LOMAS STAKES HIS CLAIM ON HISTORY BY STICKING IT TO THE BUFFS

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I’ve bemoaned the teaching of history in English schools in this blog before. We get the Bronze age, the Romans, the Normans, the Tudors and the World Wars and not much in between. Like the Author of this month’s first book, I was unenthused by way history is taught in British schools. The book is Stick A Flag In It – A Thousand Years Of Bizarre History From Britain And Beyond by Arran Lomas and published in October by Unbound (www.unbound.com)

I am amazed how the current passion for denying and rewriting unpopular history has ignited a bit of a passion in me for finding out the truthful versions of events, even if they show my historic heroes as flawed humans rather than gods. Living in Ireland, I’m occasionally made to feel ashamed of my British ancestors. There’s a lot to apologise for and many to apologise to, I agree, but for a small island, the UK has made its mark in terms of influence, progress and the transformation of large parts of the globe. Essentially, I’m proud to be English.

What Lomas does in Stick A Flag In It, is take an engaging and joyous romp through a millennia of history, from 1066 and the battle of Hastings, to the eve of the First World War. The Brits have been an eccentric, ingenious and sometimes unhinged race, from mad monarchs to mass-murdering lepers. Lomas explores the stories behind notable events and presents some quirky facts and the origin of such words as Trenchers and Accolade.

I’m notoriously blunt myself and have a dark sense of humour. I like people like Jeremy Clarkson who are passionate about their subject, tell it how it is and can make me smile too. Jeremy Clarkson is a bit of a history buff himself, particularly on wartime history, something contestants on  the TV quiz, ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ should bear in mind if they should need to ask the host. If Jeremy had written a book on British History, I feel it would read a lot like this book.

Lomas’s writing style is laddish, humorous and opinionated. Something along the lines of a history show fronted by the three ex Top Gear presenters of Clarkson, Hammond and May. Sometimes I felt a bit overwhelmed with all the metaphors and jokes and it felt like the author was trying too hard to be funny. However, the book is genuinely very entertaining and educational.

Arran Lomas

This English author Arran Lomas’s (@thoughty2) first book. He’s better known for being man behind YouTube hit, Thoughty2. Since 2012 he has created videos covering topics like crime, space, medicine, conspiracy theories, food and social issues, not forgetting history too.

I’d have possibly enjoyed the book more as a dip in and out sort of read, rather than your usual cover to cover job. But even where the history was more familiar, Lomas adds an extra pinch of something quirky you didn’t know, to make it a worthwhile read.

This is an ideal Christmas present for the lad or ladette in your life, who likes their history warts and all, with a side helping of giggles. Like British history, this book is full of unexpected twists and turns and is never dull.

So, drop a pin on your phone’s google map, or stick one on an old OS map you have lying around,marking where your nearest book shop should be and then set out to get a copy. Better still save your energy and download a copy online. Either way, enjoy it or put away as a Crimbo stocking filler.

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

VINE’S DEBUT DALI-ANCE WITH FICTION HAS ME LOVED AND ENLIGHTENED

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It’s often said that you should never meet your heroes, as you’ll be disappointed. Because when you do, you’ll find their guard is down and their stage persona offline and so you will undoubtedly discover they are just like you and me, spilling things down their front, slurping their tea, picking their nose or teeth in public, etc, etc. I’ve met a few famous people in my time, namely in my work as a film extra in the past. Its rare that I’ve had the opportunity to meet celeb’s in a personal capacity; but the above applies when I have (excluding the nose picking, but you get my point).

Another thing I have never done and is part of a large list, which I keep trying to shorten, especially having hit my half century this year, is visit Glasgow. If I had, I would have probably gone to its main art museum The Kelvingrove to see among other things its pride and joy, a Dali painting. I’ve seen the Caravaggio in Dublin, the Nightwatch in Amsterdam and David in Florence.  While I used to have a poster of Dali’s, The Temptation of St Anthony on my bedroom wall when I was in my teens. Dali’s surrealism and the weird things he did with animals and clocks amused me. This month’s first book review, is centred around the great man’s painting, Christ Of St John Of The Cross. The book is The Diver and The Lover by Jeremy Vine and published by Coronet an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton (www.hodder.co.uk) in September.

Its 1951, Ginny and Meredith, two sisters from Hull, travel to Spain to help Meredith recover from a terrible trauma. They run into the famous American stuntman, Russell Saunders in their hotel. He’s there to work with Local resident and surrealist painter Salvador Dali with his latest project. But, tensions have arisen between the two men and their PR representative, a fiery red headed Irish woman, called Siobhan Lynch is desperate to save this very lucrative arrangement for her bosses back in London and push on with her plan of taking control of the Dali account. With Saunders refusing to work with Dali and time running out, Ginny and Meredith witness what appears to be the suicide of a member of the hotel staff off nearby cliffs, only to discover he’s Adam, a keen diver. The sisters along with Siobhan, hatch a plan to save the deal, wherein  Adam takes Saunders place as a body double for Dali’s masterpiece, with Saunders taking all the credit. Meanwhile, Ginny and Adam have fallen in love, but Siobhan also has feelings for the Canadian. Can the quartet work together, against Dali’s eccentricities and with the backdrop of the ever growing divisions between the locals and Franco and the rumblings of Civil War….

