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.

NO PUSHING REQUIRED TO ENJOY GRIFFEE’S DEBUT THRILLER

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Andy Griffee (thecwa.co.uk)

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

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

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

 

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

 

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

 

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BEECH PROVES THERE’S NO TAMING THIS LITERARY LIONESS

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thumbnail_Lion Tamer front cover finalWishes are an amazing facet of life. They help us get through tough times, allowing is to believe in and live for something in the future that will make us happier. There are different ways of wishing, some people wish upon a star, others make one on blowing out a candle or pulling apart the  wishbone of a chicken.

It is often said; be careful what you wish for. As we found out last week. For a couple of months now myself and my wife have played with an idea about adding to our furry four-legged brood, by getting another cat. Well a month ago, we found one and it arrived last week. Now we have a fur ball  lightning bolt who seems to have been crossed with a free runner and a football hooligan. This month’s book also features cats, big ones and a story about  long held wishes and what can happen when they eventually come true. The book is “The Lion Tamer Who Lost” by Louise Beech, published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.co.uk), on the 30th September.

Ben and Andrew meet by chance in the local library. Ben is there to write an essay for university and Andrew is doing research for his book. What follows is an intense relationship which takes over both their lives, but no sooner has it begun then Andrew is struck down by Leukemia and a simple blood test reveals more than just love and lust between the two men. Because of this they part company and Ben, driven by the bigoted views and the wandering crotch of his old man, follows a promise he made to his dying mum to go to Africa to help at a lion reserve. Andrew also made a wish when his was a young boy and keeps it in a silver box. Despite the miles between them and Ben’s relationships with a lioness called Lucy and Esther a fellow volunteer, he can’t forget his feelings for Andrew. Six months on Ben and Esther’s relationship forces them home to where they must make some life choices together. But what of Andrew? has he moved on? Will he be happy to see Ben and can Ben also be upfront with Esther  and his family about his sexuality?

This is the second of Louise’s books that I’ve read, the other being her debut novel, How To Be Brave. What I realised having read both, is that she has this amazing power to take simple stories and make them into heart-warming, emotionally driven tales that stay with the reader well after you’ve put down the book.

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Louise Beech

Whether she’s describing the view of witnessing an African sunrise or the disparity between different generations of working-class English families, every character and scene is so vivid and believable you can’t but feel you are there or say to yourself, “yes, I’ve been in a situation like that.”

A prime example can be found in her first book, which had an annoying little child as the main character in it. You do eventually warm to her character and to the difficulties she was facing, as she comes to terms with a diabetes diagnosis. This is thanks to Louise’s talent which proves she is a writer with immense skill far beyond the four books she has produced.

Diabetes is also a theme running through this book, with Andrew being the one dealing with his body’s wayward sugar levels. This comes down to the fact that Louise’s own daughter is a diabetic and her experiences come through n both books, having not read the others I can’t say if its a theme in all her books. In the Lion Tamer Who Lost, she gives you two strong males who are very much in love and weaves an emotional story of the bond between two gay men and shows no matter how hard you try, once you’ve met your destined mate, nothing is going to come between you. Well almost nothing…

Yes, like her debut novel, this book, really tugged at my heart strings and I dare any male out there, not to feel some twinges while reading it.

As for its length, at a tad over three hundred pages, it’s light and easy to read, although some of the chapters could be a bit confusing as they jump back and forth between the main characters and various times. There is a lot going on in the book: gay love, heterosexual relations and inter family relationships. At times, it does come across like a bit of a kitchen sink drama, with shades of an episode of Channel Fours “Queer As Folk”, but Beech never lets it get too in your face.

This is English Author Louise Beech’s (www.louisebeech.co.uk) fourth book, her othersLioness being How To Be Brave (2015), The Mountain In My Shoe (2016) and Maria In The Moon (2017). She lives In Hull with her family and when she’s not writing, she can be found working front of house at The Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play “Afloat” was performed in 2012.

So, if you are looking for loving crafted,  heart-warming and page turning read to welcome in the darkening evenings of the approaching winter, go pick up a copy  at your local book shop or download a copy. Then afterwards read Louise’s other books and prepare to be taken on a magical tour through the wonderful imagination and writings of one the North of England’s rising literary stars.

 

This book was reviewed as part of a Random Things blog tour, see the poster below for the other reviewers and visit their blogs to see what they thought.

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KRISTIAN AND LANCELOT BRING ARTHURIAN LEGEND TO THE GoT GENERATION

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Lancelot CovrIn twenty-four hours’ time, my husband Adrian and I, will be on the road heading for Devon, in the South west of England. It’s the home of cream teas and the accompanying fiercely fought battle of cream on jam or jam on cream? This part of England is also steeped in Arthurian legend. Our base for our annual wedding anniversary break is Ilfracombe, an hour or so’s drive up the coast from Tintagel Castle, the reputed birthplace of King Arthur, he of the the knights of the round table legend. Which is quite apt as this month’s book is about one of the most famous knights of the round table. The book is Lancelot, by Giles Kristian, published by Bantam Press (www.penguinrandomhouse.co.uk/publishers/transworld/bantam-press)  on the 31st May.

Lancelot and Guinevere first appeared as an Arthurian legend in the French poem, Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart by Chretien De Troyes in the 12th Century. Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table appear in French romances in the same period. While The exact site of Camelot has been disputed over the years, as either somewhere in Wales, near Winchester or as far north as Carlisle! I was familiar with the Hollywood stories of Arthur’s Camelot as a child, my interest fuelled by the legend of Robin Hood in my native Nottinghamshire, combined with an interest in Greek Mythology and the supernatural. In my youth, the well-known tales were often regaled and consumed as historical fact. Its interesting that we still know so little of what happened during the ‘Dark Ages’, the period following Roman withdrawal from Britain, and its this vacuum which has encouraged tales to be woven by storytellers throughout the ages since to plug the gap.

When you mention King Arthur most people will remember the love story between

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Lancelot & Guinevere (WCDF-France,com)

Lancelot and Guinevere, resulting in their betrayal of Arthur and the downfall of Camelot. Lancelot is often seen as a dishonourable man, a poor friend and a traitor. In this version, Giles Kristian sets out to flesh out the story of Lancelot, to make him a complete person and to renew the legend of Arthur and Camelot through the eyes and voice of a new ‘witness’. We first meet Lancelot as his family are driven from their home and his father’s reign as King of Benoic is overthrown. They escape and take refuge with a neighbouring tribe but are betrayed. Lancelot is rescued by the Lady Nimue and taken to her island fortress. Here he spends his childhood as an orphan and as apprentice to the island guard. Spotting a ship sinking off the island during a storm, he swims out in the hope of rescuing some of the crew and finds Guinevere in the water. She was being sent to the island to be cared for by Lady Nimue. From this moment on their fates are intertwined.

Kristian’s book,  portrays Britain is a fractured land of many kingdoms, under attack from both invading Saxons from across the channel and the Picts in the North. Lancelot is taken across to the mainland to Tintagel to pay respects to the dying King Uther Pendragon. Merlin, the king’s advisor encourages him to pledge an oath of allegiance to Uther’s son Arthur. Arthur must prove his right to be the next overall King, subduing unrest and counterclaim from his fellow kings and driving back the Saxons in an attempt to unite the peoples of Britain behind him. They battle together and build Camelot but Lancelot is dismayed to find that Arthurs queen, when she arrives at court, is no other than Guinevere his long lost love.

Giles Kristian uses elements of the original Arthurian legends to anchor his story. For example, legend tells that Arthur is the illegitimate son of Uther and Igraine, conceived after Uther obtained an enchantment to make him appear to be Igraine’s husband. Weaving Lancelot’s story around these already familiar events and characters hooks the reader immediately into the story. In previous interviews, Kristan admits that he is not fond of research and because he is using events not recorded in history he can go his own way.

Lancelot is the tenth book (he co-wrote Golden Lion with Wilbur Smith) by English author Giles Kristian (www.gileskristian.com), who has led a rather varied life up to now, having been the lead singer with a pop band in the 90’s, worked as a model on various TV adverts, produced music videos  as well as a copywriter for an advertising agency in New York, he now lives in Leicestershire.

Giles Kristian (c) Nigel Edgecombe

Giles Kristian ((C) Nigel Edgecombe)

His Norwegian ancestory along with Previous experience gained writing the Viking era based ‘Raven’ and the ‘Rise of Sigurd’ trilogies has honed his obvious talent for creating a moment in time, a history and a world that seems entirely real. His descriptions of everyday life and battles feel realistic and whilst there is a magical element to the story, we had no dragons or invisibility cloaks. Merlin was not the white bearded wizard of Disney but a squat, cunning, tattooed Druid and you often felt he achieved more by reading people than enchanting them.

Lancelot wins us over with his sense of duty and honour. The scenes with his sparrow hawk at the start of the novel, revealed the type of man he would become. I liked him. I hoped for him. This is very much a novel for the Game of Thrones generation. As a fan of Harry Potter, the Hunger Games and the Maze Runner, this felt very much like the old orphan learns amazing skills and overcomes his enemies in a noble way story, that I loved so much about those young adult books. It’s totally absorbing, gritty and moving. I couldn’t wait to pick it up again.

This may be a book for the adult me, but adult or not, you may still find me charging around Tintagel Castle, shouting ‘For Arthur’ and wielding a pretend sword. But in your case, you can charge down to your local bookshop for a copy or magically download it online.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy