ITS A RED-EYE FOR HOLLIDAY’S FIRST CLASS THRILLER, RATHER THAN A SLEEPER

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Violet JacketI never had a gap year. Where I grew up, if you were lucky enough and smart enough you went from college to university, or like me, directly to a job with an apprenticeship and a professional  qualification at the end. The rest of my year went on the ‘dole’ or into youth employment schemes. I suppose it was the era before gap years really became trendy. I can certainly see the benefits of a little worldly experience before you settle down to work and study.

I now work with final year university students in my job. Its unsettling how childlike and unprepared for the world some of them are. Super smart but lacking in the most basic common sense and life skills in the worst cases. Whilst a gap year, travelling, working and visiting the more far flung areas of the world is an educational experience, recent widely publicised accidental deaths and murders of young people travelling alone, make me wonder how I would have fared. I like to recall myself as a fairly savvy and streetwise youngster. I know we get increasing more risk averse as we get older and see potential dangers more clearly but the places visited and activities undertaken, as reported by the media in those recent deaths have made me wonder what possessed them to think it was a good idea?

My sense of anxiety was in no way alleviated by reading this month’s third book review, its Violet by SJI Holliday and published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.co.uk) on the 14th November.

 

The titular character is a young woman travelling alone due to the fact that she has broken up with her boyfriend. She wants to travel on the Trans Siberian express to Moscow. In the process of trying to get a ticket for the train, she meets another single woman, Carrie. Carrie is on her own after her friend and planned travelling companion, broke her leg just before they were due to depart. She offers her friend’s ticket to Violet and the pair unite to make the journey Carrie has planned, stopping in Mongolia and again in Russia, before reaching Moscow.

We hear the story through the voice of Violet and from emails between Carrie and her missing friend Laura. The book starts with a traumatic event which involves one of the two women, but we don’t know who. Throughout the book we are given insights into Violet’s thoughts, feelings and motivations. There is a sense of impending doom and you are just waiting for something terrible to happen to one or both girls. Violet isn’t who she at first appears to be but there are a few moments which make you wonder about Carrie too. What is her true story? What is she hiding?

The sense of something bad coming your way as a reader was an unpleasant sensation. I had a few anxiety dreams during the days I as reading this, something I’d not experienced since reading Stephen King novels many years ago. I would have actually preferred not to have read the revealing prologue and had the events unfold without pre knowledge. The whole story was a series of ‘this is not going to end well’ moments. Hearing Violets thoughts and motivations expressed gave a steady trickle of bad feelings and allowed the tension to continually build. I thought the twists and turns at the end were a great way to round of the story.

Susi Holliday

Susi Holliday (Daily Record)

This is Scottish author S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday’s (www.susiholliday.com) 6th book, her previous five include the “Banktoun Trilogy” made up of Blackwood (2012), Willow Walk 2016) and The Damsenfly (2017), along with her festive thriller Deaths Of December (2017) and her gothic thriller The Lingering (2018). Inspiration for Violet comes from her love of travel and a journey along the infamous Trans-Siberian, she took ten years ago. S.J.I. currently divides her time between Edinburgh and London.

It’s a very modern thriller. I liked the email segments and the reference to social media. What can be learned about you from your devices and social media accounts is truly scary. The risks taken by both women in relation to alcohol, drugs, sex and personal safety seemed fantastic to me. Were they just symptoms of the personalities involved or the norm for young people in far flung places?

So take the train to your local book store or download a copy (both are green options), but be warned, this is not a book I’d recommend to anyone who’s daughter is about to jet off on their gap year, but a great read for anyone wanting to live dangerously, from the safety of their armchair of course! Just prepare for a few sleepless nights!

 

Reviewed by:  Georgina Murphy

 

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

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AN UNDER DEVELOPED START HAS ME DROPPING SCOTT’S MORTAR SHELL SIZED BOOK

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the-photographer-of-the-lost-9781471186394_lgWhile reading an article the other day on the topic of golf course etiquette, and when it might be okay to walk off a course, the author claimed we have all been taught the same thing; and that is to always finish what you started. They went on to provide certain examples such as a DIY project, a sandwich…. (probably depends on who made it) and finally a book you are reading.

Well not in my experience! There are times when the old adage applies; that life is too short to drink bad wine or continue reading a book that you are not enjoying. This happened with this month’s second book review, which is sad, seeing as it was published at the end of October and this review is going up the day before Remembrance Sunday, when across the world we mark those who lost their lives in both world wars and all conflicts since.

The book is The Photographer of the lost by Caroline Scott and published by Simon & Schuster (www.simonandschuster.co.uk) on the 31st of October.

Its 1921 and families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors of the Great War have been reunited with their loved ones Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He is considered ‘missing in action’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph taken by Francis in the post, hope flares. And so she beings to search.

Harry, Francis’ brother, fought alongside him. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last things they ever said. Both brothers shared a love of photography and it is that which brings Harry back to the Western Front. Hired by grieving families to photograph grave-sites, as he travels through battle-scarred France gathering news for British wives and mothers,

Then as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they get closer to a startling truth.

I got as far as the eighty fifth page of this four hundred and ninety-five-page tome, most books get fifty pages to get me hooked, but it’s all relative when you have this many pages to read.

The two main characters seemed to be endlessly meandering back and fourth across rain sodden and mortar scarred battle fields looking for their loved ones, I found it hard to want pick it up and continue to read it, let alone overlook the inconvenience of lugging it around on my daily commute. Yes, if you have an e-reader its ok, but I don’t because I’m a traditionalist.

Casroline Scott

Caroline Scott

This is English born Author Caroline Scott’s (@cscottbooks) first book and was inspired while completing a PhD in History at Durham University. While there, she developed an interest in the impact the first world war had on the landscapes of Belgium and France and in particular the experience of women during the conflict. She was allowed to indulge her passion while working as a researcher for a Belgian company. Originally from Lancashire, she now lives in Southwest France.

I always feel upset at not finishing a book, especially when its for book group and the others tell me how great it was after the sixty fifth page. This book is not in my opinion an ideal book group read, as trying to read a book like this in a month or less would be a struggle, unless you only read one book a month and have nothing else occupying your life.

I wish Caroline well with this book and look forward to reading her future works and to those we’ll remember over the next couple of days….

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

(The Fallen, L. Binyon)

Reviewed by: Adrian Murphy

This book is part of a Random Things blog tour, to see what the others thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you go off and read the book, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d love the feedback.

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RINGROSE SCORES A CLEAR ROUND AND NO FAULTS WITH MEMOIR OF HIS FATHER

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BillyRingroseCvrAs a child, I was horse mad. I lived and breathed horses and riding. I knew all about their care, their tack and their ailments. My greatest wish was for a horse of my own. Growing up on an inner city council estate, I was regularly brought back down to earth with the pronouncement that you can’t keep a horse in a green house. However, I was indulged to the point of having riding lessons during my early teenage years. The school I went to was very good. It instilled a full education on horsemanship and horse care. None of this turning up to have your tacked pony brought out for you, Oh no, we had to catch them or  get them up, brush them down, check their hooves and tack them up ourselves. No mean feat for 12 year olds dealing with the most savvy, sly and workshy school ponies ever. But we loved it.

My heroes at the time were the british show jumpers David Broome and Nick Skelton. Harvey Smith was flying high at the time too but was frowned upon by my family for his bullish attitude, rude gestures and, what we perceived to be, rough handling of his horses. He was also not forgiven for always being on the programme at our local show, where each year there was a Tannoy announcement saying he’d broken down enroute (and then we’d arrive home to see him busy jumping at Hickstead). The poor man was probably oblivious to his eagerly anticipated arrival at a local county show in Nottingham!

I was always fascinated by the military outfits and no hard hats of the Irish team at international events. Such glamour! So, I was  both intrigued and delighted to be given an opportunity to  read and review a book  of the story of William (Billy) Ringrose and the growth of Irish success at showjumping on the international circuit from its beginnings to recent times.

