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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Favourite Reads 2019!

I have read 116 books this year (including re-reads of some old favourites), which has truly amazed me!

I never thought that my blogging venture would be as successful as it has and I am truly grateful to all the wonderful publishers, publicity treasures and blog tour organisers that have supported me along the way. I have also met some lovely bookish people and fellow bloggers, which has been really heartwarming.

It has been tricky to whittle down all the books I have read to just a few favourites, but these are some of the ones that have really made a mark on me this year, for a whole raft of different reasons - quite an electic choice I am sure you will agree, but then I have always been an eclectic reader!

If you are at all interested in why I have chosen these ten books, please take a look at the reviews I have written for them on this blog- links below!

Have a cracking New Year, filled with bookish joy!

The Flat Share by Beth O'Leary
Hudson's Kill by Paddy Hirsch
Nightingale Point by Luan Goldie
Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper
The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
The Holiday by T.M. Logan
Till Morning Is Nigh by Rob Parker (review coming soon!)
Blue Gold by David Barker
The Man Who Didn't Call by Rosie Walsh
Don't Think A Single Thought by Diana Cambridge

Friday, November 29, 2019

The Vagabond Mother by Tracey Scott-Townsend

SPOTLIGHT ON:
The Vagabond Mother by Tracey Scott-Townsend. Published 10th January 2020 from Wild Pressed Books.

Not every Vagabond is a Castaway... 

Maya Galen’s oldest son, Jamie, left home eight years ago after a massive row with his parents and now Joe, her youngest child and apple of her eye, has cut off all contact with them too.


Called to Australia to identify the body of a young man, Maya is given her son’s journal. After a sleepless night she decides that the only thing she can do is follow in Joe’s footsteps and try to discover her most basic human self. 

Eschewing a monetary lifestyle, from now on she must rely on her physical and emotional strength to survive. Following Joe’s hand-drawn maps and journal entries, she travels from Australia to Denmark and beyond, meeting many other travellers along the way and learning valuable lessons.

Eventually a crisis forces her to return home and confront the end of her marriage, but also a new understanding of what family, in the widest sense, really means.

Exploring the big questions at the heart of human existence, The Vagabond Mother shares territory with books and films such as Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, The Way, starring Martin Sheen, Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

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As part of the Blog Tour for The Vagabond Mother, it is my pleasure to share with you the following extract from this tale of one woman's search for meaning:


"She woke to the sound of voices by the stream. She stretched and climbed down from the sleeping-platform, a slight ache in her hip. Perhaps the day she’d be forced to return to ‘society’ would be when her body started to feel its age. Up to now she’d been lucky to escape arthritis and asthma and type-2 diabetes – conditions that had inhibited her mother’s lifestyle from her early fifties onwards.  Or maybe it was as much to do with state of mind as genetics. Perhaps the illnesses would have claimed her too, if she hadn’t got away from London. 
The air had cooled considerably but it wasn’t yet dark. She washed perfunctorily with the water she kept in a basin on the countertop and pulled on a long sweater, miles too big for her – that she’d gained from a clothes swap at the last hostel she was in. Rolled up the sleeves. She looked around for the dog but she must have left the shack a while ago – when Maya pressed the back of her hand to it she found the dog’s bedding had cooled. She felt her way out barefoot, knowing by now where the sharp stones were, and down the track to the main part of the commune. All the buildings on the land had been constructed by hand from recycled and natural materials. Valeria and a Danish boy were washing pans in the stream. ‘Hi, Maya,’ called Valeria, scrubbing vigorously with a scouring sponge woven from tough grasses. Her dark hair was twisted into a knot at the back of her neck. The way she does her hair reminds me of Daisy. The boy turned his head and offered Maya a grin. 
‘Are you on cooking rota tonight? We won’t be long with the rest of the pans.’ His blue eyes were honest and friendly. It was a family of sorts that Maya would be leaving behind but she’d made that kind of break before… 
The youngest member of the group was chopping wild garlic and onions on a felled tree-trunk by the path to the fire. Maya half-slid in a puddle created by a dripping pan, balanced on a grid of branches at the edge of the track. She laughed and smiled at the English boy as she held onto a branch for steadiness. Not for the first time she wondered if his mother knew where he was. But it wasn’t her business. Not all vagabonds are castaways, she recalled a conversation with a pair of young vloggers during a stop-over at a wild campsite after she left the Camino. They chided her for assuming they’d run away from their parents.
She’d been advised on arrival at the commune not to ask personal questions or try to take on any kind of motherly role. Everyone was equal in status, each a free spirit. The truth was she had taken more from these young people than she’d given them in return. They didn’t need looking after, only to be allowed to be. It hurt that she hadn’t understood this from raising her own children." 
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From the cover of The Vagabond Mother:

All Maya Galen wanted was a happy family, stifling her inner urges to explore the wider world for the sake of being there for her children. But parenting with her husband, Con, wasn’t always easy. Their eldest son, Jamie, broke off all contact some years ago and now Joe, the apple of her eye, has done the same after an argument with his parents about his chosen way of life. Maya and Con are left rattling around ‘The Cottages’ – their enormous home in a Lincolnshire village, wondering what they did wrong.

When they are called to Australia to identify the body of a young man, Maya is given her son’s journal. After a sleepless night she makes the decision to follow in her youngest son’s footsteps and become a vagabond, leaving her husband and daughters to return to the UK without her. From now on she needs to rely on her own physical and emotional strength.

Following Joe’s hand-drawn maps and journal entries, Maya travels from Australia to Denmark and beyond, meeting many young people like Joe along the way and trying to discover what it means to be alive. As months turn into years she can’t bear to go back to the oppression of her perfect home. Slowly, she comes to understand that what she is discovering is her most basic human self.

Another family crisis, involving one of her twin daughters, eventually forces Maya to return home. As she treads carefully through the wreckage of her marriage, unfinished business is tied up and the family once again becomes complete, but in a different way from before.


The Vagabond Mother is available to pre-order now from your favourite book retailer.



About the author:
The Vagabond Mother is Tracey's sixth novel. 

Inspired largely by the travels of her four grown children, and her own resultant burgeoning sense of adventure. Together with her husband, Phil, and their two rescue dogs, she spends a lot of time travelling at home and in Europe in their camper van.

Her novels explore the pressing themes at the heart of human existence.Sense of place is also important, and each new novel reflects the locations she has recently travelled to.

Tracey is also an artist and a poet, and a grower of food on her allotment.




Monday, November 25, 2019

Stay Mad, Sweetheart by Heleen Kist

Read November 2019. Published 19th November 2019 by Red Dog Press.

Data Scientist Laura is brilliant at her work, but not what you would call a mixer. She prefers the company of books and her cat Atticus, She most certainly does not approve of social media.

