Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

And What Do You Do? Written by Norman Baker, a review

And What Do You Do? by Norman Baker

I have been for as long as I can remember unconvinced about the value of the British monarchy, for me the institution had about it a great negativity. Why is the best choice for part of our government; the head of state, an accident of birth?

My view of the monarchy was and still is that it is a thoroughly rotten institution, I had however reserved judgement on the individuals that comprise the sprawling costly entity that is the royal family. They seemed to be more like a group of soap opera celebrities and as time has gone on with their seemingly petty squabbles, (the ones I am aware of that is,) making headline news, more so. As I paid little heed to the individuals concerned most of the mindless tittle tattle has passed me by.

 Norman Baker forensically destroys not only the institution itself but the reputations of much of the large and sprawling monarchy. He highlights tax dodging, a scandalous waste of taxpayer funds, dishonesty and hypocrisy. The idea that a part of our government can hide its activities behind a wall of secrecy, denied to other branches of the government is in itself a scandal. The Royal Family’s connections with Hitler and the far right during the thirties is something we ought to know more about, a full disclosure would be useful.

The only Royal to come out unscathed from Normal Lamb’s book is Princess Anne, although the late Queen’s reputation hasn’t suffered too badly.

However, probably one of the most unsettling things in terms of our governance, highlighted by Baker, is the Royal Consent. We are led to believe that our constitutional monarch has no influence over what legislation is debated and the royal assent, a rubber stamping exercise is proof of that. What I was not aware of together with probably most of the British public, is that before any legislation is able to be debated, it first has to receive Royal Consent. This isn’t a rubber stamping exercise; the monarch has to approve any legislation to be debated.

Consent is and has been withheld, if things included in the proposed legislation are thought to be at odds with the interests of the monarchy. There are times when legislation has been sent back to be changed before it receives royal consent if at all.

This book is well researched and referenced. It is one I recommend everyone to read whether Republican or Monarchist.

Adventures of Peter Kim, Spring, by Susan Alexander, a review.

Adventures of Peter Kim Spring

I haven’t read many children’s books in the last twenty years or so, what was a near nightly experience for me when my children were small has long past. Often or not my children would be asleep before I finished reading the chapter or story, sometimes my children would have to wake me to finish reading to them.

Peter Kim is a shy elf living with his parents in their toadstool home in Glebe Wood; we follow Peter’s adventures as he explores the wood that is his home, meeting interesting characters and the friends he makes. These friends include fairies Bella and Flossie, Harry the Hedgehog and a number of other woodland creatures.

The pictures that accompany the text are beautifully drawn by a number of different artists including the author.

Children’s stories should entertain and ideally, subtly educate in the process, this book does this, it is well written, informative and entertaining, and the chapters are the right length for bedtime reading.

This is the first book in a planned series of seasonal adventures for Peter Kim with Summer, Autumn and Winter to come. These are treats to look forward to.

Available on Amazon

Who’s who in Grunty Fen by Christopher South, a review

Who’s Who in Grunty Fen by Christopher South

I had enjoyed the Guide to Grunty Fen also by Christopher South and thought more of the same would make a useful tonic for me. I was delighted to find a copy in Huntingdon’s wonderful Niche Comics and Books.

This who’s who is a definitive guide to the notable people that have made this overlooked but remarkable area of the Cambridgeshire fens what it is today. The biographies of these inhabitants and former inhabitants are informative, making for fascinating reading. It describes the sheer diversity of talent that has and still continues to occupy this close knit community.

Amongst others we learn of Ron Flash Gordon postman and Pyloneer, Daisy Dockeridge a notable Pharmacist, any number of remarkable clergymen, among them Emmanuel Partington Vosper-Jones. Vosper-Jones, installed a gingerbread house (originally a pantomime stage prop) as a confessional later following a nervous breakdown he left the clergy to become a tobacconist.

Other notables include, inventors, philosophers, parachute knitters, educationalists and an early  equal rights activist Queenie Marsden

Every page is full of interesting facts that shed a light on the lives of those residing in this under discovered corner of Cambridgeshire. I am sure it won’t be long before the casual weekend tourist, anxious to see where Dennis lived and to learn more of this remarkable community,becomes inspired to buy the corrugated iron and reclaimed building materials needed to build their very own shed. Many of them will consider employing the famous Grunty Fen Architect Niven Parr to help with the design and construction.

For those seeking a simpler more sustainable but in many ways an unusual form of life Grunty Fen seems to have a lot to offer.

With an easy bicycle commute to Ely and access to the rail network those tired of city life could do worse than move to Grunty Fen

A Gift Called Hope by Eva Jordan a review.

Jill who is estranged from her husband, has moved to a seaside town to run a mobile, beachside, vegetarian, snack bar.

She is caring for her young grandson, Jack but grieving for her son, Davey, Jack’s father. As Christmas nears; the anniversary of her son’s death, Jill struggles to cope with her conflicting emotions, trying to give Jack the best possible Christmas she can while dealing with the still rawness of her grief.

I am certain this story will stay with me for a very long time. It moved me in a way that surprised me. It is beautifully written, the characters are believable and well-drawn. The end is satisfying, living up to the title

The only other book that has affected me in the same way as A Gift Called Hope; is “The Catcher in the Rye” by J D Salinger.

That I remember so much of The Catcher in the Rye after reading it just once, fifty years ago, speaks volumes.

Like Catcher in the Rye, this story is about loss and the grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one.

Reaching an accommodation with loss is a bumpy road; this book describes that journey with tenderness and humanity.

It is a truly remarkable book.

The Killing Code by J D Kirk, a review.