The book, simply titled, Billy Ringrose, a memoir of my father is written and self published by his third son, Fergal. The history is built from interviews with Billy and his wife Joan, along with insights from colleagues and friends and from research in the archives held by the Army Equitation School and from press coverage at the time. Billy comes across as a reserved, self-effacing man, who saw the great triumphs of his career as just doing his job. They were spectacular wins. In 1961, he was presented with the Grand Prix de Monaco by Princess Grace and the Grand Prix de Roma by Queen Elizabeth II. He is the only man to have won the Aga Khan Cupas a rider, as the Irish Chef D’Equipe and then as President of the RDS. What could be said to be most amazing is that Billy had never had a riding lesson before he joined the Army!

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Col. Billy RingRose with Capt. Geoff Curran in 2016 (Irish Field)

 

 

This is also a history of the development of the Army Equitation School. It was realised that Ireland needed a way to advertise its equine bloodstock trade internationally and the best way was to compete and win showjumping events at international level. Cadets were recruited based on athleticism in other sports, rather than coming up via the ranks of pony club and local shows like in Britain, where the team wasn’t army based, and for a while all cadets made their way through the school in an effort to identify those with the correct combination of fearlessness and skills. At the same time the supply of horses was limited and variable depending on political goodwill, so the Irish army spent a lot of time competing with inferior horses to other nations such as the Germans who dominated the sport. The Irish had a different tactic in selection and training of riders. Which gradually paid off.

Billy was an inspiration to younger riders. He is well regarded by his colleagues. It was interesting to read of politics at work and his sideways move to a department he knew nothing about and how others were promoted without doing the necessary training depending rather on who they knew. Nothing much changes! Billy did get returned to the post of CO of the equitation school. On retirement from this position he went on the horse purchase board and the RDS horse show committee before being elected President of the RDS.

This is Irish Author Fergal Ringrose’s (@fergalwilliam) first book. After gaining a BA from

Fergal Ringrose

Fergal Ringrose

Dublin City University and an MA from California State University both in Communication Studies he has worked as an editor and journalist in Business publishing for the television broadcast production sector.

This is a very detailed account of a full and interesting career. Interesting, not only from the point of Billy’s personal achievements but also the advances and success achieved by the Army equitation school, during Billy’s tenure.

It is a book which would appeal to those interested in Irish history, as well as those with an interest in equestrian matters. The photographs are a lovely addition and the press reports give a real sense of the time. This is at times, a very moving and personal account of the life of a man who should really be more famous here and abroad. He’d probably be surprised to hear me say that as he appears to be modest to the point of denial! I would love to hear an abridged version of this memoir on audiobook, maybe with some of the actual voices. It would also make an ideal project for RTE Radio’s Documentary on One around Dublin Horse Show time.

 

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

GUEST POST: ‘FROM THE FIRST PAGE’ – BY JANET ROGER

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Here’s a first  for The Library Door (we hope to bring you more the in future), a guest post by an author. This first one is courtesy of Janet Roger author of Shamus Dust, which is published by Matador (https://www.troubador.co.uk/matador/)  on the on 28th October

 

Janet Roger

Janet Roger

You get reviews. And you get Reviews. Some of the advance reception for Shamus Dust has been rather overwhelming. (For example? Modesty forbids. Oh well then, if you insist, go to my website.) However, there was a review just recently that was a real delight. So I’m going to tell you about it. It ended: you feel like you’re in an old Humphrey Bogart movie from the first page.

Now, an old Humphrey Bogart movie covers an awful lot of ground, from an early talkie (Up the River, 1930, with Spencer Tracy) right through 1956 and The Harder They Fall – released just months before big tobacco caught up with him, far too soon. Nevertheless, I think (and certainly hope) that the reviewer and I had the same Bogart movies in mind. They’re from a very special period that’s very dear to me. But we’ll come back to that.

First, some background to Shamus Dust. It’s a story spun out of genuine headline events. A Pandora’s Box, as the cover blurb has it, that opened among the blitz sites of the City of London, early in the Cold War. The City was then, and is now, financial heart of the capital. Think of it as London’s Wall Street. When Shamus Dust is set, it’s headed for a postwar reconstruction boom and nothing is going to be allowed to get in the way. Or, as another reviewer put it: Imagine Polanski’s masterpiece, Chinatown played out against the bomb sites and grimy alleys of a freezing 1947 London.