But when her best friend Emily becomes the victim of cyber-bullying, she takes it upon herself to see if she can track down the guilty parties using her skills.

Corporate financier Suki, is leading a deal to acquire the start-up company run by Laura and her business partner Justin. Battling against sexism and the "old boy's network" she is struggling to have her brilliance recognised.

Event planner Claire has to take on arranging the conference for Laura's company, after her colleague, Laura's friend Emily, fails to return to work. She is hoping for a promotion, but is also struggling against sexism in the workplace.

The lives of these three women are about to entwine in a fight against the insidious discrimination that is trying to "keep them in their place". How far will they go in their quest for revenge?

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Oh, this is fabulous! Stay Mad, Sweetheart covers a whole smorgasbord of issues - sexual politics in and out of the workplace, power struggles, sexism, consent and the minefield of social media - and combines this with a cracking story of the pursuit of justice, or is it revenge? Much of what you read in these pages will resonate with your own experiences if you are female, but there is plenty to take away from this is you are male too.

The brilliant, but introverted, Laura is horrified to learn about the extent of the online trolling Emily was subjected to and cannot believe that there is no way to seek legal redress for what has happened to her friend. She is equally upset to learn about the blatant sexism shown to her two new friends, Suki and Claire, who we also see equally powerless, but she does not realise she is also a victim of male treachery too.

I absolutely loved the way this story unfolds, as these three women find that they do have power after all, and the ending had me punching the air with glee! These are all strong, clever women, who deserve the recognition they have been denied. But it is not my intention to give any spoilers away here - this is one of those books that you just have to read for yourself. Believe the hype..this is fabulous!

So no spoliers from me, but I can talk about the way this book cleverly tackles the range of subjects mentioned above. There are some issues brought to the fore here that we will all recognise as bad news (well us decent people anyway!) - for example, the way women can be belittled in the workplace and treated to casual sexism and abuse as a matter of course, and the relentless torrent of vile abuse that can be unleashed on social media - but Heleen Kist also covers issues that have massive grey areas about which many of us will have very different opinions.

I think this book will lead to much debate about the issue of consent, which is definitely the most topical given the recent #MeToo movement. I thought that Heleen Kist handled this with a very deft touch. There are some fine lines drawn here and although we can see that some of these characters leap across the barrier of what is right, other behaviours are not so clear-cut.

Similarly, she lets us see that there can be a fine line between justice and revenge. If your behaviour in the pursuit of justice is tantamount to the same as that of the person you are getting back at, does that make you just as bad as they are? This is an interesting question.

Having said all this, we are certainly made aware of the characters that do deserve to be brought down in this story (both male and female)  and the way their demise is managed is glorious.

So what is Stay Mad, Sweetheart about? Is it a contemporary examination of the workplace, the dating scene, the abuse of social media? Or is it a highly charged and intelligent thriller? Well, it is all of these things and a fast-paced, exciting read too. It will leave you with a lot to think about (and many water-cooler issues to discuss), but it will also keep you entertained along the way....and it has a winning title! It actually reminded me a little of Michael Crichton's Disclosure, in the way the sexual and business story lines were entwined (the excellent book that is, not the movie...don't get me started!).

I absolutely loved it and think you will too.

Thank you so much to Red Dog Press and Heleen Kist for providing me with a copy of Stay Mad, Sweetheart in return for an honest review, and for the chance to take part in this Blog Tour.


From the book cover:

THERE'S A FINE LINE BETWEEN INNOCENCE AND GUILT. AN EVEN FINER LINE BETWEEN JUSTICE AND REVENGE.

Data scientist Laura prefers the company of her books to the real world – let alone that cesspit online. But when her best friend Emily becomes the victim of horrific cyberbullying, she makes it her all-engulfing mission to track down the worst culprits.

Petite corporate financier Suki is about to outshine the stupid boys at her firm: she's leading the acquisition of Edinburgh's most exciting start-up. If only she could get its brilliant, but distracted, co-founder Laura to engage.

Event planner Claire is left to salvage the start-up's annual conference after her colleague Emily fails to return to work. She's determined to get a promotion out of it, but her boss isn't playing ball.

As the women's paths intertwine, the insidious discrimination they each face comes to light. Emboldened by Emily's tragic experience, they join forces to plot the downfall of all those who've wronged them.

But with emotions running high, will the punishments fit the crimes?


Stay Mad, Sweetheart is available now from your favourite book retailer, or follow the links here:


About the author:

Heleen Kist has been fondled, patronised and ordered to smile by random men. So she wrote ‘Stay Mad, Sweetheart’, a feminist tale of revenge. Whilst her professional knowledge of technology start-ups fed the novel’s setting, its theme of harassment and workplace discrimination required no research: it is familiar to all women. 

Heleen was chosen as an up and coming new author at Bloody Scotland 2018. Her first novel, ‘In Servitude’ won the silver medal for Best European Fiction at the Independent Publishers Book Awards in the USA and was shortlisted for The Selfies awarded at London Book Fair.

A Dutch strategy consultant living in Glasgow and married to a Scotsman, she’s raising their son to be a good man and their daughter to kick ass.

See more about Heleen Kist here: Heleen Kist Author

See more about Red Dog Press here: Red Dog Press

Friday, November 22, 2019

Don't Think A Single Thought (Audio Book) by Diana Cambridge

Audio Book listened to November 2019. Audible release 31st October 2019.
Paperback released 26th August 2019 and ebook released 26th September 2019 by Louise Walters Books.

1960s New York: Emma Bowden lives the glamorous Manhattan lifestyle - swish apartment, with fabulous views; a loving, surgeon husband; and a successful writing career. Surely she has everything? What more could she want?

But Emma's background and upbringing have left their mark, and one summer, while Emma and her husband are on vacation in the Hamptons, a young child drowns in the sea and Emma may have been involved in some way. If only she could remember what really happened...

Old wounds are reopened, and Emma, who has been barely holding on to the facade of a normal life, starts to spiral out of control, as the voice in her head cannot be ignored.

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I was honoured to be able to read Diana Cambridge's Don't Think A Single Thought a couple of months ago and it is one of my standout reads of the whole year (see the link to my earlier review below)!

This time, Louise Walters was kind enough to provide me with a copy of the new audio book version, so I could immerse myself in the story of Emma Bowden all over again. Thank you so much Louise Walters! xx

Oh, Louise and Diana, this is glorious! The audio version complements the printed word wonderfully. The narration of Samara Naeymi is so completely convincing that she brings Emma Bowden alive and perfectly matches the Emma in my head. She brings out Emma's frustration and almost sensual relationship with clothes, food and beauty in such a way that you can almost feel, taste and lose yourself in them as much as Emma does in her early years - while at the same time, being able to express Emma's decline and loss of interest in all the things she used to enjoy about life too. Outstanding work!

