KETTLEWELL HUMOUROUSLY REMINDS ME WHY I TOOK ETERNAL LEAVE FROM PARENTING

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Myself and Georgina don’t have children, mainly down to medical reasons. But what we do have is two cats and a dog, which if you were to eavesdrop on our house at any given time of the day, you would think that we were living with teenagers. They don’t come when they are called, don’t speak, sleep for long periods of the day, and stay out all night (that’s mainly the cats). They also fight with each other and traipse food all over the gaff, not to mention eating everything that isn’t securely locked away or defended with your life.   Like most animal lovers we do talk to our animals and can regularly hold fairly lengthy two-way conversations with them, making me think I missed a calling on the stage as a ventriloquist.

I am though, a godfather to two girls, one of which lives in Melbourne. Some people might think even in the godparenting dept. I got away lightly. So, as you might have guessed this month’s second book review is all about parenting, no! It’s not a self-help book. Its Eternity Leave by Simon Kettlewell and self-published (February 2021) available on Amazon.

Brigit Wheeler’s partner (mysteriously unnamed) has for the past nineteen years been the sole carer for their four children Chloe, Emma, Ruby and Ollie. While Brigit has gone out to work running a large UK hospital, he, the un-named narrator, decided to take the unconventional route (twenty years ago) and be a stay at home dad. Setting out to be self-sufficient and follow in the footsteps of TV Chef Hugh Fernley Whittingstall, while also becoming a successful novelist and proving men can be capable parents, especially when guided by the self-help book The Complete Guide to Childcare. But five minutes after Bridgit’s maternity leave ended with their eldest Chloe, he realises the magnitude of this decision, after all this time, has he really achieved anything?

It was only after reading this book and looking at the press release that accompanied it, that I saw in big bold letting “A MUST FOR ANY PARENT”. But despite that, I enjoyed this book, it’s funny and although not being a parent I wasn’t ROTFL, as the kids might say, more often than not I found myself reflecting on how I react when my young nieces and nephews do something and my sister telling me to relax. Then I quickly realise there’s a divine reason I’m not a parent.  I did sympathise with the main character (good god, let’s call him Mr Wheeler), As I endure the same respect from our pets as he does from his kids.

There are some poignant parts in the book, for example, when he meets another mother and her mum pushing her kids round a local zoo and a couple of months later, he meets the grandmother with the kids  at the same zoo, only to discover that the daughter died of cancer shortly after the last meet, and what “Mr. Wheeler” thought was the fatigued look of childcare on the mothers face was actually her battle with cancer. Ok, not exactly 24hrs in A&E, but a nice touch for a piece of fiction.

Simon Kettlewell

This is English author and father of four, Simon Kettlewell’s (www.simonkettlewell.co.uk) fifth book, his others are Bread for The Bourgeoisie (2014), Dead Dog Floating (2015), The Truth About Us (2016) and The Truth About Her (2016) all self-published and available on Amazon. Simon lives in Devon, with his family, a variety of animals, in a multicoloured house where people come and go like passengers at a station.

So, if you are looking for book that is cross between the TV shows, Breeders, Outnumbered and The Good Life. While also seeking to reassure yourself that your parenting skills are above par, and that the path you have chosen is, definitely not a lonely furrow, then get on to Amazon and order a copy to enjoy while the kids are asleep or before you do.

Reviewed by : Adrian Murphy

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

SHERIDAN UNCOILS THE MYTHS, WITH A TAUT MEMOIR OF HER ASCENT TO MOUNTAINEERINGS HEADY HEIGHTS

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When I was in my early twenties, my then partner went through phases of enthusiasm for various outdoor hobbies. One of them was mountaineering. Whilst I’m a happy camper and rambler, climbing up steep mountainsides, and worse still, coming down them is not my cup of tea. I’d tried rock climbing once on a school trip and having been told to jam my foot into a crack in the rock, I found I couldn’t remove it. The instructor had to climb up below me and undo my boot laces so I could extricate my foot. If that wasn’t embarrassing enough, I couldn’t will myself to lean back off the edge of the cliff and abseil back down, so I had a rather shame faced walk back down by a longer route. However, and maybe because of that, I’ve always admired the exploits of mountaineers. I attended a number of lecture tour events given by Doug Scott, a fellow climber of Chris Bonnington, the British Everest conqueror. This was a time of slide shows and a one man show, retelling his recent adventures, to raise money for the next expedition. I always remember Doug Scott being quite self-effacing, describing life threatening situation with nonchalance and humour. There didn’t seem to be any famous women climbers at the time, the early 1990s. It was kind of accepted that women weren’t strong enough to undertake these exploits and I never really questioned it, even though climbing and other ‘extreme’ sports were taking off at the time.

This brings me to this month’s first offering from the Library Door. Its Uncoiling the Ropes by Clare Sheridan and published by Mweelrea Press in July 2020 (available – Amazon). This book was presented to us as our May book club choice by Lesley Sheridan, Clare’s younger sister. In fact, Lesley doesn’t really get a mention in the book, but there’s no doubting they are siblings as they look so much alike. 

