Friday, 30 May 2014

Gone Again by Doug Johnstone

review by Maryom

Mark and Lauren have a happy marriage, a 6 year old son, Nathan, and are now expecting another child. When Mark is phoned to pick up his son from school, he just thinks Lauren has forgotten that it's 'her' day for this. But when she doesn't appear by Nathan's bedtime, Mark knows something is definitely wrong. Lauren has done this before, just after Nathan was born, and Mark fears that her pregnancy may have sparked a similar reaction. Then, in the first of several well-timed reveals, the reader discovers that Mark has a history of violence ...and we begin to wonder what exactly happened and can we believe what Mark says....

Gone Again is another great read from Doug Johnstone - a story about a perfectly normal family that get dragged into something sinister and find life spiralling out of control. In a way, it's a book of two halves, certainly of two moods. Things start a little slowly, exploring Mark's relationships with his wife, his son and his mother-in-law, and I wondered if this was going to be a different style novel to Doug Johnstone's usual fare; more of a psychological thriller with less action. But, as the reveals keep coming and Mark takes matters in hand in a d-i-y vigilante way, things really kick off. Many of us would just leave things in the hands of the police - not want to take on the world single-handedly as Mark does -  and this is where the slow build-up pays off. It seems logical with the earlier insights into Mark's character, and his grudging admittance to his violent streak, that this is how he would react.

It's a book that I raced through, each twist and turn making me want to read faster to reach the all-revealing conclusion. 

Like Hit And Run it's set in Edinburgh but in a different part of the city - the beach area of Portobello with its views out over the Firth of Forth.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Faber and Faber

Genre - Adult crime thriller
 
Buy Gone Again from Amazon

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Stormclouds by Brian Gallagher

Review by The Mole

It's 1969 and the setting is Northern Ireland - Belfast to be more precise - amidst "the troubles". In fact, the marching season approaches and the violence will reach new heights culminating with troops on the streets of Britain policing and keeping the two factions apart. And amidst this children are growing up and trying to be "normal". Maeve, a Catholic and Nationalist by birth, has a friend called Emma. Emma, who joined the same running club as Maeve, is new in town with her family having just come from the USA in order for her father, a journalist, to report on what's happening in N. Ireland. Emma's brother, Dylan, has a friend called Sammy who is a Loyalist. All four children meet up and become friends. But Sammy is a Loyalist and Maeve, a Nationalist. Can they be friends together through thick and thin? Will their families permit them to try? And will children be immune from the forthcoming violence?

The story starts with a prologue that creates a terrifying scene of Maeve inside a house that is rapidly becoming a raging inferno. She needs to get out but the terror of the fire is only slightly greater than the terror of the mob on the street. The story then goes back to telling us how this scenario came about.

This an eye opener as to how the youngsters, who just wanted to get on with enjoying life, must have felt at these troubled times. We also get to see how some of the wives and girlfriends felt about the violence as well. It's a sad, terrifying tale that still has a relevance today around the world.

Once again "enjoyed" is certainly the wrong word but I am glad I read this book.

Publisher - O'Brien Press
Genre - Children's Historical Fiction

Buy Stormclouds: New Friends. Old Differences. from Amazon

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Theft of Life by Imogen Robertson

review by Maryom

London, 1785 - A man is found dead near St Paul's Cathedral; the body staked out as if to be whipped, and with a slave punishment mask forced onto his face. When the deceased is identified as a former West Indies plantation owner and slave trader, Trimnell, it's immediately assumed to be a revenge killing by one of his former slaves but the answer isn't that simple.

Theft of Life is a murder mystery set against the backdrop of Georgian London, where high fashion and slavery walk side by side. There may be no slavery as such in England but the lifestyles of wealthy tradesmen and their fashionable wives and daughters depend upon income from West Indian plantations, which inevitably involves slavery. Among them live freed slaves, in various roles from footmen to business owners; always living precariously, in danger of being snatched and re-enslaved despite the law.
It isn't just a loosely disguised history lesson though but a compelling thriller - maybe not as dark as some but with twists and turns to the very end. I thought I had it all worked out - who killed whom and why - but was still surprised by the final twist.

