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.

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.

YOUNG’S LATEST PARANORMAL BOOK RAISES MORE THAN HAIRS AND GOOSEBUMPS

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Tales of Unexplained Mystery Front CoverDon’t we all love a mystery? There’s a huge public fascination with unsolved disappearances and crimes such as the disappearance of murder suspect, Lord Lucan, and the racehorse, Shergar. Every notable anniversary the stories are rehashed with new theories. There’s also a large cohort of conspiracy theorists out there contesting historical events like the moon landing, the assassination of John F Kennedy, with outlandish ideas and what ifs.

I’ve always been interested in the unsolved and paranormal myself, having a childhood  devotion to ‘Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World’ TV programme and  later the film of ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, where students and a teachers from an Australian school go missing without a trace . Most recently I’ve enjoyed the recreations and explanations provided by ‘Lore’ an Amazon Prime series. I was therefore delighted to get the chance to delve into Steph Young’s latest offering, in our fourth book review of the month, Tales of Unexplained Mystery, self -published on the 2nd December 2019 and available on Amazon.

Steph explores twelve mysterious tales here in great depth. Some of the stories are modern and supply a wealth of media coverage, eye- witness testimonies and, in ‘the Mystery box’, even some CCTV footage for Steph to examine. Some of the mysteries are from long ago and here Steph has to rely on historic accounts and stories passed down over several generations to source her information. Personally, I found the recent cases most fascinating.

Each story is examined in detail. Steph obviously spends a lot of time diligently researching each case. There are vast amounts of evidence presented and discussed here. On the odd occasion things got a little repetitive and convoluted, but in the main the facts are presented clearly and coherently.  Theories are discussed and when possible debunked, but each is given consideration. The reader can feel that Steph is presenting an unbiased account of what happened and what the possible options are for a solution. Her passion and enthusiasm for each mystery shines through.

Steph Young Author Picture

Steph Young

This is English author, broadcaster and researcher of the paranormal and Unexplained, Steph Young’s (www.stephyoungauthor.com), 16th self-published book, her previous ones include “Nightmare’s In The Woods” (2016), “Horror In The Woods” (2017), “Terror In The Woods – The Missing” (2017), True Ghost Stories – To Chill Your Bones” (2018).

As I mentioned, some of the recent cases have witnesses and footage view-able online. Having watched Lore and other such paranormal and mystery programmes on the likes of  Amazon Prime and Really, I feel that this would be a great vehicle for Steph to bring these mysteries, and her great research and analytic approach, to a wider audience.

In the meantime, I recommend for the day that’s in it (29th February 2020), you take a leap into the unknown and get this collection of stories for yourself or as a gift for a fellow mystery lover…. Then go online and listen to the various podcasts and interviews with the author.

 

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

 

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

 

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UNLOCKING THE VAULT REVEALS DAWSON’S LATENT TALENT

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The Vault CoverI was only reading yesterday about the plight of American author Jeanine Cummins, whose new book American Dirt has been nominated as an Oprah’s Book Club choice. As a result, it has brought her to the attention of far right ill-educated armchair activists, who threatened to disrupt a proposed American book tour and thus forced its cancellation. Because they say the author is “Too White” to be able to write a book about south American emigrants trying to get into the United States. In a tweet to Jeanine, I gave her my support and pointed that out if these bigots had put any thought into their arguments they’d realise some of the most successful writers have very little experience of their subject matter and stated that Lee Child was never a military policeman and that Hannah Kent is Australian, but that it never stopped her from writing a successful book on an old Icelandic murder and followed it up with a book on an Irish murder, both decades old. Did the Irish and Icelandic diaspora rise up in arms and protest, no!

So, what is these people’s point? The same can be said of this month’s second book review (Yes! Second and February is only two day’s old), I don’t think the author was ever in East Berlin prior to the fall of the wall .Or I’m assuming, had any dealings with the Stazi, not forgetting killing anyone, for that matter. Yet they have written a book set there and featuring the Stazi, along with British intelligence and trained government assassins. The book is, The Vault ,by Mark Dawson . It was self-published on the 31st January and is available on Amazon.