Uncoiling the Ropes is a memoir of a lifetime of heart stopping adventures. Having been told in 1970’s Ireland that ‘girls don’t climb’ Clare Sheridan decided she wasn’t listening and went on to become recognised by fellow climbers as a pioneering leader, meeting the love of her life  during her first trip climbing in the Alps,  raising three children , holding down a career as a teacher , whilst continuing to tackle difficult routes on mountains all over the world as well as achieving a phenomenal succession of first climbs on Irish cliffs.

This is an engaging and enjoyable book to read. The first chapter is full of drama. A real cliff hanger, if you’ll excuse the pun and it really reels you in. Then we go back to the beginning of Clare’s passion, started by mountain walks with her father and a rivalry with her sister. We travel through Clare’s early climbing career. In the Alps she meets Calvin Torrans, a well-known mountaineer from Belfast. They start a long-distance courtship, carried out on various cliff faces! We hear about their travels into Canada, where they take on oil exploration work designed for rock climbers to fund expeditions. Eventually they move back to base themselves in Ireland and raise a family. The social conventions in Ireland at this time are explored in the book. Clare and Calvin had an unconventional and forward-thinking approach to marriage, running a household and raising three children which would have certainly jarred at the time. However , they seem to carried it off with patience , humour and a determination to live life their way that many of us could envy now in these more ‘enlightened’ times.

Claire Sheridan (Mountaineering Ireland)

This is Irish author, climber and retired school teacher Claire Sheridan’s first book. Although she has other writing credits to her name, such as regularly writing articles for the Irish Mountain Log and co-editing numerous rock-climbing guidebooks with her husband Calvin Torrans. In 2014 she was the first woman to be awarded the Lynam Medal by mountaineering Ireland, other recipients include Sir Chris Bonington in 2019, along with the only other woman to date to have been awarded one, Innes Papert in 2015. She lives with her family in Bray, Ireland.

The book is full of humour and there are sad events and regrets expressed too. Its very human. I was left feeling that Clare had, in the book at least, put herself second to Calvin. The book was quite technical in explaining about techniques and politics in relation to the sport, without being heavy handed. The included photographs are amazing and bring some of the text further to life. That’s not to say they are needed, the writing is very good , Clare really brings the story to life , making the inaccessible , accessible, but I enjoyed being able to see the faces and places she wrote about.

From the safety of my sofa, this was an enthralling and exhalating story, told with passion and aplomb. I would love to listen to Clare regale with me stories in a theatre, when restrictions allow.

Claire and husband Calvin Torrans (IADT)

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

O’CONNELL DIVES DEEP TO DELIVER A PEARL OF A DEBUT

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According to Forbes, in 2021 a quarter of the world’s 2,755 billionaires live in just ten cities. They are Hangzou at 10, San Francisco, Mumbai, London, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Moscow, Hong Kong, New York, with Beijing at number one having the largest number of billionaires 100. Surprisingly, the city where this month’s second book review is set, is not there. Dubai (10 Billionaires – Arabianbusiness.com) has a population of over 3 million, of which eighty five percent are foreign nationals. It is home to the tallest building in the world – The Burg Khalifa, which has featured in one of the most successful movie franchises, and that movie’s most iconic scene forms a small part of the storyline. Also, when you compare Dubai to the other top ten cities above, none of their police forces cruise around in top of the range super cars. Although there is a lot that cannot be done there, that you can probably get away with in most of the others. PDAs for example, swearing, and failure…The book is Diving for Pearls by Jamie O’Connell and published by Doubleday (www.penguin.co.uk) on the 3rd June.

When the body of a Muslim girl, the daughter of a rich influential Emirate family is found floating in the marina in downtown Dubai, the lives of six people from various backgrounds are altered. Each one has come to Dubai, drawn by its bright lights, warm weather, and the promise of a new Life. Trevor a young Irish man who is hoping to escape a troubled past, Lydia a Russian sex worker trying to outsmart the system. While Tahir, a Pakistani taxi driver, dreams of a future for his children back home. Then there’s Aasim, the brother of the victim, who desperately tries to deal with the grief while also hiding who he really is from is family, and finally an Ethiopian maid, Gete, begins to carve out a new life. But Dubai breaks its promises, and in a city of mirages, where the cultures of East and West collide, how do you find your way out…

 Wow, I have just spent the past week reading this book while enduring a mini heatwave in Ireland. So, at times I really felt like I was in Dubai, albeit even if I were reading it in October or January, I’d probably feel the heat coming off the page. That’s not all that drips off the page, there’s the glorification of wealth and its trappings and the lifestyle that are part and parcel of this city, courtesy of O’Connell’s writing.

The book is a guaranteed page turner from the prologue all the way to the end of the epilogue, three hundred and thirty-two pages later. What you get inside this book is a gritty and harrowing expose of life, behind the glare of the skyscrapers, the opulence, and the heat. While also dealing excellently with the topic of emigration and how we struggle to find ourselves in a new environment, while adjusting to its cultural differences.

