PREPARE TO STUFF YOUR LITERARY GILLS WITH PARIKIAN’S HILARIOUS COLLECTION

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Tis almost the season to eat drink and be merry. Yes, I know it is still the middle of November, but the run-in always goes by in a flash. Two things that we eat a lot of over the festive period are cake and soup, well, depending on where you are. But mostly cake, pudding and a myriad of other desserts…. Have you ever thought about what best accompanies stuffing your face over the festive period, with cake or any time of the year, musically? No? Well this month’s second book review ponders just that. But not just cake, also the afore mentioned topic of soup, allotments, space travel, sports commentators, and Donald Sutherland (actually he comes up in the topic of “Second Chances”)…. The book is – Music To Eat Cake By, written by Lev Parikian and published by Unbound on the 12th November (www.unbound.com).

So, lets imagine you’ve gone to a dinner party, where after the meal the guests gather in the living room and play a game of Charades. This book is just like that, Lev asked his readers to suggest topics for him to write about and they could be on anything from to the obscure to the sublime. Eventually, he whittled it down to forty topics and set about compiling a series of essays, all with his signature wit and warmth.

What you get from this, is a an amazingly funny and wild romp, through some of the weirdest and wonderful topics a group of readers could suggest. Contained with the covers of this book are some of the most sleep depriving questions on the planet, Things that could keep anyone, and probably has, occupied on a rainy afternoon in a pub (when were allowed in them, of course). As well that, Lev asked his tormentors to suggest numbingly and scrabble winning obscure words to place into the content. A version of “word for the day” you might say. Did they fail? No. The words would probably test the mental agility of Susie Dent, she of Countdown fame. Some of the words included “Weltanschang”, “Gazzer”, “Orcadian” and “Cornucopia”, although there are weirder and more tongue testier ones, all of which are highlighted with regular footnotes, which explain their meaning, if you’re stuck… I’m not the greatest fan on footnotes, in books that are non-academic, but in this case, they added to the overall enjoyment of the read.

Most Sunday mornings I listen to RTE Radio One’s (the Irish national broadcaster) “Sunday Miscellany”, which each week gives you a wonderful collection of short stories and essays on any subject that you might think of. Prior to that, I grew up listening to Alistair Cooke’s “Letters from America” on BBC radio 4. These were the first things came to mind when I started reading this book. Also, I loved that  the essays themselves decrease in length from the first being 4,000 words in length and the last, the topic suggested by his wife, being just 100 words.

This isn’t a cover to cover read, oh no, it’s one of those typical, “big dippers” or “swimming pools” as some people, including me and my wife, refer to them as. You can start in the middle, then dip in and dip out all over the place as you follow Lev on a literary breaststroke through his liking of cricket, music, food and birds.

Lev Parikian

This is English Author, Conductor and Ornithologist, Lev Parikian’s (www.levparikian.com) fourth book, the others are Waving Not Drowning (2013) with Barrington Orwell, Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear (2018) and Into The Tangled Bank – How We Are In Nature (July 2020). He also contributed to the Red 67 Anthology, with 134 other writers to raise money for the conservation of the 67 British wild birds on the endangered red list. He’s also reviewed for the Times Literary Supplement (I’m still waiting for Stig to give me a bell) and when not writing or watching birds, he likes to take Twitter by storm, most recently in 2019 with his viral hit Bird Song For Beginners. He lives in London.

So, I can truly say, I may have found my book of the year and with a little over six weeks to go, it may be a safe assumption. If you are fan of Bryson or a regular reader of Jezza Clarkson’s Column, then I think you might have to reconsider your position. Because if like me, you’ve been a Parikian virgin, I think we may have to go in search of his previous works. But before that, while observing the Covid restrictions, click and collect online with your local bookshop, because they need the support. Or if you must, download a copy and prepare to split your sides and fill your lexicographic gills with this hilariously funny collection of essays. With Crimbo just around the corner too, this would be an ideal gift.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This blog is part of a Random Things blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit their pages listed below. Then if you get a copy and read it come back and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

WILSON ATTEMPTS TO STICK A FORK IN THE MAELSTROM OF 2020

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We have a friend who has regularly suggested, that as we get older, she, my wife and I, retire to the Med or Devon and Cornwall and buy an old farm or a couple of connected villas and live in a sort of Commune…. If you were born in the fifties or sixties, then Commune’s were not so much a fad, as an accepted part and parcel of the era of free love. They were the equivalent of our Spa retreat, although you didn’t nip off down to an exclusive hotel in the country to have a deep tissue massage and a Bellini. You smoked weed, drank, tried to live a more simpler life, maybe even walked around naked. I don’t think our friend has aspirations of us doing that (not the naked part anyway), just to live a quieter life away from the rat race in a place where the cost of living and climate is easier on the pocket and aching bones. This month’s first book review involves a commune and the after effect of what went on there back in the sixties. Its Coyote Fork by James Wilson and was published by Slant Books (www.slantbooks.com) in September.

