Book Reviews

A Plague of Caterpillars by Nigel Barley

 

43196013What da cover says:  Nigel Barley returns to Cameroon on hearing that the elaborate and fearsome Dowayo circumcision ceremony, performed at six or seven year intervals, is about to take place. Yet, like much else in this hilarious book by the author of The Innocent Anthropologist, the circumcision ceremony proves frustratingly elusive, partly because of an extraordinary plague of black, hairy caterpillars.

In the meantime, witchcraft fills the Cameroonian air, a man is lied to by his own foot and an earnest German traveller shows explicit birth-control propaganda to the respectable tribespeople. Beneath the joy and shared laughter in this comic masterpiece lies skilful and wise reflection on the problems facing people of different cultures as they try to understand one another.

What I says:  I was expecting a serious book on Anthropology, instead I got a fantastically funny book about an Anthropologist and his mis-adventures whilst living with the Dowayo tribe.  He travels to Cameroon to witness the Dowayo circumcision ceremony, which is far more brutal than you could possibly imagine, I cringed big time whilst the procedure was explained.  One thing after another the book ends with a mini adventure to finally see if the ceremony is going to go ahead or not.

Each chapter is a short bit on people Nigel meets and apes that he takes to the cinema (the highlight of the book for me).  Nigel has great skill at narrating these little episodes and his internal dialogue as he deals with craziness from locals is guaranteed to give the reader a chuckle.  At 140 pages I thought this was going to be a weak book but it is just the right length, any longer and it would feel that things were being dragged out.

Yet again Eland Publishing have sourced another great writer to publish.

4_stars

You can get a copy of the book from HERE.

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Book Reviews

Mr. Tucker & Me by Gregor Xane

23938771What da cover says:  Mr. Tucker lives in the woods out back. He spends his nights in an abandoned recliner, watching a TV encased in a weatherproof enclosure. Hundreds of eyes flicker in the darkness around him—his followers—hypnotized by the flickering screen.

They watch and they learn.

What I says:  You know how it is, you want to go for a nice Sunday drive with the leader of an army of squirrels but you’re out of fuel for the old pickup and when you go to the local garage it has been taken over and there are weird creatures everywhere! No?  Well give this great short story a go and see what you are missing out on.

Things I loved about this book, the cover is cool, a pencil drawing of a squirrel, the mighty stead of the gnome.  Nothing is explained, there is no moral at the end, everything is left to the reader’s imagination.  I pictured Mr. Tucker in a Generals jacket, with sunglasses on and a teeny tiny cigar in his mouth.

Give this fun story a go, will only take you 10min and will give you a laugh.

4_stars

Book Reviews

The Hottest Gay Man Ever Killed in a Shark Attack by Douglas Hackle

 

31564623What da cover saysEver since he was a young orphan, Hansel Higginzshire’s dream has been to break the long-held Guinness World Record for hottest gay man ever killed in a shark attack.

Big Problem #1: Hansel is not hot. At least not in the classical sense. In fact, the deformed man has a head the size of a wrecking ball.

Big Problem #2: Hansel digs chicks, not dudes.

Still, that shouldn’t stop a big-headed mofo from dreaming big, no??

But if those obstacles weren’t enough to impede Hansel’s path to Guinness World Record greatness, he finds himself wanted for murder. Now on the lam, his situation pretty hopeless, Hansel agrees to die a horrible death in a snuff film for just few measly bucks.

But perhaps the misfit companions Hansel meets on his westward cross-country trek to Hollywood—Rosebud (the drunken, down-on-its-luck, former actor, and sentient sled from Citizen Kane); a living, talking amputated arm that once belonged to a famous rock drummer; and a geeky keytar player born with a small polar bear head instead of a human head—can convince Hansel to follow his dreams again and attempt to become . . . THE HOTTEST GAY MAN EVER KILLED IN A SHARK ATTACK!!!

(By the way, yo mama is a character in this book. Yeah. For real. Sorry.)

What I says:  I once heard a story about how Screamin’ Jay Hawkins wrote “I put a spell on you” he was locked in the studio with a case of Rum and some fried chicken, 12 hours later all was consumed and the song had been created. It got banned because it was too bizarre and featured cannibalism; with one hell of a strange live performance featuring coffins, snakes, fireworks and a smoking skull known as Henry it has to be one of the craziest songs ever.

My question is…”what the hell was Douglas Hackle eating and drinking whilst locked away watching Shark Week on TV?”

If you are new to Bizarro fiction then this is a great place to start, you have a sentient sled called Rosebud who had a bit part in some famous movie, a kid with a polar bear head, some drummer’s arm from a soft rock band and something about blockbuster cards.  At some point this book gets real sexy and a funky new genre of music gets created.

So my advice to you is read this book, read it to your kids, abduct people and read it to them, go to confession, read it and ask for forgiveness and do this before Betty White gets you!

betty-white-angry5_stars

 

Book Reviews

Mother Land by Dmetri Kakmi

 

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What da cover says Mother Land is an autobiographical novel, a minutely remembered description of childhood on an Aegean island, marked by the furious opposition between Greek and Turk, which is mirrored by the rows between the bewildered nine-year-old Dmetri’s parents. Before the family emigrates to Australia, leaving behind their beautiful, if impoverished, homeland, Kakmi reveals with chilling clarity how violence begets violence, in even the most unexpected of people. But it is only when he returns as an adult that he uncovers family secrets which allow the final piece of the jigsaw to fall into place.

What I says:  Incredible writing, I kept forgetting this was non-fiction as you can’t help but get caught up in the story, I had goosebumps on my arms for the last 15 pages.  It’s not often you get a plot twist like that in an autobiography.

The book covers a few years of Dmetri’s life as a kid, living on an Aegean island, he is growing up in a time where there is great strife between Greeks and Turks.  He sees a lot of violence, kids fighting kids, a father who is abusive to the mother and Turkish teachers who don’t think twice about hitting a Greek child.  As a nine year old he doesn’t really understand why there is so much hatred and anger around him and he gives an honest account about how he handles this pressure, some of the scenes must have been so hard to write.  Eventually the family has to leave the island as things are no longer safe for them, Dmetri’s last memories of the island are haunting.

The second part of the book is current day, Dmetri is middle aged and is returning to the island for the first time to try and find some answers for a number of questions he has about his childhood and he gets them in the most unexpected place.

This is such an under-read book, the writing is so good that it easily transports you to the island and that happens within a few pages and in such a way you don’t realise it has happened until you are there.  Possibly the best non-fiction book I’ve read this year.  Another fine book from Eland Publishing.

5_stars

Book Reviews

Fortune Box by Madeleine Swann

38465959What da cover saysNo one knows where or what Tower Ltd Surprise Packages is or why it’s sending gifts to complete strangers across The City. All they know is that each package is the best thing that’s ever happened to them…or the worst.

In one box is a packet of seeds that allows you to grow your perfect date. In another there’s a cupcake that causes anyone who eats it to grow eyeballs all over their skin. There’s also a parcel with a mousetrap that turns all your enemies tiny. Or you could receive your autobiography, which when signed, makes your every thought famous. Or maybe even a key to a secret door that leads to another dimension where all your unfinished and abandoned projects exist. But with each package received comes both fortune and misfortune that will surely result in unexpected consequences.

Like a season of episodes from The Twilight Zone or Friday the 13th The Series, comes a collection of dark and humorous stories from the premier British female author of bizarro fiction.

What I says:  As a kid I used to watch The Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits, I loved the weird little stories and having my mind blown by a crazy plot twist that nobody in their right mind would have been able to guess.  Reading the fortune box brought all those crazy mind bending experiences flooding back.  The premise is so cleverly simple, nine different people across a city get a surprise package which alters their life, for the good or bad is down to your point of view.  Not once was I able to guess what the outcome would be, come on! what person could have predicted how the parcel with a mousetrap was gonna play out, that one was my favourite by the way.

I think the only weakness was the length of the book, I wanted more parcels….just had a thought, I had a missed parcel card today, I wonder if Tower Ltd have sent me something.  Another fantastic thing about this book was an awesome reference to a kids game show from the past,  Knightmare was much watched by me too.

The cover is one of my favourites I seen this year, the sweet little girl makes it very eye-catching.

My first Madeleine Swann book and I thoroughly enjoyed it, looking forward to reading more.

4_stars

I was very lucky to receive a signed copy from the author, delivered by unicorn.

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Interviews

Fake Interview: Elder Henry Lord

RockyVsHenryLord

Hello everybody, I have another interview with a character from a book, this time the book is Lords of St. Thomas by Jackson Ellis which I recommend you give a read because it wonderful book.  Today I am interviewing the elder Henry Lord

 

Q1. Hello Henry, How are you today?  Let’s start off by talking about St Thomas.  Can you give us a run down on what the town and it’s folk were like.

It was a small community, and tightly knit. That’s a necessity in the desert. You have to lean on one another, whether for help in the home or out in the fields. I ran the town garage, but spent a lot of my days in the cotton fields and orchards along the Muddy River, as well as working on the railroad, which came into the western part of town. It made a big difference to us, finally having that railroad to deliver provisions and livestock. The character of the town changed drastically when the government came into buy us all out. A lot of good, hardworking people were forced off their land. They didn’t want to leave, but looking back now, what else could anyone do? 

Q2. How did you meet your wife and what was she like?  (One thing I felt was missing from the book)

I met Ann long ago in church, when I was a young man and still observant. She was sweet, and strong…and stubborn. Had she lived long enough, I’d like to think she would have been right by my side when I turned down the government’s offer for our property.