What we discover about the pearl of the UAE, is unlike most of bright, glamourous cities around the world, which have a triple class system, Dubai essentially has two, the Rich and the poor. Although there is a subclass in the rich grouping – according to one of the characters in the book, “no matter how wealthy you are, there’s always someone richer”. While the poor are the maids and waiters, bell hops and taxi drivers who eke out a living, making sure that the needs and whims of the wealthy are met, while accepting the varying degrees of mistreatment as part of your lot.

But it is under the draconian religious rules by which the city and UAE is governed, that all citizens are essentially equal as they fearfully try to toe the line. This is where O’Connell’s story flourishes as the six main characters deal with the ripple effects of the death of this young girl and the dramatic turn of events it will have on their lives both directly and indirectly.

As for the character themselves, each is depicted with such depth and realism that you can almost feel their pulse, the heat and sweat running off their bodies and the hurt and pain they feel from this event and having to deal with the authorities. This depth allows the reader to sympathise with them and their varying situations.

Another great thing about this book is the death itself and the mystery that surrounds it, O’Connell allows the reader to draw their own conclusions as to how or what led to the girl’s untimely demise, for the main premise is the repercussions, and even after you turn the final page, you are left to wonder about the next chapter for all concerned.  

Jamie O’Connell (independent.ie)

This is the debut novel of Irish writer Jamie O’Connell (@jamieoconnell). Previously he has had short stories “Highly Commended” by the Costa Short Story Award and the Irish Book Award Short Story of the Year. He’s also been longlisted for the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines Short Story Competition and shortlisted for the Maeve Binchy Travel Award. Jamie has an MFA and MA in Creative Writing from University College Dublin and has worked for the likes of Penguin Random House, Gill Books and O’Brien Press.

There are no downsides to this book, only the anticipation that I’m feeling already for Jamie’s next book. In this one I have found an author who has seamlessly moved from short storyteller to novelist and is now perfectly at home among the stable of new Irish writing talent. Before that, this book may have just jumped to the top of my book group selection for November.

So, if you are looking for a brilliantly written book for your weekend reading or staycation beach read, then dive into your wallet and order a copy online or head down to your local book shop and snap up a copy.

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 would really appreciate the feedback.

LESS MOLE AND MORE HILARIOUS SOUL SEARCHING FROM ZENA’S NEW FRIEND

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I was an adolescent in the 1980s. I went to my local comprehensive, had too much enthusiasm for the lessons, according to my peers, and so was bullied throughout. I do have found memories of a school play, choir, and the Duke of Edinburgh Award, which at my school united me with a group of other slight misfits. It also ignited a lifelong love of the outdoors, hiking and sense of service and giving back. So, I guess it met its aim! I went through all the usual teenage crushes on bands and TV stars, joining a few fan clubs, following unsuitable fashion, and dreaming of being successful and gorgeous as the heroines of all my favourite novels were, and I read the teenage angst in the problem pages of ‘Jackie’ with interest. I think the excitement of Adrian Mole, the iconic 80’s teenager passed me by a little. I was too much into Agatha christie and the like at the time.  Despite being an only child with a dysfunctional step-family, little money to spare and an occasionally stormy home life, I don’t remember my teenage years as being awful.

I suppose you accept what you have if it’s all you know. Plus, I always had the total love, support and involvement of my Mum and grandma in my life. This brings me to this month’s first review, its Your Forever Friend by Zena Barrie and published by Unbound (www.unbound.com) 21st April 2021. 

Your forever friend is based in Preston in 1981 and Maud is twelve and lives with her dysfunctional parents and her elder brother. She finds the PO Box address of Tom Harding, the lead singer of a Punk band called Horsefly. No one understands her or tries to, and she thinks Tom may just have some of the answers to her many, many, questions.

This book has been described as an Adrian Mole for the 21st Century and I’d have to agree with that. Although it is mainly in the form of letters, rather than a diary, it charts the day to day existence of Maud. It has a lot of humour. Maud has a great dry turn of phrase. I loved the different ways she addresses Tom Harding and describes her own address at the beginning of each letter. Also, the many postscripts. I always remember adding several of those myself in my own teenage letters to pen pals! I’m still one of those annoying people who send multiple text messages with after thoughts! I really loved the letter in ‘French’ when Maud is enthused by learning a new language. There are other methods of communication used here too, press cuttings, interviews and as the story moves forward in time to Maud’s adult life by, emails text exchanges.

Despite the laughs, I can’t say it’s an easy book to read. Its really sad and I felt frustrated about the lack of carers in Maud’s life. No extended family? No social workers? No sympathetic teachers? And her best friend has her own problems to deal with.  I was surprised, if relieved, to see no bullying in the school time section. Maud would have been ripe for that in my own experience. A good thing too, as she had so much else to deal with. And the story moves into darker territory in terms of abuse in places. This certainly has moved forward from Adrian Mole territory in the 80’s, at a time where your parent’s possible divorce marked you out as unusual, and when I know we were also so sex obsessed as teenagers but probably wouldn’t have written such graphic comments in letters to strangers or friends!