Seasoned British travel writer Robert Lovelace is sent to California to write a piece on social media giant Global Village and its founder Evan Bone, who has just bought up the newspaper Robert works for. Lovelace is disturbed when he sees a colleague who should be in the UK, in a parking lot, shortly after arriving in the states. But when he goes after her she disappears, only to discover later,that at the same time her saw her, she has taken her life in the UK, after being trolled by Global Villages members. Following a trail of old friends of Evan Bone, and finding out about the disappearance of a local native American, Robert finds himself dragged into a mystery surrounding the Tech Moguls past and the mysterious Coyote Fork commune. As his travels take him from San Francisco to the Midwest and eventually to the site of the commune in Northern California, can he elude the reach of social media which seem to follow his every move and get to the truth behind what happened at Coyote Fork?

With all that’s been going on in the US this week. I, as well as quite a few others could’ve done with heading off to a commune or at least needed some sort of distraction to take us away from the 24-7 furore engulfing every news channel around the world. I felt sorry for James Wilson’s thriller, having to compete with the madness which is transfixing the planet not just now but in 2020 in general. But Coyote Fork does go some-way to competing.  In less chaotic times, it would have held me gripped from page one, but in these fraught days, I was loosely engaged, from the first half of the book until Wilson threw in a few well placed grenades in the second half to ramp up the pace and pressure on his hero.

James Wilson

The plot is credible, and the setting and writing lovely. Having not been to California for ten years, and had my planned trip to the states this year postponed due to the Pandemic, any thoughts of long distant travel especially to a Covid hotbed like the States are gone for at least another 12 months. This was a decent panacea, with a likeable main character in the form of Robert Lovelace and a believable support cast, plus the smouldering threat of Big Brother, in the form of social media, looking over your shoulder, which helps build the both hero’s and reader’s paranoia .

This is English author James Wilson’s seventh book (www.jameswilsonauthor.com) he’s written six other novels The Dark Clue (2001), The Bastard Boy (2004), The Woman In The Picture (2006), Consolation (2008), The Summer Of Broken Stories (2015) and a book of narrative non-fiction The Earth Shall Weep : A History Of Native America (1998). Which won The Myers “Outstanding Book” award. Wilson has also written for TV and radio and now lives in South London.

Like the smell of burning wood which hangs over northern California from nearby forest fires in the latter stages of book. We may still have to contend with the lingering diatribe and odious tweets of a recalcitrant Bigot in the White House for another couple of months. But as we head toward Christmas and see what type of weird , Covid restricted, festive season we have, this book would be an ideal escape, maybe paired with a nice glass of Californian wine.

So, head down to your local bookshop, in these economically restricted times and keep it local (or click and collect from them). Then join Robert Lovelace in a race across the Midwest to unearth the dark secrets of Coyote Fork.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

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

MAZZONI AND HER FOXY LITTLE TALE SLINKS INTO YOUR HEART AND STAYS THERE

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Thankfully Albinism is more commonly accepted in humans, due to medical research, than it is in the animal world, where albino’s are usually ostracised by their own kind and struggle to survive. It’s thought that albino alligators, for example, have a life span of around 24 hours, due to the lack of both UV protection in the skin, and camouflage to protect them from predators. Before researching this review, I assumed only animals and humans were prone to albinism, but plants can get it too. But not all ‘albino’ animals are  really albino’s. They are loosely referred to as being such, however, true albinos have red eyes.  This month’s third book review features an albino animal, it’s The Snow Fox Diaries by Jan Mazzoni, published by Amazon last August.

Katie is a smart and successful partner in a  London estate agent; until the boss’s rampant gambling debts bring about its demise, and with that her job.  A year later, and she’s still unemployed, and starting to lose hope. When a client of her husband Ben, offers her the opportunity to move to the edge of Exmoor and renovate the interior of a house left to them by a relative, Katie jumps at the chance to escape a capital. She hopes to avoid struggling through a vicious winter and the onset of a crippling financial crash, fby heading for the fresh ,but frozen, fields of the West Country. With Ben leaving her for weeks while he tries to keep his own business afloat in London, Katie sets about working on the house and exploring the moorland. The countryside has been ravaged by a hard winter and the rabbit population devastated by a myxomatosis epidemic, which in turn is having a knock on effect on the food chain, forcing other predators such as foxes and the like to find alternative food sources. After a while Katie starts to catch glimpses  of a white fox around the garden, and in the distance across the fields, as well as on the roadsides. Then one day in early spring, while walking on the moors she gets up close to a white vixen and her  two cubs. Taking a couple of photos, Katie starts to feel a bond. Locals are aware of a supposedly rare albino fox, but also resentful of foxes for attacking local livestock. When the two  white cubs are bludgeoned to death by local youths, Katie is desperate to find the vixen, but her growing obsession with the fox is having a detrimental effect on both her mental state and her marriage. Can she save the rare fox, with the help  of family and some dubious new local friends, while also trying to get her life back on track?

If you’ve already read this week’s previous review, you’ll remember my wife describing how she sidestepped this book after reading the first page and the description of numerous animal deaths. It turned out to be a scene setter for the book, and  yes there are gorier animal mishaps. Being set in rural England, there are going to be a few four legged casualties. So I was able to somewhat overcome these little details.

