Book Reviews

Rusticles by Rebecca Gransden


What da cover says:  In Hilligoss, a tired man searches for a son, a flamingo enthrals the night, and fireworks light up the lost. In these stories and more, Rusticles offers a meandering tour through backroads bathed in half light, where shadows play along the verges and whispers of the past assault daydreams of the present. Walk the worn pathways of Hilligoss.

What I says:  There is something truly magical about Rebecca’s writing, within a few sentences she is able to transport you into the story, every little thing becomes of interest, from a pink flamingo to a bus journey she brings out the wonder in everything.

Whilst reading this book a thought kept popping into my head, “This is Fringe Fiction”. It feels like that in Hilligoss there is a big story happening and there are some big players involved, this book though doesn’t cover that story, this is about others that live in Hilligoss and the strange things that are happening in their lives.

A couple of stories are so good they could easily blow your mind.  “Breakneck Hill” was genius, when I figured out where the story was going I was amazed. “Dilapidated Flamingo” was so strange, one of the oddest short stories I’ve ever read and because of that it is also one of my favourite stories.

The stories are short and the writing grabs you right away, you feel as if you already know the characters. Having read Rebecca’s previous book I was ready for the relentless questions I would have, that wouldn’t get answered, instead you are left to come to your own conclusions. Being prepared for this I enjoyed the book much more.

You could almost imagine this as a bizarre little TV show, each story being an episode, now I’ve finished I’m left wanting a second season.

Sooooo anybody wanna meet me at The Bowl to put on a show?


Book Reviews

Hampshire: Through Writers Eyes by Alastair Langlands


What da cover says:  Those who know the downs and chalk streams of Hampshire are quietly fortunate but rarely boastful. So it is fascinating to rediscover this home county, on the eastern edge of Wessex, as a place of extraordinary richness. Those rounded chalk hills have protected not only the ancient capital of Anglo-Saxon England but also the two-thousand-year-old arsenal-harbour of the Royal Navy. It was in Hampshire that the novel reached its fullest expression through the native genius of Jane Austen, where fly-fishing and cricket were first organized and whence D-day was launched. But not the least of its claims is that it is also the heartland of nature writing, where Gilbert White first opened up a whole universe of observation to the world, by confining himself to the infinite details of his Hampshire parish of Selborne. It is a tradition which was furthered in the county by W H Hudson, observing nature in the wooded heathlands of the New Forest and reached its apogee with the night walks of the poet Edward Thomas before his early death in the trenches. If Hampshire is revealed to be a crystalisation of all quiet virtues of England, we also get to delight in the affectionate mocking attention of Beryl Bainbridge, P G Wodehouse and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

What I says:

This was an interesting book, I think you have to live in Hampshire or know the area to really appreciate this book. Alistair Langlands has done an amazing job looking through literature of the last 400 years finding any references to locations in Hampshire. The book starts of with Hampshire which included some of the oldest writing on the county, I found it very tough going, the style was a brief line about the following text and then the text itself, and it just repeated itself throughout the chapter. As the book moved on and there are chapters on Southampton, Portsmouth, North Hampshire and chalk streams I started to warm to the writing, as more and more places I knew got mentioned the more enjoyment I got from the book. A couple of issues I had though, some large chunks of novels were used which briefly mentions a place, I found I ended up skipping a couple as they bought nothing of use to the book, far more enjoyable to read was the travel and nature writers and the letters that had been written by well know authors, most interesting was Jane Austen’s letters, pretty much talking about dancing with boys. Second issue was the Isle of Wight seems to have been left out, the island is a big part of the county and deserved more than it’s brief mention, I would have thought there would have been something written about it.

