Book Reviews

No Loneliness by Temple Cone

What da cover says: Winner of the 2009 FutureCycle Press Poetry Prize. A hauntingly lyrical first collection… The book is permeated by the concepts of mercy and grace, but if this means that there is an underlying theme of hope… there is plenty of shadow to counterbalance the sunshine. –J.S. Watts, Neon

What I Says: You can see why this won the FutureCycle Press Poetry Prize, it is a wonderful meshing of nature, reality and the spiritual. The book starts of with a man finding his way in life, dealing with those hard moments in life, for example hitting a deer with the car and having to deal with the ending of a life. There are some beautiful lines and Temple Cone share some wonderful memories. I loved “Wharf” remembering time spent with his father was a joy to read.

The second half of the book changes drastically as Temple is becoming a father, from poems about the baby still in the womb and seeing her on the ultrasound to the epic poem as she finally arrives in the world. Any father out there will understand holding your new-born in your arms and knowing they will never be this safe again. The last poem is quite clever, it feels like a conclusion, something you don’t usually get in a poetry book, and it is at that moment you realise you have been on a journey with the poet.

One issue I have with the collection was the religion, in the middle of the book this subject was ramped up a bit and it had a detrimental effect on the words, a poem would be flowing along nice and gentle and then Jesus gets mentioned and it just comes across as too harsh and throws the reader out of the momentum of the poem. That is the only fault I could find in this wonderful collection and is probably more down to me not being a believer.

Book Reviews

The Underground Movie Poems by Peter Magliocco

What Da Cover Says: Horror Sleaze Trash proudly presents the poems of Peter Magliocco.

What I Says: Magliocco is a poet I hadn’t come across before, I decided to give this one a go because some of my favourite poets have been found via Horror Sleaze Trash. The underground movie poems doesn’t disappoint, right from the contents page you just know you’re in for a fun ride, with titles like “Dracula’s Impostor Spoils Her Bath”, “Please Don’t Strangle the Sex of Sentient Beings” and one of the best titles ever…”When Lolita Lusted for Scooby-Doo”.

Magliocco has a great sense of humour and these pages are filled with little snippets of fun. The poems tend to start with a serious theme, religion, art or culture, things soon show their true light and it inevitably takes a violent turn. The last 4 lines of the first poem are brilliant, it’s the sort of thing you’d love to share with your most religious friends and sit there smirking like the Devil as the disgust shows on their face.

My favourite in this collection is “Heartbreak Tattoo” I love how the words have almost been scattered across the page, it makes the reader more involved as they find their way to the end.

A nice little collection of poems and a very good introduction to Magliocco’s work.

You can read the whole book for free HERE:

Book Reviews

The Earth Wire by Joel Lane

What Da Cover Says: Joel Lane (1963–2013) was one of the UK’s foremost writers of dark, unsettling fiction, a frank explorer of sexuality and the transgressive aspects of human nature. With a tight focus on the post-industrial Black Country and his home city of Birmingham, he created a distinct form of British urban weird fiction.

His debut collection, The Earth Wire was first published in 1994 by Egerton Press and is reissued in paperback by Influx Press for the first time in over twenty-five years.

Love and death. Sex and despair. The Earth Wire is a thrilling, disturbing examination of the means and the cost of survival.

What I Says: I feel a bit bad about reviewing this book, my word knowledge just isn’t good enough to explain what this book does to the reader….but here goes my best attempt.

Lane’s debut collection would have shown anybody who picked up this book just what a good writer he was, such a unique style that will turn your world upside down, make your insides hurt and leave you desperate for more understanding of what you just read. One thought kept popping up in my head during this reading, I kept thinking this is like a pop-up book…without the pop-ups. The background comes across as very flat and grey, at times you almost forget it is there, a large amount of this is because of the characters burning so bright, but then Lane gives you one short line describing something as simple as water droplets hanging in the air around a streetlight and BANG! your eyes are suddenly opened and you see everything that is going on. It is quite disorienting, especially as Lane has filled you with despair up to that point. I doubt that makes much sense.