This has made me fall in love with Diana's book all over again, and appreciate the clever way she tells Emma's tragic story in the pages of the book. I cannot praise this book enough.

I highly recommend the audio book, even if you have already read the printed version - if you have not read it, then get to it as soon as you can, because this is going to become a modern classic. Literary fiction at its very best.

See my original 5* review here: Don't Think A Single Thought (Paperback)

The Bowery Slugger (Alex Cohen Book One) by Leopold Borstinski

Read November 2019. Published 10th November 2019 by Sobriety Press.

New York, 1915: Alex Cohen and his family have fled yet another rising tide of violence against Jewish people in the Ukraine, looking for a new start in the land of opportunity.

Misnamed Fabian Mustard on their arrival at Ellis Island, Alex is forced to look for a way to support his parents and siblings, as the struggle to find gainful employment is harder than they anticipated. He finds himself drawn back into the criminal life he was embroiled in back home, by his new best friend Sammy, despite the misgivings of his parents.

Alex's reputation as someone trustworthy and good with his fists soon earns him promotion and the nickname "Slugger", but his relationship with Sammy becomes strained as he begins to make a name for himself.

Alex's career choice is also a problem for the innocent fellow immigrant, Rebecca, that he has fallen in love with. Rebecca dreams of becoming a ballet dancer and wants no part of the life Alex has chosen to lead, so he has to turn to the arms of "working girl" Sarah for comfort.

But Alex cannot forget about the girl he loves and he has some hard choices to make if he ever wants to be with her. How can he balance the pull of easy money against that of true love?

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The Bowery Slugger introduces us to the seedy side of the Jewish Ghetto of New York, at a time when war is waging across Europe.

Isolated from the lives and constant threat of violence that Alex and his family have left behind, their minds turn to how they can make America their new home. How do you support yourself when you step foot in a new country when practically all you have is the clothes you stand up in? It soon becomes clear that this is not going to be easy, especially when you cannot even speak the language.

Leopold Borstinski cleverly transports us to the heart of the Bowery, New York, where Jewish immigrants have made their home. You can almost feel yourself on the same streets as Alex, as he searches for a way to bring some money home for his family - the noise, the hustle and bustle, and the sound of Yiddish voices all around. It is almost too easy for Alex to find himself back on the wrong side of the law, drawn by the pull of an easy buck in the land where the streets are said to be paved with gold.

This book has such an evocative feel for the struggle of immigrants first arriving in New York at the beginning of the 20th Century (think Mario Puzo's The Godfather, when Vito Corleone arrives in America with his family). What makes this book so unusual to read is that this time our new companions are Jewish, rather than Italian. I found this really interesting, as I have read a lot about the early Irish, Black and Italian gangs in New York, but very little about the gangs established by the Jewish settlers to the city. It was fascinating to read about the involvement of the Jewish gangs with the Union movement and the early days of their collaboration with the Italian mob, and the contrast of the new settlers to their second generation compatriots was very cleverly done.

It is true to say that the characters are a little stereotypical - for example, the troubled poor boy  making a name for himself; the best friend who contemplates betrayal; the beautiful, innocent maiden with dreams, who catches the eye of our boy; and "the tart with a heart" who falls for our lovelorn boy and offers him comfort, but this did not matter one bit or spoil my enjoyment of the story. I really became caught up in Alex's life and was very keen to find out where his choices would lead him.

The story builds nicely and the closing pages of this first volume in Alex Cohen's story are very exciting. I am very keen to see where the story goes in the second installment, as our writer seems to be taking Alex down a very different path at the end of the book.

I must also say that Leopold Borstinski has made the right decision in not regaling us with the gratuitous sex found in his Lagotti Family books, which was a great relief. This book is completely plot driven and a great story it is too - gritty and violent, it will keep you turning the pages until the thrilling climax!

Thank you to Leopold Bortinski, Sobriety Press and Damp Pebbles Blog Tours for providing me with a copy of The Bowery Slugger in return for an honest review.



From the book cover:

When Alex Cohen arrives in 1915 America, he seizes the land of opportunity with both hands and grabs it by the throat. But success breeds distrust and Alex must choose between controlling his gang and keeping his friend alive. What would you do if the person you trusted most is setting you up to die at your enemies' hands?

The first book in the Alex Cohen series is a violent historical novel, which rips through the early years of the Jewish New York mob. Leopold Borstinski's gripping crime noir beats at the chest of every reader with a bloody fist.A turn-of-the-century Jewish boy punches his way into the gangs of New York.


Purchase links:
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Google Books
Nook

About the author:


Leopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.

There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.

He lives near London and is married with one wife, one child and no pets.

See more about Leopold Bortinski here:

Twitter
Facebook
Author's WebsiteAuthor's 

Monday, November 18, 2019

17 Church Row by James Carol

Read November 2019. Published 14th November 2019 by Zaffre Books.

A family recovering from the tragic loss of one of their children moves into an ultra-hi-tech house for a fresh start. Nikki and Ethan hope that their new home will help them heal and that maybe their daughter Bella, who has not said a word since the accident that killed her twin sister, will start talking again.

Their new best friend 'Alice', the digital minder in their new home, can anticipate their every need and although there are a few glitches, it seems like things may be about to get better at last.

But Nikki, Ethan and Bella are about to get caught up in a revenge plot they could not see coming. How will they survive in a house that can control their every move?


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17 Church Row is a fast-paced, tense and chilling thriller that will have you looking askance at your Alexa and worrying about the way technology is taking over our lives.

Be assured that this book is a page-turner. You know right from the start that things are going to go awry for this family trying to recover from a parent's worse nightmare. Every second, you are waiting for the other shoe to drop...and drop it does, but in a way I was not expecting. No spoliers here guys, but things certainly get nasty!

How would you feel about moving into a home where everything is not only controlled by a digital presence, but a digital persona that can anticipate your needs and make decisions without being asked? For some this would be their idea of heaven - every little mundane task being taken out of their hands, to allow more time for the fun things in life. But, for me, I am not so sure. The idea of losing control, losing power, over your own movements and decisions is a chilling one.

This raises an interesting question about how much we should allow technology to control our lives and take away our ability to decide what we want or need. Is this actually a leap forward, or one that will lead to us becoming slaves to the machine....anyone seen Terminator?

But 17 Church Row will also have you asking yourself how far you would be willing to go to protect your family from harm? A decision I hope that none of us are ever called on to make...

I should add that there is a little error in the text of this book that needs picking up in future editions - I think you will find that it is David Attenborough who famously narrates wildlife programmes James Carol/Zaffre Books, not Richard Attenborough! However, this did not spoil my enjoyment of the book.

