Book Reviews

Crumbling Utopian Pipedream by Scott Wozniak

35022907What da cover says:  Crumbling Utopian Pipedream is a book of poems born of the streets. It unflinchingly celebrates gritty realism while detailing some of life’s hard won battles, and continually urges the reader to face the obstacles life puts in our way, and to realize that we have the strength to overcome any and all hardships.

What I says:  I was very impressed by this collection of poetry, the opening poems felt like this was a confession of sorts, violence, drugs and drink were the main topics, gradually things got bleaker from there. After a while I realised this wasn’t a confession, Wozniak is telling the reader what life is like for many people, and telling those sufferers that you can overcome these things, it will be tough but all these trials will only make you stronger. The final poem “My Brain off Drugs” felt incredibly honest and finished off the collection perfectly.

Other high points here were a possible poem for Brexit, “So Many Choices, So Little Time” calls for people to rise up from this catastrophe and create your own destiny. One of the best was “Crumbling Utopian Pipedream” the lines are short, so few words are used but somehow Wozniak manages to capture the readers imagination and you can instantly see what he is writing about. If you ever wandered what a poem would be like if it was written as society is ending then Crumbling Utopian Pipedream would be it.

Wozniak has some very clever titles and my favourite poem has one of the best, “Depends on Which Side of the Flames You’re On”, that poem is so good, a contender for my favourite poem of 2019. You should grab a copy of this book even if it’s just for that one poem.


Book Reviews

Not a Hazardous Sport by Nigel Barley

43361260What da cover says:  After Nigel Barley’s insurance company determined that anthropology was not a hazardous sport, he was free to set off for Torajaland, a remote district of Indonesia. His visit sparked an enduring love affair which led his friends, the Torajans, to London. Their hilarious visit makes a fitting climax to Barley’s book.

What I says:  What a wonderful book!  Traditionally the anthropological book is crammed full of facts, whether important or not, there is no humour and it’s as if the anthropologist is having to prove his worth.  Nigel Barley’s approach, the humour, the go-with-the-flow approach to travel and the bonding with those he meets makes this far easier to read.  Right from the beginning you start to chuckle as Nigel explains this trip was inspired by his insurance company stating that anthropology is not a hazardous sport.  Nigel does not shy away from any challenge, no matter  how dangerous the situation is and with the bus drivers in Indonesia the situations can be pretty dire.

After travelling around for a while he meets up with a young lad called Johannis and finally he finds his focus for this book.  He meets up with some brilliant characters, my favourite has to be Nenek, such a cheeky old man with his own wicked sense of humour.  Whilst staying with these people Nigel gets inspired to organise the building of a rice barn at a museum in London, the book then becomes hilarious as anthropology is turned on it’s head and the Torajans explore London and Nigel is constantly questioned by them.  Their discovery of dog walkers in a park had me laughing my head off.

This is a well written, hilarious, at times moving book and the best thing I’ve read by Nigel Barley so far.  It comes highly recommended by me.


Massive thanks to Eland for the copy of this book.

Book Reviews

The Ghosts of Nagasaki by Daniel Clausen

16003161What da cover says:  One night a foreign business analyst in Tokyo sits down in his spacious high rise apartment and begins typing something. The words pour out and exhaust him. He soon realizes that the words appearing on his laptop are memories of his first days in Nagasaki four years ago.

Nagasaki was a place full of spirits, a garrulous Welsh roommate, and a lingering mystery.

Somehow he must finish the story of four years ago–a story that involves a young Japanese girl, the ghost of a dead Japanese writer, and a mysterious island. He must solve this mystery while maneuvering the hazards of middle management, a cruel Japanese samurai, and his own knowledge that if he doesn’t solve this mystery soon his heart will transform into a ball of steel, crushing his soul forever. Though he wants to give up his writing, though he wants to let the past rest, within his compulsive writing lies the key to his salvation.

What I says:  Well here it is, my most favouritest book ever, it has held the number 1 spot in my top 10 since I first read it back in 2015, a lot of good books I’ve read since have challenged it for the top spot but all have just fallen short.  I don’t really know why it gets top spot, there is something magical about it that captured me and you get taken on an adventure that is hard to remember is not real life.

The closest other writer is Haruki Murakami he has that same magical realism feel to it and both authors hold all there cards to their chest and leave you guessing what the hell is going on.  Daniel Clausen does it better though, there are none of the usual repeated parts that Murakami loves to include and Clausen has added an element of humour that helps the reader to get into the book.

The narrator reminds me in part of Paul Kemp from the Rum Diary, the watching life happen and just going wherever it takes you…whilst having a couple of drinks along the way.  There is an interesting character in the Welsh roommate, what a guy, he is cleverly used by Clausen as a kind of guide to the main character, which just makes you appreciate him more, he also brings that bit of humour to the book I mentioned earlier.

Part of the story revolves around another book, Silence by Shūsaku Endō, I have now read that book and seen the movie so am planning a re-read of this book to see if I pick up any new bits from the book.

This isn’t going to be to everybody’s liking, but it still worth picking it up and seeing if it also makes it into your top 10.



Book Reviews

Ants In My Blood by Kevin Berg

43619720What da cover says:  Love and parasites, painfully hungry work, people in the water, vindication at a price, itchy needles, lingering debts, ignored warnings, and the true cost of an epidemic. Experience the worst kind of parental guidance, watch the devil bleed, and wait for the eternal messengers to take you apart before carrying the last pieces of you away.