While I really hadn’t thought about the parallels before, I think that reviewer nails it. Like Chinatown – a story spun out of the California Water Wars of the 1910s – Shamus Dust unfolds as a dark tale, driven by the greed and invulnerability of the powerful. Like Chinatown, it involves criminal sexuality, deviant wealth, civic corruption and high-end racketeers. And like Chinatown it descends into routine murder for the cover-up, as seen through the eyes of the gumshoe who’s on the case. The events Shamus Dust is based on – that Pandora’s Box among the ruins – had fascinated me since I first came across them. The question was how to write them.

What makes a film noir a film noir? When does their classic noir period begin and end? Which movies are included, and which aren’t? It depends who you ask. What’s never in dispute though, is that Humphrey DeForest Bogart stars in some of the very best (after The Harder They Fall, try In A Lonely Place, 1950 with Gloria Grahame, directed by Nicholas Ray). No question either that, from the mid-1940s to the late 1950s, films noirs played to the dark, seen-it-all intuitions of a generation that was braced for A-bombs, Korea and the Cold War. For almost a decade and a half, audiences bought their tickets for a cinema that reflected the world as they knew it. Sugar coated was the taste of yesteryear, without an unalloyed happy ending in sight.

Their storylines were corrosive. Their dialogue bitter. Their rooms were dimmed, photographed at odd angles, filled with menace. This is how Shamus Dust should be, I thought. Its story ought to feel like a  film noir: hardboiled, set in black and white in a meagre postwar, and told in the narrative form that wowed audiences – men and women both – at the time. So that’s what I set out to do. And it’s why I savored the compliment about the Bogart movie that began on page one. I wanted the language, the manners and mannerisms, the casual prejudices, the dress. I also wanted the silvery bright-lights, the dark interiors, the oblique angles, the all-pervasive sense of threat.

Fine. But film noir was a Hollywood offspring, at home with the uneasiness of the dry Santa Ana winds. Shamus Dust, even though narrated by that American gumshoe, is set in deep, snowy winter with an otherwise English cast, in the high-rolling City of London. Can the one possibly translate into the other? Well, the plain fact is, it not only can, it did at the time.

Though film noir had originated in a perfect storm of home-grown and immigrant talent, technique, and limited resources, it was very soon neither a uniquely Hollywood studio product nor a uniquely American taste. Cold War cinema audiences everywhere related to its bleak, ungilded motives, its dark, inconvenient truths. Why wouldn’t they? They’d lived through the same grinding decades of wars and worldwide Depression, graft and disillusion and mistrust. Before you could say Double Indemnity (for the record, it’s often credited as the first film noir) movie makers were exploring the vocabulary of a new cinematic movement, from Argentina to Japan and stops in between.

London, England included. Despite its American co-producer (David O. Selznick) and American leads (Joseph Cotton, Orson Welles) The Third Man is a British movie, nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Director, Best Editor) and taking one home (Robert Krasker for Best Cinematography). Meaning that already by 1949, a British-made movie could be fluent and even majestic in the elements of noir. It was famously set in Vienna. But there are many other British films noirs set at home, (some even in the City of London and likewise with American stars – Carole Landis, Richard Widmark, Orson Welles again, and others. Come the Cold War, Americans were so familiar in the capital, in or out of uniform, that our shamus would hardly have stood out in a crowd.

So if I can answer my own question, there never was a problem in translation, even from the very beginning. Film noir has pedigree. It exported – with tremendous success – to pretty well everywhere there was an audience for dark, uneasy, hardboiled cinema. In effect, to pretty well every town that had a picture show. How it translates into Shamus Dust, out October 28 2019, is for you to tell me. But that reviewer has given me hopes.

 

Shamus Dust will be reviewed on The Library Door in November

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BLACKIE’S SEASONALLY APPROPRIATE BOOK PUTS THE MS. INTO MYTHS

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Foxfire CoverI appear to have tapped a rich seam of folklore, myths and fairy tales in the last year or so. Earlier I read and reviewed Lancelot by Giles Kristian, an imagining of the life of the Lancelot of Arthurian legend, for this blog. My bookclub’s reads have included the Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey, a reworking of the Russian fairy story and The Familiars by Stacey Hall, which fictionalises the Pendle Witch Trials. I’ve also enjoyed The Hoarder by Jess Kidd, a story of hoarding and the supernatural set in the modern day. One of the most striking repeated themes in all of these has been the fox as a familiar or as a sign of magical happenings. Its certainly given foxes a good press!

This month’s first offering is ‘Foxfire and Wolfskin’ and is subtitled, ‘and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women’. It is by Sharon Blackie and published by September Publishing (www.septemberpublishing.org) on the 2nd of October.

Inside Sharon Blackie reworks and retells some tales from European folklore, myths and legends. There is a helpful guide to original stories and their origins in the back of the book. Her emphasis has been to give the female characters a stronger, more positive role. I must say my heart sank a little when I read this on the cover. Whilst I am a feminist, I don’t feel we should be rewriting stories and recasting films and TV show with women to replace the original male characters carte blanche. If the story works better with a woman as the lead role then fine, but just redoing things with female characters instead of males does nothing to inspire me. There are many stories of truly inspiration women that have been overlooked by the history books or novel and screenwriters that could inspire us for many years and in a more authentic way.

However, as we know, many of the myths and fairy stories we are familiar with today were sanitized by the Victorians and later “Disneyfied” make the characters cute and appealing. In the time before women were relegated to subservience and being ladylike and agreeable, the women in our history were strong, independent and feisty. Blackie hasn’t repopulated the stories with women instead of men, we’ve just been given the female slant to a tale and maybe the woman has come out on top or got her revenge. So actually, what I found when I read this book, was that in the main I enjoyed the stories. This is due to Blackie’s fine storytelling and light hand on the feminist leanings. There is a great sense of humour in several of the pieces, especially ‘Meeting Baba Yaga’, which possibly typifies my straight talking mother’s reaction to me doing yoga, which she said she thought was a little ‘out there’ for someone who works in a scientific job! I really liked the updating of the stories involving nature and our relationship with it. Some were very poignant like ‘Last Man Standing’. Some like ‘No Country for Old Women’ would inspire environmental activism but mostly I just enjoyed the descriptions of nature and feeling of connection with the real and mythical world.

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Dr. Sharon Blackie

This is Irish Author, Mythologist and Psychologist Dr. Sharon Blackie’s (sharonblackie.net) fourth book. Her others are The Long Delirious Burning Blue (2008), If Women Rose Rooted (2016) and The Enchanted Life (2018). Sharon is an internationally recognised teacher of mythic imagination and  has a large following through her online communities, and the courses and workshops she offers through her “Hedge School”, she lives in Connemara in the west of Ireland and is no doubt quite busy on the run up to “An Samhain” or All Hallows Eve in three weeks time.

This book feels like it should be great reading for young adults but some of the stories could be considered too adult in content for teens (maybe that’s the Victorian prude speaking!) but I expect that depends on your teen? Some people would just enjoy it for the calibre of its prose. It’s a lovely bit of escapism from modern day stresses. I also think if you ignored the subtitle, men would have no idea it was encouraging  modern women to shed their skin and transform their lives. Maybe that’s its secret power! I certainly reshaped and shifted my initial view upon reading.

So with the nights getting chillier and evenings drawing in, why not snap your fingers or click your mouse and order a copy online or haunt around your local bookshop for a copy  in time for the spookiest night of the year.

 

Reviewed By: Georgina Murphy

 

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

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GAMER’S WILL SWEAR BY HARDCASTLE’S REFERENCE BOOK

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Fuck Yeah CoverThe first thing I can tell you about this month’s second book, is that quite a few of my readers are not going to like it from the get-go. But there will be a group of you who will be fascinated by this book, even excited. The book is Fuck Yeah Video Games by Daniel Hardcastle and published by Unbound (www.unbound.com) on the 19th September.

Another thing a few readers won’t like, is reading this book on your morning and evening commute as I found out. When I was met with a few raised eyebrows and tutting on the LUAS, Dublin’s light rail system (owing to the large yellow expletive on the cover). I even think a couple of mothers pulled their children closer and shielded their eyes.

