Trouble by Marise Gaughan

Marise was nine when she first realised there was trouble, 14 when her Dad tried to end it all, and 23 when he finally succeeded.

In a turmoil of conflicting emotions Marise runs – from Dublin to Amsterdam to Los Angeles, leaving a trail of sex and self-destruction in her wake. Until finally, she finds herself facing what she’s become in a California psych ward, a girl imploding through trying to make sense of her father’s suicide.

As she retells her unravelling, from child to adult, Marise strips back her identity and her relationship with her father, layer by layer, until she finally starts to understand how to live with him, years after he has gone.

Written beautifully, with wit and unflinching honesty, Marise has produced one of the most powerful coming-of-age memoirs of recent years, a brave new voice in Irish writing.


Trouble by Marise Gaughan is an incredibly powerful and moving read. Both hard to read and yet life-affirming, it is her account of how her fathers alcoholism, depression and his suicide shaped her childhood and adult life. Her increasingly destructive decent in depression and dependence on drinking and drugs, stemmed from the trauma of living as a child with an alcoholic father whose chaotic and self absorbed actions, left her carrying crushing guilt and anger.

What I found so astonishingly compelling about Marise Gaughans writing was her candour. She lays bare for us her life at it’s most shocking and we come to understand how her behaviour was shaped by her father actions, having to carry acute trauma around with her as a constant companion. So often when writing about mental health in memoirs, it can come across feeling sterile and lacking the crushing reality it has on those who live with and those that suffer from it day in and day out. In Trouble she gives us a brutally honest depiction of how she came so close to repeating history, of allowing his death to claim and destroy her life as well. She doesn’t hold back and the raw, painful narrative, details events that show how she seeks approval and affirmation from men, through sex and money.

It is though also about the power of humanity to find the strength to live and thrive. In Trouble Marise Gaughan shows us how she found within herself the ability recognise and accept that although she carries her father legacy in her very genes, as a unit of heredity inheritance, she is more than her father’s daughter, she is a gifted and beautiful women for whom life holds endless possibilities. It is not an easy journey for her or the reader, but it is a tremendously rewarding one, as she take the steps towards a life, she so richly deserves. In coming to terms with the fact depression will always be with her, but won’t always define her, she can live.

She is a remarkable women and Trouble an incredible read.

You can purchase this book from Amazon and Waterstones

About the author

Irish writer and comedian Marise Gaughan started her comedy career in the open mic nights of Los Angeles and quickly made waves with her dark and honest style. Now based in London and Dublin, Marise continues to perform in all the major UK clubs, and has supported Rob Delaney, Ari Shaffir and Jim Norton on tour. She also presents a weekly radio segment on Ireland’s and has written features for The Irish Times and The as well as online American magazines including Tasteful Rude, Windmill(mac)ro(mic) and Hobart.

Her debut show Drowning discusses her father’s (successful) suicide attempt and her own (unsuccessful one). It premiered at the Dublin Fringe Festival in September 2018 and was awarded the Women’s Irish Network Arts Bursary to take it to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The Shot by Sarah Sultoon

An act of mercy
Or the ultimate betrayal…
Who decides?

Samira is an up-and-coming TV journalist, working the nightshift at a major news channel and yearning for greater things. So when she’s offered a trip to the Middle East, with Kris, the station’s brilliant but impetuous star photographer, she leaps at the chance.

In the field together, Sami and Kris feel invincible, shining a light into the darkest of corners … except the newsroom, and the rest of the world, doesn’t seem to care as much as they do. Until Kris takes the photograph.

With a single image of young Sudanese mother, injured in a raid on her camp, Sami and the genocide in Darfur are catapulted into the limelight. But everything is not as it seems, and the shots taken by Kris reveal something deeper and much darker … something that puts not only their careers but their lives in mortal danger.

Sarah Sultoon brings all her experience as a CNN news executive to bear on this shocking, searingly authentic thriller, which asks immense questions about the world we live in. You’ll never look at a news report in the same way again…


I love a great thriller, but I also crave originality, a sense of authenticity in storytelling and who better to do that than Sarah Sultoon! A writer and journalist, as well as an international news executive for CNN, she has the background to tell a convincing and provocative story and she does so here in The Shot.

In this her second novel she delivers a tale that is both brave and shocking. She takes us behind the scenes of reporting in a war zone and we are given a masterclass in telling a tale that is disturbing and yet and the same time disquieting, with a emotional punch that leaves the reader reeling. That balance between all three creates a story that feels epic, yet intimate, as we are find ourselves confronted by humanity at both its best and its most vulnerable. The victims are not just the locals caught up in the violence of the war, but those reporting on it to. They are changed and emotionally scared by what they see and do and knowing that it has some basis in reality gives it a greater emotional impact.

There is so much about this novel that makes it an exceptional read, the characters are not one dimensional puppets that play second fiddle to the horrors of war. They are the story and events revolve around them, shaping their actions. For this to work, they have to be strong enough to carry the story and not be overwhelmed by the violence they witness and they are, so vibrant, so realistic, that you can imagine them walking around war torn streets.

Sami and Kris and revealed too us as both flawed and deeply troubled, fleshed out through a backstory makes us realise that they are not there simply to tell a story, but to try to find some peace for themselves. They are drawn to these places because they reflect their own inner turmoil and hoping that if they can tell one story, bring justice to those left helpless, they can not only save themselves but find peace. Unmoored and restless they are a reflection of all the pain and suffering around them. Sarah Sultoon uses them to show us that behind the pictures, behind the glamour of the newsroom, war and those caught up in it, are often paying a terrible emotional price, to bring us a story that flits through our thoughts only briefly.

It is essentially a tale about the human cost of war. A thriller of exceptional quality, that will thrill the reader, while at the same time, make them think and reflect on the emotional toil war takes on everybody it touches.

First class storytelling by a writer whose greatest strength is her ability to open our eyes to the authenticity of her experience.

You can buy this novel directly from the publisher Orenda Books.

Or from Amazon and Waterstones.

About the author

Sarah Sultoon is a journalist and writer, whose work as an international news executive at CNN has taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in both Westminster and Washington to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs. As passionate about fiction as nonfiction, she recently completed a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, adding to an undergraduate language degree in French and Spanish, and Masters of Philosophy in History, Film and Television. When not reading or writing she can usually be found somewhere outside, either running, swimming or throwing a ball for her three children and dog while she imagines what might happen if… Sarah lives in London with her family, and she’s currently working on her second thriller. Catch up with her on Twitter @SultoonSarah.

Fledgling by Hannah Bourne-Taylor

When lifelong bird-lover Hannah Bourne-Taylor moved with her husband to Ghana seven years ago she couldn’t have anticipated how her life would be forever changed by her unexpected encounters with nature and the subsequent bonds she formed.

Plucked from the comfort and predictability of her life before, Hannah struggled to establish herself in her new environment, striving to belong in the rural grasslands far away from home.

In this challenging situation, she was forced to turn inwards and interrogate her own sense of identity, however in the animal life around her, and in two wild birds in particular, Hannah found a source of solace and a way to reconnect with the world in which she was living.

Fledgling is a portrayal of adaptability, resilience and self-discovery in the face of isolation and change, fuelled by the quiet power of nature and the unexpected bonds with animals she encounters.

Hannah encourages us to reconsider the conventional boundaries of the relationships people have with animals through her inspiring and very beautiful glimpse of what is possible when we allow ourselves to connect to the natural world. 

Full of determination and compassion, Fledgling is apowerful meditation on our instinctive connection to nature. It shows that even the tiniest of birds can teach us what is important in life and how to embrace every day.


Fledgling by Hannah Bourne-Taylor is a beautifully written story of the authors journey of self discovery and the healing properties of her connection with the natural world around her. Moving to Ghana with her husband whose job took her away from family and friends. From a world she was familiar with, to a life that left her unmoored, with no feeling of belonging within the new world around her. It is intensely moving and brims with both hope and the author’s searing honesty about how her self confidence and mental health took a battering, as she sought a role in the new and intoxicating country she was now living in. Unable to work, she has to rebuild her identity and Fledgling tells the story of this journey.

It all sounds intensely worrying, but far from it! She lays out how she built a sense of hope and resilience in her life, through a deeply moving and inspiring connection with two wild birds, whom she rescued, raised by hand and then released back into the wild. What I loved about the book is how the author opened up about her struggles in this new life and then shared how she found answers to the powerful feelings and thoughts that troubled her. It felt to me ultimately uplifting and positive, by acknowledging with great sensitivity, that basic human need for connection with other living things.

Some of the most powerful elements of her writing are when she connects to the world that she found herself living in and as a result I felt I could almost walk from the pages into the Ghanaian grasslands. I felt the heart and the power of the storms and how fragile life is. The writing depicting a powerful sense of place. She brings it to life, not just the violence of the storms, or the life and death of the animals who lived there, but the quiet, intense moments that led to her finding understanding within the whirring turbulence of her own mind. .

She doesn’t treat us to a rose tinted view of her life or of the natural world around her. It’s what makes the book so moving, because though its pages are filled with an instinctive love of the natural world, the moments of life and death struggle bring perspective to the writing and the story she is telling. It helped her and me the reader, find peace and acceptance in our own mortality.