Like most books I accept for these blog tours, I rarely read the blurb on the back and literally like Adam, I dive right in and see where it takes me. I knew nothing of Dali’s Christ Of St. John Of The Cross and that it was hanging in Glasgow or the history behind it’s conception and what Saunders had to endure so Dali could get what he wanted. Along with the outcry which came with the Museums purchase.

Christ Of St. John Of The Cross (Glasgowlive.co.uk)

What I got, was a thoroughly enjoyable read from start to finish. I had seen mixed reviews from other bloggers and my own wife had baulked at reading it when it arrived in the post. Now that I’ve finished, I feel enlightened and delighted to discover the back story of this amazing piece of work.

Vine has a lovely easy going style about his writing, which is similar to his style of radio presentation (something I experience regular listening to him from here in Dublin and on our regular trips to visit family in the UK) which allows him to tell a story with just enough drama, humour and suspense. Not forgetting, adding a healthy and rich mix of romance into the tale too. The four main characters are full bodied and well drawn, while there there is a Rainman-esque sort of relationship between Ginny and Meredith. As for the real characters, Dali and Saunders, there is a lot of research visible by Vine into the artist’s home and character. I had a feeling of Dali’s acting like Willie Wonka as he shows the quartet around his villa in  Port Lligat and down to his subterranean studio. Vine has done a great job to bring out the artists eccentric qualities. While Saunders is a support cast member, he does provide some great heroic interludes, as well as being the inspiration for the story too.

Jeremy Vine (BBC.co.uk)

This is English author, broadcaster and journalist Jeremy Vine’s (@thejeremyvine) first novel, he’s previously published two books of non-fiction ‘Its All News To Me’ (2013) and ‘What I Learnt: What My Listeners Say’ (2017). He currently presents The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC radio 2 and in 2018 took over presenting the UK’s  Channel 5’s The Right Stuff, now called Jeremy Vine. He lives in Chiswick, with his wife and two daughters.

If there was a downside to the book, I thought it was a bit drawn out at the end, but apart from that it was an amazing experience and a fantastic read. With my choice for a book group read coming up in four weeks’ time, I think I may have found another contender. A difficult choice ahead, me thinks.

So if like me, you are fascinated by Dali’s work and the eccentric life of this great painter, but also want to discover more about the history of this little known work, Then you’ll enjoy this story. So download or purchase a hardcopy, throw yourself onto the couch, and with Covid restrictions still in place, visit Spain through Vine’s eyes. Then, like me, plan a trip to Glasgow for next year (fingers crossed).

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This review is part of a blog tour Organised by Hodder & Stoughton, to see what the other reviwers thought, visit their sites listed below. Then if you get a copy comeback and tell us what you think, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

MCCREESH ISN’T FLYING OVER A CUCKOOS NEST, BUT HER DEBUT HAS CRACKED THE THRILLER MARKET

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During my childhood, my mum worked for a while in a geriatric psychiatric ward. The hospital had been an asylum and a workhouse before that. A couple of the residents had been there their whole adult lives, having been put away for being unmarried mothers and therefore ‘morally deficient’, before the second world war and never leaving. A few of the male residents came with a warning to not be alone with them, nor to have them between yourself and the door. The residents ran the whole gamut of problems from sexual deviancy to pica. I was always fascinated by the tales she told and a little scared too.

Literature has always been able to mine a treasure trove of stories and characters in relation to mental illness. From Wilkie Collins and The Woman In white, a novel I read for my English literature O level, to the iconic, One flew Over the Cuckoos nest and Shutter Island, it seems the asylum and treatment of mental illness sufferers has ignited our greatest fascination and touched our darkest fears.

The hit of 2020 so far has been The Silent Patient by Alex Michealides, the story of Alicia Berenson who hasn’t spoken since the murder of her husband and Theo Faber, the psychologist who has a particular interest in finding out what she remembers . I read it at the start of Lockdown. I’ve also recently read a non fiction account of mental health treatment by Kerry Daynes (reviewed on here in February), a real life Forensic psychologist, which looked at memorable cases from her career.

I was delighted then to be able to get the opportunity to read this month’s second book review, which is Cracked by Louise McCreesh and published by Hodder & Stoughton (www.hodder.co.uk) in August.

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The cover suggests that it is perfect for fans of The Silent Patient. Whilst there is a similarity in the setting within a psychiatric unit, this is much more a classic detective thriller.