The book itself, is a bit of a slow burn at first, but then, being an animal lover, the story did start to get to me. I am, as you may know from previous reviews, a slave to my emotions and very much in touch with them, so much so, that by the time I was finished, I was emotionally bereft and felt the same way I do after watching animal movies in general. 

Mazzoni’s writing style ensures that this story gets under the readers skin and tugs at the heartstrings, while also being topical. As the story takes place against the backdrop of the recent financial crisis, there are similarities to present day, considering what we are enduring now, and will face, in the economic aftermath.

Overall, I felt like in some instances, there were similarities to  Where the Crawdads Sing, with a troubled female character, helping an animal and using it to work through her own personal trials and tribulations. Although others might draw more similarities to books such as Watership Down, only here, with a fox as the central theme.

 

Jan Mazzoni

This English author Jan Mazzoni (www.janmazzoniwriter.com) third book, the others are Dreamland And Other Stories and Stones Of The Madonna. Jan has been writing since she was a child and has only recently realised that her stories fit into the Genre of Eco Fiction. She lives on the edge of Exmoor in Devon with her husband three Romanian rescue dogs.

So, if you are looking for a heart-warming story to remove you from the various physical, political and medical storms whirling around outside your door, then look no further than Mazonni’s book. Take yourself online to amazon and order or download a copy and transport yourself to the wilds of north Devon, and join Katie in her campaign to save a rare fox.

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 and read it, come back and tell us what you think. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

BIRCH’S FRUITY LITTLE OFFERINING LEAVES ME MENTALLY BOWLED OVER

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One Saturday morning recently, I opened the paper to find an article had been cut out. There was just an empty space where it should have been. Someone had removed it very precisely with scissors. I was somewhat surprised as we’d just purchased the paper an hour or so earlier. What could be the reason for this? ‘Easy’, my husband replied, ‘There was a story you wouldn’t like’. 

No, I’m not subject to domineering censorship by my other half. He just knows me very well. Despite thirty odd years as a veterinary nurse, I find animal cruelty stories extremely upsetting. I experience distress and to be honest, rage, for days after reading such reports. I’ve had to cull my Facebook newsfeed, which at one point in Lockdown had a solid diet of missing, stolen or abused animal stories. I couldn’t take it. With humans, I don’t lack empathy, but I’m not usually so bothered. I would subscribe to the website that warns you if the dog dies in films but be unabashed by disaster movies wiping out half the world’s population.

So, I thought I was dodging a bullet, when I handed my initial option for this months reading, over to my husband. The blurb suggested difficult animal scenes. Best avoided. I was therefore delighted in turn to be given a collection of dark crime stories for this months second book review. Its A Bowl of Cherries by F.E Birch. Self Published in July 2020.

Birch had taken the time to pen a personal comment inside the cover, ‘I hope you like your stories on the dark side’. I do. My regular ‘go to’ reading catalogue is thrillers, murder mystery , crime and horror. One Christmas, a friend gave me a book she described as the most disturbing book she had ever read, with the comment that she thought I’d like it. So you see, I wasn’t nervous.

The first story, the titular Bowl of Cherries, certainly made me sit up and take notice. I thought I’d wandered into soft porn, before the gore unfolded. It’s a great opening piece. Showing you what kind of thing you might be in for!  The book continues through 33 more stories, some less sexual, some more, but all delving into the darker side of the human mind. There are twists a plenty. Sometimes the stories have a supernatural element, such as one titled ‘On the Beach’ which I felt was reminiscent of The Lovely Bones, by Alice Seabold. However, the real horror of most of the stories is that you feel they could happen.

All of the stories and characters leave their mark on you in some way. I found myself turning over the scenarios in my head for days after reading, often with a shudder. Another story titled ‘Haemorrhage,’ in particular may continue to haunt my dreams for a while to come. Some of the stories are poignant, rather than disturbing. Many of the stories are only a page long, but its still enough to cause an emotional response.

F.E, Birch (Effie Merryl)

F.E Birch is the Amazon pen name of English author Effie Merryl (@effiemerryl) . In 2013 she wrote the ‘Faction’ book of memoirs published by Harper Collins. Since 2004 she has had over 150 short stories published in print and online, many which have been entered into competitions and a Bowl Of Cherries is a selection of her best prize winners. In 2012 she won the Bloody Scotland “Pitch Perfect” for a manuscript will hopefully be her debut crime novel. A former police officer, she now divides her time between the North East of England and Central Scotland.

Overall, I’d recommend this as a great collection of stories, perfect for adults at Halloween. A lesson for us all that sometimes the thing you should be scared of is right there, sitting at the other end of the couch or staring back from the mirror. This bowl of cherries is sour rather than sweet and theres often a maggot at the core. Even whilst being thankfully, animal cruelty free, it still engendered feelings of fear, disgust, anger and sadness, because it showed the more base sides of human nature.

So, with Lockdowns looming again around the world, support your local bookshop by buying a copy online for through a click and collect scheme or download it and prepare to be unsettled!

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, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

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.

louise McCreesh

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.

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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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