon!

Highly recommended!

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Kate Hamer, Jo Cannon, Ruth Hogan.

Avoid if you don’t like: Horses and Wales.

Ideal accompaniments: Ploughman’s Lunch and a pint of pear cider.

Genre: Contemporary

Available on Amazon

Friday, 1 February 2019

Giovannni's Room by James Baldwin

Reviewer: David C Dawson

What We Thought:

When you read a gay romance written over sixty years ago you expect it to be dated. It’s too easy to smugly believe that attitudes have changed, that there’s a greater openness towards gay people and that shame in the gay community has gone.

The beauty of James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room is that it brings into sharp focus what it is still like for millions of gay men around the world. Men who live in countries where religious or societal oppression forces them to hide and be ashamed of themselves. It also reminds us how the struggle for gay rights is still very recent history.

David is a young American living in Paris. His girlfriend is travelling in Spain. David meets Giovanni, an Italian barman who works in a bar frequented by gay men. They fall in love and David moves in with Giovanni in his single room apartment. This is the era before instant communication. Throughout much of the book David’s girlfriend is out of sight and mostly out of mind.

Baldwin uses metaphor brilliantly. As the relationship sours, the single room in which David lives with Giovanni becomes claustrophobic, as it reflects the suffocating claustrophobia he feels in his ambivalent emotions towards Giovanni.

Despite his love for Giovanni, David’s self-loathing at being a gay man is never far below the surface. He despises effeminate men in the bar, comparing them to “watching monkeys eating their own excrement.”

Only much later in the novel does David reveal his self-knowledge. “I had decided to allow no room in the universe for something which shamed and frightened me. I succeeded very well—by not looking at the universe, by not looking at myself, by remaining, in effect, in constant motion.”

The book gives enormous insight into the mind of James Baldwin. He was a black, gay American living through the enormous repression of the1950s. His characters frequently comment on the telescope through which Americans observe Europe. One of his characters observes wryly, “Americans should never come to Europe. It means they can never be happy again.” His French characters refers to damaged American innocence and the myth of American happiness.

The structure of Giovanni’s Room is simple but engrossingly effective. From the start you know that Giovanni will die by the guillotine. Only much later do you find out why. You know that David has a girlfriend who he intends to marry. Only later do you find out what will happen to this doomed relationship.

Books are too often referred to as modern classics, but this is no overstatement in the case of Giovanni’s Room. It’s a novel that questions the nature of love itself. Baldwin’s prose is masterly and I urge you to read this wonderful book.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White

Avoid if you don’t like: Unhappy endings

Ideal accompaniments: A Ricard

Genre: Romance LGBTQ