Zena Barrie

This is English author Zena Barrie’s (www.zenabarrie.com) first novel. Her day job is producer of the Greater Manchester and Camden fringe Festivals. Prior to that she she was landlady and manager at the Kings Arms Pub and theatre in Salford, while also previously managing the Etcetera theatre in Camden as well as occupying a various roles at the Edinburgh Fringe. She has a degree in drama and theatre arts from the Queen Margaret University in Manchester. Upon till recently she has been co-hosting the award-winning Spoken-Word night Verbose in Manchester, where she lives.

Maud’s outpourings and ponderings are a little ‘Milkman’ like in style. This a prose style that seems popular now, but I find irritating. I found myself skipping a few passages because it was all too much.  Despite this, Maud was such a kind, bright and vulnerable character, you couldn’t help but root for her and so I was pleased to find a happy ending of sorts for her.

So if you like your humour dark, your social situation deprived but your character bright, this is an ideal read for you . 

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

LINDSTROM DRAWS THE READER INTO HER HEARTWARMING DEBUT

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I don’t how you did in school? Me? I was an average kid. Usually given the yard stick of looking up to my high achieving cousins by my well-meaning parents. But as is often said, everyone has their own unique talents and therefore just because maths or metalwork, languages or technical drawing isn’t your thing, doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Usually by the time you graduate college you will have found your true calling.

Some people may discover their unique talents earlier than most, because of being gifted or highly intelligent. This often leads to problems with socially interaction with their peers or being unable to develop loving relationships, unless they find someone or a group of other high achieving likeminded individuals. Usually, they turn into loners because no one can relate to them or understand what internal struggles they are dealing with. Thus, everyday routines that you and I may carry out almost naturally can be seen as a hurdle. Dealing with the complexities of being gifted is the main story of this months third book review, its The Draftsman by Laurel Lindstrom and published by Unbound (www.unbound.com)   on the 21st April 2021.

Martin Cox is an untrained, but gifted, draftsman, in his early twenties, who has become quite wealthy due to a number of shrewd technical designs. But he’s also damaged by his parents protective care and is obsessive as a result of his superior intellect. When he purchases Shadowhurst a large estate in the West Country as both an investment and a way of finding peace and tranquillity for his overactive mind, he soon discovers that there is more than a bit of history to it, and as a result he finds an outlet to occupy his mind, researching its history.

At five pages short of two hundred, this book is not to far off being a novella. Is it a one sitting read? That depends on the reader. For me, the first quarter of the book didn’t really do much and I had feelings of entering The Milkman territory – which I had to throw down after twenty pages. With The Draftsman, I felt adrift and unable to find a footing, but persevered and shortly afterwards when the back story about how Martin made his money was being told, I fell in love with it and from then on it made a lot of sense.

Martin is a beautifully written and a very believable troubled character trying to cope with his foibles and weird mannerisms, and as he starts to slowly overcome them, you feel happy and even emotional at times. Any fear you might have for him dissipates near the end as you realise he has some very good friends and family, including his old boss, Bill, who sees what a complicated character he is due to his high level of intellect, but slowly allows him to move from being just an office tea boy, to a skilled and much sought after draftsman.

Laurel Lindstrom

There is also the unrequited love storyline that takes place between Martin and his financial advisor Joshua. You get the feeling, Joshua wants something to happen, but in the end, Martin just too wrapped up in himself to notice.

Meanwhile the research that Martin takes on, around the history of Shadowhurst is straightforward, but the mystery that surrounds one particular part of it is lovely and excellently revealed at the end.

This is the debut novel of English author, technical writer, and journalist Laurel Lindstrom  (www.laurellindstrom.org) . She’s written a number of collections of short stories in the past as well two books of nonfiction Internet for Beginners (1997) and Past, Print, Future (2018). She has a degree in linguistics from UCLA and is a visiting professor at the Shenzhen Technical University in China. She currently lives in east Sussex.

So, if you are looking for short, but heart-warming read about a gifted individual that, then take up a pen and write a note reminding yourself that next time you are in your local bookshop to look out for it or put an order in.

Reviewed by – Adrian 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 would really appreciate the feedback.

BENJAMIN GIVES ME A NEW SEASON ANNUALLY WITH HIS SECOND BOOK

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Do you have a “Bucket list”? Most people have some sort of one, but what about one made up entirely of foods and rare delicacies from around the world, that you want to try before you die, and if so what’s on it? I know mine has Caviar, which I have eaten, Dover Sole which I ate a couple of years ago when on a holiday in Devon, I’d been waiting around for years thinking I’d have to go to a high-class restaurant to order it. But no, it was a lovely little family run restaurant just off the harbour in Ilfracombe.

