Posts Tagged ‘Book’

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

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.

An Unusual Job For A Woman

Three Sheets to The Wind is the latest collection of stories and poems from the renowned u3a writing group Whittlesey Wordsmiths of which I am immensely proud to be a member

Three Sheets to the Wind by Whittlesey Wordsmiths

I promised to put a longer version of my story that featured on Marsha Ingrao’s blog after the book, Three Sheets to the Wind was published An Unusual Job for a Woman is one of the stories in this collection.

Here is the full version of the story that appeared earlier as “Not a Proper Job.”

An Unusual Job for a Woman.

Philip Cumberland

The guided bus was an unusual getaway vehicle, but it had served her well in the past.

“It’s their vanity that makes them vulnerable,” she thought.

She had been glad to get out of her waitress uniform and into something less conspicuous. What politician full of their own importance could refuse an honorary doctorate from one of the world’s leading universities?

“More wine Mr Ambulant? Yes, the glass is a bit dirty. I will fetch you a clean one. It was the Chardonnay, wasn’t it?”

Fortunately, she was in the kitchen when he collapsed, nowhere near him. When they all rushed to see what was happening, she was in the ladies, changing into jeans and a tee shirt. Then nipping out through the Masters’ Garden… a bit naughty really, but not as naughty as poisoning someone.

Thank goodness for the tourists. It was easy to get swallowed up by the crowds. The bus was waiting in its bay when she arrived at Drummer Street. Some of those academics can be a bit handy when a girl is carrying a tray of drinks while wearing a fairly short skirt; the women were the worst. She wondered if she had been missed yet. The Park and Ride is very useful; you can park for free at St Ives, get into the middle of Cambridge then back to pick your car up. The luggage lockers are useful too. The Jiffy bag was waiting for her; Sheila would count its contents later. No doubt the next job was in there too.

The policemen standing waiting by her car were a surprise. She noticed them as she closed the locker door – always sensible to park near the bus shelter. Fortunately, the bus was still waiting to move off. She climbed back on, flashed her day rider ticket at the driver, and then found a seat next to the emergency exit.

As she left the bus at Huntingdon, she thought it was always good to have a plan B. The elderly Renault Clio was inconspicuous and could be left anywhere without arousing suspicion if there weren’t yellow lines or parking restrictions.

She drove to her cottage in Wistow. It wasn’t her main address, but somewhere out of the way when life got complicated. After opening the Chardonnay with a wry smile on her face and pouring herself a glass she reached for the Jiffy bag. Inside were a few hundred in twenties and tens for expenses. The lottery ticket was there too.

The photograph of her next target was a bit of a surprise. He was nasty enough but well connected; he must have really upset someone, Sheila thought. Then she remembered a story – well, a rumour of a story circulating – that would explain it.No matter how big a bully you are, there is always someone bigger and nastier.

Right, London on Monday to claim her lottery prize and perhaps a call to Grandmother.

The Sunday papers headlined Ambulant’s sudden death; a heart attack was the suspected cause. Hopefully, the college had secured his endowment before his demise.

Sunday passed quietly, and it was the eleven-thirty train from Huntingdon that delivered Sheila to Kings Cross. The newsagent’s shop was small, scruffy and inconspicuous, located on an anonymous side street.

The newsagent, certainly the man behind the counter, was elderly, bald and stooped. His nicotine-stained fingers suggested that a few years ago, a cigarette would have been permanently between his lips. He took Sheila’s blank lottery ticket and took it into a back room. Returning after a few minutes he inserted it into the lottery machine. The tune from the machine announced it was a winner.

“Congratulations, young lady; five numbers and the bonus ball, £180,000 and 3p. You will have to contact Camelot; keep your ticket safe.”

Sheila called Camelot’s special number using her mobile phone, identified herself, scanned the QR code and arranged the transfer of the winnings to her bank in Switzerland. She had left the newsagents with a copy of the Times and then found a call box.

The call was answered on the third ring by a quavery elderly male voice.

“Hello, who is it?”

“Mr Wolf?”

“Yes.”The voice immediately changed to something younger, no longer quavery.

“It’s Little Red Riding Hood. Can I speak to Grandmother please?”

“Grandmother’s familiar voice was calm as usual.”

“Hello, my dear. What can I do for you?”

“I am a little concerned about my next job.”

“He has got a history of heart problems. You are an attractive young lady and very clever.”

“Two policemen were waiting by my car at St Ives after Mr Ambulant died.”

“You should have a list of your next target’s engagements in your pack. You need to be very careful about how you manage things.”

“I am a little concerned about how quickly the police were onto my car.”

“The payment for the next job will be a lot higher, a million from the Euromillions draw. There is less interest in those winners.”

“Who else knows about me and the next target?”

“Just Mr Wolf, the Woodcutter and myself.”

“What about the Witch?”

“She’s dead.”

“Okay then, I will do it, but won’t notify you first. Once I have done the job I will phone you.”

“That’s absolutely fine, my dear. We know you well enough by now.”