Highlights in the book for me were John Arlott, a cricket commentator, was from Basingstoke and has an interesting book on his life in Basingstoke. One of the first proper car journeys around the country in 1899, another book to look for, had me laughing when they were impressed it took 1hr 25min to do 17 miles. The cover, staring Moses Mills, possibly the happiest chap to ever live in Hampshire. And finally a huge section on my home town, Basingstoke, lived here all my life and the following excerpt catches the town perfectly…

“Basingstoke is one of the most derided towns in England. Its reputation is as an over-developed eyesore of numbing dullness. Its very name lends itself to mockery. Basingrad, Basingjoke, Bazingsmoke, Boringstoke and even more ironic Amazingstoke are variants thought up and used by its own residents, not always with affection.

Though it is best known for its bewildering succession of pointless roundabouts, the curse of the town is its ridiculous, often hostile ‘Modernist’ architecture, much of it illustrated and described on Joe Tozer’s witty website (It’s Basingstoke not Boringstoke). The most notorious feature is the so-called ‘Great Wall of Basingstoke, a huge retaining wall, built in the 1960s, for ‘the great mass of concrete poured over the razed remains of the old market town’. Also of note are the ‘Hanging Gardens of Basingstoke’, a misfired attempt at horticulture on the top of a 1970s steel-and-glass block, and the ‘Costa del Basingstoke, a gaily-coloured apartment complex in the style of a ‘Costa’ resort (‘however as Basingstoke has no beach it has to make do with a view over the town’s enormous car park’). The town’s most risible attraction is surely the prominent sculpture that locals have dubbed the ‘Wote Street Willy. Said to be an image of a mother and chid, it is actually ‘the largest phallus on public display in Britain’. One thinks also of the ‘Toy Town’ tower that looms over Festival Place, and wonders if it, too, is a phallic reference. A town that treats itself as a joke can hardly expect to be taken seriously by outsiders.”

Rupert Willoughby
Basingstoke and its contribution to World Culture (2011)

Here is a photo of the “Wote Street Willy” so you can decide for yourself what it really looks like.


All in all this is a grand collection of literature that has been well researched, a must read for those in Hampshire.



Many thanks to Eland Books for the copy of this book which you can purchase HERE>

Book Reviews

No Apologies by J.A. Carter-Winward


What da cover says:  Winner of the Best Poetry Collection Arty Award of 2014 by the Salt Lake City Weekly and IndieReader Approved. “No Apologies” is the inappropriate joke at dinner; the drunk uncle in the room shouting obscenities; the ugly truth no one talks about in polite company. Part poetry, part fiction, part memoir, all honesty, “No Apologies” is a compelling slice of human experience in all of its crass, hopeful, sincere and tender glory. And it says it…with no apologies.

What I says:

This collection of poems is stunning, beautiful, funny, sexy, shocking, moving, heart-breaking and I really wish right now I had one of those thesauruses so I could come up with some better words to describe this but I don’t, so tough! The style of poem is the kind I love, no rhyming and always to the point, there is none of that flowery stuff here. A lot of the poems are observational, comments about people and what they are doing. In one of my favourites JAC-W reveals the sordid secrets of nearby people, brilliant imagination unless she is a mind reader…. The title is very apt, “no apologies” she is telling the truth and if you can’t handle it, then hop on yer bike.

I’ve ended up having to read a couple to my daughter after nearly spitting my drink out whilst laughing at one bit. I’ve never been this moved by a poem before either, I recently lost both Nan’s and at the end they weren’t themselves. In this one poem JAC-W had the same thoughts I had, take the kids to see their Nan’s like this or let them remember them as they were, really hard to do.

There is a lot of sex in this book, so be warned cos you’ll enjoy them.

Wonderful collection and easily one of the best poets ever!

You can get a  copy from HERE>


Book Reviews

The Seventh Day by Andy Malone


What da cover says:  The Seventh Day is an atmospheric and tense science fiction thriller by Andy Malone. From a small eighteenth century Scottish village, comes the story of an ordinary man who makes a discovery so shocking that it will change the very foundation of life on Earth. Dougie Allan, a local silver miner, accidentally unearths a terrifying secret and is catapulted 300 years through time. Arriving in the modern world, amidst a backdrop of catastrophic natural disasters, Dougie must forge new alliances if he is to battle his unfolding nightmare. Befriending a local man, Tom Duncan, and a feisty reporter, Kate Harding, they soon find themselves entangled with the authorities in a deadly race against time. However, they are not the only group interested in the mysterious goings on. As a conspiracy unfolds, the trio now find themselves pursued by a ruthless assassin. One who seems determined to stop at nothing to protect a secret so shocking that it lies at the very heart of world power itself. As humanity teeters on the brink of disaster and with time running out, Dougie must convince the authorities that a force of unimaginable power is preparing for Armageddon.