We can learn so much from Hannah Bourne Taylor’s Fledgling! That really important things are found in our connection to the natural world around us. That the constant and modern obsession with things, with technology, can not bring us peace and pale into insignificance to the majesty and power of the natural world to heal us.

It is a superb read, moving and uplifting.

You can buy this book from Amazon and Waterstones.

About the writer

A writer and photographer, Hannah moved to Ghana with her husband in 2013 – there, she couldn’t have imagined how her life would be forever changed by her unexpected encounters with nature and the bonds she found herself forming.

Her debut book, Fledgling is a powerful account of her want to belong to a new, unfamiliar place and struggle to reshape her identity when all normality has fallen away.

Quicksand Of Memory by Michael J Malone

Jenna is trying to rebuild her life after a series of disastrous relationships.

Luke is struggling to provide a safe, loving home for his deceased partner’s young son, following a devastating tragedy.

When Jenna and Luke meet and fall in love, they are certain they can achieve the stability and happiness they both desperately need.

And yet, someone is watching.

Someone who has been scarred by past events.

Someone who will stop at nothing to get revenge…

Dark, unsettling and immensely moving, Quicksand of Memory is a chilling reminder that we are not only punished for our sins, but by them, and that memories left to blacken and sharpen over time are the perfect breeding ground for obsession, and murder…


I am a massive fan of Michael J Malone, so when this book arrived, I cwtched up under the duvet and dived in! It is, I am glad to tell you, bloody brilliant. It has tension, the integral twists and turns, but on top of that it has human drama, characters that could simply walk of the page into real life and a story that explores how we can hide from our past, but never, ever, escape the consequences of past actions.

So what is so fabulous about Quicksand Of Memory? Well for one thing, the writing! So many thrillers tie the readers in knots with endless twists and turns, that frankly leave me with a headache! In this Michael Malone’s latest novel, the story is complex, yet the writing feels effortless and you are conducted by the writer into the story, so much so that is seeps into your consciousness and time outside of the book passes without you noticing. That for me is the mark of a great book, when you become cut off from the real world and utterly submerged into the story.

Of course you want to feel compelled to turn the page, but there has to be a reason to do so! In Quicksand of Memory it is the shocking thought that a mistake in the past, coupled with poor judgement can have such horrifying implications on the present. He takes a group of characters, all of whom share one thing in common, decisions and actions taken by them as children or teenagers, or by those who should have protected them, lead to a chilling thirst for revenge and a desperate battle for survival. What he does with such skill, is make you understand why revenge is sort, why trying to start again is like walking a tightrope of unseen dangers, without making any of the characters feel one dimensional.

The ‘bad’ characters are not unremittingly dark and the ‘good’ interminably light, they are like a patchwork of susceptibility, fallaciousness and simple flawed humanity. Jenna and Luke for example are on the surface just two people struggling like us all, negotiating the trial and tribulations of everyday life, the need to pay the bills, look after family, but underneath the surface they are less than perfect. The people watching them seem to be malicious, cruel and vengeful, but what Michael J Malone does in Quicksand of Memory is trick us, challenge or perceptions and show us that behind the closed doors of suburbia no one is whom they seem. That secrets lie behind those doors and sometimes they are terrifying and all to real.

This is domestic noir at its best!

You can purchase this novel directly from the publisher Orenda Books.

From Amazon and Waterstones.

Or why not visit your local independent bookshop?

About the author

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and MarkingsBlood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines, After He Died, In the Absence of Miracles and A Song of Isolation soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.

My Wonderful Reading Year – March 2022 – The Journey Continues.

Well, the plan to beat the backlog of my to be read pile of books continues at pace, admittedly a slow one, but still I am making headway and remembering that I bought those books for a reason! I am enjoying the pleasure of simply reading a book, without the pressure of reviewing. Then again I still love reviewing books to, just now I think I have a better balance between the two. My twin loves of fiction and non fiction continue to be indulged and there are some crackers in this months selection!

The Old Man and The Sand Eel by Will Millard is another non fiction book that has sat on my bookshelf for years and though I have no interest in fishing, I loved it themes of family, finding ones place in the world and the importance of recognizing our strengths and weaknesses.

The Five- The Untold Lives Of The Women Killed by Jack The Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold is without doubt one of the best social history books I have read and believe me, I have read a lot. Her aim was to give these women their lives back, to remind us that they were not just ‘victims’, but mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts. She does this with great sensitivity and a remarkable insight into the world these women lived in. Thanks to #BeatTheBacklog I picked it up off my shelf and thank god I did, because is compelling, moving and an important work.