I’ve had kangaroo and crocodile too.  Really, I’m doing quite well, although there is still plenty on the list, like a coffee made up of Kopi Luwak, the rare coffee bean (the most expensive type) passed through the intestines of a wild Asian Civet. Wagyu beef steak from Japan, again rather pricey. Getting closer to home, I haven’t had lobster or whelks, a delicacy in the UK. Georgina (my wife and fellow Librarian)  laughed at me when she saw this, saying we can have the the latter anytime we visit her mum in Skegness. Another thing on that list is truffles, I’ve had the chocolate confectionary shaped one’s, mass produced for Christmas, but the original ones found growing wild in France, Italy and Spain particularly, no. There are two types, a black one and a rarer white truffle. They are harvested from the wild using pigs or specially trained dogs (which are less likely to eat them, unlike their porcine colleagues). This brings us to this months second book review, it’s The Hunting Season by Tom Benjamin and published by Constable Books (www.littlebrown.co.uk/imprint/constable/page/lbbg-imprint-constable) in November 2020.

Its truffle hunting season in the hills around Bologna and the search is on to find the elusive ‘Boscuri’ white truffle. But when Ryan Lee, an American “Supertaster”, goes missing in the area, widower and local private eye Daniel Leicester is hired by the young man’s parents to find him. Daniel’s search finds him delving into the multi million euro culinary trade, while the ever present hint of Mafiosa involvement rears its ugly head. Soon after a high a profile Italian chef is found murdered, forcing Daniel to team up with a glamorous Italian TV journalist, but before long there’s another murder connected to the case and this time Daniel finds himself the prime suspect. Can he clear his name along with the help his ex-Carabinieri father in law and find the truth behind the disappearance of Ryan Lee…

I love Italy and have been there on numerous occasions, the nearest I’ve been to Bologna is a day trip to Florence 100 km away so I was quite looking forward to reading this murder mystery by Tom Benjamin. It’s a nice easy enough read at just under three hundred and thirty pages long. There’s a hint of a mash up between Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana and A Year in Provence.

Also, with it being set in the historical environs of Bologna, there’s a sort of Morse / Lewis vibe to it with Daniel representing the Sgt Lewis Character and his father-in-law the “The Comandante” Giovanni, a retired senior member of the Carabinieri, providing the excellent fatherly role similar to Colin Dexter’s Iconic hero.

I liked this book and could get to really yearn for an annual fix of Daniel Leicester, as I do with the Jack Reacher series. He’s a nice and very believable character, who hates Brexit and loves BBC radio 4. The widower aspect and his relationship with his daughter Rosie, was a nice angle and could appeal to male and female readers alike.

There are a few minor downsides. There are quite a number of random characters, that pop in the story. Also I did sometimes feel like there was no real distinction between when Daniel is speaking Italian to Italians and English to English speaking characters, so at times you think everyone is speaking English, when actually Daniel is speaking Italian to them, and every now and then Benjamin does highlight it, but not enough.

Tom Benjamin

This is English born author Tom Benjamin’s (www.tombenjamin.com) second novel featuring Daniel Leicester, the first and his debut book was A Quiet death in Italy (2019). Benjamin began his working career as a journalist, before becoming a spokesman for Scotland Yard. He later moved into Public Health, where he developed England’s first national campaign against alcohol abuse. He now lives in Bologna.

So if, like me, you want to immerse yourself in a well written and very atmospheric Italian crime novel, while staycationing this year, observe the covid regulations and Click and Collect from your local book shop or download a copy and join Daniel Leicester and the team from Faidate Investigations as they hunt a killer around Bologna. Then go and pick up Tom Benjamin’s first book too.

Reviewed by: Adrian Murphy

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

BRENNAN AND REICHS STILL KNOW THE CODE TO DELIVER A SCALPEL SHARP THRILLER

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The arrival of Covid 19 brought with it a whole raft of conspiracy theories. Was it all a plan by Bill Gates to microchip us and track our movements? Was the virus released by the Chinese to cause the West’s economies to crash? Was it all a lie by governments to help control their citizens? Was it spread by new generation WIFI transmitters? The list is endless and its scary to see what some people will spout as truth and how many gullible people will believe them.

So what will the world be like post covid? What truths will eventually be revealed? Are some people using the global pandemic to make a fortune? No doubt. This brings me to this month’s first book review. Its of the Bone Code by Kathy Reichs and was published bt Simon &n Schuster (www.simonandschuster.com) on the 29th April. 

It is set immediately post covid/ current day in Canada. The population are vaccinated and life seems very much back to normal, air travel, dining out, staying with friends etc. When a hurricane hits, it uncovers two bodies which share a striking resemblance to a fifteen year old cold case, which has haunted Temperance Brennan. Meanwhile a rare bacterium, which eats human flesh is discovered and people rush for genetic testing as there’s a genetic mutation, which makes you more susceptible. In a search that soon proves dangerous, Temperance discovers a startling connection between the cold case and the outbreak.