She enjoyed reading, too. It was because of her that I learned to love books. 

Q3.  Have you always stayed in St Thomas?  Ever been travelling?  If you haven’t been abroad where would the ideal holiday destination be?

Never travelled much beyond the Moapa Valley. No need. St. Thomas is my paradise, I never wanted to leave, and if I had to do my life over again, I’d do it the same way. 

Q4.  Seeing as you are a character in a book, if you could jump ship and join another book which would you choose and how would you alter the story?

Noel Lord (from Howard Frank Mosher’s Where the Rivers Flow North) and I would have made one heck of a team. Not sure I would have made much of a difference in his story, nor he in mine, but we would have raised a little more hell together. 

Q5. Here’s a question from Abbygayle, aged 7,  from Upper Twatton. “What did you do when you was a kid?  It must ‘ave been totes boring not to have Internet and books an all that.

School, church, helping around the house and in the fields, fishing and playing ball — plus trying to stay cool despite the desert heat — didn’t leave time for much else. We did have some books. What is the Internet?

OMG!  You don’t know what the Internet is?  It is sooooooo amazing.  You can do so many useful things like watching people pop pimples and Japanese girls eating ice. You can find out what the weather is doing outside if you can’t see the window.  This boy at school told me about this video where two girls do something with a cup but I’ve not seen it yet.  You really should check it out, it’s really cool.

That sounds awful! 

Q6. Could you explain your reasoning behind not selling the house?  Did you have a theory on why you thought the water wouldn’t reach your house?

Looking back, it was wishful thinking on my part. I had no theory, no idea whether the water actually would or would not reach my home.

But you know, if I sold the house, that was it. Whether or not the lake flooded my land, I’d be out either way. If I refused to sell, I at least had a chance to stay on my property. And remember, I did stay on my property for another full 10 years before my home was flooded. That water had to travel 70 miles before it reached me…and I still can’t believe it happened. 

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

Roughing It by Mark Twain, one of my grandson’s favourite books. It has some great stories that take place in the Territory of Nevada during its early existence. 

Q8.  How proud are you of young Henry and what he did with his life?

I couldn’t be prouder…wish I could have stuck around a while longer to see more of it. But I’d say that no matter when I passed.

Q9.  Describe the perfect meal.  Include food, setting and company.

Anything fixed by my wife. She would be there, as would my son, Thomas, my daughter-in-law, Ellen, and my grandson, Little Henry. It would be back home in St. Thomas, just as if nothing had ever happened. 

Q10.  Normally I have a question about President Trump at the end, instead this time it will be about President Coolidge.  If Coolidge was to turn up at your garage with car troubles what would you do?

I’d service his car as I would for anyone else. I’d do my job well, and I’d offer him the same price I’d offer anyone. I’m a businessman, and like anyone worth his salt, I pride myself on quality and fairness.

I wouldn’t shake his hand though.

I would like to thank Jackson Ellis for playing the part of his character, it has been great fun.  I do recommend you give Lord’s of St. Thomas a go, you can find info on Goodreads and Amazon.  Also check out Jackson’s Website and follow him on Twitter.

Book Reviews

Wild Hares and Hummingbirds: The Natural History of an English Village by Stephen Moss

13536536What da cover saysJoin celebrated naturalist Stephen Moss, host award-winning BBC series Springwatch and author of The Robin, for a year in the idyllic village of Mark on the Somerset Levels – a watery wonderland rich in nature and wildlife, from birds to butterflies to badgers

As the year unfolds, Moss transports the reader to the entrancing landscape of flora and fauna that accompanies the dawn of each month. Deeply informative and profoundly inspiring, Wild Hares and Hummingbirds is a celebration of the Great British countryside, animals and the natural world.

What I says:  This is the second book in a row I’ve read which has the author spending a year exploring and learning about where they live.  The first book was Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel where each character was a month and the book was based in his meadow.  Wild Hares and Hummingbirds is done on a bigger scale, this time a whole village and it’s surrounding area.  The nicest thing about Moss’s book is he is still learning about nature, discovering new things all the time and getting help when needed.  When he does get help he includes the reader on that learning experience, one of the best parts of the book was training on foraging for mushrooms, this is something I’ve always wanted to do, instead of using the eat and see what happens technique.

The village he lives in, Mark (bizarre name for a village) comes across as being very idyllic and supplies Moss with a number of places to explore, bridges, churchyards, meadows and woods.  The range of animals his sees is incredible, makes what you see in Basingstoke very dull, and his knowledge of birds is fantastic, I’m so jealous that he is able to name a bird so quickly.

The one thing I’m going to try and remember from this book is Teasels, we get them in Basingstoke and I’ve always wondered what they are, whether they were related to thistles or not, now I know all about them and can tell my kids next time we spot one.

Great book, full of knowledge and fun to read.

4_stars