Jenny Nilson hasn’t seen Dr Philip Walton since she left Hillside Psychiatric unit, eight years previously. She’s kept her time there a secret, even from her police detective husband. When Dr Walton is murdered, she becomes a suspect. Unknown to the police, Dr Walton was keeping a dreadful secret for Jenny and his was not the first death. Can Jenny contact old friends and enemies from the unit and clear her name before the secret is unearthed and her new life is destroyed?

I felt this was a classic detective story in style, as there a limited cast of characters, all with motives. As the modern story of Jenny’s investigation proceeds it is interspersed with the slow reveal of the back story. There are various twists and turns and you are kept guessing as to who the killer is and why they did it. I did feel that McCreesh used a predictable cast of mental health conditions. It seemed unlikely they’d all be mixing together. They weren’t even of the same age. The stock characters didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the story however.

Again, if I was picky, I would doubt that Jenny could have hidden her issues, continued with her medication and any appointments, for the whole of her relationship with James without him detecting something. However, their marriage was a useful device for Jenny to get inside information and move the story forward.

This is English author and Journalist, Louise McCreesh’s (@loumccreesh),first book. When not writing, she is a freelance journalist in London. She studied creative writing on the Curtis Brown Creative Writing Course and as a result received a scholarship from them to continue her work on her debut novel.

Overall, I felt this was a little cliched but nevertheless a thoroughly enjoyable thriller. So get on down to your local bookshop and buy it or download a copy.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

This review is part of a blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

PARENT IS AHEAD OF THE CURVE WITH HIS PANDEMIC THRILLER

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Its amazing, and in some respects quite scary, how much life has changed in the past six months. All because some guy in a little known Chinese province ate a bat purchased from a very unhygienic market (by Western standards. Over here we think breaking the 5 second rule is living dangerously) and now the world is struggling to contain a pandemic on the scale never seen in our lifetime, and until a few years ago only imagined in a Hollywood blockbuster starring Matt Damon and Kate Winslet (Contagion 2011).

I can remember vividly going out with my wife to a local bar in mid-February (probably our Valentines date night), running into friend, and dancing the night away till the wee small hours to eighties music. Now in late August, I wonder when I will be able to do that again, along with a lot of other things. One of the most talked about pieces of literature in the early stages of the worldwide lockdown was Dean Koontz’s 1981 novel The Eyes of Darkness, which supposedly predicts a pandemic originating in Wuhan , so it was with some excitement that I looked forward to this months second book review. It is probably the first of a glut of Covid related thrillers to come our way over the next couple of years. It’s The Apocalypse Strain by Jason Parent and is published by Flame Tree Press (www.flametreepress.com) in August.

When Dr Clara St. Pierre, a medical genomics expert with MS, and her team study an ancient pandovirus at a secret research facility in Siberia.They name the virus Molli . It soon starts to display some worrying characteristics, that in the wrong hands could lead to the end of life all together. But Molli wants out of the research lab. After some industrial espionage, Clara and her team and members of ASAP, the private security firm tasked with maintaining the integrity of the facility, find themselves running for their lives . They are trying to escape a building which is designed to be inescapable. Can Clara, along an Antipodean security contractor called Monty, plus Dante, a mysterious mercenary for hire, escape the facility and stop Molli getting beyond its walls…

I recently discovered, while listening to the Ologies podcast with Ali ward, my own personal Lockdown panacea, that Small pox was killed off by Cow Pox and that the word vaccination comes from Vaca, the Spanish for cow. In the same vein, The Apocalypse Strain could be the ideal cure for your Lockdown  boredom, because what Jason parent has delivered in record breaking time is an engrossing read that will deliver you from the day to day worries about your job, health or the future of the world its self.

Jason Parent

Yes, at times this book is light-hearted. Considering what is running amok on news channels and social media on a daily if not hourly basis, we all need a little light relief, mixed with a large dollop of adrenaline fuelled suspense. Here we get it the form of a group of co-workers trapped and running for their lives like human lab rats from a seemingly unstoppable virus.

Yes at times there are hints of Alien and Cocoon, along with a computer game feel to the story telling too. However, Parent is a dab hand at this sort of storytelling and keeps this 230 page book, on the good side of surreal and far from fantasy to keep the reader turning the pages.

This is American author Jason Parent’s (www.authorjasonparent.com) 9th book. His others include What Hides Within (2012), Seeing Evil (2015), Unseemly (2016), Where Wolves Run (2016), Wrathbone (2016), People Of The Sun (2017), A life removed (1017), They Feed (2018) and Hearing evil (2018). He has also contributed short stories to four other compilations: Bad Apples, Bad Apples 2, Bad Apples 3 and Dead Roses. Jason grew up in fall River Massachusetts and currently lives in Rhode island.

So having returned from an essential trip to the UK last week, to attend a family funeral, I must now self isolate here in Ireland. This book has turned out to be a timely read. I recommend this light but gamey and gripping Horror thriller. Therefore order it online or with mask in hand and while being socially distant at all times, head to your local book shop and pick up a copy. Then prepare to run for your life with Clara and her team and  try not to have nightmares!