I’ve always looked forward to reading the next Temperance Brennan book. So, I started this one as soon as I could, after almost trampling my husband in the clamour to get my hands on it, the moment it arrived in the post. In true Kathy Reichs’ style , it had a cliff-hanger at the end of each chapter, which draws you onto read the next one (very late nights were involved!) Also there’s a lot of scientific detail and acronyms.  I now know far more about vaccine development and manufacture than I ever thought I would need to, even as a medical professional. For new readers there’ adequate explanation of how Temperance’s  bi-location job and relationships work so you could read this as a standalone. I had, however, forgotten how scientifically detailed and complex the stories are, so I may do a reread under less time and academic pressures myself to enjoy it again. The story had several threads, one of which I found unnecessary and therefore slightly confusing. I felt it would have made a good novella or a great episode of ‘Bones’ , if the series still ran. Note to new readers, the Temperance Brennan here bears no similarity to the one in the TV series apart from the name.

I do love how the care of Birdie, Tempe’s cat features large. Do they have no catteries in Canada? I speak as someone who prefers homecare myself too . However, the idea of trailing a cat to strange houses by plane ? Too stressful! In too many books and screen-based thrillers I’m left wondering who is taking care of the pet?  I often say,’ that dog must need a wee’ or similar to the annoyance of my husband. I’m saying it’s a vet nurse thing and sticking with that as my excuse!

Kathy Reichs (Ben Mark Holzberg / nationalnews.com)

This is American author and Forensic Pathologist Dr. Kathy Reichs (www.kathyreichs.com) 21st book featuring her heroine Dr. Temperance Brennan, they include DeJa Dead (1997), Fatal Voyage (2002), Bare Bones (2003) , Flash and Bones (2011), she has also written three novellas centred around Brennan. and was the executive producer on the Bones TV series. While also writing a one off tie-in to the series with Max Allan Collins called Bones: Buried Deep (2006). On top of that she’s written five Young Adult books and three YA novellas with her son Brendan Reichs. All the the while working as a forensic pathologist, and serving on numerous boards associated with Pathology and law enforcement in America and internationally.

I’d highly recommend this to Kathy Reich’s aficionados but also to anyone who like a good conspiracy driven thriller and murder mystery set in current times. Its an interesting idea, well thought out and backed by science.  I’m  not  worried at all  about my upcoming vaccination at all, honest!

So get down to your favourite book store or download online for the next injection of thrills and deduction from Kathy Reichs.

Reviewed by : Georgina Murphy

This book Review is part of a random Things Blog Tour. To what the other reviewers though visit their blogs listed below. Then id you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. we’d really appreciate the feedback.

ESSINGER’S ROLLERCOASTER LEAVES ME UP IN THE AIR

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Do you know where the X2 is, the Sky Scream, Steel Dragon 2000 or the Cu Chulainn? Do you know what they are even? No. They are various Rollercoasters, The Cu Chulainn is the one nearest me, and that is in Tayto Park in Co. Meath, Ireland. The others are in America, Germany and Japan, and supposedly are the top three scariest rides around the world according Google.  As for riding them, Noooo!!!! I’m a card-carrying coward when it comes to that sort of thing, I think the last one I rode was in my early teens. Although after this past year, the above should be a walk in the amusement park. As for the relativity to this month’s book, the lead character’s name is Rod Coaster and this month’s second book review is Rollercoaster by James Essinger and published by Conrad Press (https://theconradpress.com/) 8th February.

When would be hippie, Rod Coaster ups and leaves his rented flat in London and heads out to “Scrape The Tarmac” in search of warmer weather in the South Of France, little does he know what lies ahead? A short distance outside Calais, he hops into the back of an unlocked lorry at a service station and discovers a dying man. Then he finds Silja, a beautiful Finnish girl, pointing gun at him. Now Rod is mixed up in a plot to kill a group of Russian dignitaries at a German hotel.  Can he use his superior charm to dissuade this young girl from fulfilling her horribly disfigured parent’s murderous plot.

The front cover of this book describes it as “1970’s comedy thriller for the 21st Century”… This is my second comedy thriller this month, they’re like literary buses. The first one – Jonathan Pinnocks  Bad Day In Minsk, had me laughing out loudly at regular intervals. Rollercoaster, barely got me smirking, when it did it was probably down to Essingers off the wall character names, such as Pickling Fox Foetus, his secretary Miss Fallopian, his assistant and lover Eustachia Vixen, Mr Charles Terrapin and his employer Dr Tortoise…. (Sounds more Beatrix Potter, than Agatha Christie).

At two hundred and thirty pages in length, the story in itself is a decent murder mystery thriller and at that a definite one sitting read, but where the apt title comes in, is that it is rather bonkers and therefore one needs timeout every now and then to process what’s going on in the story. It comes across as a sort of Hitchhikers Guide to Murder, something Douglas Adams would have loved. But if you think you are in for a straight up gripping whodunnit, Essinger’s weirdly wired and creative imagination takes you through a series of high speed twists and turns that at times left me thinking  “WTF”.