What I says:   A cracking Sci-fi thriller, it has time-travel, global disaster, immortal beings and kilts. Everything you need for an adventure.

The writing is good, the characters well developed, and the plot has been well researched, in fact I couldn’t find any plot holes or any scenes that didn’t make sense. One of the sub plots features a secret code in an ancient language, when the answer was finally revealed I had to go and check on google cos I thought there was no way things could have worked out like that, but yes it was all correct. Whilst googling it I came across a photo of the author holding up his book at the location, what more proof do you need?

This type of story has to be done in a way where the reader mustn’t be able to guess what is going on and Andy Malone does a great job keeping all the important facts to himself, he keeps you guessing right to the end. Time travel is always tricky and it was handled well here, scenes jumping between timelines did not get confusing.

There are a couple of issues I had which stops it getting 5 stars, there were a few times where things get repeated, on one of the occasions this happened just as the action was about to pick up and things get slowed right down for a recap. I can’t complain about the second item as it would be a major spoiler alert.

A fantastic debut novel and I’m looking forward to the sequel.


If you’re after a well constructed time travelling sci-fi adventure then you won’t go wrong with this book, which you can purchase HERE>


Book Reviews

The Artist / Just an Average Guy Born into Poetry by Andy Carrington


What da cover says:  The Artist is concerned with a specific relationship and the dichotomy that exists between two people; as well as their practice of poetry/painting. Caught inside a circle of short-term love, sex and creative expression, things eventually fall apart via a key event in the writer’s life, prompting an exploration of isolation/togetherness and how we come to view personal works of “art”. —————————— In Just an Average Guy Born into Poetry, working-class lad Andy Carrington confesses he “never really liked Shakespeare” and grew up writing his unambiguous and non-experimental brand of poetry sat mostly in the corner of his local boozer. Resisting the use of elaborate descriptions and rhyme schemes that are typical of most traditional poetry, Carrington’s poems talk about his day-to-day life experiences and early attempts to develop his writing voice as a means of expression.

What I says:  I think this collection is some of Andy’s early work and it does feel a bit rougher around the edges than more recent releases, he also hasn’t got his anti-fascism theme yet. As with his other work though it is a very honest collection, he deals with love, lost love, lost friends, Crohn’s disease and why he is a poet.

He mentions that he isn’t like Bukowski, he isn’t such a scumbag, but in “Overtime” you can see that same dedication to his art…

Fourteen hour shifts
a day
– it’s great being
a barman – OH YEAH!
I know
this is not what I’m supposed
to be
but I can’t get an eight
hour job
nor do I want one.
I’ve been doing this
since I was nineteen
and drinking
has become a thing
to see me through.
I get a little scared
what I might end up
as, sure
but then I drink
and dedicate what’s left
of my time
to fill up my notebook
with these words
and I start to believe
that there’s something
out there,
something more.

My favourite in this book has to be the one about his Dad and his crazy collection of food, “My Dad’s Got Food and Other Stuff if You’re Interested”, being bonkers like all good Dads.

Finally another great moment was his homage to the greatest action movie of all time “Commando” I loved that movie as a kid, my parents would never buy the VHS tape for me as it was too violent, but they were happy to rent it for me every couple of months from the local video rental store, I used to love going there to see how close I could get to the xxx section before I got spotted.

Thanks to Andy for writing this collection and for the trips down memory lane, off to find a copy of commando now.




