Wednesday 31 October 2018

Blessed Fury: Angels of Fate Book 1 by CS Wilde

Review by JJ Marsh

What we thought:

Paranormal romance is not my usual genre, but having read one of CS Wilde’s previous books, A Courtroom of Ashes, I dived into this with anticipation. This is an epic adventure of angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, Warriors and Erudites. Guardian Ava is tasked with protecting Liam, one of the Selfless, after he has lost his partner.

He’s angry, passionate and hell-bent on vengeance. Keeping him out of trouble is going to take everything Ava’s got, especially when a malevolent force is setting species against each other. And if that’s not enough to contend with, she finds herself powerfully attracted to her charge. Sparks are going to fly.

This is a wonderfully realised world with its own laws and codes of honour. The characters leap of the page and the action is breath-taking. There is a huge cast of beings and it feels as if there is much more to be learned, so it’s reassuring to see this is the first of a series.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked
: Gods and Monsters, The Dimensions Series, Requiem for Fallen Gods

Avoid if you don’t like
: Paranormal elements, fantastical creatures, fighting

Ideal accompaniments
: Popcorn, a Bloody Mary and a thunderstorm.

Available on Amazon

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

Review by: Catriona Troth

What We Thought:

I wish he knew that when an NDN laughs, it’s because they are applying a fresh layer of medicine on an open wound.

Jonny Appleseed is an urban NDN - young, Two Spirit / Indigiqueer and a glitter princess. He has left the rez in northern Manitoba and made a life for himself in Winnepeg, earning his living creating sexual fantasies on camera for other gay men.

I’m like an Etch-a-Sketch – every cell in my body is yours to define.

Homophobia was rampant on the rez, especially among the men. And Winnepeg is known as ‘the most racist city in Canada.’ Jonny has spent his life playing straight on the rez in order to be an NDN and playing white in the city in order to be queer. There are perhaps only three people in the world who accept him as himself – his mother, his Kokum (grandmother) and his childhood friend and sometime lover, Thias.

Funny how an NDN “love you” sounds more like “I’m in pain with you.”

But Kokum is dead and Thias is in love with a girl called Jordan. Then his mother calls to say that his stepdad, Roger – ‘a pig-headed, alcoholic, homophobic sonuva’ – has died, and she wants him home for the funeral. So now he has a couple of days to earn enough money for his rent AND to pay for the journey home.

As the story flips between Jonny’s memories of growing up on the Rez and his present life in Winnepeg, Whitehead plays with language as if he’s inventing it afresh. He references January Jones, The Revenant or Elle from Stranger Things as lightly as he references the elements of Oji-Cree beliefs and traditions salvaged from the wreckage of the past.

This is two generations on from the residential school system that ripped through indigenous communities throughout Canada, but the wounds are still open. Jonny ‘s life is a desperate, clinging-to-the-edge existence. And yet there is a joy and a tenderness and a depth of love that emerges from the hurt and sorrow.

A powerful, utterly modern story that will take you by the scruff of the neck and shake your preconceptions. Long-listed for the 2018 Giller Prize.

You’ll Enjoy This If You Loved: The Break by Katherena Vermette, Birdie by Tracey Lindberg, When We Speak of Nothing by Olumide Popoola

Avoid If You Dislike: Unflinching descriptions of gay sex

Perfect Accompaniment: Soup and bannock (or something with hamburger helper!)

Genre: Literary Fiction, LGBTQ Fiction, Indigenous Fiction

Available on Amazon

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Sealskin by Su Bristow

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

This is the first book I’ve read of this author and I must admit I was totally gripped by both the writing and the story. My love of location as a character in its own right was well and truly quenched here, as Bristow brought alive the surroundings of the remote Western Isles of Scotland with total professionalism and I could almost taste the salty spray of the sea on my lips.

According to the post script, the author based the novel on one of the many legends of the area, that is the selkies which are seals who can transform themselves into people and back again. Tales of such creatures are as known to the locals of the parts as mermaids are to the rest of us, and the fear and intrigue they carry comes across superbly in the story. As well as using the beauty of the landscape, Bristow brings into the play the resilience of the cross section of locals in such a tough landscape, and the strength of human spirit through adversity.

When young fisherman, Donald, gets to see the selkies on one of his lone fishing trips he makes a decision that will change his life forever in any ways. Along with his long-suffering mother, Bridie, he begins a journey that will take him to places and situations he never believed he would visit.

The writing winds its way effortless through this superbly crafted tale and I very much look forward to reading another book by this author.

Highly recommended!

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

Avoid if you don’t like: Haunting tales and legends of old.

Ideal accompaniments: Smoked mackerel fillets with brown bread and pale ale.

Genre: Contemporary

Available on Amazon

Wednesday 3 October 2018

Strangers on a Bridge by Louise Mangos

Review by JJ Marsh

What we thought:

On her morning run, Alice spots a man on a bridge, preparing to jump. 
Her innate compassion makes her stop to help. It's a gesture she'll regret.

Manfred believes he and his saviour have a special connection and inveigles his way into her life, affecting her marriage, her children and her mental health. She thinks he needs professional help. He thinks she is his destiny.

This is a classic psychological thriller with a domestic touch. Alice is a wife and mother, plus a stranger in a closed land, trying to cope with exceptional circumstances in a foreign language. As she becomes increasingly isolated and takes some impulsive decisions, the scene is set for a dramatic resolution.

Mangos uses the Swiss landscape and cultural quirks to great effect, but where she excels is in the creeping sense of insecurity growing to paranoia. The steady erosion of Alice's judgement as to right and wrong has the reader scrabbling for a foothold on an icy, fatal slope.

Some of her choices appear inexplicable in the 'If it were me' mindset, which only underlines the derailment this woman has undergone. This novel is a look into the abyss within all of us.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked: 
The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn, Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum, Mindsight by Chris Curran.

Avoid if you don’t like: Psychological uncertainty, Swiss background, German language.

Ideal accompaniments: Wild deer with chestnuts, Pinot Noir and Profondo Rosso by Goblin