Imogen Robertson is a new historical thriller find for me and I'm coming rather late to this series - this is the fifth - but I soon slipped into the world of anatomist Gabriel Crowther and Harriet Westerman, a widow with an unusual taste for crime-solving. There's obviously an ongoing story arc regarding Mrs Westerman and the household of Jonathan Thornleigh, the eleven year old Earl of Sussex, but enough is sketched out in the opening chapters to bring a new-comer up to speed, hopefully without spoiling the previous books too much.   

Maryom's review -  4.5 stars
Publisher -Headline
Genre - Historical fiction, crime

Buy Theft of Life (Crowther & Westerman 5) from Amazon

Friday, 23 May 2014

Lenny series by Ken Wilson-Max

 Review by The Mole

In this series of early reader/picture books we meet Lenny doing things that children do. In "Where's Lenny" he plays hide and seek with his dad and we meet his family, his pets and the different rooms in his house so exploring quite a range of vocabulary. The pages of each book are quite robust and feel quite durable against sticky fingers and even feel like they would take a wipe down when necessary. The colours chosen are bright and the drawings are cartoon-like without being too simplistic.
When any child goes to nursery school for the first time they are likely to find it a bit daunting - no matter how well you try to prepare them but in "Lenny Goes to Nursery School" we see, and can show, youngsters that nursery is fun with lots to do and friends to make.

There are also a couple of other books in the series: "Lenny Has Lunch" and "Lenny In The Garden" and all can equally be shared, read aloud or simply be an early reader.

A really nice collection of books.

Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre - Picture Book, early reader

Buy The Lenny Series from Amazon

Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

review by Maryom

Nombeko Mayeki was born in a shack in Soweto, South Africa, and expected nothing remarkable to happen in her life  - so how did she end up in Sweden, on the run from the Israeli secret service, with twins who share the same identity, an extremely angry young woman and an elderly potato-farming Countess. And how did the fate of the world - and the King of Sweden - come to rest in her hands?

I'm struggling slightly to describe this book without just going ahead and retelling it - is it a comedy, a thriller or a bit of everything; in part, the title's a bit of a spoiler as it's a long way through the book before the King of Sweden appears. What it most definitely is is a delightful, quirky tale full of serendipitous happenings and accidental meetings that takes Nombeko and the reader from 1960s South Africa to Sweden today via a look at apartheid, the arms race, Swedish monarchy and seemingly a million and one other side topics.

Nombeko is an amazing character; one I quickly warmed to. Her life has been full of troubles -  starting work at the age of 5 as a latrine emptier, getting run over by a drunk driver and then being made to take the blame for it, finding a way to escape to Sweden to a life free from oppression and then finding herself responsible for an unwanted nuclear bomb (as you do!)  -  through it all she remains remarkably upbeat, hoping things will take a turn for the better but not feeling down and beaten if they don't. A genius at maths, engineering and languages, Nombeko is a puzzle to her South African white 'superiors' - a black cleaning woman who's cleverer than they are? Impossible! Fortunately not all the world shares their point of view.

From farce to narrowly-averted tragedy, it's a highly entertaining read full of strange events and even stranger characters.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher -
Fourth Estate
Genre - adult fiction, humour


Translator - Rachel Willson-Broyles

Buy The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden from Amazon

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott

Review by The Mole

With her brother dying of cancer Tella is offered a chance to win a cure for him by entering a race called the Brimstone Bleed. Knowing nothing whatsoever about this race she takes up the challenge to save his life. But she doesn't know how much she is risking her own to save his.

Clearly Tella is the heroine - the first chapter tells us that - so we expect her to be with us at the end, particularly as this is a series although I did find myself wondering how she could have survived to page 366.

The summary automatically had me thinking "Hunger Games" but here the scenario differs in that it's not last man standing, rather first past the post. But sometimes there are conditions to getting past the post...

Each competitor gets to choose an egg at the start and from that egg comes a "companion" or protector to help them through the race and this part had me thinking "His Dark Materials", particularly Tella's cute little fox. But each has additional capabilities that the animal can not do naturally - like a fire breathing lion. The animals are created by genetic engineers and so there is nothing magical or fantasy about this story - just sci-fi - in fact the reader ends up suspecting that her brother's cancer is no accident.

One thing that did bug me big time was the love aspect (or is it lust?)... I like my heroes/heroines to be strong, to be needed, supportive and focussed but Tella was too needy and school-girl-crushy for my taste.