If you are looking for thrills with added chills then 17 Church Row is going to be a book for you. It is certainly quite a ride, with potential for a sequel too - one which I would love to read, James Carol!

17 Church Row is available now from your favourite book retailer!

From the cover of the book:

For fans of J. P. Delaney's The Girl Before comes a thriller that makes us question our relationship with technology and the lengths we would go to, to keep our family safe. 

Three years ago, Nikki and Ethan Rhodes suffered a devastating loss when their four-year-old daughter Grace was tragically killed in a road accident. Ethan, a radio personality, escapes into work, leaving Nikki to care for their remaining child, Bella, who hasn't spoken since that day.

Seeking a fresh start, the family moves into a revolutionary new house designed by renowned architect, Catriona Fisher. The house features a state-of-the-art security system, along with every amenity you could dream of.

For the Rhodes' this is a chance to finally pick up the pieces and get on with their lives in a place where they feel totally safe.

But what if 17 Church Row isn't the safe haven that they think it is?


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Died And Gone To Devon (A Miss Dimont Mystery #4) by T. P. Fielden

Read November 2019. Published 14th November 2019 by HQ.

The year is 1959 and Judy Dimont, Devon's most famous sleuthing reporter, is as busy as ever!

Not only are her hands full vying for the title of ace reporter for the Riviera Express after a new hotshot journalist appears on the scene, by the name of David Renishaw, but she is also trying to deal with the impending Christmas visit of her domineering mother...and now, bodies are once again turning up in the delightful seaside resort of Temple Regis.

And on top of all this, Judy has been asked by her old friend Geraldine Phipps to look into the suspicious death of an old socialite acquaintance of hers many years before. Where to even start with this one?

Can Judy solve the mysteries of the murders happening now and the suspicious death from the past, while negotiating the ups and downs of her personal life, against the backdrop of political machinations in picturesque Temple Regis? She is going to give it a damn good try!

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This is my first Judy Dimont Mystery and it is 1950s-fabulous!

A cosy murder mystery set between the Wars is normally my preference - such as an early Poirot - but I have to say that this book has dug a great big place in my heart for the 1950s!

As book four in the series, it did take me a little while to get my head around all the characters in Temple Regis that have been established in the first three books, but I was soon off and running with the goings-on in Devon's prettiest sea-side resort. There are some great characters here - small town stick-in-the-muds, cranky old timers, thrusting new-comers and all the eccentrics you would expect to find in a Devon sea-side resort - all beautifully written to fit into the post-War years of the Fifties, with all the promise of the Swinging Sixties ahead.

I particularly enjoyed that Judy and many of her female compatriots (be they of a past or new generation) are beautifully written to be strong, intelligent and more than able to hold their own. I also loved that Judy is a woman in her fifties with an amazing past - this was so refreshing, as a reader in my fifties myself. It was very interesting to see Judy and her female friends coping with life in a small traditionally minded town, and the plot-line about women standing for election to become MPs in the male bastion of the House of Commons was great.

The plot-lines are complex and weave together in an engrossing way. I found I was ahead of Judy about the identity of one of the characters here, but it was lovely see see her put the pieces together and catch-up, once she was past the distracting visit from her mother! There was still plenty left for me to find out by the time I got to the end of the book, but I was not expecting a cliff-hanger!

Although Temple Regis is fictional, I lived some years in Torquay as a teenager and found many delicious little nods towards Torbay, Dartmouth and the surrounding area here, which absolutely charmed me. You ca also tell that the author is most certainly a cat person - another tick from me!

This is one of those books that draws you into a series. I am intrigued to find out where the next book will go, as I am now very fond of Judy and her friends - with a soft-spot for Terry and his camera obsessed ways, who reminds me of my own father in his 1950s hey day. But I have also enjoyed Died and Gone To Devon so much that I will be going back to read the first three books too, over the next few months, for the back story - always a massive compliment from me!

If you like your murder mysteries intelligent, cosy and nostalgic, then I highly recommend Died And Gone To Devon. If the vibe from the excellent Father Brown series with Mark Williams appeals to you, then this will too.

Died And Gone To Devon is available now from your favourite book retailer!


From the book cover of Died And Gone To Devon:

X marks the spot for murder…

Temple Regis, 1959: Devon’s prettiest seaside resort is thrown into turmoil by the discovery of a body abandoned in the lighthouse.

It’s only weeks since another body was found in the library – and for the Riviera Express’s ace reporter-turned-sleuth Judy Dimont, there’s an added complication. Her friend Geraldine Phipps is begging her to re-investigate a mysterious death from many years before.

What’s more, Judy’s position as chief reporter is under threat when her editor takes on hot-shot journalist David Renishaw, whose work is just too good to be true.

Life is busier than ever for Devon's most famous detective. Can Judy solve the two mysteries – and protect her position as Temple Regis’s best reporter – before the murderer strikes again?

The Judy Dimont Mystery series begins with The Riviera Express, then continues with books two and three, Resort To Murder and A Quarter Past Dead, before this latest installment. All are available now!



Saturday, November 9, 2019

MY Name Is Why: A Memoir by Lemn Sissay

Read November 2019. Published 29th August 2019 by Canongate. Non-fiction.

In care since birth, and adopted by a British couple as a baby, Lemn Sissay always wondered why he was different to his younger, white brother and sister. As far as he was aware, his name was Norman Greenwood and his own mother had abandoned him - the Greenwood's were his forever family. But none of this was true.

At the age of twelve, Lemn's adoptive parents cruelly handed the bewildered child back to Social Services and wanted nothing further to do him.  Then followed six horrendous years of care home life, before he was able to escape the serial institutionalisation he had been forced into.

At the age of seventeen, Lemn was finally able to get hold of a copy of his birth certificate that showed his real name and that he was both British and Ethiopian. But is was not until 2016 that Lemn was able to get copies of his files from Social Services and he could learn the full truth behind his traumatic experiences - and that his mother had been pleading for his safe return since his birth.

This is Lemn Sissay's memoir, recounting his dreadful treatment at the hands of the social care system - an experiment that saw him in care for eighteen years, against the wishes of his mother. It is a story of neglect, cruelty and abuse, but also celebrates the strength of determination, creativity and hope.

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This is a powerful and moving book. A tale of a terrible start in life and the institutional failings of the care system from the late 1960s to the 1980s. It is damning indeed.

I was horrified to read about how a black baby could be removed from his mother - a mother who had asked for help in desperate times - and deliberately put up for adoption by a white couple, as some sort of arrogant social experiment, against the wishes of his mother. Even his true name was denied to him, when he was renamed Norman.

