QUINN IS HOPING THAT GREAT THINGS COME FROM THE SMALLEST BEGININGS

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I enjoy a good historical romp. I’m a big fan of Phillipa Gregory and Hilary Mantel. There’s a certain amount of artistic licence allowed in fleshing out the lives of historical characters with the details of their everyday lives. Sometimes we’re shown events from the perspective of another, lesser known character, such as in the ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’, where we hear the story of Mary Boleyn, Anne’s older sister. Sometimes through the eyes of one of the main protagonists, such as Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s advisor, during his divorce and ill-fated marriage to Anne. Sometimes the main character is entirely imagined.

I must admit that when I first picked up Wolf Hall, I thought the Thomas Cromwell was Oliver Cromwell! I have mentioned in this blog before, how sketchy my history knowledge is! I’m also not good with names! I was quite looking forward to hearing about the Civil War, as it’s a period I know little about. B.C. (before covid), I was lucky enough to spend a weekend in Newark, which was the site of a famous civil war battle and has the UK’s civil war museum. A fascinating and informative place. However, on beginning to read I realised it was another book set during the rule of Henry Eighth. I was initially disappointed, but then found a whole new aspect of the familiar story to enjoy.

I was delighted therefore, to get the chance to read this month’s first book for review, The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn and published by Simon & Shuster (www.simonandshuster.com)  on the 7th January 2021.

Its front cover title reads, ‘He may the The Smallest Man in England, but Nat Davy has a big story to tell’, which is certainly the longest title I’ve seen for a while. It is set in 1625 and our hero, Nat Davy is just 10 years old. His childhood has been poor but happy, living in a small village with his parents and his brother. But now the truth is dawning on Nat. He is small. Really small. And he’s stopped growing. Narrowly escaping life in a freak show, he’s plucked from his family and presented as a gift to the new young queen of England – a human pet to add to her menagerie of dogs and monkeys. But when Nat realises she’s as lost and lonely as he is, the two misfits begin and unlikely friendship, one that takes him on an unforgettable journey, as England slides into the cilvil war that will tear it apart and ultimately lead the people to kill their king.

Frances Quinn

This is English author, copywriter and Journalist, Francis Quinn’s (@franquinn) first novel. Having read English at King’s College Cambridge, she has gone on to write for such titles as Prima, Good Housekeeping, She, Woman’s Weekly and Ideal Home. She lives in Brighton with her husband and two Tonkinese cats.

Frances has taken the story of Jeffrey Hudson, a real figure and the court dwarf to King Charles the first and his queen, Henrietta Maria. Jeffrey was given as a present to the queen in the similar circumstances to the book. He became popular at court and was given the duty of fetching the queen’s midwife from France. He too suffered bullying and ridicule and engaged in a public challenge to protect his name, which resulted in tragedy and in Jeffrey’s case disgrace and expulsion from court. Jeffrey was captured by Barbary pirates and after release rejoined the exiled Queen. He may have aided her as a spy and he was implicated in a Popish plot and imprisoned until his death.

While it may seem, I’ve indulged in some spoilers here, the narrative of the book and the truth take different paths on the whole with some unions.  Nathanial’s story gives us an adventure, a romance and just rewards for loyalty. It is a thoroughly enjoyable romp. Nathanial is an engaging character, larger than life, despite his diminutive stature. One cover quote from the book is from Nathanial’s mother, when she tells him, ‘ I want you to remember something Nat. You’re small on the outside. But inside, you’re as big as everyone else. You show people that and you won’t go far wrong in life.’ This really sets the tone of the book. It is a story of someone overcoming their disadvantages and accepting  themselves for who they are. This is very on message at the moment. I think the book would be a great young adult read as well as for adults.

As I googled Jeffrey Hudson, the long fascination with ‘little people’, another acceptable term for dwarfs, became clear. Revered by the Egyptians, seen as sideshow curiosities by the Victorians and exploited by Hollywood, in more recent times, they have fought for rights denied to them. I enjoyed the characters and the story. It had drama and intrigue. It also had a gentle romance and a ‘will they, wont they?’ get together. It was a fun read. I think that the subject of dwarfism was handled sensitively and positively, and I hope it is well received.

So, with Covid19 regulations in certain places relaxed in the run up to the festive season, Get out and support your local book store, by going (if you feel safe doing so) in person or clicking and collecting a copy for yourself or ordering a book that’s big on adventure and small in stature, as a Christmas present for a loved one.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

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

CARTER DELIVERS AGAIN IN THIS BLOODY WELL WRITTEN INSTALMENT

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Written In Blood CoverPickpockets are active in almost any area where large crowds gather. Tourist hot spots are regularly dotted with signs advising visitors to be aware of them. But some are so deft at their trade, that it can be sometime before you are aware that you have been targeted. Then when it happens, it feels like a violation, and that’s because it is. Some uncaring stranger now has your cash, phone, ID, and credit cards. The shock and loss of these personal and valuable items can at times be akin to a mini bereavement.

There is loss and grief connected with this month’s second book review. While writing this book the author suffered the tragic and devastating death of his partner, but with the help of his fantastic editorial team, publisher and agent,  got his partly completed, book finished and published. The team at The Library Door sends condolences.

The catalyst for the story of this thriller is a pickpocket hitting the wrong mark. The book is Written In Blood by Chris Carter and published by Simon and Schuster (www.simonandschuster.com) in July.Angela Wood is an adroit young pickpocket working the streets of LA on the run up to Christmas. After a successful afternoon in a local shopping precinct, she ducks into a cocktail bar to change her appearance and have a well-earned drink. There she witnesses another customer being very un-festive to an elderly gentleman. As payback, she takes the man’s bag when his attention is distracted. On opening the duffel bag at home later, she discovers all that’s in it is a diary of sorts, but the entries and the pictures within it are more than just the scribbling’s of an angst ridden teenager. This forces her to drop this hot potato in the letter box of a previous victim of hers.  When the diary lands on the desk of LAPD detective Robert Hunter, he knows immediately that there is a sadistic serial killer on the loose. When the bodies of victims in the diary start turning up,  his and Angela’s paths cross. They soon realise that the killer now has them both and anyone connected with the case firmly in his sights. Soon the mysterious killer snatches Angela in a bloody raid on a safe house and now Robert and his team are in a race to discover the identity of the killer, and save Angela and other victims, whilst playing a sick game at the behest of the killer.

The title of the book may be Written In Blood, but I’m almost writing this review sweating blood too, as I try to get over the frantic pace of this book. I read this almost 500 page, edge of your seat thriller in less than seventy-two hours. My first session was a 150 page marathon and I was hard pushed to put it down. From page one, to page four hundred and eighty, Carter has the reader gripped tightly in the palm of his hand, as he terrorises LA with an all too realistic serial murderer.

This is my first Chris Carter book and after making the acquaintance of detective Robert Hunter, I’m definitely putting him and Carter on my ‘must read’ list next to Childs and Reacher. I initially thought that Carter had taken the eighties TV character of the same name and started writing a modern day series around him, but I realised some way through, that the TV character played by Fred Dryer was  Rick Hunter.

Robert Hunter’s character its self is made up of quite a few well known characters from film and TV over the past twenty years or so. I saw a bit of Mel Gibson’s Martin Rigg’s and Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callaghan in his character. Hunter, comes across as a deep-thinking individual, as well as a singleton who has had relationships in the past, but seems unable to hold on to them.

The reason for seeing some of Harry Callaghan in Robert Hunter, could come from one scenario in the book where the Killer has Hunter running all over LA from point to point, within a time limit. Which is similar to what Scorpio had Clint Eastwood’s character doing in the film “Dirty harry”.

As for the other characters, such as Hunter’s partner Garcia, they seem to be purely along for the ride, although having only read this book maybe Garcia, their boss Captain, Blake, and the other support cast are fleshed out more in previous books.

But with the serial murderer, everything about him is on point and fully fleshed out. His identity isn’t revealed until the last chapter. Up until then Carter refers to him by various monikers, while building his character up bit by bit, with enough malice to give not just Hunter cause for concern but the reader too. On top of that, he gives him a very plausible trigger for his killing. Which all in all goes to make the book a standout read and perfect for the summer staycation essential reading pile.

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Chris Carter

 

This is Brazillian born author, Chris Carters, (www.chriscarterbooks.com) eleventh book featuring Detective Robert Hunter. The others are The Crucifix Killer (2009), The Executioner (2010), The Nightstalker (2011), The Death Sculptor (2012), One By One (2013), An Evil Mind (2014), I Am Death (2015), The Caller (2017), The gallery Of The Dead (2018) and Hunting Evil (2019). Carter studied Psychology and Criminal Behaviour at the University of Michigan, before going on to work with the Michigan Attorney’s Criminal Psychology Team. In his time there, he interviewed criminals of varying types including serial and multiple homicide offenders. After that, he turned to his main hobby of music and moved to London where has supported numerous big stars playing the electric guitar. He now lives and writes in the UK.

So, if you are looking for a book that will totally rob your attention of whatever else is going on in your life and have you hungrily turning each page in a heart pounding pursuit of the answers, then pocket your wallet and pick up your bike or the dog’s leash and head down to your local bookshop. There you can snap up a copy or stay home and download it, and the previous ten instalments, of the Robert Hunter series online. Then set a date in your diary to read them over the next couple of weeks or months.

 

Reviewed by: Adrian Murphy

 

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

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HOLD ON TIGHT AS HAUTY’S DEBUT LEAVES ME IN A STATE OF AWE

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Deep State CoverIn most countries around the world, democracy or the formation of its power structure revolves in some way around the “Estate System”. Primarily limited to the four estates, those representing the Parliament (Legislature), the Judiciary (legal/ justice system), the military and police, the press,  business and finally the consumers or people. But then, in some countries and as the inspiration for quite a few political thrillers, there is the Deep State. Those parts of the government or clandestine powers, working for or against the state, in a covert fashion for their own or others ideals or the ideals. This brings us to this month’s 1st book review, its the aptly named Deep State by Christ Hautry and is published in hardback by Simon & Schuster (www.simonandschuster.com) on the 23rd January.

A year after leaving the US Military, Hayley Chill lands a job as an Intern in the west wing of The White House. Much to the annoyance of her fellow much younger and connected interns, the Virginian native and product of life with little opportunities, starts to make an impression on the Chief of Staff and the President. Shortly after her arrival, she discovers the Chief Of Staff dead, when she arrives at his house one morning with his daily briefing. Unbeknown to the killers they’ve left a vital clue behind and Hayley discovers it, but with the FBI’s lead investigator not entirely believing her story, Hayley is unsure whom to trust. Her boss’ death also brings to the fore other players in the West Wing’s febrile office politics, in the form of his deputy, a woman who has her own ideas about climbing Washington’s greasy pole and keeping Haley away from the spotlight. But when she unwittingly realises that a member of the secret service she’s dating is involved and has to kill him to save her own life, Hayley discovers the conspirators are buried within all facets of the government and threat isn’t stopping at the Chief of staff, but aims to take out the person sitting behind the Resolute desk, the President. With the pool of people she can trust with this knowledge diminishing rapidly, can she stop the conspiracy before they stop her?

It’s been years since a thriller has got me as excited and pumped as this one did. The first one to ever do that was Archer’s “Shall We tell The President”, when I read it almost thirty-five years ago. Albeit, there have been a few in between that have also got my pulse racing like Hauty’s current offering.

I think what really got me engrossed in this story was the idea of a lowly intern in Washington discovering a plot to kill the President and the race against time to stop it. Previously both in film, TV and literature it’s been someone with a bit more power, a military/ naval officer, or an FBI/Police detective. Yes, the pace in the book is frenetic and even though Hayley is basically the US Military’s answer to Katie Taylor, you still feel worried for her and her vulnerabilities, because we the reader know ,what power her opponents wield.

The plot itself may not be original – most political thrillers have a threat to the life of the US president in them, leaving this reviewer wondering what would it be like to read a thriller which puts the Chinese or Russian Presidents life in danger? Why does POTUS get to have all the fun? But in the light of the Russian interference in the last US Election, the plot is topical and gets you again wondering if like the Manchurian Candidate, what types of dark forces are at play behind the scenes and under the surfaces of Washington, London and Moscow, even Beijing.

Hauty’s style of writing is some of the best I’ve read in a while, it comes across as very complete and  shows love for all his characters, whether they are good or bad. Every part of the story and the back history as well as the future of every character is rounded off to the last minute, unlike some books where the support cast just drift off after they’ve served their purpose. Hauty’s have their lives mapped out, even  to the point where wife of one character is described as dying of a heart attack 15yrs to the day when she last made love to her husband…

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Chris Hauty

This is American Screenwriter Chris Hauty’s (www.chrishauty.com) first novel. He’s worked for every major film and TV studio and collaborated with stars such Jessica Alba and Mel Gibson. The book was written in the summer of 2018 in the Rare Books and Music room of The British Museum. He lives in Venice, California with his Triumph motorcycle and a feral cat.

This book is littered with plot twists throughout but just as you think you’ve got a handle on this story Chris drops a piano on the reader, which then decides to roll down the hill over you again for good measure. So my advice is, if you are looking for book to get you through some Coronavirus enforced isolation, or want to start making a list for your summer holiday reads, this book needs to be at the top of your list and no matter what else you forget, don’t leave this until you’ve read every page of this amazing book.

 

Reviewed by : Adrian Murphy

 

This book review is part of a Random Thing 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.

 

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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.

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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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