The standout story here was The Foggy, Foggy Dew, such a creepy story, like the other stories in the collection you will have no idea what is going on, Lane lets the reader’s imagination finish the stories. The foggy, foggy dew was next level stuff, it had me grimacing and saying out loud What The F*** is going on! One clever thing that Lane does is with character names, the stories are different but names are reused and you’re left wondering if they are the same person, a smart way of linking stories without actually linking them. Some odd violent events happen in the stories, the characters just accept them like that is the norm, and after a while the reader will start to think like that, Lane really does get in your head.

I have read another book by Joel Lane called Scar City, and whilst that one was strange this was far darker, a rather scary mind has created this book. So glad I got the chance to read both books and thanks to Influx Press for the copies of these books, you can purchase a copy from HERE, this way you can avoid Amazon. 🙂

Interviews

Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Anna Chilvers

Hello to everybody. My last interview was pretty successful, lots and lots of views, so I’ve managed to nab another interview from a Bluemoose Books champion.  Anna Chilvers is the author of East Coast Road, my best fiction winner of 2020 (the awards don’t get much bigger than that…in your face Nobel Prize!), I am super excited to be asking odd questions to Anna.  Please stop dunking biscuits in your tea and welcome Anna to this here interview. 

Q1: How have you been handling the pandemic?  Done anything embarrassing? 

I’ve been teaching online a lot. The other day I got to the end of a class and realised my top was on inside out. I guess I could have done that in real life, but someone might have pointed it out to me. I have, on occasions, only got dressed on the top half, and taught in my pyjamas. Other than that, I’ve been baking bread, making smoothies, doing yoga and walking a lot. I lost my dog last summer, so I’m suffering from dog envy. I’ve managed to resist kidnapping a puppy so far. 

Here is Betty

Q2:  Tell us a bit about East Coast Road, what is it about and how did you come up with the idea? 

Jen, the main character of East Coast Road, forms a relationship with St. Etheldreda, an Anglo Saxon princess, and travels with her down the east coast of England. This relationship was formed in a different (unpublished) novel which I started nearly twenty years ago. That novel was abandoned, but the connection between Jen and Ethie stayed alive, and I revived it for this novel.  

Etheldreda ran away from her husband, who was the King of Northumbria. On her journey various miracles happened, which helped her along the way. I wanted Jen and some of the other characters to go on this journey with Ethie. I knew some of the route, but not all of it, so I applied to the Arts Council and was lucky enough to get funding to walk five hundred miles from St.Abbs in Scotland to Ely in Cambridgeshire. 

Q3:  This here blog is the Gnome Appreciation Society and whilst reading East Coast Road I noticed no Gnomes, there must have been plenty of Gnomes walking the same route, and yet they don’t get a mention….any chance of a complete re-write? 

There would have been some Gnomads, I’m sure. But they are very shy creatures, and when you spot them they freeze and pretend to be garden ornaments. So Jen and Ethie might not have realised the Gnomads were walking the route with them. 

Ahhh the pun gnomes are the hardest to spot.

Q4:  Seeing as we are now in another lockdown and many people are having to do home schooling, is there any speciality lessons you could offer?  (You don’t have to actually carry out the lesson…JK You actually do) 

What to do with too many bananas when you don’t want to make banana bread. The answer is to freeze them and use them to make smoothies and ice-cream. Though that lesson might be over quite quickly as there’s not much to it, so maybe I could offer a course in Gnome photoshop skills, or walking long distance trails virtually during lockdown.

The virtual walking tours is a good idea. 

Q5:  I see from your blog that you enjoying reading, what is your favourite book and do you remember the first book you fell in love with? 

I read so much as a child, and devoured all the books I could get my hands on. One of the first I loved was The Secret Island by Enid Blyton – I really wanted to run away to an island and live in a cave after I read that, even though I had nothing to run away from. It’s hard to say what my favourite book is, there are so many. Maybe Middlemarch. I come from the same town as George Eliot and feel a strong connection to her. Another contender is The Count of Monte Cristo, as it’s both a fantastic adventure, and really long, so that cold-water moment when you get to the end of a really good book is delayed as long as possible. 