If you are able to overlook the highhanded way that Social Services treated Lemn as a baby, he was mostly happy as part of the Greenwood family, the family he thought of as his own. But his relationship with his adoptive parents broke down in the most distressing way, once the Greenwoods had children of their own. How bewildering  must it be for a twelve year old boy to be removed from everything he knows and placed in a children's home run by disaffected and emotionally absent staff? No wonder his life started to go off the rails!

What follows is a gut-wrenchingly sad tale of a life that goes from bad to worse, ending in a residence in an institution intended for young offenders, so wholly inappropriate for a young person in Lemn's circumstances - not to mention the most appalling, cruel and abusive place imaginable.

This book broke my heart at the way Lemn has been treated. Being just a couple of months older than Lemn, it has really brought home to me how different your life can be when you are not brought up as part of a loving, caring family.

What does shine through though, is the strength and determination of Lemn Sissay. His life got off the the most dreadful of starts and yet the person he has become is one full of creativity, love and hope.

I defy you not to be moved to tears by this incredible memoir - and the next time you fell like having a moan about something, take a leaf out of Lemn's poetic book!

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Friday, November 8, 2019

A Proclivity to Prurience by Cheryl Butler

SPOTLIGHT ON:
A Proclivity to Prurience by Cheryl Butler. Published in ebook and paperback formats on 24th May 2019 by Little Bee Publishing.

From the book cover:

Joe's controversial approach to life is fuelled by his fixation on Abbie, and a beautiful wedding offers the perfect opportunity for him to seduce her - everyone loves a wedding, don't they? The only hurdle is Eddie - Abbie's son and Joe's best friend - but inebriated and forcing an end to the evening, he inadvertently assists Joe's quest and a suitably indulgent night beckons. But what should have been a culmination of Joe's eleven-year obsession descends into chaos and devastation, wrenching Joe from all he's known for the majority of his life. Accustomed to getting what he wants, it's not until he really gets what he wants that his world unravels and his control slips away. Be careful what you wish for, be careful who you wish for, for obsession comes with a price… but is it a price worth paying?

Explicit - strictly 18+

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As part of the blog tour for A Proclivity To Prurience, it is my  pleasure to share with you the following excerpt from this dark tale of sexual obsession!

Driving home, Joe was unable to calm his racing mind. He pulled up outside his apartment, opened the front door and kicked it shut, but Rose stopped it before it slammed, although with an endless supply of objects on which to vent his rage, it went unnoticed. Grabbing a photo of Eddie and himself, he threw it across the room before striding into the kitchen, seizing whatever cups he could find and subjecting them to the same fate, but with no alleviation, he picked up a chair and smashed it across the table and as he looked up, he saw Rose at the door. His lip trembled, but he refused to cry and, as she walked towards him, he threw his arms round her and held her tight, afraid that if he let go, he’d have to face the nightmare that was unfolding. After a considerable period, he pulled away and looked at her, searching for an answer, an explanation, anything that would elucidate Abbie’s behaviour. Rose placed her hands gently on his face. “I’m so sorry, Joe.” 

Covering her hands, his wrath took a different course and he slowly moved in to kiss her and, with no resistance, he pulled her close, moving his hands down her back and running his fingers along her belt, unbuckling it before unfastening his jeans. “Joe…” Rose whispered, but he wasn’t listening. Loosening his jeans, he worked on hers, determined and proficient. “Joe, stop!” He pushed Rose against the fridge and, as he tugged at her underwear, pressing hard against her, she faltered, momentarily tempted by the intensity of his proximity and his mood, but pulled from under him as she finally came to her senses. She adjusted her clothing before turning on him. “Joe, don’t…” 

He spun round and, putting his dick away, walked towards her, smiling irresistibly; he wouldn’t be beaten. “C’mon, Rosie, you know how much I want you. Why do you always turn me down, who’s going to know?” He cornered her and pushed against her again, placing her hand on his crotch. “C’mon, I promise I’ll be gentle…” There’s always a first time… 

“Joe, I said stop!” Rose pushed him off and held out her hands. 

Throwing back his head, he sighed. “What’s the problem, Rosie? I know you think about me when you fuck Michael…” She looked away and Joe smiled, moving close enough for her hands to touch his chest. “What does he do to you, Rosie, does he make you come?” He pulled her hands down to his waist and whispered, “Tell me what he does…” Kissing her neck, he guided her hands to his unbuttoned fly, breathing deeply, anticipating her accession. “Tell me what you want me to do… you know I’ll do it… and next time you fuck your husband and think of me, this is what you’ll remember, no more guessing.” With hungry fingers, he pulled at her jeans, edging closer to his goal, vehemently resolute she would not deny him again, unaware that, whilst her rationale was blinded by the emotive circumstances of their convergence, and the temptation for capitulatory alleviation was compelling, the fallout from such a decision would be catastrophic, and the choice between a repined and resentful Joe, or a betrayed and distrustful Abbie and Michael would prove an easy one. Removing herself carefully from Joe’s grasp, Rose walked into the lounge and sat down, feeling frustrated but infinitely safer. Joe reluctantly fastened his jeans and sauntered in behind her. 

“You’ll regret it, Rosie…” With his anger ill-concealed, he sat down opposite, crossed his legs and looked at her with an air of arrogance. “If you’re not going to indulge me, then I’ll satisfy myself…” He watched her face as he slowly unbuttoned his jeans, revelling in her discomfort and her struggle to avert her eyes. Seldom was he refused sex and his patience with the day so far was wearing dangerously thin so his proposal wasn’t entirely unreasonable and, whilst he would prefer her participation, he wasn’t opposed to her spectating, with or without her approval. 

“Joe, come on, don’t do this.” Forcing her eyes to the floor, Rose ignored the sounds that told her he wasn’t listening. “If you’re not going to talk to me, I’ll go.” 

He smiled. “If you had any intention of leaving, Rosie, you would have gone already…” 

“For fuck’s sake, Joe!” She got up and headed for the door, but Joe grabbed her wrist. 

“OK, you win.” Moving closer, he kept his eyes fixed on hers, tenacious and deliberately ominous. “But I won’t be so understanding next time… and there will be a next time, I can see it in your eyes.” As he released his grip, he buttoned his jeans in defeat. “Do you want a coffee?” He turned towards the kitchen. 

“Do you have any mugs left?” 

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A Proclivity To Prurience is available now from your favourite book retailer (Amazon links below).

About the author:
Having worked in a variety of industries, Cheryl has met many interesting people and, with a profound interest in what makes them tick, she has spent a lifetime of asking ‘What would I do in that situation?’ and ‘What if things happened this way?’, creating a multitude of plots and twists that she had always dismissed until one storyline nagged her constantly and she decided to alleviate herself of the burden, committing her ideas to virtual paper. Assuming she would run out of steam five chapters or so in, she amazed herself by writing two novels within a year and A Proclivity To Prurience was born. It was difficult to write, given the themes, but Cheryl felt it was a story that would resonate in the current climate. Writing between a part-time job and raising two young children was a task in itself, but, every spare minute was spent doing so or thinking about doing so and her characters took on a life of their own. 