That to one side, the book was an excellent read with elements from other stories combined to make a unique and original story that was extremely compelling, fast and tense.

Publisher - Chicken House
Genre - YA dystopian, action adventure

Buy Fire and Flood from Amazon

Monday, 19 May 2014

Operation Sting by Simon Cheshire

Review by The Mole

Swarm is a group of micro-biotic robots that is the latest weapon in the Secret Intelligence Agency's arsenal. The trouble is that it's so new it's full potential isn't known nor how to use it most efficiently. During the trials they protect a man carrying a top secret weapon that is so secret no-one knows it exists so cannot be interested in stealing it. But that's what happens and despite the Swarm's best efforts they manage to get away with it. In order to ensure that Swarm has a future they need to redeem themselves.

As I read this story I found that I constantly imagined that it was a children's TV series I was watching. I even cast some of the characters! The real characters in the book of course are the Swarm and each of the highly sophisticated robots has it's own voice and character. The story line, though never in doubt that they will redeem themselves, is not as obvious as I expected and some blind alleys are created.

At only 144 pages long there isn't a great deal of time to really get to know them and pick a champion but I'm sure the young readers will soon have a favourite. There is something about the writing and story line that says this series could so easily become a cult and clearly the publisher feels this way too as there are trading cards to go with it all. Although aimed at the 9-11 readership the story is all action with very  low level violence (where needed) and so is suitable for any child who can cope with the vocabulary and lack of pictures so advanced readers as young as 7 would thoroughly enjoy it.

The second book (Project Venom) comes out in July.

A really great action adventure series for youngsters that, hopefully, will become a cult.

Publisher - Little Tiger Press
Genre - Children's (9-11) action adventure

Buy Operation Sting (Swarm) from Amazon

Friday, 16 May 2014

The Oversight by Charlie Fletcher

review by Maryom

The Oversight is a group pledged to guard the border between the normal, 'natural' world and the supernatural one. Once there were many members but now their numbers have dropped to dangerously low levels - in fact there are only 5 of them, the bare minimum necessary - and their enemies are ready to take advantage of this weakness. When a girl with strange gifts is brought to the Oversight's safe house, they hope they may have found a new member - but she's being manipulated by shadowy figures, enemies of the Oversight, and has been sent to steal one of the Oversight's most valued possessions

Set in Victorian London, this story (first of a series) is a bit like 'if Dickens did fantasy'- the fog-bound streets, the murky Thames, shady characters lurking on corners, an urchin-like group of adopted boys and the travelling fair folk all feel like elements of one of his stories. It's an atmosphere just waiting for a touch of supernatural... and The Oversight has plenty of it. I loved the mix of historical and fantastical elements, and of the way the supernatural elements were hidden almost in plain sight amongst the crowded streets of London. The members of the Oversight may appear as normal as you or I, but they have special gifts - an ability to read minds perhaps or to see and hear the history of a place through touching a wall. And pitched against them are a range of enemies from the scientifically curious to gruesome half-humans. 

It plunges directly into the story, in an attention-grabbing way - a man carrying a bound and gagged girl over his shoulder and taking her to be sold! You can read the opening chapters here on Orbit's website, and maybe they'll have you hooked too!

As the first of a series, there's obviously more to come but also more backstory waiting to be revealed. I can't wait to read what happens next!
Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Orbit
Genre - Fantasy
Buy The Oversight from Amazon

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Black Lake by Joanna Lane

review by Maryom

This is a story that opens with a family in crisis - Marianne has decided to fetch her daughter Kate home from boarding school, and hide out in a disused part of their rambling stately home - keeping everyone, husband John included, at bay and creating a safe haven where the world can't intrude. From this point, it backtracks to explore how the family have reached such a dreadful state of things.
Dulough (or Black Lake in English) is a mock-castle on the Donegal coast, owned and loved by generations of the Campbell family, but modern incomes don't stretch to the upkeep of old family properties. In financial desperation, John decides that the way forward is to allow the government to take over running the house and open it to the public. So the family move to a small damp cottage by the lake while visitors roam round the house and grounds - not an ideal solution and strains and stresses soon begin to tell.