Straddling the boundaries between horror, suspense, dark humor, and the bizarre – Ants In My Blood is a diverse collection featuring eighteen compelling tales from the author of Indifference and Daddy Monster.

What I says:  Before I review this book just look at that cover for a minute, it is incredible, a real piece of art.  It is by Marcel Herms.

As for the collection of short stories, they are a great read, such a varied collection.  You have stories that will make you cringe, make you queasy, shock you and ultimately move you.  The highlight for me was “Reaching for the Sun” a wonderful little story about the relationship between a Grandad and his Granddaughter and the fun they have with a kite….If I wasn’t so damn manly I might have shed a tear or two.  “Killing The Other Me”  is very twisted, one of those stories that you’ll never predict how it will end.  “What The Monster Taught” is another great story,  a lot of violence surrounding a character that you really feel for.  There are a couple of gross ones here two but I’m not going to give you any hints on those…wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.

There are plenty of other gems in this collection so make sure you check if out.


Book Reviews

Ash on your face like war paint By Scott Wozniak


ash on your face like war paintWhat da cover says:  Scott Wozniak is a poet/ chaos enthusiast living in Oregon. His works are widely published both online and in print. Limited run of only 25 handmade, hand numbered copies! 22 pages, staple bound and printed on an old Canon laser printer we found abandoned at a dump site. Cover: black ink on war paint red paper. Interior: black ink on white paper.

Cover art by Marc Brüseke

What I says:  This book is only 22 pages long, it feels much bigger though, each poem has an sense of the epic to it, and the fact that the poems are so good they make you go back to the beginning and start again really helps with this book feeling big.

A few of the poems have a cracking ending to them “Refusing to acknowledge checkmate” had me cackling at the end with a great little twist.  You get a sense of Bukowski in “War story of a battle won” and Ginsberg’s repeating beginning of sentences in “Something a sedition charge taught me”.  My favourite was “Orwellian is a fancy way of saying today”, George Orwell’s quote “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever” is one of the best quotes ever and Scott has managed to include it in a poem based on life today and kept the momentum of the quote’s brutality going right to the end.

A fantastic little chapbook and I’m pleased to own no. 2 of 25.


Book Reviews

Down to the Sea in Ships Of Ageless Oceans and Modern Men by Horatio Clare

19609526What da cover says:  Our lives depend on shipping but it is a world which is largely hidden from us. In every lonely corner of every sea, through every night, every day, and every imaginable weather, tiny crews of seafarers work the giant ships which keep landed life afloat. These ordinary men live extraordinary lives, subject to dangers and difficulties we can only imagine, from hurricanes and pirates to years of confinement in hazardous, if not hellish, environments. Horatio Clare joins two container ships on their epic voyages across the globe and experiences unforgettable journeys. As the ships cross seas of history and incident, seafarers unfold the stories of their lives, and a beautiful and terrifying portrait of the oceans and their human subjects emerges.

What I says:  This book needs to come with a warning…”Be warned those who are easily influenced by what they read, you may find yourself at sea”.

Horatio tells things honestly, the rough sea, the dire living conditions, long repetitive work, low pay, No FRIGGING BEER, marginally adverse weather conditions and much danger.  He tells you how bad it is, how lonely it can be and yet this reader still craved the adventure….just think how much reading I could get done at sea.

Horatio explores every side of the job on board the ship, from the Captain right down to the engine room.  The working conditions in the engine room are insane, how a man can work there day after day is amazing.  The book is split into two, first a trip from UK to USA via the Suez canal on board a giant of a ship carrying an incredible amount of weight, the crew are neat and tidy, the ship in pretty good condition and a nice automated system for loading/unloading.  Part 2 is the polar opposite Europe to Canada across the North Atlantic, a smaller boat still full of cargo, the ship is old, battered and dirty, the crew are similar, they come across as quite mad and loading/unloading is mostly manual labour.

This was a fascinating read, I have the utmost respect now for these brave sailors who bring us the crap we love to buy in shops.  I’d love to see a follow up to the book, this time following one of the containers and it’s contents,  would be interesting to see why milk goes from Argentina to Europe and then back to Canada.  I can see why this is an award winning book, brilliant writing and plan to pick up another of Horatio’s books soon.

Roight!  I’m off to sign on.


Book Reviews

Snail Vixen and The Crystal Garden by Casey Renee Kiser


36408750What da cover says:  Simple, yet mysterious and playful, Casey takes you on a slow ride. Distressed themes involving the effects of parental narcissistic abuse, identity, society and suicide sprinkled with her daughter’s childhood artwork and one from beckoning artist Lydia Burris create a dark and unique world in this poetry chapbook.

What I says:  Casey Renee Kiser is fast becoming one of my favourite poets, her writing is dark, dream-like and full of cheeky humour.  She also has a great voice, check her out on Soundcloud.  There are some great titles in this collection “Paper Doll Factory” and “I Slit my wrists and he said ‘Yo'” are a couple of the best.

To pick a favourite is tough, but I’d have to go with the first one in this collection “Lucky One”, it feels like an introduction for the poet, you can almost picture the intro being used just like the intros in wrestling.

Each poem is very strong and stands well on it’s own.  There is a collection of artwork included and I couldn’t see what the point in them was until I looked at Casey’s profile pictures on Goodreads, it is just her crazy personality (she could be a real life fairy) coming out on the pages in a different way, both written and visual.

A cool collection, I’ll definitely be checking out more of her work.