The Killing Code by J D Kirk

My daughter knowing of my interest both as a writer and reader of crime fiction gave me a copy of The Killing Code as a birthday present.

I had not read any of J D Kirk’s books before and this was my first encounter with Glasgow’s DCI Jack Logan.

It is always a difficult thing to write a review you want to give a reader a sense of what the book is about but give away as little of the plot as possible.

The story gripped me from the start. After the murder of a nurse, Logan’s desperate search for a brutal killer; kept me metaphorically on the edge of my seat. I raced through the pages, hoping Logan would find the murderer before another death occurred.

I really enjoyed this book it was well written, engaging and credible. I am really grateful to my daughter for introducing me to JD Kirk and DCI Logan; I shall be back to read more books from Mr Kirk.

Paranormal City by Stephen Oliver a review

Paranormal City by Stephen Oliver

Paranormal City is unlike any other city or maybe it isn’t, it could be that this city is also here; unseen in the city we inhabit but hiding in plain sight, sharing its existence but in a different way to the one it lives within.

Paranormal City’s inhabitants walk our streets in a form of normality we recognise, rubbing shoulders with the daily commuters, sharing our places and lives but they are in some way different. These are the werewolves, shapeshifters, vampires, cyborgs, demons and creatures which only become strange to us when assuming their other, true hidden identity. 

Paranormal City becomes the battleground of a titanic struggle between strange forces and creatures. It is a fascinating tale and a damn good read.

Hopefully, these creatures are purely a work of fiction.

Great stuff Stephen, more, please.

Stephen’s Paranormal City is available to buy on Amazon

Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves a review.

Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves

This was my first read of a novel featuring Vera; Ann Cleeves’ DCI Vera Stanhope, as seen on TV, as it says on the cover of this edition of the book. Vera is presented to us, warts and all. Brenda Blethyn is a supremely confident actress to be able to portray this woman so accurately.

The plot is dense, convoluted and engaging, drawing me in from the first moment. After her morning swim, Vera finds the body of a young woman in her local health club’s steam room.

The characters are well-drawn, the descriptions of places and people believable. However, what I found was most interesting, that despite being presented on television with a very believable version of Vera, I found a different Vera in the book. A woman who entered my imagination on her own terms. This for me was extraordinary, although the television Vera is good, I preferred the Vera of my imagination.

It was for me a quick read I wanted to know how the story ended and who the murderer was, I hadn’t worked it out.

A thoroughly good read. I am becoming a fan of Ann Cleeves.

Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne, a review.

Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne

Raymond Chandler’s shoes are very difficult to fill. Philip Marlowe, Chandler’s hero is someone who has inhabited the imagination of all those who have read Chandler’s novels. My Marlowe will be different to everyone else’s Marlowe but our own original has its own presence.

‘Poodle Springs’, Chandler’s unfinished novel was completed by Robert B Parker and worked well for me; I have since discovered that Parker wrote another Marlowe novel, ‘Perchance to Dream.’ This is one I will seek out and read.

Marlowe is engaged by The Pacific Mutual Insurance company to investigate the death by drowning of Donald Zinn; before the million dollar payout is made to his widow.

Donald Zinn is an all too easily recognisable pastiche of a contemporary character, one who it appears has followed a similar career path to Zinn’s.

It was a good idea to base the action in Mexico; the location of Zinn’s demise.

Only to sleep didn’t work well for me, perhaps it was taking Marlowe out of his time and place; California’s, the thirties, forties and fifties or maybe at 73 Marlowe just hadn’t aged well. I didn’t recognise him even as an older version of himself

Other Chandler and Marlowe fans may enjoy this book; it just wasn’t a good read for me.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, a review.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

The title intrigued me.

 I had collected The Midnight Library from my daughter’s, to bring home, she was returning it; it is my wife’s book. I asked her if I could read it.

The story is Nora Seed’s.

Nora lives in Bedford, regrets and depression have inhabited Nora’s life, a life she decides to end the day the things she holds most dear are destroyed around her.

Nora then finds herself in a most unusual library; its librarian is Mrs Elm, the kindly, chess playing, librarian from her schooldays. Mrs Elm helps Nora find the books to help her understand life, her own in particular.

The journey through the books in the library is fascinating, each book adds to Nora’s own story, giving her new insights and understanding into not just her life but life itself. Woven into the story is the theory of the multiverse, something that with even my very vague knowledge of physics; fascinates me.

This is the most exceptional book I have read in a long time. It is a beautiful and moving story.

Blood Sympathy by Reginald Hill, a review

Blood Sympathy by Reginald Hill

This, so far the only one of Reginald Hill’s books I have read.

Despite watching Dalziel and Pascoe on television I wondered whether Hill was of Caribbean heritage, a quick search on Google revealed that he wasn’t. Hill’s choice of a black hero, dealing with the racism of some police, made me think that he could have been a black writer.

It is difficult to write about a Private Eye, Raymond Chandler is always looking over your shoulder. Without the influence of him and Dashie;l Hammett; the genre I’m sure would be less widely populated.

This is Joe Sixsmith’s first outing, forced by redundancy as a result of his employer’s downsizing and middle age, to find something new, Joe embarked on a career as a Private Investigator. Having spent a lifetime in engineering, this was a strange choice.

Joe is a loveable character, harassed by his anxious Aunt Mirabelle, longing to see her nephew settled into the bosom of a suitable wife. His aunt’s matchmaking is just one of many problems; Joe has to deal with as he stumbles his way through cases of drug smuggling and murder.

I do not know if Hill’s fictional Luton is close to the reality of Bedfordshire’s, the one with an airport bearing the same name but it is nonetheless one that works.

I enjoyed this book immensely and will seek out more of Joe Sixsmith’s adventures.

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