Black Lake is a story of loss and a family falling apart. John's decision about the future of the house, taken without consulting his wife and children, proves to be the catalyst which brings everything tumbling down. As the story is told from varying points of view, a picture is built up of what Dulough meant to each of them and of how disoriented and adrift they felt having to leave it. The one thing none of them do though is admit any of these feelings to the other family members - instead they stumble along, barely speaking to each other, holding their feelings tight inside until something is bound to snap.
Despite the idyllic setting, and the family's deep love of their home, the dark waters of the lake, the overshadowing mountains and even the valley's name - Poison Glen, an English misinterpretation of Irish - all contribute to a brooding, foreboding atmosphere at Dulough, a feeling that tragedy is just waiting to happen.


An absorbing read and one that's bound to raise thoughts about what 'home' means, and about our ties to landscape or buildings.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - 
Tinder Press
Genre -
Adult fiction, literary

Buy Black Lake from Amazon

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Riot by Sarah Mussi

Review by The Mole

The government is trying to curb benefit payments and is using the poorest families as a scapegoat - if teenagers don't have a job to go to or definite further education plans then they will be sterilised to stop them getting a family and becoming a burden. Clearly this is a very unpopular measure and ADAM and EVE orchestrate demonstrations against the Bill. ADAM and EVE protect their real identities closely and in EVE's case this is because she is, in fact, Tia Thompson - daughter of the minister whose Bill this actually is! But demonstrations are something the government will not tolerate and they are prepared to use extreme force to suppress.

As with SIEGE, the reader hits the ground running and the pace hardly lets up as we twist and turn on the way to the final pages.

There are certain similarities to SIEGE but I found RIOT a much better book - not that I didn't enjoy SIEGE because I did - but somehow the author felt more at ease in the writing of RIOT, both of the tender scenes and the violence.

I found that I could never 'believe' in Tia and when certain facts are revealed about her tastes at various times, I thought "Oh, I wouldn't have thought that!". (I did find myself, a lot of the time,thinking of her as a young man!) The only character I found myself thinking of as 'real' though was her father in all his vileness! But none of this mattered because with the pace of the story I didn't get time to stop and think about it at all.

The book is based around a government plot that is so extreme we can easily accept this as fiction but when you stop to consider the power base that the government enjoys you are left wondering if one day...

A great read in which the pages fly by.

Publisher - Hodder Childrens
Genre - Teen thriller

Buy Riot from Amazon

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Whitehall Mandarin by Edward Wilson

review by Maryom

William Catesby is on the trail of a spy again - this time someone highly placed in Whitehall. His superiors learn, through a mole inside the KGB,  that a Soviet spy ring is no longer sending information back to Russia but on to its communist rival China, and that someone high in the British government hierarchy is providing that information. Catesby has a hunch about the informant but where can he find the evidence to back it? Why would a high ranking civil servant 'turn' and spy for another country - ideology, dark hidden secrets worth a spot of blackmail or just for the money?
It's not an easy task and a story that starts in the late 1950s burns on a slow fuse through the sex scandals of London in the swinging sixties to its end in war-torn Vietnam.

The Whitehall Mandarin is another excellent convoluted maze of an espionage thriller from Edward Wilson. With his trademark of wrapping of a story around historical facts, the story is littered with references to real events and people, such as the Profumo scandal, Kennedy assassination and double-agent Oleg Penkovsky, blurring the distinction between fact and fiction. Don't think this is a dry recitation of facts though - it's a gripping story full of subterfuge, lies and double, and triple, crossings; so much so that at times I felt I should have been keeping notes to remind me who I thought was on which 'side', who was lying to whom, and which people knew they were being lied to and using that for their advantage!
The setting moves from the bleak Suffolk marshes, via the offices of Whitehall and decadent society parties to the jungles of Vietnam, but it isn't really an action-packed story of high speed chases and gunfights, more on the lines of Le Carré's Smiley stories.

It seems a little odd to tag this as historical fiction  - after all I can vaguely remember some of the events - but it's surprising how long ago some of these events took place.