Cheryl loves character-driven tales with a psychological edge and aims to produce that kind of work herself, and she’s not afraid to tackle issues that some may find difficult… other than horror – she can’t read or write horror as she scares far too easily!

Aside from writing and her family, Cheryl’s greatest passion is music and she can easily lose herself in a favourite album or song, rather like she does within a book she’s writing or reading, and a musician’s ability to move you on any level is pure genius.

Find put more about Cheryl here:



Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper

Read October/November 2019. Published by Quercus Books/riverrun 8th Ocotber 2019. Non-fiction.

Megan Phelps-Roper's upbringing was normal in many ways. She had a loving home, with devoted parents and the normal rough and tumble that comes from having lots of siblings.

But there was something very different about the way Megan was raised that thrust her and her family into the media spotlight - she was born into the infamous Westboro
Baptist Church.

The Westboro Baptist Church is not your normal run of the
mill Baptist Church - instead this is an ultra-religious sect, espousing aggressive homophobic and anti-Semitic views and it is well-known for picketing the funerals of American soldiers and celebrating natural disasters as the will of God.

Megan was brought up to see public protest as a normal way of life - even to the point of protesting outside her own high school graduation - and the only way to spread the one true gospel. She was helping to preach God's truth to the non-believers on their way to Hell.

But in November 2012, at the age of twenty-six, Megan left her church, family and everything she had been raised to believe behind. This is her own, very personal story of how she came to realise that the truth she had been taught since infancy was false, and how she was able to find compassion for others, as well as herself.

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This book was totally fascinating. Having heard quite a lot about the Westboro Baptist Church - after all they are not shy of publicity and have even been the subject of two documentaries by Louis Theroux - I was prepared to thoroughly dislike Megan Phelps-Roper. After all, how can you find common ground with someone who was brought up to hold beliefs that are abhorrent to you?

But Megan's memoir is so utterly honest and compelling that it is impossible to hate her, even though she has done some pretty unpleasant things as part of the Westboro family. Once you understand about Megan's upbringing, it is easy to see how she considered the sect like views of her church and family to be completely normal. Her extended family was a loving one and her whole life revolved around the church that had been started by her own charismatic grandfather. As far as she was concerned, her beliefs and those of her family were correct in every way and even though their actions were reviled by outsiders, they were following the word of God and had a duty to act as they did. 

I still cannot condone the actions that Megan describes being part of in any way, but I now understand the whys and where-fors and this helped me to develop sympathy with Megan. In fact, I found myself taking Megan's side so much that I got quite indignant on her behalf when she could see how the doctrines of the Church were being subverted by the new council of elders!

What I was not prepared for, is the fact that the members of the Westboro Church are all highly educated, and not the ignorant religious fanatics I assumed them to be. It seems incredible to me that anyone who has read and studied as freely as Megan and her family, can still hold the beliefs they do. How they could not appreciate the irony of some of their actions is baffling - protesting outside your win high school graduation and then going in to accept your diploma? Strange indeed!

Megan herself began to question what she had been taught as she got older, and to see that things can be seen in a different light. I am thankful that she did, as it has allowed her to find the compassion and understanding that was missing from her time as a Church member. She has been able to grow in a way that would not have been possible if she had not torn herself away from everything she knew - and I now know how hard she has found this, as she does not shy away from describing how she has struggled. It has been wonderful to share Megan's journey and I am grateful to her for sharing her experiences in this book.

Unfollow is the kind of memoir that I enjoy best - raw and uncompromising, it makes you confront your own truths and reassess how you look at someone who has been raised with such utterly different beliefs to your own. It shows you that the human spirit can redeem itself, no matter how impossible this appears. This is a story about hope and I wish Megan everything good in the future - may you find happiness, Megan.

Haverscroft by S.A. Harris

Read October 2019. Published 15th May 2019 by Salt.

The Keeling family have upped sticks and moved from London to the rural town of Weldon. Kate and the twins - Sophie and Tom - will be living full-time in their new home, a big old Victorian pile called Haverscroft House, while Kate's husband Mark commutes back and forth from London.

This is supposed to be a new start for them all, after Kate's recent illness, but she cannot get over the feeling that there is something not quite right about Haverscroft, especially the spare bedroom - and the twins feel the same. However, Mark is convinced they are all being melodramatic and will soon come to love the big old house and grounds - although he is a bit reluctant to let Kate venture in the attic on her own...

Little does Kate realise that Haverscroft's dark secrets will cause her to question her own sanity and put her family in danger. Can Kate keep her children safe and stop the past from repeating itself?

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How I love a ghost story - particularly a haunted mansion! The idea that bricks and mortar can absorb the echoes of the past has always been a compelling one for me. I had been saving Haverscroft as a delicious treat for the Halloween season, and it fitted the bill perfectly!

This is a gripping, modern take on the ghost story theme, with enough chill to have you reaching for a warming hot toddy while turning the pages - both for the warmth and the Dutch courage! Haverscroft is so completely creepy that it probably wasn't a good idea to be reading this one at bedtime, but I could not help myself - although it did mean that any little noise in the night had me hiding my head under the duvet!

S.A. Harris ramps up the eerie tension nicely, as the scary goings-on in the house remain unexplained and you become convinced that there is a malevolent spirit at work. You will also find yourself getting quite angry with Mark as he refuses to take the worries of Kate and the twins seriously, and begin to speculate about his motives for moving here. Kate's fear and frustration come across so clearly, as she struggles to rationalise her feelings about Haverscroft with her need to prove to Mark that she is coping after her illness, and you are with her every step of the way as she tries to get to the bottom of what is happening in their new home.

There are secrets galore to uncover, and a nice little family twist that I did not see coming at all, on top of the plentiful chills, that will keep you turning the pages well into the (scary) night. I absolutely loved it, even though it scared the bejesus out of me! In fact, it is one of the scariest ghost stories I have read.

Highly recommended for whenever you feel the need to be terrified!

Blue Gold by David Barker (The Gaia Trilogy Book One)

Read April 2019. Published 11th May 2017 by Urbane Publications.

Set in the near future, this is a sci-fi thriller about how climate change could lead to a war for water. Water has become a precious commodity and is now the focus of political powers around the world, and some will go to extreme lengths to ensure that their supply remains plentiful.
The oversight of water politics is now under the care of an organisation called OFWAT, whose job it is to ensure the global supply of water is maintained.

