Book Reviews

The Seabird’s Cry: The Lives and Loves of Puffins, Gannets and Other Ocean Voyagers by Adam Nicolson


What Da Cover Says:  Seabirds are master navigators, thriving in the most demanding environment on earth. In this masterly book, drawing on all the most recent research, Adam Nicolson follows them to the coasts and islands of Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and the Americas. Beautifully illustrated by Kate Boxer, The Seabird’s Cry is a celebration of the wonders of the only creatures at home in the air, on land and on the sea. But it also carries a warning: the number of seabirds has dropped by two thirds since 1950. Extinction stalks the ocean and there is a danger that the grand cry of a seabird colony will, this century, become but a memory.

What I Says:  For me my knowledge of seabirds isn’t up to much, unless you put in a large amount of effort then you’re not going to see them or even hear the mad cacophony that they produce during their get-togethers.  The Puffin has gotta be one of the birds you must see, they’ve got so much character…one of these days I’ll go out amongst people and take a boat trip to check out one of their breeding grounds.  Maybe take a few of those pasty-stealing seagulls with be to drop off there.

This book is absolutely crammed full of interesting facts and stories.  At first it felt a bit daunting because there is hardly any of the usual life story or anecdotes about how the author fell in love with the birds, this book is all about the birds themselves and how they have influenced people throughout history.  Once that first interesting fact comes along the book becomes easy to read.

The experiments that early scientists did are shocking, so inhumane it makes you wonder what the hell was wrong with them, some of the things they did are what serial killers do in their youth.  One of the most interesting facts was about plastic and why birds keep eating it, I’ve always thought it was odd as the plastic doesn’t look like fish, turns out smell is an important tool when a bird is hunting and the plastic gives off the same smell as their food.  Crazy!

There are lots of photos, illustrations, maps and graphs to accompany the writing and though I didn’t understand how to interpret all of the graphs they really add to the reading experience.  This an incredibly well reached book and well deserving of the Wainwright prize that it won.  Now who’s got a boat I can borrow?


Book Reviews

The City & the City by China Miéville


What Da Cover Says:  When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he investigates, the evidence points to conspiracies far stranger and more deadly than anything he could have imagined.

Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own. This is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a shift in perception, a seeing of the unseen. His destination is Beszel’s equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the rich and vibrant city of Ul Qoma. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, and struggling with his own transition, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of rabid nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them and those they care about more than their lives.

What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.

Casting shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984, The City & the City is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights.

What I Says:  This book was nothing like I was expecting,  as a winner of an Arthur C. Clarke Award I was expecting a cracking good Sci-Fi story, I was really disappointed.  The Sci-Fi aspect is dull and repetitive, how many times can you mention that somebody has to unsee something that exists in another city?  Plenty loads according to this book.

The last line of the blurb mentions Philip K. Dick and Raymond Chandler and that is spot on.  There is the futuristic feeling from Dick, the poor, the punks, sinister policing and the rich controlling everything.  Heavy influences from Chandler are there too in the fantastic detectives Tyador Borlú and Qussim Dhatt, some real gritty guys.  You witness them slowly unravel a very complex case, up against tough odds.  Just to prove how good a detective story this is, Borlú‘s boss kept shouting at him to get the job done in try Dirty Harry tradition.

Once I got past my “Sci-Fi” issues I thoroughly enjoyed this, a complex murder mystery that kept me guessing.


Book Reviews

The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon


What Da Cover Says:  Meet Moses, Galahad, Big City, Tolroy, Five Past Twelve, and other West Indians who have come to London in search of the dream. There to face a reality of racial discrimination, poverty, harsh winters, waiting to see what tomorrow brings. This novel both joyful and sad, is an ode to the survival instinct of the modern immigrant.

What I Says:  Me reading this book was a bit of luck, somebody was getting rid of a pile of books and this Penguin classic was hidden amongst them,  who’d want to offload a Penguin classic?  I’d never heard of it, nor the writer but the feeling I got from the cover makes me think it is going to be a cool read.  Sam Selvon has a fantastic writing style, the language has not been tweaked for the public, you get the full West Indies accent….it is so easy to read, the issue is to not speak like it in real life.  Very laid back and contagious.

The main character is Moses and through him you find out about the arrival of Galahad and how an immigrant tries to make it in 1950s England, the environment is pretty hostile, as usual fuelled by the media.  Moses tells stories about his friends, Big City, Five, Lewis, Cap and a few others.  The craziness they get up to, looking for ladies, partying….eating seagulls…..yep that happens, Moses leaves nothing out.  By far the best character was Tanty, she made me laugh again and again, a powerful woman who knows how to put these lads in their place.

One embarrassing thing for me here, as I was reading this I kept thinking there is this constant feeling of loneliness throughout the book, I was quite pleased with myself for spotting that………..until I saw the title.  Doh!

Well worth giving this a read as it gives you an inside view of why somebody leaves their home country looking for a better life and how lonely and scary that can be…I reckon nothing has changed for those immigrants today.



Book Release: The Minotaur’s Son & other wild tales by Kevin Ansbro

One of my favourite writers, easily top 3450….just joking, top 3…Kevin Ansbro has a new book out, released today:


“Once the evening’s entertainment was over the Minotaur, as naked as Nature intended, clumped into Pablo Zapata’s bar…”

A baby with a passion for theoretical physics…

A winged nymph who exacts terrible revenge…

A stolen coin that releases a wish-granting genie…

And where else would you see Ginger Rogers learning the Ali shuffle, or a humble fisherman making friends with Poseidon?

Charlatans and shapeshifters, lovers and leprechauns, ghosts and office creeps are just some of the characters that Kevin Ansbro brings to life in this volume of short stories. His tales span the globe and range from the wickedly funny to the sad and deeply unnerving. With his perceptive take on human failings, his vivid imagination and his glorious grasp of language, Ansbro’s thought-provoking stories will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

I have read two of his books so far and both easily earn the 5 stars I gave them,



My Review is HERE:

The Fish That Climbed A Tree


My Review is HERE:

I also did a fake interview with Kevin if you want a sample of just how talented and hilarious he can be.  Check it out HERE:

So please give this guy a go, you won’t be disappointed.


Fake Interview: Hannibal Lecter

RockyVsHannibalHello everybody, I have a special interview for you today, we will discussing cookery, wine tasting, baby sheeps and helping the FBI with a few projects….and all behind the safety of 2inch thick Perspex glass. I give you the delicious Hannibal Lecter.


Hello Hanny-baby, How you doing?

I’m well, Rocky, thank you for asking. The FBI has appointed a sweet little intern to entertain me with tales of Buffalo Bill … and I don’t mean the Wild West performer.

Q1. I usually start off requesting you give an introduction about yourself but everybody knows you, so could you tell me how you spend your days…it must be dull in this cell.

Tennessee Williams once said that we are all sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins. I could make you a new cape from your own skin if you would like me to, Rocky.

Q2. Do you ever hear from Jodi Foster…whoops….I mean Clarice Starling?

Ah, Clarice… She needs to extract more fun out of life. I’ve not heard from luscious Clarice, but she will be hearing from me.

Q3. Have you ever eaten a Gnome?

It’s rather embarrassing, Rocky, but I’ll trust you to keep this between us. I drank a few too many bottles of Merlot one Christmas and let’s just say that the Gnome realm bore the brunt of my tiddly state. I found them to be delicious, but it takes so many of them to make a meal.

Q4. If you could eat anybody from history who would you pick and please supply details on the meal.

Thank you, Rocky, thank you. I’ve spent many hours fantasizing about this particular pleasure. Yes… My choice would undoubtedly be Sherlock Holmes. I love the chase, you see. It would make eating him all the more enjoyable. Mr Holmes’ brain, I imagine, would be delightful sautéed lightly in brown butter and served with a lovely spinach salad. Yes, that’s the ticket.

Q5. Here’s a question from Abbygayle, aged 7, from Upper Twatton. “There’s this boy at school, Bobby McBobbyington, he is always picking his nose and eating the bogeys…Is this how you started eating people?

Delightful, dear Abbygayle. Bobby does sound a vile creature. Whenever feasible, one should always try to eat the rude. Steer clear of Master McBobbyington and pick up a copy of my memoir. I think you’ll find it more to your liking. 

Q6. One thing that has confused many people over the years is this thing about lambs….Why is the plural for sheep sheep?

Be careful of clever questions, Rocky, my boy. Others have tried to test me. I ate their livers with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. Ffth-fffthh-ffth! 

Q7. Could you give the readers a book recommendation to sit on our fake library?

One of my favorite books is “How To Serve Man”. It has some lovely recipes.

Q8. You got any advice to give any budding serial killers out there?

Eventually, you will be caught by the FBI, and when you are, expect to receive favors in return for information. Quid pro quo, my fine fellows.

Q9. On my way up the corridor I noticed a few occupied cells…there seems to have been a fountain in one, at least something splashed me, anyway I digress, you got any mates here in prison?

Acquaintances, rather than friends, Rocky. The few whom I have gotten close to proved quite satisfying as an appetizer.

But let’s talk about you, Rocky. Tell me, do you wake up late at night and hear the lambs screaming?

I dress as a superhero and therefore my work is never done and I have no time to sleep….or listen to the screams in my head.