THERE’S PLENTY OF TRUTH BUT NOT ENOUGH DRAMA IN THIS LIE FOR ME.

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The Truth in a Lie CoverWe often have complex relationships with our nearest and dearest. After a death or the end of a relationship we are sometimes presented with secrets and with new perspectives of the people we thought we knew. So much is never said or discussed, leaving questions unanswered and feelings unresolved. I love the genealogy programmes on TV. Its funny how delighted the people are to find a ‘bad un’ in their family tree. With the distance of time, their unsavoury exploits are thrilling and amusing rather than shocking. The Long Lost Family programmes, which now have their format duplicated in the US and Australia, show the search for more immediate family and we see understanding and forgiveness shown to those who made brave decisions in what could be scandalous events for the period.

Having read Sally Rooney’s Normal People, prior to Lockdown, I was interested to see a cover recommendation on this month’s first book, which stated it is a must read for Sally Rooney, Maggie O’Farrell and Ann Patchett fans. The book is The Truth In The Lie by Jan Turk Petrie and published by Pintail Press (www.pintailpress.com)  back in June.

When successful writer Charlotte Preece moves into a new riverside apartment with following the breakup  of a relationship. She starts to feel guilty when the upheaval, that the move causes, impacts on her daughter Kate’s first year exam results. Shortly afterwards she is called by the hospital to go to her ailing mothers bedside, she has to battle through heavy snows to get there, only to find on her arrival that her ex-husband Duncan has already braved the treacherous conditions to be there too, but why? Is he being supportive, is there an ulterior motive, what else will the two of them discover about themselves when they are snow in together in the wild of the north of England.

I must say, I spent most of Normal People wanting to bang the two lead characters heads together and make them have an honest conversation, rather than pussy footing around each other. So frustrating! The suggestion of secrets and complex relationships in the Truth in a Lie, engaged my interest. I hoped for a similar intensity but more resolution.

I found this book a pleasant and engaging read. The narrative carries you along. Charlotte is a well-drawn, sympathetic character. Some of her actions in the plot would make you consider her selfish but her back story allows for sympathy. For me though, we didn’t go enough into the secrets. A secret stash of letters, which Charlotte is asked not to read, so she doesn’t! Don’t mention them, then! Its possibly my love for thrillers that made me want more with this family drama but everything worked out a little too easily. There was certainly resolution. There was a slight fairytale aspect to it. I wouldn’t wish to spoil the ending for other readers, but I, personally, had a sense of going backwards in terms of Charlotte’s growth as a person.

Jan Turk Petrie Author Pic

Jan Turk Petrie

This is English author Jan Turk Petrie’s (www.janturkpetrie.com)  sixth book, the others are Until The Ice Cracks (2018), No God For A Warrior (2018), Within Each Others Shadow (2019) – which are part of the Edisvik Trilogy. Then there’s Too Many Heroes (2019) and finally Towards The Vanishing Point (Jan 2020). She is a former English teacher with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Gloucester, Jan has also written numerous prize winning short stories, she currently lives in the Cotswold’s in south west England.

The Truth in a Lie, explores everyday dilemmas and inter-generational lack of communication which may lead us to regrets and missed opportunities. For those of a less suspicious and detective nature it will offer a comforting journey into love and loss. A great book to snuggle down with on a wet day.

So get yourself a virtual hug with a family drama and pop down to your local book shop or download a copy The Truth in a Lie soon.

 

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

 

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought of it, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you go out and get a copy, come back and tell us what you thought, we really appreciate the feed back.

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CARTER DELIVERS AGAIN IN THIS BLOODY WELL WRITTEN INSTALMENT

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Written In Blood CoverPickpockets are active in almost any area where large crowds gather. Tourist hot spots are regularly dotted with signs advising visitors to be aware of them. But some are so deft at their trade, that it can be sometime before you are aware that you have been targeted. Then when it happens, it feels like a violation, and that’s because it is. Some uncaring stranger now has your cash, phone, ID, and credit cards. The shock and loss of these personal and valuable items can at times be akin to a mini bereavement.

There is loss and grief connected with this month’s second book review. While writing this book the author suffered the tragic and devastating death of his partner, but with the help of his fantastic editorial team, publisher and agent,  got his partly completed, book finished and published. The team at The Library Door sends condolences.