Maryom's review -  4.5 stars
Publisher - Arcadia Books
Genre - Adult Spy Thriller, Historical Fiction

Buy The Whitehall Mandarin from Amazon

Friday, 9 May 2014

A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton


 review by Maryom

Sharon Bolton is back with an extraordinary thriller set among the old wharfs, abandoned warehouses and industrial relics of the Thames. Ex-detective Lacey Flint is living and working right in the heart of them; her home is an old houseboat moored in a marina off Deptford Creek, and her work-place is on the river as part of the Metropolitan Police's Marine Unit. She'd hoped that quitting her detective role and getting back to 'proper' policing would lead to a quieter life - but things are rarely that easy.
Out for a morning swim in the Thames, Lacey discovers a partially submerged body wrapped in a shroud-like cloth, and Lacey just can't help getting pulled into the investigation. The body is quickly linked to other disappearances, and it soon appears that someone is abducting and murdering young (probably illegal) immigrant women along the banks of the Thames. It's just coincidence that Lacey seems to always be the one to find the bodies, isn't it?

I came a bit late to the Lacey Flint series - jumping in at book 3 Like This, For Ever  which I found a bit confusing with its on-going personal story-arcs. Now I know the characters and slipped back into their world comfortably. Lacey's private life is pretty much on hold for now as the man she loves, Mark Joesbury, is off undercover somewhere, out of touch with anyone and everyone, but there are still the prison visits to serial-killer Toc and enticing glimpses of Lacey's past.

A Dark and Twisted Tide starts chilling and tense, and stays that way! A complex story developing in unforeseen ways, involving people trafficking and other things too plot-spoiling to mention, it's, as you may guess from the title, as dark and twisted as you could wish for. I thought I'd unravelled the whole back-story to the murders and found myself expecting the story to move in certain directions - but I hadn't and it didn't! I love it when a thriller writer can manage that!

It's not necessarily easy to keep track of everything as the story is told from multiple points of view and the time line jumps about a bit,so it's only towards the end that everything slips nicely into place. But it's a story that grabbed me and had me reading late into the night. I'm not an explorer of caves, tunnels or anything under ground, so having action set in a half-flooded drainage tunnel with a rising tide is NOT my idea of fun - all of which made for an extra-dramatic nail-biting climax.

Something that delighted me was the way A Dark and Twisted Tide opened my eyes to a whole new perspective on London - not the bustling shopping areas or seedy backstreets but the marinas, creeks and inlets that lead into the Thames - for the most part dingy and polluted but in the midst of them an almost enchanted garden that I'd love to explore.

I'm now truly hooked on the Lacey Flint series and want to find and read the earlier ones (sadly not in stock at my library, as I checked yesterday) and can't wait to read Book 5 - no pressure on the author there!

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher -
Bantam Press
Genre -
adult, crime, thriller

Buy A Dark and Twisted Tide: Lacey Flint Series, Book 4 from Amazon

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

review by Maryom

"My father still lives back the road past the weir in the cottage I was reared in. I go there every day to see is he dead and every day he lets me down. He hasn't yet missed a day of letting me down."

I've come to this, Donal Ryan's debut, in a round-a-bout way - back at the start of this year I received a review copy of his second novel The Thing About December which, while grim and immensely sad, immediately made its way to my 'pick of the year' list. Since then I've seen The Spinning Heart appearing here, there and everywhere on book award longlists and picking up awards, so I decided it was time to read it for myself!

The Spinning Heart is a 'slice of life' novel set in a small Irish town, exploring the financial and personal impact of the bursting of the great Irish economic bubble. To add to the general downturn in fortunes, the local get-rich-quick builder has not been bothering himself about paying tax and insurance for his employees and now, perhaps understandably, has done a runner while the town is left disfigured by his abandoned half-built housing development.
Each chapter is narrated by a different person - 21 in all - with each individual voice building towards the whole - a difficult enough task you would think for an experienced writer but this is a debut!
Reflecting life as it does, it runs through all moods and emotions - anger, pain, guilt, shame, love. At times funny, at others depressing, it builds a picture of people crushed by events beyond them, struggling to go on but still somewhere, somehow finding the strength.

I still think The Thing About December has a marginal edge over this, perhaps because I approached it 'blind', but both are amazing books full of insight and impact.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Doubleday
Genre - adult contemporary literary fiction

Buy The Spinning Heart from Amazon

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Above by Isla Morley

Review by The Mole

Blythe, a sixteen-year-old Kansas schoolgirl is abducted and kept in an abandoned silo by a survivalist, who is convinced that the world is about to end.
Struggling to survive, crushed by loneliness and the terrifying madness of her captor, Blythe resists the temptation to give up. Nothing, however, prepares her for the burden of having to raise a child in confinement.
Just when Blythe starts to believe that she may be confined to the silo for life, their lives are ambushed by one event that is at once promising and devastating…

The rest is obvious isn't it? No, it's anything but!!