Next came a novel from a writer that has become a firm favorite, Faceless by Vanda Symon. Tense, exciting and deeply moving, Faceless is a story about evil and where it hides, but it is also about friendship, loyalty and compassion. Vanda Symon once again showing that thrillers to be great, have to have at their heart, complex characters and a story of human complexity.

I have always loved fantasy novels and so delving into the books that have sat on my kindle for a while, I picked out The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix. I loved it! The story is magical, the characters fabulous and I will certainly be reading more from this author.

The Madness of Grief – A Memoir of Love and Loss by The Reverend Richard Coles is a stunning story about the loss of the man he shared his life with, the husband who was the love of his life and the crippling grief of his loss. It is honest, painful and deeply moving and a book I feel we should all read.

The book club choice for March was Rose Tremain’s Sacred Country. This a superb example of how to manage a group of characters to tell a beautifully told story about the journey to find their true self. It is full of loss, pain and grief, yet it also tells a story about hope, friendship, finding acceptance and forgiveness.

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn is a very enjoyable historical thriller set during the Second World War. In it a young Russian women fights to protect her world from the Natzi regime. It is full of twists, explores her life and paints a picture of a very brave women.

The Fledgling by Hannah Bourne-Taylor is a beautifully told story of the author’s journey of self discovery and the healing properties in the natural world around her. I loved it and felt myself caught up in and identifying with her need to center herself in a world that could nourish her physical and mental health.

When I’m feeling stressed or out of sorts I find it easier to read non-fiction than fiction. March for a tough month, not just for me, but people I care about and as a result I read more books about peoples lives, nature and social history. All the books I read were enjoyable, but my mind simply found it difficult to focus on fiction.

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn

She’s the war’s most lethal sniper. And the one they least expect…

In the snowbound city of Kiev, aspiring historian Mila Pavlichenko’s life revolves around her young son – until Hitler’s invasion of Russia changes everything. Suddenly, she and her friends must take up arms to save their country from the Fuhrer’s destruction.

Handed a rifle, Mila discovers a gift – and months of blood, sweat and tears turn the young woman into a deadly sniper: the most lethal hunter of Nazis.

Yet success is bittersweet. Mila is torn from the battlefields of the eastern front and sent to America while the war still rages. There, she finds an unexpected ally in First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and an unexpected promise of a different future.

But when an old enemy from Mila’s past joins forces with a terrifying new foe, she finds herself in the deadliest duel of her life.

The Diamond Eye is a haunting novel of heroism born of desperation, of a mother who became a soldier, of a woman who found her place in the world and changed the course of history forever.


The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn is the author’s fictional retelling of the life of Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a Soviet war heroine during WW2 who turned from academia to become a sniper when the Nazi regime turned it’s murderous rage against the people of the Soviet Union. Born in Ukraine, this city girl and booklover left her dreams and family behind to defend her country.

What I enjoyed about this book was how history is entwined so much into the narrative. The real life of Mila Pavlichenko is reimagined and brought to life with great skill, in a story full of tension, characters brimming with emotion and all woven into one of the biggest historical events of our time.

It is rich in historical detail, but avoids the pitfall of allowing that to overwhelm the aim of the novel, to tell the story of a women whose life was lost to all but a few, the author bringing her life out of the shadows of history and into the light! She breaths life into her, by imagining the life of a women of whom we know only the barest of historical details. She takes us from her life before the war and through to her friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and creates a very enjoyable story that is bother thriller and historical drama. She also gives us a very believable series of love stories, without ever bringing Mila out of character, it is never gets mushy, it all feels real and reflects the urgency brought about by a mess of emotions during wartime.

Kate Quinn writes Mila very well, capturing not jus her strength of character, but her vulnerability as well. We all think of Russian people are hard and passionate, warlike, especially in light of current events, but the writer brings out Mila’s love of culture, her pride and her loyalty to both her country and most importantly, something we can all identify with, her family. I found that I loved her sense of honor, the way the writer brings across that she is fighting out of necessity, not because she revels in the cruelty of killing. It gives the character great depth, allows us a glimpse into the humanity behind the historical figure.

It is above all a rollicking good story. A compulsive read that takes the reader from war torn Europe to the political shenanigans of America’s capital. It takes Lyudmila Pavlichenko out of the past and reveals her to be both unforgettable and always rich and vibrant.

About the author

Kate Quinn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. A native of southern California, she attended Boston University where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice Network”, “The Huntress,” “The Rose Code,” and “The Diamond Eye.” All have been translated into multiple languages. Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with three rescue dogs.

You can buy The Diamond Eye By Kate Quinn from Amazon and Waterstones.

Kate Quinn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. A native of southern California, she attended Boston University where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice Network”, “The Huntress,” “The Rose Code,” and “The Diamond Eye.” All have been translated into multiple languages. Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with three rescue dogs.