Q10. Now, you are a well known wine expert, if I was to eat Justin Bieber, probably slowly cooked in a BBQ, what wine do you recommend pairing with him?

Mr Bieber is just the kind of fellow I’d delight in serving. You see, the tragedy is not to die but to be wasted. I could perhaps put him to better use than he has been thus far. Ah, but you asked about the wine … yes, the wine, essential that.

I imagine young Justin’s flesh to be much like veal, succulent and tender. A lovely Sangiovese would pair nicely. I would love to test the theory. Shall we make the call and invite him to dinner, Rocky?


Oh, is that the time? Doesn’t it just fly by? I do wish we could chat longer, Mister Wonderful, but I’m having an old friend for dinner.

Right, glad that is over, I’m gonna pop down to the local wooden leg and hook shop before I bleed out.  I would like to thank future mega best seller Kimber Silver for playing the part of Hannibal Lecter….again I am surprised how easily these writers get into character.  If you brave enough to stalk her you can find her on Twitter and Goodreads.  Make sure you check out her Website and have a look at her writing. 

Book Reviews

Like Jagged Teeth by Betty Rocksteady


What Da Cover Says:  The guys following her home are bad enough, but when Jacalyn’s Poppa comes to the rescue, things only get worse. After all, he’s been dead for six years. There’s no time to be relieved, because when she ends up back at Poppa’s new apartment, nothing feels right. The food here doesn’t taste how food should taste. The doors don’t work how doors are supposed to work. And something’s not right with Poppa. Guilt and sickness spiral Jacalyn into a nightmarish new reality of Lynchian hallucinations and grotesque body horror.

What I Says:  This short horror story feels like an epic by the time you reach the end,  right from the start you’re thrown into the madness.  Betty starts messing with your mind, giving you an obvious threat to focus on and then side swiping you with the main threat.  This knocks you off balance and like the main character you take a long time to catch up with what is going on in the story.  You’ll also find yourself urging Jacalyn along as she tries to stay focus on what is real and what is not.  I did get worried as I was fast running out of pages with no end in sight, luckily the brilliantly name Betty Rocksteady finds a great way of ending things.

I loved how the writing keeps you off-kilter and of course all the gruesomeness helps big time.  🙂


Book Reviews

World Citizen: Allen Ginsberg as Traveller by David S. Wills

44141120What Da Cover Says:  Allen Ginsberg was one of the most recognisable public figures of the 20th century, and one of the most important American poets of all time. Yet he was also a seasoned traveller, capable of spending months or even years on the road, surviving on his wits. For Ginsberg, travel was more than a frivolous hobby; it was something that shaped him as a poet, an activist, and a person. Without visiting Mexico in 1954, there would have been no “Howl”. Without visiting France in 1958, there would have been no “Kaddish”. Without visiting India in 1963, the image of Allen Ginsberg as a bearded hippie sage chanting mantras with finger symbols would simply not have existed.

In World Citizen, David S. Wills presents a new biography of Allen Ginsberg – one told through the prism of travel. Ginsberg’s life is recounted journey by journey, his development as a traveller meticulously recorded, and the influence of travel on his poetry noted for the first time.

What I Says:  Allen Ginsberg as a traveller is something that has never crossed my mind, in the last few years I’ve read quite a few of his poems and not once did I think that he wrote the poems whilst on the road, in the air or on the water.  Allen visited 66 countries in his time, an amazing feat when you think he did it with little to no money and at a time when a lot of the countries he visited would have been suspicious of an American having a nose around their country.

I recently read a book about Ginsberg and his politics which was a bit of a mess, too many quotes by others and continually using the word “juxtaposition” the book did not flow well and I found myself getting bored with it.  David S. Willis has done the polar opposite with this book, only a couple of uses of the forbidden word 🙂 and anything that could break up the flow has been moved to the back of the book.  He does a grand job at the beginning making the reader comfortable, explaining why he was writing the book and how he was going to use segments of Ginsberg’s writing in the book.  That intro and the tidiness of the writing makes this so easy to read, even if you’re new to Ginsberg this is guaranteed to pique your interest.

It isn’t just a book listing the countries, it is about how he immersed himself in the culture and about his ability to make long lasting friends wherever he went.  If he didn’t have that ability then his travelling just wouldn’t have happened, receiving so much kindness from these people gave him the opportunity to become the man that everybody knew and loved.

Whist the book does have a written list of all the countries he visited it is missing one thing…..a map!  I found this on the publisher’s (beatdom) website.  A fantastic map showing every country he visited.


I 100% recommend this book, anybody into the Beats will love it, anybody into travel writing will also find it interesting.  This author has an interesting sounding book about William S. Burroughs, gonna have to add that one to my reading list methinks.