When a satellite goes missing over the Arctic under suspicious circumstances, Sim Atkins (OFWAT computer scientist) thinks he knows why. Sim's expertise leads to him being drafted into the coveted Overseas Division of OFWAT, with experienced agent Freda Brightwell for a partner.
Freda is less than happy about having rookie Sim as her new partner, especially since this is shaping up to be a dangerous mission, but they soon reach an understanding which makes them a good partnership.

This mission will take them around the globe and bring them into contact with some unexpected allies, as they follow the leads uncovered by their investigation - ending in a climax that will put their lives in deadly peril. They must succeed in their mission if they are to save the World from war and protect the future of "blue gold".

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Well, this book was a lot of fun!

With shades of James Bond, and a little John McClane thrown in for good measure, Sim and Freda pursue their mission to stop the "scumbags" and save the World from nuclear war. This is a rip-roaring, full-on thrill ride around the globe - tracking down leads and working hard for good.

I absolutely loved the film references spread liberally through the text - Mr Barker, we have obviously seen and enjoyed the same films! Can I have a kudos for saying that I have spotted an extra reference not listed in the back of the book? The scene on board the barge, with a ticking bomb, actually reminded me quite a lot of Die Hard With A Vengeance (Die Hard III)!

The message of this book, however, raises it above your ordinary thriller, and leaves you with quite a lot to think about. I think this is a great way to introduce the thriller audience to the importance of water politics, alongside a fun story.

Climate change is already leading to global the changes in the water cycle, which could have catastrophic effects in some parts of the World.
Living in Great Britain, we are lucky to have a good supply of water - and we are, of course, surrounded by water too (albeit the salty variety). We probably do not spend a lot of time thinking about the parts of the World that rely on their water supply in other ways - for example, via rivers that first travel through other countries. What would happen if a country further up-river decided to interrupt the flow to protect the supply of their own citizens, but in doing so caused water shortages for their neighbours? Water can easily become a political weapon and those with the military, and or monetary, clout will probably be the winners in any such dispute. Who will have oversight in these international disputes?

However, fear not those of you are shy of reading geo-political tracts. This book is a cracking thriller, with heart, and a message for those of us who choose to heed it.

From the Book Cover of Blue Gold

The near future. Climate change and geopolitical tension have given rise to a new international threat - a world war for water. This most vital of resources has become a precious commodity and some will stop at nothing to control its flow. When a satellite disappears over Iceland, Sim Atkins thinks he knows why. He is given the chance to join the hallowed Overseas Division and hunt for the terrorists responsible. But his new partner Freda Brightwell is aggrieved to be stuck with a rookie on such a deadly mission. Freda's misgivings are well founded when their first assignment ends in disaster - a bomb destroys a valuable airship and those responsible evade capture. Seeking redemption, the British agents follow the trail to a billionaires' tax haven in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and uncover a web of deceit that threatens global war. Whom can they trust? As the world edges ever closer to destruction Sim and Freda must put their lives on the line to prevent Armageddon - and protect the future of 'blue gold'. David Barker's gripping debut will thrill fans of Richard North Patterson, Scott Mariani and Steve Berry.

Blue Gold is available now from your favourite book retailer. (Amazon link)


The Gaia Trilogy continues with Rose Gold, and reaches a thrilling climax in White Gold
Don't miss my reviews here:



About the author:

David lives in Berkshire and is married to an author of children’s picture books, with a daughter who loves stories. His working life has been spent in the City, first for the Bank of England and now as Chief Economist for an international fund. So his job entails trying to predict the future all the time. David’s writing ambitions received a major boost after he attended the Faber Academy six-month course in 2014 and he still meets up with his inspirational fellow students. He loves reading, especially adventure stories, sci-fi and military history. Outside of family life, his other interests include tennis, golf and surfing.


As part of the blog tour for Blue Gold, it is my absolute pleasure to be able to share my interview with David Barker here!

Hi Dave,

Thank you for agreeing to an author interview for my blog, for the Blue Gold blog tour!


When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

I used to love making up stories when I was at school. Even when I became an economist, I tried to make my reports interesting, with a narrative flow to help the reader. And so, when an idea stuck in my head about seven year ago, I decided to have a proper go at writing a novel.

What made you decide to give writing full-time a go?

I wrote my first novel while working full-time (as many authors do), but it took so long to write and edit, that when it was published in 2017 I decided to switch to part-time work so I could write the sequel much more quickly. I still do some part-time economics work now.

Your wife is also a writer. How does living in such a literary household affect your creative process?

Sometimes it’s great because we can bounce ideas of each other, or have a moan about a problem we’re struggling with. Occasionally it can be tricky if one of us needs some space and quiet while the other is restless or wants to chat…

Blue Gold is about the politics of water, which is not something I had thought much about before. What inspired you to tackle this subject?

I was studying commodity markets about 12 years ago, and while everybody was focused on the oil price, it became clear that a lot of trends were pointing to an almost inevitable problem with freshwater (thanks to climate change and demographics).

I thought that an action story was a brilliant way to get people thinking about global water politics. What made you settle on this genre? Are you really a frustrated secret agent?

Hah, I guess I must be. I certainly enjoyed watching James Bond movies and reading Ian Fleming or Frederick Forsyth novels when growing up. I knew the setting for Blue Gold needed to be a world war for water, but I couldn’t figure out how to write the story from a soldier’s perspective, so it had to be about secret agents.

What do you think about eco-terrorism?

I can’t condone it because I think violent protests often end up being counter-productive. I am sure we will need the help of business and market forces to solve climate issues for all countries. And we need some better global leaders too.

Who was your favourite character to write in Blue Gold, and why?

Sim and Freda were great to create but the bald monk, Rabten, was a lot of fun. I kept thinking of David Carradine in the 70s TV show Kung Fu for some reason.

I loved spotting the nods to different blockbuster action movies in Blue Gold. What is your favourite action movie, and why?

Die Hard is excellent on so many levels, from the cracking dialogue, the explosive action, the excellent baddie played by the late, great Alan Rickman and the actual heist plot itself.

Blue Gold really got me thinking about how water is a finite resource. You obviously did a lot of research for this book. What are your top tips for conserving water?

Lots of simple things we can do like turning off the tap when we brush our teeth, using showers instead of baths, using rain water to water our gardens or even to flush our toilets (all new homes should be fitted with so-called grey-water systems), getting our utility companies to fix leaking drains… the list is long! Even eating less meat and dairy helps too, because of the amount of water needed to produce those foodstuffs.

What do you see yourself writing about next?

A YA fantasy about a girl who claims that King Arthur has saved her from drowning.


Thank you so much, Dave- the David Carradine link certainly comes across when reading about Rabten's expolits...and I love Die Hard too!


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Re-read October 2019. First published 1949.

The year is 1984, or is it? Does anyone really know for sure?

This is dystopian nightmare of a world, where your every move and even thought, is closely monitored. The Party is all and Big Brother is watching you day and night.