The book charts the history of video games from the humble tennis game, where you moved a cursor up and down the screen trying to hit a bouncing white square past your opponent’s cursor to score a point,  to today’s modern games which are almost movie-esque in story-line and action, These allow you to play with or against not just a person or persons in the same room, but random strangers not even on the same continent, who more often than not may be half your age. These modern video games also feature so much detail, that the afore mentioned tennis game is now not too far removed from the hoop and stick our grandparents derived so much pleasure from as kids. The book also looks back at the success and failures of the large game designers and console producers (three of them to be exact) Sony , Nintendo and Atari… Who???(google it).

Gaming nowadays has progressed from something aimed initially at an age group spanning 8 – 18yrs, to today, where forty-somethings like myself are not ashamed to say they are gamers. No anoraks here, unlike train spotters and model train enthusiasts! Oh no, we stay warm and toasty in our bedrooms and “Mancave’s”.

Also, with the likes of the Nintendo WII console sports packs, gaming is now a family pastime and regularly seen as the ideal post-Christmas dinner entertainment. Where everyone from the youngest to the grandparents gets involved. Then of course you only have to see the news recently, where a teenager in America took home $3million for winning the Fortnite (it’s a popular video game) World Cup in front of a packed out sports stadium and even bigger online audience; and you wonder why some people such as Hardcastle can make a living out playing games all day long.

Yes, my name’s Adrian and I’m a gamer, but I’m not nerdy about. I don’t go out and buy a game and play it constantly, unless the wife’ away or out for the evening. This due in part to having responsibilities, I only really returned to gaming a few years ago when I requested a PS4 as a present for my fortieth, after a hiatus from when I played them in my youth.

FYVG is all in all an entertaining and light-hearted read. But it’s really a reference book, namely because it has footnotes, which I find distracting in anything that is not a self-help book, textbook or encyclopedia. It’s not a book you are going read from cover to cover.  It’s more like a swimming pool at a holiday resort, there for you to dip in and out of it on a regular basis, while leaving it on your coffee table or bookshelf as a conversation starter.

Daniel Hardcastle

Daniel Hardcastle

My initial reaction when getting it was that its very big. But I soon realised that of the 379 pages only 296 were actually part of the book, the rest were a list of 101 of the best games ever published, a glossary of terms used in the book, author bio and crowd funding acknowledgements, of which there are quite a few.

As for the games featured in the book, I’ve only played two. As for the 101 best games ever published listed at the back, its seven. Does that really make me a gamer? I was personally disappointed there where weren’t references to my current favourites “No Mans Sky”, which has had its own problematic road to success. Then there’s Tom Clancy’s Division 1 and 2, the numerous Call Of Duty games and for a real history lesson, games played on the Comodore 64, ZX Spectrum and my own Dragon 32(yep, Google it). Admittedly those three weren’t games consoles, but before consoles arrived on the scene video games were played on computers and publishers still release  PC editions of popular titles these days.

This is English author Daniel Hardcastle’s (@danNerdCubed) first book, despite what the inside cover might say. He’s is a gamer and regular broadcaster on Twitch – an online channel solely dedicated to allowing you to watch people like Daniel play video games… I’ve never watched any of these, as I’d rather be playing the game myself. The lavish illustrations in the book are provided by Daniel’s wife Rebecca and these include caricatures of the leading crowd funders who helped get this book published.

Overall, I got the feeling that Hardcastle was trying to emulate columnist, author and TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson in his writing style and general ladishness, even referencing him several times throughout the book. But as much a I liked this book, I thought he tried too hard and, in the end If I discovered “Jezza” had ghost-written this book, I wouldn’t be surprised.

I did like FYVG, as I have an interest in the topic. But again, it is a book with a niche readership, despite the number of people worldwide who play video games. You’ll also find quite a few of the younger generation aren’t big readers. But again, as it’s quite easy to read in bite sized chunks, this maybe a popular read for them and also a way to reignite interest in the older games discussed in the book, that you’ll find in the second hand section of gaming stores and car boot sales.

 

Reviewed by : Adrian Murphy

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

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PRESCOTT’S SECRET TO SUCCESS IS A SMALL FEMININE ARMY ARMED WITH REMINGTON’S AND SHARP PENCILS

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The Secrets We Kept CoverNext year marks the 60th anniversary of the death of Boris Pasternak, the author of the famous novel, Dr Zhivago published in 1957. Despite Pasternak’s avowal that it was a love story, Dr Zhivago was banned in his home country due to its anti-October revolution sentiments, this also didn’t stop David Lean making it into a hugely successful film in 1965 starring Omar Sharif.

Lara Prescott the author of this month’s second book review, has been fascinated about the story of Dr Zhivago since she learned she was named for it’s heroine by her mother. The book is The Secrets We Kept and is published by Hutchinson Books https://www.penguin.co.uk/company/publishers/cornerstone/hutchinson.html on the 3rd September.

Prescott’s book is a novel about the writing of Dr Zhivago , the sacrifices the author and his muse Olga Ivinskaya (Lara) made; and the role the CIA played in getting a banned book to be an underground success in Russia. It was while researching the history of the book, she noticed many of the heavily redacted documents she was reading had been typed by the all-female typing pool of the CIA, an organisation in its infancy at the time the novel was written.

Why was the CIA interested in the book you may wonder? The Americans thought that itZhivagopster2 provided a way of enlightening the Russian readers to more western sympathies. The book was therefore being used as a weapon in the cold war.

This is a story of two strands. We follow Lara, Pasternak’s muse and mistress, and the inspiration for the Lara of Dr Zhivago. She suffered more than Pasternak himself for his art, spending 5 years in a ‘Re-Education Camp’; basically a labour camp, for her refusal to say that Pasternak was writing anti soviet literature and to supply details of the novel to her interrogators. Lara is loyal and she passionately believes in Pasternak as a writer but is not naïve and realizes the danger that Pasternak’s desire to get his masterpiece published and recognised is to herself and her family.

The other strand of the story takes place in America, where we meet Irina, a Russian immigrant who is employed by the CIA, ostensibly as a secretary but then, because of her Russian ancestry to be trained as a spy. She meets and falls in love with a fellow agent as she becomes involved in the CIA plot to release Dr Zhivago in the USSR.

The story is told through the eyes and voice of Lara, Irina and though the group voice of the secretarial pool at the CIA. The latter is the group that fascinated me the most. Women who had held challenging positions as undercover agents in the Second World War, relegated to typing. Whilst the story of Irina and Sally is from the imagination of Lara Prescott, the redacted files she read were typed by real women. I enjoyed the way Prescott gave the spy story a feminine twist. There are too many male dominated spy stories out there already and the important women of history have previously been frequently overlooked. This reminded me a little of Hidden Figures, the story of the women ‘computer’ at NASA who played such a vital role in the space race. Whilst I don’t like re do’s of male stories with a female twist, just to jump on a modern feminist bandwagon, this story rings true, mainly because at its heart it is true. How fascinating that the story behind the publishing of the book may grab our interest as much as the novel it is about!

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Lara Prescott (NY Times)

This is American author Lara Prescott’s (www.laraprescott.com) first novel, she holds a Masters in Fine Arts from the Michener Centre for Writers at the University of Texas, Austin. Before getting her MFA she was an animal protection advocate and a political campaigner around the world, including trying to get the first woman prime minister of Trinidad & Tobago elected. She now lives in Texas with her family.

The characters are well written and all three main ladies elicited sympathy for their trials and tribulations. I felt the creation of the cold war America and Russia setting was very well researched. For a public who enjoy similar placed TV and film dramas, I can understand why this story has been sold to the producers of ‘The Night Manager’ and ‘La La Land’. It would have been one for David Lean too, if he were still with us. I was pleased to see that there was not a cliched happy ending. That would have been a let-down after a enjoying book that left me with lots to think about and a definite urge to revisit Dr Zhivago.

So “potoropis” down to your local book shop and get a copy or download it before the next cold war starts or winter sets in, which ever comes first.

 

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

 

This review 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 love the feedback.

 

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