As for the characters, Rod is cross between Austin Powers and a fairground worker, dressed in jeans and a leopard print waistcoat and beads. With a superhuman libido, a way with the women and a weird vocabulary. that includes “Dabs” which are girls, “throbs” are blokes and he regularly refers to his manhood as his “Splicer”, let alone trying to figure out “Yawning The Mud” and what a ”Grund” means – Thank god, he put a glossary in the back of the book.  I was a child of the 70’s in England and even I can’t remember using words like that in my formative years growing up in Buckinghamshire (although, it was Buckinghamshire).

James Essinger

The other main characters, Fox Foetus and Ms Vixen, seem to be something akin to what a relationship between Mrs Trunchbull and an adult Pinocchio would be like. But these are real anti-heroes and come across more depraved than the real villains the Finns, Silja and her parents. Although in fairness the parents are the overall masterminds, but placed side by side next Fox Foetus and his malevolent lover, they’re real pussy cats.

This is English author James Essinger’s (www.jamesessinger.com) tenth Book. He has written three other works of Fiction, The Mating Game(2016) with Jovanka Houska, Lost City Of Cantia (2019), The Ada Lovelace Project(2013) with Jovanka Houska – published 2014 in the US as Ada’s Algorithm: how Lord Byron’s daughter launched the digital age. Along with six works of non-fiction including, Jacquard’s Web: how a hand loom led to the birth of the information age (2004), Spellbound: the improbable story of English spelling (2005), Charles and Ada: the computer’s most passionate partnership (2019). As well as that he wrote the music and lyrics for the Ada Lovelace musical. He read English at Cambridge and has been a professional writer since 1988. He currently lives and works in Canterbury where in 2015 he founded the publishing company The Conrad Press.

I didn’t not like this book, but just found it a bit outside the box and off the wall for me, but if off the wall humour is your thing, then carefully head down to your local bookshop and get a copy or click and collect it, while observing all the current Covid regulations and settle in for a whacky ride with Rod and Essinger.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This Book is part of 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 would really appreciate the feedback.

PINNOCK’S WINNING ALGORYTHM DOESN’T MINSK ABOUT IN HIS HILARIOUS FOURTH INSTALMENT

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What do you know about Belarus? I’m guessing like me, just enough to fill a post-it. If we wrote the facts out in large print. You probably had an idea that it was somewhere in eastern Europe (its wedged in between Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania and Poland). According to Wiki, it’s the thirteenth largest country in Europe. Potatoes form a large part of its national dishes, and its most famous export is the tennis player and former world number one Victoria Azarenka, which is a damn site better than its neighbour Ukraine, whose most famous export is radiation from Chernobyl.

The Belarus capital is Minsk, and when I looked to see what one would do if you fancied a city break there when we eventually can travel internationally again, there wasn’t much. Apart from maybe walking around the city with a portable Geiger counter watching it click incessantly – seeing as the city is less than two hundred miles from the site of the afore mentioned nuclear plant. Which is why this month’s second book review is aptly titled. The book is “Bad Day in Minsk” by Jonathan Pinnock and published by Farrago Books (www.farrago.com)  on the 8th April.

Tom Winscombe is a junior PR executive, who, a couple of weeks ago shared a train carriage with the auto-biographer of a couple of deceased mathematicians, the Vavasor twins, who died in mysterious circumstances a number of years ago. Following the other chap’s untimely death later that night, Tom is left with a locked case containing papers belonging to the twins. Since then, he and his girlfriend Dorothy have found themselves thrust unwittingly into the murky world of international terrorism. While breaking into the offices of a dodgy “Think Tank” in London one night, Tom is kidnapped by a covert government agency run by a shadowy female figure called Matheson (they’ve had run-ins in the previous books), who sends malicious what’s-app messages to Dorothy claiming Tom’s been unfaithful and then forces our hero to impersonate a British mathematician, who is selling his skills to members of the Belarus Mafia. Matheson wants to find out who the buyer is. From the moment he lands in Minsk, Tom is kidnapped by another mafia family, his passport taken and is whisked off to the Ukrainian border. Can he get help from anyone back home? No!! Matheson has threatened deniability and Dorothy isn’t talking to him. Now he finds himself caught in the crossfire as the two main mafia groups battle for power, in one of the city’s luxury hotels, where he’s stranded on the top floor. Will he get the information for Matheson, get out of Belarus with his life and can he patch things up with Dorothy?

It recently came up at our monthly book group, that the members are struggling to get in right frame of mind to read as a result of the negative influence of the pandemic. It had only been discussed by myself and Georgina (my wife and fellow Librarian), that the recent book choices in the group were uninspiring and hard going.

Ronnie Corbett in Sorry!(BBC)

But I at least had this book to review and from outset got a great laugh from reading about the trials and tribulations of Tom Winscombe. It’s been a while since a book has made me laugh out loud, but this did from the outset and right the way through. Some of the situations he finds himself in are ludicrous, but there is clear proof that when Pinnock lets his imagination off the leash, he gives it full reign, and this delivers the laugh out loud and spirit lifting experience to the reader.