Winston Smith, worker at The Ministry of Truth, in Oceania, spends his days re-writing history to fit in with the current "truth" of The Party. But Winston knows that there is something wrong with the world in which he lives. He hates Big Brother and everything The Party stands for. He knows to even allow a hint of his true feelings to show would result in torture and execution, and yet he cannot help himself.

Winston is sure that there must be others among the apparent Party faithful that feel the same way as him, but how can you really tell? Is there anyone he can share his true feelings with in safety? Is there anyone he can love, and who will love him in return?

Compelled to act on his true feelings, Winston embarks on a course of rebellion against Big Brother, which he knows will ultimately lead to his death. Can he remain true to himself, or will be betray all he holds dear in order to survive?

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Although the year 1984 has come and gone, Orwell's prophetic nightmare of a future remains as timely as ever, even though it was written seventy years ago.

This is a modern classic, that has spawned a host of dystopian literature that borrows from its themes of power and manipulation, and its influence has even pervaded popular culture and language - for instance, "Big Brother is watching you!".

The future portrayed in 1984 is bleak in the extreme. This is a dark and fearful world, where your every move is closely monitored for signs of dissension. Even to be caught thinking unpatriotic thoughts will result in your torture and execution within the walls of the delightfully named Ministry of Love.

Orwell's own political leanings are more than apparent in this book, and he has borrowed heavily from the period of history in which he lived himself (you will certainly recognise references to the Nazi Party and Comminism within these pages) which does date it a little, but it still has a lot to teach us about the world today. 

For me the most interesting aspects are the way that information and language are manipulated to keep The Party in power, and this probably stems from my background in psychology - I always find this fascinating in a book.

In Winston's world, The Party controls all information - history has been rewritten to show that The Party is right in all things and provides the citizens of Oceania with a kind of utopia that is far better than the past, but there is no way to corroborate any of this. Any written material that could disprove the current view has either been destroyed or re-written. The "facts" taught to the children of Oceania can never be disputed, so will always be the truth - and for those who are old enough to remember the times before, now far can you even trust your own memories when there is no evidence left to support what you thought you knew about the past? 

This is a really interesting, if chilling idea, and before you say that this cannot really happen, take a moment to think about the way history is taught today. Certainly, there are countries today who colour the past in the text books that are used in their schools - for instance, China and North Korea. Shockingly, I also read recently in Zeba Talkhani's excellent book My Past Is A Foreign Country that she had not even heard of The Holocaust before studying at a college in Germany - and she had received her education in India and Saudi Arabia! Someone else's "truth" may be very different from our own. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to read widely and to read books by people who have different views to ourselves.

The manipulation of the language used by The Party in 1984 is something I find particularly fascinating. The Party is attempting to evolve language so that there is only a very limited vocabulary available. Any words with shades of meaning are being eliminated, especially where they may be used to express freedom of thought or ideas - so that is will eventually not even be possible for the population to think any anti Big Brother thoughts, because they simply will not have any words to express any sort of dissatisfaction with the status quo - even within their own heads. This blows my mind as a lover of the written and spoken word - what a horrible future this would be. 

I am never truly convinced by the ending to 1984, but I not going to give any spoilers for those of you who have not read it. I will just say that in spite of the elements of this book which are relevant today, I cannot allow myself to believe in the existence of a world where the human spirit can be broken so completely as in Orwell's terrifying future. I hope I am right.

1984 continues to be one of those books everyone should read at least once in their life. I have read it several times over the years and get something more from it each time. It is not a perfect book, and some of the story will always fail to ring true for me, but its themes will always be relevant. It is definitely one of those books that I was always recommending as required reading to my older students, during my secondary school librarian days.

If you have never read it, I urge you to do so - if you think you cannot stomach reading its politically heavy overtones, then there are some excellent audio book versions which may change your mind. I have listened to a particularly good version from Audible, narrated by Andrew Wincott, but there are plenty of other versions available and some of them are even dramatised. I would steer clear of the film adaptations until after you know the text though, as inevitably they are never a faithful representation of the story.

Give it a go and feed your mind!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A Body In The Bookshop (Kitt Hartley Yorkshire Mysteries Book Two) by Helen Cox

Read October 2019. Published 31st October 2019 by Quercus Books.

Not long after the shocking events of Murder by the Minster, Kitt, Evie and co. are about to get involved in another investigation - this time involving the theft of some rare books from a bookshop owned by some of Kitt's friends.

Kitt's boyfriend, DI Malcolm Halloran breaks the news that his colleague DS Charlotte Banks has been suspended after being accused of attacking the suspect in the robbery with a hammer.

Mal is unable to get involved, and convinced that there is no way Charley could be guilty of such a crime, Kitt and Evie set about trying to prove her innocence, but it is not long before the dead bodies start to pile up and the case seems to be a lot more complex that they first thought.

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The excellent Murder by the Minster introduced us to the Kitt Hartley Yorkshire Mysteries and it was an absolute pleasure to fall back in with Kitt, Evie and friends for this second installment of their investigative adventures - just like visiting old friends!

This time around, we are more aware of the roles of each of the team, at the start - Librarian Kitt, with her level head and penchant for literary references that her colleagues rarely get; vintage clothes/decor and language loving Evie, led by her emotions; the ever curious Grace, with her internet skills and constant FOMO; Ruby, with her psychic leanings and finger on the pulse of the gossip-central that is the local bus service; and of course our hard-working detectives, DI Malcolm Halloran and DS Charley Banks. So once the story gets going, we can be assured that no stone will be left unturned in the quest for the truth.

A Body in the Bookshop sees Evie take much more of a detective role than in their first escapade - the one which saw her scarred both physically and mentally - and it was lovely to see her regaining some of the confidence she had lost as a result of her experiences. It was also wonderful to see the relationship between Evie and Charley developing into something more than friendship, especially since this had been hinted at as a possibility at the end of Murder by the Minster.

The pacing is perfect, with endearing gentle humour, and there is a nice build up of tension as the story progresses to the exciting and satisfying climax, with a great little twist too. Something about the way this works really reminds me of the Father Brown mysteries TV series, which I mean as a massive compliment to Helen Cox - even though the Kitt Hartley mysteries are contemporary, there is something about the way the characters operate that resonates with the way Mark Williams plays Father Brown and his relationship with Mrs McCarthy and Bunty when they involve themselves in police investigations to the consternation of Inspector Mallory. Maybe this is just me, but I find it a good thing anyway!

Murder by the Minster and A Body in the Bookshop have definitely got me hooked on the Kitt Hartley Yorkshire Mysteries, and I am looking forward to the next book very much. I highly recommend them if you are a fan of a cosy mystery!

See my review of Book One here: Murder By The Minster