Q6:  What set up do you have for writing?  Nice view?  Also when drinking tea which is the best biscuit to dunk? 

I either write at home at the kitchen table, or in my office. The view is OK, but I’m in the valley and the view is best higher up. To make the most of it I get out for regular walks (sans dog at the moment 🙁 ). Most definitely gingernuts. 

Q7:  When writing are there any words you love to use?  What is your favourite rude word? 

I used the word ‘plash’ in East Coast Road, which various editors tried to change to splash. I like it as it’s softer without the sibilance of the s. It’s the sound of water lapping quietly and it’s onomatopoeic.  My favourite rude words are anglo saxon and have strong vowels. They are very satisfying to say. 

Q8:  If you could go into a book or movie as one of the characters which book would you choose and how would you influence the story? 

I think I’d have to be Spiderman (or woman) as it would be so much fun climbing buildings and swinging through the air. The story would change because I’d be far too busy enjoying myself to stop any bad stuff happening in the neighbourhood, so the baddies would get away with it.   

Q9:  What is your favourite meal?  And if you could pick one person to share that meal with who would you pick? 

Cheese and olives and bread and tomatoes and wine and more cheese. My companion should be someone who doesn’t like olives so that I can eat them all.  I’d really like to invite loads of friends who I haven’t been able to see during lockdown and have a good catch up, followed by music and dancing. But you say only one. Hmm. I think it would be my friend Sarah, because while we were drinking the wine and eating the cheese, we’d come up with some mad plans, and the next day we’d actually carry them out.   

Q10:  I love the fact that you walked the route as part of the research for your book, such an epic walk and fantastic photos.  I was wondering if there is a map of the route you took? 

Yes, I made a map on my phone. Here it is: 

There is also a map in the front of the book. 

Q11:  What plans you got for the future, you made a start on the next book? 

I’m nearly at the end of the first draft of my next novel, which I’m writing as part of a PhD. It’s about walking and woodlands, which means that I’ve had to do lots of research involving walking in forests (luckily before the pandemic). The main character is (possibly) a cyborg. 

Practical task:  I am doing a gnome gallery on my blog, can you create a piece of artwork based on Gnomes, can be any medium and you are welcome to name the piece.   

A Woodland Gnomad  (I never said they were good photoshop skills) 

Thank you very much for taking part and giving some fantastic answers, Looking forward to seeing on the next reboot of Spiderman. For the stalkers out there you can find Anna on Twitter, her WEBSITE (Be sure to check out the blogs on the walk) and FACEBOOK….don’t worry folks you’ll not find Trump at any of these places. And if you want to read her fantastic book you can get a copy from HERE:

Book Reviews

Wanderland by Jini Reddy

What Da Cover Says: Alone on a remote mountaintop one dark night, a woman hears a mysterious voice.

Propelled by the memory and after years of dreaming about it, Jini Reddy dares to delve into the ‘wanderlands’ of Britain, heading off in search of the magical in the landscape.

A London journalist with multicultural roots and a perennial outsider, she determinedly sets off on this unorthodox path. Serendipity and her inner compass guide her around the country in pursuit of the Other and a connection to Britain’s captivating natural world. Where might this lead? And if you know what it is to be Othered yourself, how might this colour your experiences? And what if, in invoking the spirit of the land, ‘it’ decides to make its presence felt?

Whether following a ‘cult’ map to a hidden well that refuses to reveal itself, attempting to persuade a labyrinth to spill its secrets, embarking on a coast-to-coast pilgrimage or searching for a mystical land temple, Jini depicts a whimsical, natural Britain. Along the way, she tracks down ephemeral wild art, encounters women who worship The Goddess, falls deeper in love with her birth land and struggles – but mostly fails – to get to grips with its lore. Throughout, she rejoices in the wildness we cannot see and celebrates the natural beauty we can, while offering glimpses of her Canadian childhood and her Indian parents’ struggles in apartheid-era South Africa.

