Wednesday, 20 February 2019

All The Little Lies by Chris Curran

Review by JJ Marsh

What we thought:

A chance email with a casual link to a newspaper article about an artist triggers a revelation for Eve. A new mother herself, her emotions are more vulnerable when she realises that artist is her birth mother. The one her parents apparently knew nothing about.

The long-buried secret trope is much overdone and despite my admiration for this writer, I approached this book with concerns. Two nights later, I'd forgotten what I was worried about. 

This is a perfectly wrought psychological drama times two. The dual narrative of Eve and her mother puts the reader into the uncertainty and naïveté of both women.  The characters, voices and relationships are so sharp they could have been cut with a Stanley knife. Right until the end, I was still unsure who to trust.

In addition to the well-woven, tense and emotionally literate narratives, Curran evokes her locations with an expressionistic flair. The characters' perspectives are reflected in their physical environment, used to stunning effect in the dénouement. Hills, steps, bridges and levels of a gallery echo internal landscapes. This is a film-maker's dream.

This is a tense, intelligent and layered thriller which makes you ask yourself why you believe the stories you've been told. This is a writer who just gets better.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked: Don't Look Now by Nicolas Roeg, Cry by Helen Fitzgerald or Mindsight by Chris Curran

Avoid if you don’t like: Dual narratives, time shifts, stories of adoption

Ideal accompaniments: Ginger beer, pomegranate seeds and a view of the Tyne 

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