The catalyst for the story of this thriller is a pickpocket hitting the wrong mark. The book is Written In Blood by Chris Carter and published by Simon and Schuster (www.simonandschuster.com) in July.Angela Wood is an adroit young pickpocket working the streets of LA on the run up to Christmas. After a successful afternoon in a local shopping precinct, she ducks into a cocktail bar to change her appearance and have a well-earned drink. There she witnesses another customer being very un-festive to an elderly gentleman. As payback, she takes the man’s bag when his attention is distracted. On opening the duffel bag at home later, she discovers all that’s in it is a diary of sorts, but the entries and the pictures within it are more than just the scribbling’s of an angst ridden teenager. This forces her to drop this hot potato in the letter box of a previous victim of hers.  When the diary lands on the desk of LAPD detective Robert Hunter, he knows immediately that there is a sadistic serial killer on the loose. When the bodies of victims in the diary start turning up,  his and Angela’s paths cross. They soon realise that the killer now has them both and anyone connected with the case firmly in his sights. Soon the mysterious killer snatches Angela in a bloody raid on a safe house and now Robert and his team are in a race to discover the identity of the killer, and save Angela and other victims, whilst playing a sick game at the behest of the killer.

The title of the book may be Written In Blood, but I’m almost writing this review sweating blood too, as I try to get over the frantic pace of this book. I read this almost 500 page, edge of your seat thriller in less than seventy-two hours. My first session was a 150 page marathon and I was hard pushed to put it down. From page one, to page four hundred and eighty, Carter has the reader gripped tightly in the palm of his hand, as he terrorises LA with an all too realistic serial murderer.

This is my first Chris Carter book and after making the acquaintance of detective Robert Hunter, I’m definitely putting him and Carter on my ‘must read’ list next to Childs and Reacher. I initially thought that Carter had taken the eighties TV character of the same name and started writing a modern day series around him, but I realised some way through, that the TV character played by Fred Dryer was  Rick Hunter.

Robert Hunter’s character its self is made up of quite a few well known characters from film and TV over the past twenty years or so. I saw a bit of Mel Gibson’s Martin Rigg’s and Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callaghan in his character. Hunter, comes across as a deep-thinking individual, as well as a singleton who has had relationships in the past, but seems unable to hold on to them.

The reason for seeing some of Harry Callaghan in Robert Hunter, could come from one scenario in the book where the Killer has Hunter running all over LA from point to point, within a time limit. Which is similar to what Scorpio had Clint Eastwood’s character doing in the film “Dirty harry”.

As for the other characters, such as Hunter’s partner Garcia, they seem to be purely along for the ride, although having only read this book maybe Garcia, their boss Captain, Blake, and the other support cast are fleshed out more in previous books.

But with the serial murderer, everything about him is on point and fully fleshed out. His identity isn’t revealed until the last chapter. Up until then Carter refers to him by various monikers, while building his character up bit by bit, with enough malice to give not just Hunter cause for concern but the reader too. On top of that, he gives him a very plausible trigger for his killing. Which all in all goes to make the book a standout read and perfect for the summer staycation essential reading pile.

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Chris Carter

 

This is Brazillian born author, Chris Carters, (www.chriscarterbooks.com) eleventh book featuring Detective Robert Hunter. The others are The Crucifix Killer (2009), The Executioner (2010), The Nightstalker (2011), The Death Sculptor (2012), One By One (2013), An Evil Mind (2014), I Am Death (2015), The Caller (2017), The gallery Of The Dead (2018) and Hunting Evil (2019). Carter studied Psychology and Criminal Behaviour at the University of Michigan, before going on to work with the Michigan Attorney’s Criminal Psychology Team. In his time there, he interviewed criminals of varying types including serial and multiple homicide offenders. After that, he turned to his main hobby of music and moved to London where has supported numerous big stars playing the electric guitar. He now lives and writes in the UK.

So, if you are looking for a book that will totally rob your attention of whatever else is going on in your life and have you hungrily turning each page in a heart pounding pursuit of the answers, then pocket your wallet and pick up your bike or the dog’s leash and head down to your local bookshop. There you can snap up a copy or stay home and download it, and the previous ten instalments, of the Robert Hunter series online. Then set a date in your diary to read them over the next couple of weeks or months.

 

Reviewed by: Adrian Murphy

 

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other Authors thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy, comeback and tell what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

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YOU WON’T CRY OVER BROWN’S BONE CRUNCHING SUMMER READ

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Thirty One Bones coverWe’ve all dreamt of an escape from our everyday lives, to live somewhere that we would usually holiday in and enjoy that holiday feeling permanently. The reliable sunny weather, the sea, the cheap cost of living and maybe the chance to reinvent yourself or to become ‘someone’ in a place no one knows you. Every year, many Brits and Irish retirees move to Spain and Portugal, to enjoy perpetual summers and a relaxed style of living. Fair play to them. I’ve had that daydream myself. The realistic among us, know, however, that its very hard to become a new person. Most of the time our history, personality traits and issues would catch up with us.

This month’s first book review has a subtitle of ‘it can be dangerous out in the sun’. This may be especially true due to Covid 19 being still highly prevalent. Prior to the pandemic my main concerns would’ve been limited to sunburn and sunstroke, but this book has Spain’s Costa Del Crime as a much scarier scenario. Its Thirty One Bones by Morgan Cry and published by Polygon (www.polygonbooks.co.uk) in June this year.