What I Says: I have to admit that when I first saw this book I was a bit wary, hmmmmm magic? Is this book going be full of stuff that is going to be whooshing over my head? During the lockdown in 2020 I watched Jini Reddy do a talk about her book and I was sold, once I realised this was more about connecting with nature I had a better understanding what she was trying to achieve in this book. I’m so glad I gave it a chance because there really is only one way to describe the experience of reading this book…..Magical!

Reddy had a special experience camping on a mountain, certain that she had heard a voice and that it was the land talking to her, she goes on a journey of self discovery to see if she can make the connection again. Reddy does seem to be very similar to me, she is very critical of those who have a special connection to nature, if I was with somebody and they started singing I’d leg it, it would just be too awkward for me. She doesn’t give up though, she will give anything a go and now and then she gets a positive experience, but it is not until she starts to come to terms with her own anxieties that nature starts to let her in. The way it lets her in is wonderful, a sort of synchronicity where she gives up on one thing and a new way in suddenly opens before her, an email or meeting a person from her past on a remote island.

I have my own special area that I keep getting drawn back to, where I work is very busy, my days seem to be non-stop with people constantly asking for help, very close by is a wood and in that wood are two old oak trees, they seem to have been in the wars over the years and as you approach them the path dips a bit and it suddenly becomes quiet, the noise of the day suddenly dissipates and I can breathe again. I usually spend 10 minutes there whilst my dog stares impatiently at me, in those 10 minutes something usually happens, Pheasants, Rabbits, Squirrels, birds and butterflies have all appeared at that point and on one occasion after a rainstorm one of the Oaks was foaming. I’ve taken others up there and they’ve wandered past the trees barely noticing them, I think that makes it all the more better for me, kind of special that only I feel it.

I really liked Reddy’s honesty in her writing, she has quite the temper on her and if she gets annoyed or frustrated she shares it with the reader. I do wonder if anybody she met in the book has given it a read, she can be quite harsh at times, hopefully they continue reading because as her journey of self discovery continues she realises a lot of the time it is her anxieties that have amplified the failures to connect in the past. The last chapter was a wonderful conclusion and leaves you wanting the book to continue.

This has been a very good read, witty, informative and heart-warming, I’m so glad Reddy has shared this with the world.

Interviews

Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Colette Snowden

Hello to the survivors of 2020, I am 100% certain that 2021 is gonna be completely different to 2020, much calmer and more huggier….what!?! another lockdown already? Well it didn’t take long for the fan to get by the brown stuff did it? Also, I’m still being ignored by the Nobel Prize committee, even though I call each interview prize winning…oh well I’ll wear them down eventually. To help keep my sanity in the crazy zone I’m going to put more effort into doing these interviews. First up is Colette Snowden, her second book (the amazingly titled Captain Jesus) is released at the end on January, you can pre-order it HERE: Everybody flap enthusiastically at Colette!

Q1: How have you been handling the pandemic?

I bought a 16kg bag of flour from an enterprising local when panic buying emptied the shelves at the start of the first lockdown, then baked a lot and drank a lot of wine (sometimes at the same time). There was some walking up hills and celebrating being able to go places when lockdown eased, followed by a Zoom social life and more wine in tier 4. The virus got me in December, just in time to save me from the Christmas food shop, and I’m starting the year with a recently acquired dog and a horror of home schooling – all the clichés except banana bread really.

Q2: I’m absolutely gutted for you having your book launch in the middle of the current lockdown. Have you got any unique plans of getting the book out there? Any online events planned?

There is a virtual launch on Wednesday 27th January at 7.30pm, which anyone can attend by emailing bluemoosedeli@gmail.com for an invite. I’m really sad that I won’t get to be physically in a room with people for the launch because meeting people and chatting was something I really enjoyed when my first book, The Secret to Not Drowning, was published. Readers’ experience of a book is so personal to them and the ability to talk and hear individuals’ stories of how the narrative has touched a chord with them is a really special thing. However, there are lots of upsides to doing launch events online – no-one has to travel so anyone can join in, bad weather and childcare won’t keep people away, there’s a brew or a bar down the hall, and if you can’t decide what to wear you can just rock up in your PJs.

