Sunday, 31 October 2010


Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Published by: Pan Books (June 2010)

Pages: 327 (Paperback)

My Rating: 8.5/10


About the Book:

It's the Queen's Golden Jubilee, and Rachel and her aunt Evie are celebrating with the crowds on the village green. The scene is tranquil, but Rachel and her aunt can never forget what happened exactly twenty-five years ago. On that day, Evie's young daughter Jessamy vanished. She hasn't been seen since. Soon after, news comes of Evie's sudden death, and Rachel must return to the village to deal with her aunt's estate. The extraordinary story she uncovers there will change everything. It is a story of departure and return, of atrocity and betrayal, of unrequited love and the dreadful legacy of war.

My Thoughts:

First Line

By the time the kitchen clock struck seven I knew that my cousin wouldn't be coming back

After reading and loving the first two Eliza Graham novels -- Playing with the Moon and Restitution -- I was eagerly looking forward to another mystery with the backdrop of the War and I think she has once again come up with another excellent and compelling story!

The story starts with the now grown up Rachel reminiscing about the day of the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 when she was aged 9 and her 10 year old cousin Jessamy seemingly vanished off the face of the earth, there were no signs of a struggle, no reports of a child being dragged off, she was happy and had no problems, so what could possibly have happened to her?

We are taken back and forth in time throughout the book, from the prison camps of the second World War , the Queen's Coronation in 1953, the Queen's Silver and Golden Jubilees, through to the present day, as we are slowly building up a picture of Jessamy and her family and of the secrets they hold. Indeed, on the day Jessamy vanished she said to Rachel that she hated keeping secrets.

Evie (Jessamy's mother) and her twin brother were evacuated to the Winters family farm in the country during WWII and I loved how we were given snippets of the letters that Robert Winter wrote, but never sent, to a young Evie while he was in a prisoner of war camp. It gave us an insight into not only the terrible conditions but also of the slowly deteriorating mind of a young man who struggles to live a normal life after the War has ended and he comes back to work on the family farm.

I enjoyed this book and was engrossed in the story from start to finish, I thought the prisoner of war camp was handled sensitively and knowledgeably, the characters both main and on the periphery were strong and believable, and overall a thoroughly good mystery.

Eliza Graham's website is here -- to whom I must thank for sending me her book to review.

Sunday, 24 October 2010


Genre: Political Thriller

Published by: Miss Nyet (Dec 2009)

Pages: 334 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 8.5/10


About the Book:

WRONG PLACE... After participating in a pro-separatist march that turned violent in January of 1992, 21-year-old Lorenzo Lartaun Izcoa is wrongly charged with the fatal bombing of a police station in his home town.
Irun is a small city located in the heart of the Basque country, trapped between France and Spain, and struggling for independence. Lartaun finds himself on the Spanish Secret Service's most wanted list, branded an active member of the Basque terrorist group ETA. He has no choice but to flee his country.
Two years later, Lartaun's childhood friend bursts back into his life. In exchange for a small favor, he offers him a passport and the chance to return to Europe under a new identity. Lartaun seizes the opportunity.

...WRONG TIME. Back in Europe, hiding away in a commune in the French Pyrenees Mountains, Lartaun meets Faustine, a young French environmentalist. As their relationship renews his belief in a future worth fighting for, Lartaun realizes, albeit too late, that the favor he owes his friend is not so small after all.


My Thoughts:

They say that a debut author should write about what they know and Delphine Pontvieux has done just that ....... she obviously knows a great deal about rock climbing and the Basque country, and her knowledge shines through as the Pyrenees mountains and climbing them forms an integral part of this fascinating and exciting political thriller based upon the activities of the Separatist Group ETA. The story of their inception and rise without any bias on either side was handled very sensitively as well.

I loved this description (Lartaun is staring at something on the ground while mountain climbing) ----

He was transfixed by the sight of a tiny Rock Jasmine. The frail plant was growing on a miniscule patch of soil encased in a crack between two sheets of rock ........ Whatever miracle had caused this little seed to travel all the way up there and find a piece of earth to call home seemed like a true wonder. It was so ironic and yet made him think about the Basque country. The flower was just like his people, fighting an ongoing battle against all odds so that they could flourish and grow on their small piece of land.

The central characters are the tall, slender and extremely good looking 23 year old Lartaun and the pretty enviromentalist Faustine, 18, "with a gift for reading people's thoughts". They are both incredibly likeable figures and I found their relationship totally believable.

Lartaun is drawn into a world in which he starts to feel uncomfortable with as he has to repay his friend's favour, the suspense is very slowly and skilfully drawn to an exciting conclusion.

This isn't just a tale of political terrorists it is an absorbing thriller showing different sides of people's characters and of how they come to terms with the consequences of their actions, of romance, all the while with a backdrop of the beautiful mountainous scenery which is wonderfully described throughout.

I thought the storyline was strong and the characters were all well-defined with fascinating back stories.

Congratulations to Delphine Pontvieux as she was the recipient of the "2010 French in Chicago Community Award" Oscar in the category "Arts and Culture" for her novel this summer.

MissNyet website is here and I must thank them for sending me this book to review.

Friday, 22 October 2010

It's been quiet on here lately ...............

Some of my regular readers will notice that it's been a bit quiet on here lately. I've been quite busy lately selling my Christmas Cards on Ebay, since the summer! So, my blog has had to take a back seat for a while until I can devote more time to it.

I'm still reading books but I haven't been reviewing as many as I would like.

On top of that, my youngest son's girlfriend is staying with us for a few months. She is from Calgary, Canada and when we've had the time we've been showing her around the lovely area that is the North West of England. The weather has been unseasonly warm for October so we've been out and about quite a lot.

I'm sure life will get back to normal around Christmas time and I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing loads more great books!