Book Reviews

Trappist Beer Travels: Inside the Breweries of the Monasteries By Caroline Wallace, Sarah Wood and Jessica Deahl


What da cover says:  This combination beer journal, history book, and travelogue grants readers rare access inside monastery walls for an in-depth look at the legendary breweries of Trappist monks. Join three American beer writers as they travel the globe, and come to appreciate each abbey with a reverence informed by the brewery directors and monks themselves. Read about the origins of the Trappist religious order and the monks long enduring relationship with the art of brewing. Then, journey to the 11 abbey breweries themselves, including the expansive production facilities at Chimay, the coveted gates of Westvleteren, the ancient sun-baked walls of Tre Fontane, even America s first Trappist brewery in Spencer, Massachusetts. Learn about their histories and beers along the way, gain helpful travel tips, and enjoy both new and historical photography and original artwork capturing the spirit of each destination.”

What I says:  This a very informative book, it is well structured, each of the 11 abbeys gets their own chapter.  It starts off with an illustration of the abbey, followed by it’s history, then info on the brewing process, then a review of each beer and finally finishing of the chapter is info on planning your trip. Each chapter has at least 20 photos to accompany it, including the all important photo of a freshly poured beer.

What’s missing from the book is a bit of character, nothing on their travels, nothing on any incidents crossing borders with a car full of beer, instead it just feels like a information leaflet you could pick up from the abbey.  At one point it is mentioned they are very tired and carrying an injury, unless I missed it the injury was never mentioned in the book.  One useful thing would be some info at the beginning on the types of beer, how you go about tasting it and picking up on all the flavours, most readers might be aware of all that but I’ve only ever just drunk beer… after complaining about too much info I now demand more info.  hehe.

Some of the areas the abbeys are located sound amazing, lovely remote places, loads of hiking trails and cycle routes, it is very tempting to go and do a visit, having that extra bit of info at the end about planning your trip is very helpful, some recommended places to stay was great.

I have enjoyed this book and couldn’t resist going beer hunting, I managed to find some Trappist beer and I recommend you read this book whilst drinking the following beer.



Book Reviews

The Dun Cow Rib by John Lister-Kaye

dun cowWhat da cover says:  John Lister-Kaye has spent a lifetime exploring, protecting and celebrating the British landscape and its creatures. His memoir The Dun Cow Rib is the story of a boy’s awakening to the wonders of the natural world. Lister-Kaye’s joyous childhood holidays – spent scrambling through hedges and ditches after birds and small beasts, keeping pigeons in the loft and tracking foxes around the edge of the garden – were the perfect apprenticeship for his two lifelong passions: exploring the wonders of nature, and writing about them. Threaded through his adventures – from moving to the Scottish Highlands to work with Gavin Maxwell, to founding the famous Aigas Field Centre – is an elegy to his remarkable mother, and a wise and affectionate celebration of Britain’s natural landscape.

What I says:  This is easily the best non-fiction book I’ve read in 2017, I can’t believe it could be surpassed. When a truly talented writer decides to write their childhood memoirs this is the book you end up with. I’m not a fan of memoirs but I a massive fan of nature and books that have been written about it, when I saw one of the big names had written about his childhood and how he became obsessed with nature I just had to read it. I was not expecting it to hit me as hard as it did emotionally, I became so engrossed I think for a while I lost track of reality, each hardship got me down, each uplifting moment had me grinning like an idiot and each death left me feeling hollow. I was on the edge of my seat reading about his antics as a kid at boarding school, the scene with peacock feathers was pure class.

The book takes us through the first 20 years of John’s life, I found it interesting to read about the events that shaped his from finding a dead dog, running wild exploring the woods, having near misses with foxes and his experiences at school. And then once he finishes school his career takes a change, an amazing chance meeting with Terry Nutkins leads him to then meeting with Gavin Maxwell (The Ring of Bright Water chap) and the rest as they say is history. Terry Nutkins was my hero when I was a kid, I find it amazing that John had him as a roommate. Brilliant.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I highly recommend this, even if you haven’t read any of his work before.

Thanks to the Aigas Field Centre for the copy of the book which you can buy HERE>