Q3: Tell us a bit about Captain Jesus, what is it about and how did you come up with the idea?

Captain Jesus is a story across two narratives, told by Jim, a 10-year-old boy, in the present, and Marie, Jim’s mother, when she was a 16-year-old girl in the 1990s. In the present day narrative, we meet Jim’s family just before a tragedy happens and the story takes us through how it impacts them. In Marie’s narrative, we learn about the events that shaped her adult life and her mother’s, which explain Marie’s responses to the tragedy and the role of guilt and bitterness.

I set out to write a novel about faith and the different forms it takes. My theory is that, as children, we put all our faith in our parents and, when we can no longer do that because they are only human, just like us, we need to put our faith in something else. For some people that’s religion, or it might be superstition, astrology, nature, or a God substitute, like a lucky charm. It might even be a combination of things. That idea led me to a Catholic family and a magpie, but the actual starting point was my neighbour’s washing line. They had black pegs on the empty line, which looked like birds (I am short-sighted; it’s an advantage for exercising the imagination). So I began with the visual image of a magpie pegged on the washing line in a pseudo-resurrection and went from there.

I write quite organically [does that sound better than with a serious lack of planning?] so I didn’t know where the story would go. It was only when I read it back that I realised that it’s as much about loss and healing as it is about faith.

Q4: This here blog is the Gnome Appreciation Society and whilst reading Captain Jesus I noticed no Gnomes, there is a garden in your story and yet no Gnome. What gives?

You didn’t see the gnomes? Is that a failure or my imagination or yours?

Ha! I also suffer from bad eye-sight, unfortunately so bad it ruins my imagination.

Q5: Are you much of a reader? What is your favourite book?

I think all writers are also readers, which can be a catalyst for sitting down and writing and a source or creeping imposter syndrome. It’s those books that you read and wish with every chapter that you’d written it that become the benchmark for everything you read and everything you write.

Favourite book is a hard one to call because there are so many to choose from and so many I haven’t read yet. I’m going to say Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjón; there is so much packed into so few pages and a really beautiful ending.

Not heard of Moonstone, sounds interesting, another book added to the epic reading list.

Q6: What set up do you have for writing? Nice view? Any music playing in the background?

I prefer quiet and an empty room if I can. Between working and lone parenting time is precious, so a lot of Captain Jesus was written in the early morning when it was dark outside with just me, my laptop and a pot of coffee. It was good to focus on making the most of the time before I was pulled away by school runs and work and a great way to tap into my half-awake creative brain.

Q7: I have seen on twitter that you have been posting some images to show scenes from Captain Jesus which I think is a great idea, how about a soundtrack for the book? Care to name a few songs that would go well with the reading experience?

I like the idea of a soundtrack but I think my need for quiet when I’m writing means that I don’t associate the story with songs. There are a couple of references in the book that might be the start of a play list – Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping and some Spice Girls; I’d probably go for Viva Forever. If I were travelling back in time to 1997, my playlist would be full of Oasis and the Charlatans so I’d throw them in, and perhaps some classics that link to sunny days in the garden but have dark undertones – Mr Blue Sky, Seasons in the Sun, Perfect Day.

Mr Blue Sky, that one goes so well with the book.

Q8: If you could go into a book or movie as one of the characters which book would you choose and how would you influence the story?

On a purely soppy, emotional level I would be Cathy in Wuthering Heights. At the point where Heathcliff overhears her saying she could never marry him, I’d make sure I/she noticed he was standing there and that he heard the end of the sentence about how much she loves him. Then they could both be saved from the miserable stuff that happens afterwards. It would be a much shorter book though and I’m still not sure it would be a happy ending for either of them.

As my very wise English teacher told us, by all means fall in love with Mr Rochester but don’t fall for a Heathcliff. Excellent advice.

Q9: What is your favourite meal? And if you could pick one person to share that meal with who would you pick?