Shameless plug for my Cards - here's a link - My Cards - if you do click the link and buy some of my Cards please email me and mention my blog and I'll give you FREE P&P!

See you all soon!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

BOOK NEWS: Chile miners' story signed up by publishers

Chile miner Alex Vega waves after being rescued from the collapsed San Jose mine. Photograph: Hugo Infante / Government of Chile / AP

Jonathan Franklin, currently covering the story for the Guardian newspaper in the UK, has already completed early chapters of book for Transworld

The long ordeal of the 33 trapped Chilean miners is finally at an end – and the buzz about book deals and film rights to the men's dramatic story has already begun.

The miners themselves are reported to have made a pact to collaborate on their own book, but in the UK the first book was signed up on Monday, before the rescue had even begun. Freelance journalist Jonathan Franklin, who has covered the dramatic story for the Guardian from day one, is to pen an account of the saga, provisionally titled 33 Men, for publisher Transworld.

Franklin, who is an American but has lived in the Chile's capital Santiago for 15 years, spoke about the book on his mobile phone from Chile, after 48 sleepless hours covering the emotional scenes as the miners emerged.

"This is one of the great rescue stories of all time," he said, admitting he himself had wept as the first miners were released on Tuesday night. "It's the reason we all want to be reporters: a remarkable story of the world coming together for a good reason. It taps into human altruism, the desire to work together, perseverance, faith that good things happen, never giving up." The early chapters of the book, he said, were already written.

As a journalist, Franklin had had "a backstage pass to the whole thing. I was allowed to tape record the psychologist talking to the [trapped] men, I spent last night in the hospital talking to the [newly freed] miners." He intends his book to reveal the characters of the miners themselves ("You could probably do a book on every one of them") and reflect their black humour: one of the men played dead, for a joke, during the first 17 days spent in the collapsed mine without food, while another attempted phone sex with the nurse who was attending to him 700m above.

To read the full article see

Monday, 4 October 2010

Interview with Peter Millar, author of The Black Madonna

I'm really pleased that Peter Millar, author of The Black Madonna, has taken time out to answer a few questions about his recently published book, which I have just read and enjoyed.

Peter is a British journalist, critic and author, primarily known for his reporting of the latter days of the Cold War and fall of the Berlin Wall for The Sunday Times in London. He has published non-fiction, Tomorrow Belongs To Me, and fiction, Stealing Thunder and Bleak Midwinter.

The Black Madonna is a religious thriller set in London, Spain and Germany.

1. Firstly, where did the idea first come from to write this book?

My first encounter with a Black Madonna was seeing the lapel pin worn
by Lech Walesa, leader of the Solidarity free trades union in communist
Poland. That depicted the painted icon of the Madonna at Czestochowa.

In my time as a foreign correspondent I visited Czestochowa during the
pilgrimages of Pope John Paul II and for the first time became aware that the
idea of a 'black' depiction of the virgin - despite her more common snow-white
appearance - was a phenomenon throughout the Roman Catholic world. That
started me wondering why?

2. I've never read a book where a young Muslim woman is the lead and
wondered why you decided to have Nazreem as the main
character instead of a man? Was this deliberate, if so, why?

Yes, it was deliberate for several reasons: firstly because it seemed to me
correct that a book about the most famous female to have come from the
Middle East region during a time of trouble (the Virgin Mary at the time Israel
was being run as a Roman satrapy) should have as lead character a young
woman from the same region in a time of trouble today.

It also made sense that she should come from more oppressed section of
the population, which obviously pointed to the Palestinians of Gaza. I thought
it was also worth pointing out that despite its modern image as a hive of
concrete refugee camps, Gaza is actually one of the oldest cities on Earth,
dating back to the time of the Pharaohs.

One other important reason was that as there is a major role played by
fundamentalists Islamic terrorists in the book (as well as fundamentalist
Christians who are little better), it seemed worth highlighting that there are
Muslim women who are intelligent, educated, capable of independent thought
and who do not feel oppressed. I see Nazreem as representing a role model
that many women brought up in Islamic culture (I think particularly of the
brave female politicians standing for parliament in Afghanistan) genuinely
aspire to.

3. Did you travel to the places mentioned and see the idols in Altotting,
Germany and Spain?

Of course. Having been a foreign correspondent on the front line of the Cold
War (see my semi-autobiographical history book: '1989: The Berlin Wall, My
part in its Downfall') - I know only too well the importance of research carried
out not just through books or over the internet, but first hand. My family spend
several weeks each year in Munich and on several occasions we made trips
out to Altötting to see the strange and quite remarkable shrine, and the grove
of Linden trees around it. I was struck how similar the religious souvenir shops
around it were to those (owned my Muslims) on a visit to Bethlehem many
years ago.

I also spent several days in Guadalupe in Spain, staying at the same hotel
used by Marcus and Nazreem, the former lepers' hospital, now a magnificent
Parador. In addition I visited a shrine they do not quite get to, although it is
mentioned, that of the Black Madonna of Montserrat in the hills of Catalunya,
not far from Barcelona.

4. What is your next book about?

My next book, provisionally entitled The Shameful Suicide of Winston
Churchill, draws on my experience living behind the Iron Curtain in East
Berlin, Warsaw and Moscow. It postulates that, as was actually considered
at the time, the Western Allies joined with defeated Germany to press back
Stalin's growing communist empire in Europe. In this case they have failed.
Britain has been part-conquered by the Red Army and London is a divided
city. Forty years on a murder reopens some awkward old questions.
It is currently scheduled for publication by Arcadia next April.
I am also working on a sequel to the Black Madonna, again involving
Nazreem and Marcus, but the details of that are a secret for now.

A big thank you to Peter.

The Black Madonna is out now and is published by Arcadia Books.

My review can be found here


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