Sheila ended her call and went shopping, mainly in charity shops, although she didn’t need new clothes, but the right clothes for the job.

A slightly plump middle-aged woman booked a room at a small hotel near Holborn underground station. She had booked for a week in the name of Mrs June Gordon and produced her driving licence with an address in Stamford as proof of identification. Her clothes were of good quality but not fashionable: sensible suits and skirts.

Sheila’s target was a man of habit. He jogged in Green Park most mornings, usually at seven. His list of engagements included lunch with the prime minister, theatre visits, and talks with dignitaries.

Sir John Grantly-Crouch prided himself on his physical fitness, and his run in Green Park, close to his house, was part of his daily routine. It was the second day in a row that the middle-aged lady wobbled by on a Santander hire bicycle, wishing him good morning. A bit unusual for a woman to cycle in a tweed skirt, he thought, but that was all. He jogged on, turned a corner, and saw that she appeared to have fallen off her bike. He extended his hand and helped her up, holding her gloved hand to do so.

She thanked him profusely, remounted her cycle and rode off.

Sir John Grantly-Crouch never finished his run. A few minutes later, he suffered a heart attack, collapsed and died.

The middle-aged lady parked the hired cycle at the docking station near the toilets and Green Park underground station. She peeled off her gloves and put them on the ground beside her. After taking her capacious leather handbag from the bicycle’s front basket, she opened it and put on a pair of surgical rubber gloves before opening a plastic bin liner. The leather gloves were placed in the bag; a pack of antibacterial wipes was used to clean the handlebars, saddle and frame. She didn’t want innocent victims.

The used wipes and surgical gloves went into the bin bag too. The partially filled bin bag was sealed, placed inside another, and both went back into the capacious handbag.

Sheila found a call box and spoke to Grandmother.

“Sir John Grantly-Crouch collapsed and died in Green Park this morning whilst out for his run. The cause of death will be a heart attack.”

“Thank you, Little Red Riding Hood. Your lottery ticket will be sent to you.”

“I have already bought it. Here is the number; have you got a pen to hand?”Sheila read the number from her ticket.

“That’s not the way it works, Little Red Riding Hood.”

“It is this time. I have plenty of the substance left, Grandmother. Or should I say, Joan? I know where you all live, so no monkey business.”

“There will be none, I assure you.”

The tube was busy with the morning commute. Kings Cross was crowded and they weren’t looking for a middle-aged lady or the older woman who left the train at St Neots.

Three Sheets to the Wind is available to buy on Amazon

A very old cottage, 3 East Delph Whittlesey.

3 East Delph Whittlesey, East Delph Cottage

East Delph Cottage

Knowing of my interest in local history Mrs Bullen kindly lent me her book of the history of her home in Whittlesey, 3 East Delph, a seventeenth-century cottage.

Samantha Broughton’s book of the cottage’s history. The drawing on the cover is by Mrs P A Mager

The book was written by a former occupier, I assume. The cottage was owned by Stuart Broughton between 1992 and 1998. The author is Samantha Broughton, B.A.(Hons.), M.Ar.Admin, the book is dated, 1993.

Ms Broughton’s research is meticulous and detailed it must have taken a considerable amount of time to compile this incredibly interesting record.

The book is passed on with the cottage as it changes hands, a wonderful idea.

Until reading this I was unaware of Copyhold as a form of property ownership I was familiar with Freehold and Leasehold but this form of lease, from the lord of the manor, was new to me.

James Loomes bought the land from the Earl of Portland, Lord of the Manor in1655, thereafter paying an annual rent of 4 pence. The cottage was built soon after and remained in the hands of the Loomes family for close to another 90 years. After a succession of owners between 1744 and 1838. The cottage was purchased in 1838 by the Oldfield family and it remained in their hands until 1955, over 100 years.

A former occupier of the cottage.

Arnold Taylor bought the cottage in 1955, living there until 1988.

In 1989 and 1990 according to electoral records the house was occupied by Graham and Caroline Venters.

After remaining unoccupied the cottage was bought by Stuart Broughton in 1992 he remained there until 1998.

Between 1999 and 2003 the cottage was occupied by Gary and Lorna Simms.

The account ends at this date.

Over the years the cottage has been occupied by Wheelwrights, Thatchers,  Blacksmiths, farmers and agricultural labourers amongst others. It has no doubt seen births, deaths, happy times and sad. This account must have taken many hours of careful and painstaking research, there is included in the book are copies of manorial records, deeds, wills and maps.

This is an outstanding document to pass on with this cottage, genuinely a piece of living history.

On a separate note, the narrow street that runs past the front of the cottage is believed to be one of the town’s oldest roads as was known in the past as Town Lane. The road was probably connected to a causeway to Thorney used by monks travelling to and from Thorney Abbey.

The Cottage would have been on the very edge of the fens when it was built.

Town Lane is one of Whittlesey’s oldest streets. The oddly shaped house was built by a former owner of the cottage for a relative.

This is a fantastic written record and I am grateful to Mrs Bullen for allowing me to read through it.

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.

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