I love Moroccan food, so maybe a lamb tagine with couscous and a salad grown under a hot sun as nature intended. At this moment in time, the one person I would share it with is my mum – she’s been shielding for the best part of a year so it would be wonderful to sit down for a meal with her.

Q10: What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve done during the lockdown and if we are ever free of the rules again what is the first thing you’ll do?

I’m not sure I’ve done anything embarrassing during lockdown – it’s been a pretty quiet and fairly dull time. I did have a ‘Get Cummings Out’ poster in my window for months, which people assumed had been drawn by my 11-year-old, but I did it with her felt tips. I’m very proud of that terrible artwork though, and I’d like to think it tipped the balance for his resignation in the end.

When we’re free of rules I will go to interesting places every weekend, visiting people I’ve not seen, except on a screen, for months and using my red passport as much as I can across Europe before I’m forced to trade it in for a black one.

The rainbow was my daughter’s handiwork

Q11: What plans you got for the future, you made a start on the next book?

Yes, I have started the next book and I’m enjoying writing something that’s quite different from what I’ve done before – third person narrative and multiple points of view across a really defined and restricted time frame. I have another one in mind after that, but it involves travelling to somewhere that’s not very accessible to do some research/experience the place, so we’ll see if I can make that happen. Definitely a project for after lockdowns of all kinds are lifted!

That is fantastic news, I still have to read The Secret To Not Drowning but it is great to know there is more on the way.

Practical task: I am doing a gnome gallery on my blog, can you create a piece of artwork based on Gnomes, can be any medium and you are welcome to name the piece.

Gnome biscuit made by Jenny from Captain Jesus

Fantastic idea, biscuit art!

Thank you to Colette for taking part in this, I really enjoyed finding out about how Captain Jesus came about. If like me you want to stalk Colette then you can find her on TWITTER and FACEBOOK.

Uncategorized

Rocky Vs 2020

Aaaah! 2020 the year of dressing like a bank robber, the year where we all realised our political leaders were a bunch of muppets and we wished we could clone Jacinda Ardern and let her rule the world….it was also the year that Twitter moved into reality and everybody showed just what arseholes they could be. I am reviewing my year from my throne of toilet paper, who’d have guessed that when I grabbed 700 rolls back in March that I’d still have enough left over to make my own furniture, in 2021 I vow to only panic buy 600 rolls. Each year I’ve tried to get somebody famous to hand out the awards to my favourite books of the year and for 2020 I had President Trump lined up, all was going to plan until he dropped out to play his 320th game of golf this year, so you’ve got me instead.

This year I managed to read 85 books, 41 fiction, 38 non-fiction and 6 poetry books. I have been impressed with what I’ve read, publishers like Bluemoose Books, Eland Publishing, Little Toller, Storgy and Elliot & Thompson have produced some amazing books. I do find it quite incredible that small indie publishers can publish so many fantastic books and yet the big publishers can throw out all kinds of garbage and expect everybody to love it. Of course those Indie publishers producing so many good books makes it harder to pick my favourites….gah! they are sooooo evil! There is no winner this year for The Lighthouse Award (Worst book of the year), whilst I may have read a few weak books they are too good to deserve this award. Well here goes!

Best Fiction

The Nominations this year are.

East Coast Road by Anna Chilvers. One of the books published by Bluemoose books, a real gem of a book, an amazing journey and a book that almost made me cry….ALMOST!

Shallow Creek edited by Tomek Dzido. A unique book which is the end result of a competition, the stories in this collection are based around a single town and it’s inhabitants, the writers were given give a person, place and totem to focus their stories on. This book is the end result and a million times better than you’d expect. Everybody involved should be classed as geniuses.

This Ragged, Wastrel Thing by Tomas Marcantonio. The first full length novel released by Storgy and it doesn’t disappoint. Tomas has created a fantastic world here that leaves you wanting more, seriously hoping there will be a sequel one day soon.

WINNER: EAST COAST ROAD

Best Non-Fiction

The Nominations this year are.

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty. Dara is a legend, so young to create one of my favourite books of the year, he reminds me of the writing of Roger Deakin and it has been great to see this win so many awards.

Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico by Ronald Wright. An epic book about the Maya and one I’ll be reading again because there is so much info here that I’m bound to have missed out facts. I’ve read 7 books this year by Eland Publishing and this has been the pick of the bunch.

Under the Stars: A Journey Into Light by Matt Gaw. Elliot & Thompson have released a lot of good books this year and for me this was fantastic, reading this brought back so many memories of time spent as a scout, camping under the stars and getting freaked out by noises in the night. This book left me craving a sight of millions of stars…not the 8 I usually see in Basingstoke.

WINNER: UNDER THE STARS: A JOURNEY INTO LIGHT

Best Poem

I’ve read far less books of poetry than I did last year, that doesn’t mean I’ve read less, I’ve spent a lot of time reading blogs, one of my favourites is Daydreaming as a profession by D. R. Bogdan and one of the best he has put up this year is sometimes you don’t have to lead the insane to happiness, but to follow Wonderful little poem.

Music award

I only buy a few albums each year as I spend most of my time listening to music from the past, this year the kids and me have been obsessed with Flight of the Conchords and their amazing songs, but in between that always being played I’ve managed to find some awesome music, the best of which is Kitchen Sink by Nadine Shah. My favourite track is Buckfast, well worth checking out, love her voice and those instruments are creating some great sounds.

That’s it, no more awards and no more 2020. As usual the winners can meet me at any Asda carpark at midnight and fight me for a prize….at the correct social distance of course….this years battles will be in the style of that classic TV show Gladiators.

Thanks to everybody who write books and thanks to everybody who has sent me some incredible stuff to review. Here’s to 2021 being mildly better.

Book Reviews

Borges in Sicily Journey with a Blind Guide by Alejandro Luque

What Da Cover Says: When Alejandro Luque receives a book of photographs taken in Sicily by the Argentinian writer, essayist, and poet Luis Borges, he decides to trace the writer’s journey, setting off with a group of friends on his own Sicilian odyssey. Meticulously identifying the location of each photograph, Luque uses Borges’s pictures to imagine the range of emotions that the renowned writer felt as he experienced the same views. As his hunt for the locations of the original photographs unfolds, Luque chronicles the ways in which he begins to fall in love with both the island itself and with his friend, Ro.

This winding journey features literati both past and present, indigenous and foreign. These characters live alongside Luque’s own comments and observations in a narrative that is rich in historical and personal detail. The writer who inspired this great journey, Borges himself, becomes a character in this narrative that is infused with extracts and reflections from his essays and poetry. Borges in Sicily acts as a travel diary, a guide to the most fascinating places in Sicily, a recounting of Borges’s journey around the island, and a deeply poetic story of Luque’s own adventures. The book also includes twenty-three photographs from the renowned Magnum photographer Ferdinando Scianna, and it won the 1st Premio International del Libros de Viajes.

What I Says: I have been lucky enough to read a few of the Haus Publishing Armchair Traveller books and one thing I’ve liked best is the imaginative ways they have been written, not often you’ll find out about somebody like Dickens using structured walks around London. This book has been the most intriguing and the reason it has been left to last, Luque is given a small red book filled with photos of a man he is obsessed with, the famous Luis Borges and the time he spent in Sicily, Luque decides to visit Sicily and try and recreate those photos and to see how much those places have changed.

Luque took this trip whilst quite young and very new to this type of writing, the epilogue is quite amusing as it has been written 10 years after the book was written and he does feel embarrassed by some of what he wrote. Personally I found his writing quite refreshing, you don’t get the usual dry writing about the places and its inhabitants, what you get is a young man obsessed with finding these locations at all cost…with three friends tagging along trying to keep his obsessions under control and begging him to stop with the many many quotes. There are a lot of humourous scenes, lying to the police, a bit of breaking and entering, wedding crashing and being woken up on a beach by a big scary dog.

