In Every Moment We Are Still Alive


In January the wonderful fellows at Sceptre Books sent me a proof called ‘In Every Moment We’re Still Alive’ by Tom Malmquist. The press release that accompanied this book stated that Malmquist had ‘taken the Swedish literary world by storm’ and you know what… I think book is going to take the English literary world by storm as well.

In Every Moment We Are Still Alive, it begins with Tom who is at hospital with his girlfriend Karen, 33 weeks pregnant and fighting for her life. Tom is bombarded with medical jargon while he sits helplessly while his wife and daughter’s lives hang in the balance. There’s a sense of numbing shock that Malmquist purveys with his writing that is like nothing I’ve ever read.

Being told that your child is going to be delivered by emergency c-section, 6 weeks early was one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve had to read. Having experienced it first hand, the blunt realisation that today you will become a parent is terrifying. Tom is robbed of any preparation time but also has to compartmentalise with the fact that his wife isn’t there to go through it with him.

Parts of this book I found too hard to read. I sat on the beach, reading and sobbing as this beautiful story of love and loss captured my heart.

Powerful, stark and tender. I can’t find enough words to describe this outstanding novel, all I can do is urge anyone who has experienced loss to embrace this novel.

In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist published by Sceptre Books 9781473640009




The Roanoke Girls


The first book of 2017 I read was a novel by Amy Engel called The Roanoke Girls. A mystery with deep dark roots, The Roanoke Girls left me rattled, thrilled and moved. Last week I was lucky enough to ask author Amy Engel a few questions about The Roanoke Girls.

This is your first novel for adults, how was it transitioning from YA to adult fiction?

The transition was actually pretty painless. For me, the crux of any story is the characters and that doesn’t change whether I’m writing YA or adult. I was, of course, able to go to some darker places with the adult book, but the actual writing process wasn’t all that different.

The Roanoke Girl is so dark and provocative. What was it like to write something so emotive, was it difficult? Did you have any special processes to help you write?

The book wasn’t actually that difficult to write, although at times I did find myself having to shake it off after a day of being immersed in the world of Roanoke. I didn’t really have any special processes unique to The Roanoke Girls that helped me write it. I tend to write all my books in a certain spot in my house (a big comfy chair in my living room) and that didn’t change with The Roanoke Girls. I definitely think this is a story that wanted to be told, because I never had much trouble getting it to flow.

I loved the setting of The Roanoke Girls, the hot Kansas landscape really transported me. What sort of research did you have to do for the book?

Very little research when it came to the setting, actually. I was born in Kansas, my mom grew up in a small town there, and I spent many, many summer in rural Kansas. So I know the rhythms of small time life well, along with the stifling, oppressive heat and the relentless boredom. I pretty much just plucked from my own past for those parts without having to do any research.

What was your favourite thing about writing The Roanoke Girls?

Honestly, all of it. For such a dark book, it was a tremendous joy to write. I especially loved writing Lane, who I know can be awful and difficult at times, but I always felt such sympathy for her. She’s doing the very best she can, and I admire her strength. 


Were there any writers or stories that inspired you when writing The Roanoke Girls?

My love for gothic novels definitely inspired The Roanoke Girls. In fact, the first line of the book is my own little homage to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Gillian Flynn is always an inspiration when it comes to diving into very dark places. And Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell inspired me with its strong evocation of place, which I really wanted to achieve with The Roanoke Girls. There’s also a little nod within the novel to the story of the lost colony of Roanoke, Virginia, but so far only a couple of people have made the connection.

Finally, what’s next for you?

I’m working on a new adult novel, psychological suspense again. I’m hoping to have the first draft done soon!

The Roanoke Girls is published 9th March by Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN: 9781473660311

With thanks to Trish Brown for author images.


Worth a thousand words

Most of my reading time is taken up by reading picture books to my toddler. 2016 and 2017 so far has seen some outstanding releases already. Compared to when I was growing up the standard of pictures books and titles aimed at younger readers is os much better!


Here’s a few of the books we’ve been reading on rotation.

The Unexpected Visitor by J. Courtny-Tickle published by Egmont Books.

This is a beautiful little story about friendship and fishing, the illustrations are soothing and delicate. We read this one chilly night and by the end I was genuinely warmed.

Life is Magic by Meg McLaren published by Andersen Press

This book is cheeky, fun and magical! A magician’s rabbit who’s bored of being a sidekick causes all kinds of chaos. The illustrations are Ghibli-esque and had my daughter laughing and shouting “bunny!” all night.

The Bear Who Stared by Duncan Beedie published by Templar Publishing.

This earned its place amongst my daughter’s favourite books straight away. We’ve read this every night for about a month so far. It’s got everything, a shy weirdo bear, a rude badger and a cheeky frog, The Bear Who Stared puts across a message about shyness and friendship which is delightful.

The Lumberjack’s Beard by Duncan Beedie published by Templar Publishing.

Judging by The Bear Who Stared I knew we were in for a treat when this book arrived. Straight away it was a hit in my household. Ridiculous and brilliant, The Lumberjack’s Beard is a sweet story about home and every page has enchanting illustrations. If you’ve enjoyed Jon Klassen then Duncan Beedie will be right up your street!

Sunk! by Rob Biddulph published by Harper Collins Children’s Books.

Blown Away was the one of the best books I’ve had the pleasure to read with my daughter, Odd Dog Out almost drove me to insanity, it was so wonderful but I know it off by heart, it was read atlas three times a day so when I saw that Sunk! was due to be released I skipped with joy. It’s just a refreshing to get a children’s book with fantastic rhyming, fun illustrations and great adventure story. Get on board with Penguin Blue!

Also an Octopus by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Benji Davies published by Walker Books.

A great story about imagination and storytelling which has a ukulele playing octopus, a little girl, a bunny and a spaceship. What more could you want!? This was delightful to read and the illustrations are so lovely.

I just hope 2017 carries on with this high standard of publishing!

The White Road


I couldn’t wait to start The White Road by Sarah Lotz, I kept seeing a whole load of social media buzz when the proofs of this came about. I loved The Three and Day Four was really enjoyable, so I had a rare lay in, grabbed a cup of tea and started The White Road.

The White Road starts on a grey, drizzly day in the Welsh countryside. Simon, part-time barista and  co-founder of new buzzfeed-esque website decides that he’s going to spelunking in some closed off underground caves. Simon hires a guide via a caving forum by the name of Ed. Ed is grizzled, slightly unhinged and totally paranoid, not exactly the sort of person you want leading you through confined, narrow caves.

The first part with Simon caving is claustrophobic, intense and Lotz’s writing is manic and panic and you really end up putting yourself in Simon’s shoes as the situation escalates.

The second part of the novel follows a climbing called Juliet and her attempt to submit Everest. Juliet’s extracts of her journey are really exciting. I have a family member who has taken part in big climbs like Kilimanjaro so I got completely lost in this part of the story. Part two was so exciting, I was hooked by the time I got to last the journal entry it was so tense and there was a looming dread that overtook the book. I yelped out loud as I read Juliet’s entries, partly because it was creepy and partly because I live in an old house and it makes all sorts of terrifying sounds.

In the third part of the novel Lotz’s writing has you believing that Everest is it’s own intimidating character. I was reading this book on a bitterly cold night but it was nothing compared to the endurance and harsh conditions our characters. Every page tickled you with dread, her characters were all believable. Juliet was determined and climbing to redeem her name and make a better life for herself and her som, whereas Simon was a bit of mess of a human, he didn’t really know what he was getting himself into. Even after his ordeal in the caves at the start you can tell he’s quite self-destructive and denies being traumatised by what he went through.

Towards the end you get another part of Juliet’s diary which I was thrilled to read, I found myself reading until 3AM just so I could finish this unnerving, sinister plot. When I put this book down a chill went down my spine. It was everything I was looking for, chilling and disturbing. With the expedition on Everest taking just over a month I was worried this novel would drag but  Lotz doesn’t fanny around and gets straight to the point. She doesn’t unnecessarily drag anything out and it’s the sort of book which would make a brilliant screen adaptation.

The White Road by Sarah Lotz is published by Hodder & Stoughton on 4th May 2017


Spaceman of Bohemia

Ages ago a proof turned up from Sceptre books called The Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar. Remember that old saying ‘never judge a book buy its cover’ thats only ever partly true. This book looked super cool, sprayed red edges and beautiful cover illustration to boot.

What I wasn’t expecting when I started Spaceman of Bohemia was a warning letter from the editor, which left me buzzing with excitement.

Jakub Prochazka, Czech scientist sent into space to investigate a dust cloud that has formed near Venus. As Jakub embarks on his eight month mission, his marriage starts to deteriorate and potentially his mental health when he starts conversing with a spider named Hanus.

Considering I hate spiders (I don’t want them in my vicinity and I don’t want to read about them), this book was tremendous. The writing is intelligent, witty and incredibly humane. The book goes  back over Jakub’s political upbringing, there’s chapter towards the beginning about the annual slaughter of a pig. It was written in such a visceral and morbid way but was a happy childhood memory for the main character.

There’s a bleak beauty to Kalfar’s writing. It’s well paced and I can’t wait to see how Kalfar is going to follow up this novel.

Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar is realised on 9th March 2017 published by Sceptre Books.





From the moment I saw Uprooted I couldn’t help but think “that looks like my kind of book” but like many other books I see and like the look of I knew it was one I wouldn’t get round to reading any time. Uprooted was going to be one for the ‘tsundoku’ pile. Not too long after its paperback release and number of friends and colleagues kept going on about Uprooted. So another few months past and it got to January 2017 and I was deep in a reading binge, what better time to start Uprooted?

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started Noami Novik’s novel, it’d been ages since I’d read (and enjoyed) a full on fantasy book. I tend to lean towards fantasy that has its roots in reality. I didn’t read the blurb of Uprooted but kept in mind all the people who had recommended it.

I was tired when I started this book, I wasn’t sure if i was in the right mind for to start a book in which I was so unfamiliar with the author. It had been a long day at work, my daughter was poorly and I was read to settle in with an episode of Fleabag. It took me a little while to get into Uprooted. The novel starts with Agnieszka being chosen by a sorcerer called The Dragon to be his servant for ten years. Being taken away from her friends, family and the village that she loves, Agnieszka is distraught especially when everyone thought her best friend Kasia was certain to be taken by the Dragon.

Agineszka is a fantastic leading lady, she’s a bit of a mess, scrappy and but she’s strong willed and you can tell she determined. She’s not necessarily book-smart but makes up with common sense.

Novik’s writing is so enjoyable, its fluid, fairytale-like and way more engaging than I was expecting. I was roaring through this novel and the evening I started this I found myself 100 pages in and fully invested. It was the first proper fantasy novel I’d really sunk my teeth into since Lyonesse.

When I was about half way through Uprooted was bringing back all the memories of the fantasies I’d enjoyed when I was younger like Kyou Kara Maoh, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ink Heart.

The last quarter of the novel includes a dramatic fantasy battle and Novik’s writing is so good, she’s stops it from getting too OTT fantasy. The writing had me thinking of the sort of believable fairytale like The Bloody Chamber in some parts and sometimes felt like I was reading a grown up version of Diana Wynnne Jones’ work.

The ending of Uprooted was ace and left feeling warm and satisfied. I enjoyed Uprooted so much and it’s an amazing bit of escapism. Agineszka reminded me of Lyra from His Dark materials by the end and The Dragon was so mysterious at the start so when the book reaches its conclusion I was captivated.

Dolores Claiborne

It’s been so long since I sunk my teeth into a Stephen King book. I’d been reading lots of upcoming fiction or picture books so I hadn’t stopped to spare a thought for my favourite author. I couldn’t decide which of King’s many works I should start but I narrowed it down to Dreamcatcher and Dolores Claiborne then I did the sensible thing and asked my fellow SK superfans to decide for me. My ka-tet came through and unanimously nominated Dolores Claiborne. I hadn’t heard much about Dolores but knew there was an old film starring Kathy Bates but didn’t know the plot.

Dolores Claiborne is telling officers Andy Bissette, Frank Proulx and Nancy Bannister the fate that’s befallen her employee Vera Donovan. The almost 300 page ‘statement’ starts from the day Dolores is hired as a housekeeper to look after the holiday home of the wealthy Mrs Donovan. Dolores is a young mother to a small daughter, already pregnant with her second child and starting to realise that her marriage is already showing cracks. On top of that working for Mrs Donovan is demanding and unrewarding. The wealthy, taskmaster is relentless and thinks little of her staff, she only gets harsher after the death of her husband.

I won’t say too much about the story of this one but you need to know that this is some of King’s best writing. Dolores is the best female character he’s written, she’s sharp-tongued, bold and so strong. Dolores is the personification of hard work and every page was a tragic pleasure. I loved this book and if you’ve read any King you’ll be blown away by how great his writing is in this novel.


It only took me a few days to finish Dolores Claiborne, I would have finished it sooner if I had gotten myself into such a podcast hole. I’ve never been into audiobooks but I’ve been devouring some of the audio dramas on itunes. If you’ve enjoyed Night Vale check out Tanis, The Darkest Night, The Magnus Archives and Homecoming just to mention a few. And if any of you can recommend some more that’d be swell!