You know when you get a Christmas present that is a funny shape and it doesn't rattle and you cannot for the life of you figure out what  you are going to find? And when you do get into the parcel and find out what it is you are absolutely delighted? But not quite as delighted as you'd expected to be? Well that's how I found this book. I expected a crime thriller come horror story. Well it was... and it wasn't. It was a book of two halves - literally and when you switch to the second half it's almost an entirely different genre but each genre becomes more conventional. But both halves are done extremely well and are, for the main part, completely riveting.

I found parts quite tense and had to put the book down for a break from it - although returning at the first opportunity. There are little bits that had me thinking "As if..." particularly as I had this down as an adult novel but I stress they were few and far between. The science? I really don't know because the author has cleverly just glossed over it with a casual flick of the hand when she needed to and the plot construct means the science can almost be ignored.

Stockholm Syndrome... I suspect that this has been strategically ignored too but this must also be forgiven.

The story did end at the ideal point (or is it the start?) and could so easily lead to a sequel but please - no. I have written my version in my head and I don't want it spoiling.

I did enjoy this immensely but I really must sometime read the book I thought it was going to be. As for a genre... No, it might give something away.

Publisher - Two Roads
Genre - Adult fiction

Buy Above from Amazon

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

American Sycamore by Karen Fielding

review by Maryom

Growing up by the Susquehanna river in rural Pennsylvania, Billy Sycamore was always drawn to it; canoeing, trading tales with the Native Americans he met on its banks but above all - fishing. It seems like an idyllic world - and it mainly is till one day, when he's 12, out fishing alone, he encounters a stranger and something dreadful happens to him which ultimately changes his life. Although he won't share the details with them, his family all too easily spot its impact and the change in Billy as he descends into increasing mental instability.

To be honest, I wasn't very attracted by this book when it arrived for review. Probably due to having watched too many 'river' based movies, I sort of imagined it to be a teenage mash-up of Deliverance, The River of No Return and The River Wild with too much fishing! - fortunately it was nothing of that kind! When I eventually picked it up, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.
American Sycamore is a quirky coming of age tale set in a wild landscape of forests and river.  Set in a small town peopled by the eccentric, weird and downright crazies, it's moving and funny by turns, and twisting and turning like a whodunnit. The story is narrated by Billy's younger sister Alice, in an off-beat, chatty style as she struggles to understand what has happened to her brother but nonetheless loving him through all his 'treatments' and hospitalisations.
I'm not sure whether to label this as teen, YA or adult but it would probably be enjoyed by all.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher -
Seren Books
Genre -
coming of age, YA/adult crossover

Buy American Sycamore from Amazon

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Line of Fire - The diary of an unknown soldier

Review by The Mole

Translated by Sarah Ardizzone
Introduced by Michael Morpurgo
Illustrated by Barroux

Barroux found the diary of a French soldier from the first world war in a rubbish tip in Paris. The diary tells us little of the man but much about his experiences during August and September of 1914 - the start of the first world war in France.

Because the audience it is written for is himself alone (or maybe his family if it found it's way home) it is honest and forthright, containing his emotions of the moment. He started out patriotic with high morale but quickly misses his family and starts to encounter the confusion of war as people are moved, pushed, advanced and retreated around the country. He shares with us the full horrors that we normally hear of third hand through fiction and documentaries. He becomes injured and has to seek medical help and feels guilty about not being with his comrades to help protect his family who are in Paris while the German army are closing in.

Translation is always a little awkward in so far as you will inevitably end up paraphrasing something but here the translator has managed to stay very close to the original. Those with a smattering of French can attempt to read the few reproduced pages and appreciate the quality of the translation which greatly enhances this book.

The diary stops on 12th September 1914 while he is out of the line of fire and recovering in hospital. What became of the soldier? We will never know but we do get an insight into what life was like for an infantryman at that time.

Aimed at the 11+ reader then the pictures - making this a "graphic novel" - add appeal but this is non-fiction so that title is errant and it's appeal is to a far wider audience including adults of all ages.

Publisher - Phoenix Yard Books
Genre - 11+, Non-fiction, History

Buy Line of Fire: Diary of an Unknown Soldier August - September 1914 from Amazon