The story moves along at a cracking pace. I could have read this two-hundred-and-ninety-page bundle of joy in one sitting. It reads like the plot of great British comedy from the past – helped in no small part by Tom’s self-deprecation. If you are old enough to remember Ronnie Corbett in his TV series “Sorry!!”, his Character Timothy, is who I envisaged Tom Winscombe being like. Corbett’s character was a librarian in a suburban English town, who got into all types of bother locally and had various mishaps in his love life. While having to deal with an array of weird and wonderful characters, including his parents. Tom also has to deal with a menagerie of weird and wonderful characters.

Jonathan Pinnock

There is a slight downside to my experience of this book and that has nothing to do with Pinnock or his story telling abilities. It is down to this book being part of a series, so I was trying most of the way through to gather what I’d missed in the previous three, although fair play to Jonathan, he does his best to bring the reader up to speed, without detracting from the narrative too much, but it is advised to have read the previous instalments first.

This is English author Jonathan Pinnocks (www.jonathanpinnock.com) fourth book in the Mathematical Mystery Series featuring lowly PR executive Tom Winscombe. The other are The Truth About Archie and Pye (2018), A Question of Trust (2019), and The Riddle of the Fractal Monks (2020). He’s previously written seven other books they include, the novel Mrs Darcy Versus the Aliens (2011), The short story collection – Dot Dash (2012), a bio-historical memoir Take It Cool (2014) and a poetry collection Love and Loss and Other Important Stuff (2017). He grew up in Bedford and studied Mathematics at Cambridge, before working as a software developer. Currently he lives with his family in Somerset.

So, if like me you need a little light-hearted, if also totally madcap, reading to escape the doom and gloom of pandemic restrictions. Download or Click and Collect the four books in this series from your local book shop and start from the beginning, then see if a Bad Day in Minsk can make yours a good one.

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 of the book, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

CAROFIGLIO’S LATEST IS AN EXCELLENT MEASURE OF HIS TIME AS A WRITER AND LEGAL HEAVYWEIGHT

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Courtroom dramas have long been a staple of the crime reading and watching public. I remember as a child, my mum being fascinated by ‘Crown Court’ a series of fictional legal cases presented as hour long plays. Think too of the popular Rumpole of the Bailey , Law and Order and Suits. In literary form, we have been entranced by courtroom stories since ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, with authors like Michael Connelly and John Grisham writing whole series of books which introduce us to the intricacies of the American Legal system.

Cameras were never allowed in real courtrooms, before 2004. In fact, it was illegal to photograph or broadcast the proceedings the cases in a British court from 1925 to June 2020. Maybe the mysterious and hidden nature of legal proceedings, made them more appealing to the minds of the reader because of that.

This month’s third review ’The Measure of Time’ by Gianrico Carofiglio is published by Bitter Lemon Press (www.bitterlemonpress.com) on the 15th March. 

Here the reader meets, lawyer Guido Guerrieri, in his sixth outing for the author. One spring afternoon, Lorenza, a former lover of his, shows up in his office. Her son Jacopo stands convicted of the first degree murder of a local drug dealer. For the appeal, Lorenza turns to Guerrieri. But he is not convinced of the boy’s innocence, nor does he have fond memories of how their relationship ended. Nevertheless, he accepts the case and soon becomes embroiled in a fascinating judicial process, tainted by unreliable testimony and hasty and incomplete police work.

This is my first encounter with this author and I am impressed. The translation from Italian to English is impeccable. It’s a sign of a good translation, when you read a third of the book before wondering if it is a translation. So, a thank you too to Howard Curtis. And it’s of course the sign of a good book, when you get caught up in the story so well that you aren’t thinking of the mechanics of the writing. Guido, seems an interesting character. I’d like to read the other books to get more of an insight into his character. Its  very apparent he has a great love of Italian food. The description of the dishes make your mouth water! The procedural and legal aspects of the story are clearly explained. No grandstanding or theatrics. Definitely no Judge Judy here.

Gianrica Carofiglio (periodicodaily.com)

This Italian author Gianrico Carofiglio’s (@GianricoCarof) 12th book and his sixth featuring Guido Guerrieri. The others include Involuntary Witness (2002), Walk In The Dark (2003), Reasonable Doubts (2006), Temporary Perfections (2010), The Silence Of The Wave (2011), Cocaine (2013), A Fine line (2014) and Three O’Clock In The Morning (2017). Before becoming a full time novelist Carofiglio was a member of the Italian Senate and also an Anti-Mafia prosecutor in the Italian port city of Bari.

This is a satisfying, mature read and will be a great addition to the library of readers who like their legal drama thoughtful and grounded. So with foreign holidays still looking very remote again this year, download a copy or order one on line from your local bookshop and escape to Italy in the company of Guerrieri and Carofiglio.

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

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