Its 1989 and MI6 agent Harry Mackintosh and his team have tunneled under the Berlin wall to extract an asset back to the West, but just as they are about to take their man back down the tunnel the rendezvous is interrupted by unit of the dreaded East German secret police, the Stazi.  They are led by its ruthless leader, Karl Heinz-Sommer, who guns down Harry’s French girlfriend Elodie, along with other members of his extraction team. In doing so they also capture the defector. Harry himself just about manages escape back down the tunnel to West Berlin. Back in London, he’s grieving the loss of Elodie and hungry to exact revenge on Stomer ,whilst possibly taking a second chance to get his hands on the defector, if he’s still alive. Mackintosh’s team are depleted and when he asks for replacements, instead of trained soldiers, he gets Jimmy Walker a bank robber from Belfast, whose been given a stark choice of either a long stretch in prison or to help British intelligence on a mission behind the Iron Curtain. The plan is to get into Stomer’s HQ and rescue the defector, but the plans reveal a mythical vault containing, stolen Jewish gold and other valuable pieces of information, which catch Walker’s trained eye. Can the two men overcome their differences to work together and get out of east Germany alive….?

I’ve never met Mark Dawson, but it feels like I’ve known him for years, having been a Facebook friend for a while now, regularly receiving posts on my feed regarding reading his books. But just finding the time to get around to reading them has been the biggest problem, so when the invite to review The Vault popped into my inbox a couple of weeks ago, I jumped at the opportunity. Was I disappointed? No!

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Mark Dawson (bestsellerexperiment.com)

 

 

The book maybe be small in size at 275 pages in length, but in those pages is a story that packs a punch, that could’ve dented the wall if it was still standing. What you get from the first page to the last is a story from an author that realizes that if you strip away all the padding found in most modern spy fiction novels, you can still give the reader an enjoyable and gripping read and leave them excitedly wanting to read more his work.

This book could be a one sitting read and highlights the fact that Dawson is not a new kid on the block but has quietly slipped under the radar, all due to being self published and making his work immediately available online. He’s a writer who has been inspired by the greats like Le Carre, Forsythe and Fleming and well and truly taken the baton and brought their style and dominance of this genre into the modern era.

Yes, the characters are stock in trade and the story-line of an Ex-Provo crossing the line to work for the Intelligence services on large international threats isn’t new. But in Mark’s hands the characters and the story are melded together so well, the reader feels introduced to a truly original and exciting premise along with fresh, gritty and well-drawn heroes and villains.

This is English author Mark Dawson’s (www.markjdawson.com) 38th book, most of them self-published. He’s successfully written four series of books about government assassins, The John Milton series, The Beatrix Rose Series and The Isabella Rose Series along with the Group Fifteen series. He’s also written the Soho Noir series of books about gangland London in the 1940’s and three standalone thrillers of which The Vault will now become his fourth. Mark has led a varied career prior to becoming an award-winning, USA Today and Amazon bestselling author. He was a DJ, has sold Icecream door to door, trained as a lawyer,when he worked on high profile cases in the city of London. Nowadays when not writing, Mark can be found regularly vlogging to his fan-base online. I also discovered through research that he’s got a famous father, the late British actor Keith Barron, best known for his roles on the likes of the sitcom “Duty Free” and “Upstairs Downstairs”. Mark currently lives in Wiltshire with his wife and family.

Now that that I’ve read The Vault, I want to immediately add Dawson’s other series in particular the Milton and Breatrix, Isabella Rose series as well as Group 15 to my TBR list. So, I suggest like me you go and order this book online or download it and its predecessors and lock them away for safe keeping and gradually break into the back catalogue of one of the best kept secrets in spy thriller genre in ages. Who knows, when the contract to write the next installments of the James bond series come up, I don’t see why Dawson shouldn’t be a safe bet for the job.

 

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 blogs listed below. Then, if get a copy of the book and read it, come back and tell us what you thought, we’d love the feedback.

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