 

Daniella Coulson travels to Spain following the death of her mother Effie. Mother and daughter have become estranged and Daniella is surprised to discover her mother has  been a well-respected member of a small ex-pat community of misfits who frequent her mother’s bar. There were many secrets in Effie’s life, however. She and her friends had been plotting a multi-million-pound property scam before her death and now the money is missing. The ex-pats all have their own, sometime desperate need for their share of the cash. There’s also a local detective, who is investigating Effie’s death and a local enforcer who has heard about the missing cash. Danielle must race against time to find the cash and avoid having thirty-one bones in her body broken.

This is a real roller-coaster of a story. Danielle is a stranger to the location and to her mother’s life. She arrives in Spain, planning to quickly resolve her mother’s affairs, sell up and move on. The ensuing drama gives Danielle an insight into her mother’s life and her own strengths and weaknesses.

The cast of ex-pats are sometimes likeable, sometimes sad, sometimes funny but all initially at least, hostile to Danielle. The plot is farcical with crosses, double-crosses, chases and secrets. There’s also a romance and a lot of dark humour. You can almost taste the desperation and feel the heat.

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Morgan Cry (aka Gordon Brown)

Effie seems to have been a wily lady. Is Danielle a chip off the old block? She’s a sympathetic character. The story is told mainly in the first person, but interspersed there are chapters with interviews, held by the detective, of each of the participants in the drama. These actually became some of my favourite sections. I loved the descriptions of the heat, the town and the buildings too but the characters were the best thing in the book, funny, scary and with a deft touch of pathos to make you like them despite everything.

This is Scottish author Gordon Brown (www.gordonjbrown.com)eith eighth book, the others include three in the Craig McIntyre series – Darkest Thoughts(2017), Furthest Reaches (2017), Deepest Wounds (2018). Two in the Charlie Wiggs series – Falling(2009) and Falling Too (2017). Thirty One Bones is his first writing under the pen name of Morgan Cry. Born in Glasgow, he’s lived in London as well as Toronto before returning home. His most significant day job was a marketing strategy specialist, before going on to help found Scotland’s international crime writing festival, Bloody Scotland. He’s been a DJ on a local radio station, sold non-alcoholic beer in the middle east and floated a tech company on the London Stock exchange. While he’s also had the pleasure of being booed by 49,000 fans at a major football cup final. That’s one way of trying to make friends.

For those who won’t brave the Costas this summer, instead opting for a staycation, this book is a great vehicle for helping you to imagine what might have been. Or it could make great sun-lounger reading whilst you risk the worldwide contagion. Do I recommend it? Yes, and that at least, is not complicated….

 

Reviewed by : Georgina Murphy

 

 

This book is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d love the feedback.

 

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TAIT’S GRITTY TALE IS A LIFE FAR REMOVED FROM HER OTHER GENRE

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A Life of their Own CoverAccording to the World Health Organisation domestic violence is a worldwide major public health problem, with the majority of the victims being females and children. As recently as 2017 the WHO estimated that 30% or a third of women globally experienced domestic abuse at some time while in an intimate relationship. Under normal circumstances victims and their off-spring have some outlet to escape or avoid their perpetrator, but with the Covid19 restrictions worldwide, it has forced both parties to be confined in their homes for longer periods of time, thus leading to more opportunities for abuse by the partner, whether it be husband or wife. The quarantine restrictions, and social distancing rules have also placed constraints on the various domestic abuse groups worldwide to assist those in trouble and offer an out from the situation. This month’s third book review tells the fictional story of one woman and her children’s escape, it’s a Life Of Their Own by Pauline Tait and published by Silverwood Books (www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk) in September 2019.

Kate Thomas and her kids Jake and Lucy,  have been living for years in the unrelenting shadow and control of their husband and father Adam. A person with a Jekyll and Hyde personality of street Angel – house devil, who denies them all access to friends, family or social interaction. One day Kate and the kids board a Greyhound bus in New York, two days and numerous bus changes later, they arrive in Colorado Springs, where no one knows them or their past. They soon have to become used to the surreal, if never before experienced, kindness of their landlady and the local community. Then Kate bumps into an old flame in the local diner. She and Matthew Harrison dated in New York before he left to go to San Francisco. Then Kate fell into the clutches of the initially charming but soon to be maniacal  Adam on the rebound. Matthew soon moves the family into his dad’s ranch home and Kate who ran a business in NYC starts working in the ranch office, where she sets about modernising and making it more ergonomical as well as economical. All while her relationship with Matthew starts develop again. Have Kate and the kids really found the promised land, out of the clutches of Adam, and has she found her true soulmate again after all this time….

The subject matter is something rarely touched on in such a direct way, and is very gritty for an author’s first tentative steps into a new genre. The last time I read a book with domestic abuse at its heart was Irish author Roddy Doyle’s The Woman Who walked Into Doors. This book is short, at two hundred and fifty pages long, almost verging on novella-esque, which makes it an easy read, possibly in one sitting. As well as that, it comes across as well written and researched.

At times though, it is quite saccharine in its story telling. Everything seems to happen too easily, and there is very little in the way of push back or any real sense of struggle in the trio’s survival in the big wide-open spaces of Colorado Springs. Except for the constant underlying fear of Adam’s possible discovery of where they are. Which had me on edge at times.

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Pauline Tait (Daily Record)

This Scottish author Pauline Tait’s (www.paulinetait.com) fourth book and first in the adult genre, the other three are from her Fairy In The Kettle series of children’s books and includes: The Fairy In The Kettle (2016), The Fairy In The Kettle’s Christmas Wish (2018) and The fairy In The Kettle Gets Magical. This fourth and final instalment in the series is due out soon. After originally working in the pharmaceutical sector for twenty years Pauline then went into Primary Pupil Support, all the while allowing manuscripts to build up and gather dust in her desk. She currently lives in Perthshire, Scotland.

This is an enjoyable read from an author who shows she’s not afraid to tackle a difficult subject. Her research of the Colorado wilderness is ever present as well as quite vivid and shows how useful the assistance gained from a fellow author in the Colorado State Forestry Service really was.

So, hop on the bus down to your local bookshop or download a copy and escape to the Foothills of the Rockies with Kate, Jake and Lucy.

 

Reviewed by: Adrian Murphy

 

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below, Then if you get a copy and read it comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d love the feedback.

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NO PUSHING REQUIRED TO ENJOY GRIFFEE’S DEBUT THRILLER

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final CANAL PUSHER_PBHaving spent many years cruising the canals and rivers of England myself, in a previous life. I became familiar with narrow boats and the complexities of using locks, finding moorings and steering a sometimes large and, occasionally unwilling it seemed, boat through narrow passageways and tunnels. The countryside is beautiful, the pace relaxing and the boating community, friendly and welcoming. So, when I read the blurb about this month’s second book review, I was immediately engaged by the premise of the book. It is Canal Pushers by Andy Griffee and published in paperback by Orphans Publishing (www.orphanspublishing.co.uk) on the 4th June.

 

Jack Johnson is seeking a fresh start. He’s a recently divorced, unemployed, ex- journalist. He decides to make a fresh start living on a narrow boat on England’s canals. The only trouble is he’s never been on a canal boat before, let alone managing a 64ft vessel on his own.

To his good fortune he meets the enigmatic Nina, who is seeking escape from her life for her own reasons and is a competent boater. They have a chance encounter with a young lad who is begging. He is later found dead in the canal. This event engages Jack’s investigative interest. Soon the pair are in deeper danger than they could have imagined. Was the boy’s death accidental and related to drugs, or something more sinister? Is it linked to other deaths? Is there a serial killer stalking the quiet waterways of England?

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I was expecting something slightly twee, a little bit Agatha Raisin maybe. From this new thriller series, introducing Jack Johnson and Nina Wilde and their boat Jumping Jack Flash.  But I was delighted to find a modern, quite gritty thriller, which was nevertheless told with humour and an obvious passion for boating. The idea of a cat and mouse chase on something that can only go at 4 miles per hour amused me. There are definitely lots of places to disappear on the canal system however, some sections having no road access and in miles of empty, often glorious countryside.

I’ve had the misfortune to fall into a canal myself in the past, stepping off the prow of the boat confidently onto what I thought was bank, but which was just grass. I was lucky that the canal was only 3 foot deep. My main concern was Weils disease, an infection you can get from the water. However, some brief research showed that some sections of canal are much deeper, having been dug out for vessels of a heavier nature and deeper draft. Modern dredging of canals, as their use has become popular for leisure boating has restored many canals to a deeper depth too. Maybe I wouldn’t be so lucky now.

Andy Griffee is an experienced boater himself, and his descriptions of the practicalities of life on a boat were very good. I was reminded about the cramped but well laid out living conditions and that you only got hot water if you’d run the engine. He kindly missed out all the topping of water and fuel and the dreaded pumping out of the loo. TMI! I was also reminded about the slight rivalry between hire and owned boats. The other thing that he missed, was that there’s always a man with a dog watching you attempt any difficult manoeuvre! Even in the middle of nowhere! This level of joyful reminiscence was tempered by a story of drugs, gangs and a serial killer! There was a sense of peril and a real tenseness in the chase.

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Andy Griffee (thecwa.co.uk)

This is English author Andy Griffee’s (www.andygriffee.co.uk ) first of two books in the Johnson and Wilde Mystery series, the second book in the series is River Rats which is due out later this year. Andy is a former BBC Journalist, who, when not writing crime thrillers is a breeder of rare pig and the owner of 1964 Triumph Spitfire. He lives in Worcestershire with his wife and three dogs.

I look forward to getting my hands on a copy of River Rats and diving into the future adventures of Jack, Nina and their gorgeous shipmate, Eddie the dog. The narrow boat is a great tool for moving the story to other locations. So, I’m looking forward to being along for the journey.

I suggest you quietly slip your moorings and head down to your local book shop or download a copy of Canal Pushers, then prepare to discover the tranquil backwaters of Britain from your favourite berth.

 

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

 

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy come back and tell us what you thought, we’d love the feed Back.

 

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SMEDLEY HAS NO NEED TO BELONG FOR SHE HAS ARRIVED

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Inconvient Need to Belong CoverThe West Country is an area of south west Britain running from Gloucestershire in the midlands, down to Dorset on the south coast and is made up, largely, of the peninsula that protrudes out into the Atlantic, culminating at the UK’s most southerly tip of Land’s End. I have been there on holidays a number of times over the years, most recently two years ago when myself and Georgina went to Ilfracombe in Devon (see the Lancelot review on this blog in June 2018). Two years before that, we spent a week in Colyton in East Devon. It was while there on that trip, that we also spent a lovely day exploring the ancient roman city of Exeter, which features significantly in this month’s first book review. The book is The Inconvenient Need To Belong by Paula Smedley and published by Silverwood Book (www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk) in April 2020.

Alfie Cooper is an elderly gentleman living in a care home in England. Every Saturday he sneaks out of the home, while the other residents are enjoying the visits with their families. Alfie doesn’t have any family, well none he talks of. His Saturday routine takes him to the park where he meets Fred, a teenager he’s struck up a friendship with and there, while feeding the ducks, he shares his life story. From leaving his parents’ home in Fulham as a young man in post war England, with dreams of making a life for himself as a carpenter and setting up a cabinet making business to his loves, losses and friends he made Exeter during the dark days. There, he had to learn a valuable lesson, due to his lack of social skills. Then his adventures on the travelling circus and meeting his American wife Evie.  Eventually he will have to admit to a tragic of part of his life, one he hasn’t told anyone about, not even in the care home.

Fred isn’t the only person who he’ll have to cross this bridge with, as he’s just started corresponding with an online pen pal. Anne is a widow and single mum, living in the states. As well as that, Alfie’s solitary existence and Saturday disappearances have also come to the attention of Julia an Australian carer at the home. Soon she learns something about his past and starts digging a little deeper. What is Alfie’s big secret and will Julia’s digging bring closure or more upset?

Reading about elderly characters sometimes makes me conscious of, if not my own mortality, but what awaits me in my twilight years. Especially as I am due to leave my forties in three weeks’ time and as one friend put it a number of years ago, enter “Sniper Alley”. Considering I’m in good health, I’m hopefully fretting about nothing.

One book I read and reviewed previously, that did affect me negatively, was Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healy. Although I’ve read a few books centred around elderly characters and loved them, including Fiona MacFarlane’s, The Night Guest.

With this book I was so bowled over by Alfie and the other characters, that I could have read it in one sitting. I actually had it read in three days and might have romped through the enthralling two hundred and ninety pages in two days, the only thing tearing me away from it was my daily afternoon ‘Lockdown’ walk, while listening to my favourite podcast.

What endeared me to the book, was the story of Alfie’s first tentative steps into the big wide world and the pitfalls associated with love, lust and how easily the young and inexperienced in life can come a cropper. But, also Smedley weaves a very lovely and richly told story of another time, when things were, if not easier, but simpler and whilst we endure a pared back life in the current pandemic, there are similarities.

Also, it’s the way the author draws you in to Alfie’s present and previous lives and then shows you a metaphorical bridge, with the mid-section shrouded in a mist. Which is revealed very subtlety, that left this reader at times fearful of what might have happened, not really wanting to see it visited upon such a sweet and gentle soul.

Yes, if I’d had a granddad alive now, I’d hope it was someone like Alfie.  As for the other characters, they’re fully rounded and very well depicted. They are also lost and struggling to find answers in their own worlds and with real and very believable existences. The whole story shows great promise from a debutant author.

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Paula Smedley

This is English author Paula Smedley ‘s (@_paulasmedley) debut novel. She started writing at a young age, winning acclaim for poetry and short stories. An extensive traveller, Paula has encountered vigilantes in Nigeria, escaped post-tsunami radiation in Japan, partied in a favela in Rio de Janeiro and left her debit card in a cashpoint in Sri Lanka. She currently lives in London with her husband.

Overall, this is a beautiful tale of love, loss, and regret. But in amongst all that, the author has mixed fun and happiness and rounded it all off with some very well-timed twists.  Overall this book makes an ideal book group selection as well as an excellent recommendation for just about anyone.

So, at the next opportunity pop into your local book shop or order a copy online and go feed the ducks with Alfie and Fred.

 

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

 

This review is part of a Random Things blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d appreciate the feedback.

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