I think this book started out as a way to find Borges but it is soon overtaken by Sicily itself, who would have thought such a small island could have so much history and have influenced so many movies…I do recommend watching the Godfather Trilogy, Cinema Paradiso and Malena before starting this book, not only are they very good movies but are heavily featured in this book, watching them will give you a good visual on the places mentioned.

A couple of disappointments in this book was the lack of information on Borges life, the focus of the book is those moments captured in the photos, I would have liked a bit more about his life and time in Sicily. A nice addition to the book that was missing was the re-created photos, I would have loved to have seen how accurately recreated they were.

I have really enjoyed this book and I feel like this has been a taster for Sicily and for Borges, both seem to be the sort of things one could become obsessed with.

Thanks to Haus Publishing for this book, if you want a copy then check it out HERE:

Book Reviews

Shadows Rising by Andy Malone

What Da Cover Says: Amidst the backdrop of a series of terrifying global disasters. Authorities frantically search for a mysterious Scotsman who claims to have travelled from the past on a mission to save humanity. Whilst investigating, CIA Agent Mark Reynolds along with two British scientists uncover an ancient symbol. A discovery which soon attracts some unwelcome attention and unexpectedly plunges the trio into the heart of a deadly international conspiracy.

Unintentionally returned to 18th century Scotland. Tom Duncan, and his friend, the enigmatic, Dougie Allan begin their own perilous hunt for an ancient artefact. One that if found, could hold the key to humanity’s survival. But as both investigations commence, Reynolds and his team encounter a sinister religious sect. One whose disturbing rise to power has left governments around the world in turmoil. Led by a shadowy leader, the faith promotes peace for all. But as the clock ticks and events in both timelines intersect, it soon becomes clear that this new faith could have terrifying consequences for all mankind.

What I Says: The second book in the Seventh Day series is a fantastic story full of mystery and intrigue. It starts off a few years after the first book, the world is coming to terms with all the global disasters that wiped out billions of people and whilst those who are left are starting to rebuild a mysterious new religion is gaining followers at an incredible rate…to this reader this group with their good intentions can only possibly spell more doom. The characters that survived book 1 are still here and they were getting on with their life’s until they realised things weren’t over and they get pulled right back into it.

The first book was very heavy on the sci-fi and code breaking, this time out we have moved towards a classic spy story, with no idea on who to trust it is guaranteed to have you guessing and constantly changing your mind about what is going on and which side each person is on. The writing is top notch again with a very good plot and as for the ending…I’m not impressed things have been left like that and now I’ve gotta wait for the next book? So unfair!

As with book 1 the research carried out is impressive, the descriptions of the Vatican City are so good, you can almost picture yourself there. I have enjoyed this book, it is great to be reading about Dougie again and reading out loud what he says in my best Scottish accent 🙂 Here’s hoping that the third book will be out soon.

Book Reviews

Adult Nature by Matthew Licht

What Da Cover Says: ADULT NATURE is short on prurient details. Phantoms from more permissive and brutal times haunt the present. The stories were written to elicit laughter, rather than to arouse, but those who want a hot, dirty, nostalgic thrill won’t be disappointed.

Matthew Licht has published many books, in English and Italian. He writes Hotel Kranepool, a weekly blog on metaphysical hospitality, for Stanza 251. “I just wanna make people laugh,” he says. “Is that so wrong?”

What I Says: Licht says he writes to make you laugh but I don’t think he gives himself enough credit for just how moving some of his writing can be….some not all, I don’t think anybody could be “moved” by a job at the PJ Factory, it’s just way too eeewwww there. The stand out story in this collection was “Take It Off and Say Goodbye” it really turns your perceptions of the stripper business on it’s head, whilst the ending for the erotic dancer may not have been perfect for her, it was still nicely handled and far more gentle than the lewdness in the other stories.

I also quite liked the futuristic “A Hard Case” a detective on his last case in a future where a large bosom if everything and where most scenes are left to the readers imagination. Welcome to Felchville was the one that gave me the most laughs, super gross puns all over the place.

If you’ve never read anything by Matthew Licht and you fancy reading an appropriate book on a bus then this is the one for you.

You can download yourself a copy of this book from HERE: