Book Reviews

Fat Sensei by Kevin Berg

What Da Cover Says: It’s new release day at Video Hole and nothing can stop Gill from getting the latest instalment of his favourite film series, not even childhood heroes. Make the journey with him or step aside, lest you get chopped in the fucking neck meat.

What I Says: Gosh this brings back the old memories, the after school Friday trip to the video shop with the family to see what new VHS was in, every single tape facing forwards so you could see every awesome cover, at times it could be overwhelming, the colours and words jumping out at you. I’ll always remember renting My Stepmother is an Alien and the awkwardness in the living room as you could see Kim Basinger’s nips (a 1 TV household). Streaming just isn’t the same 😦

This book follows Gill on his birthday, a total karate…sorry I mean karate expert, it’s VHS release day and the final instalment of Stevie Seagull’s new karate flick is out, Gill has one job…get there for when the store opens to be first to get his mitts on this life changing movie. Destiny has other ideas and throws bad guy after bad guy in his way, Gill teams up with unlikely hero grumps and together they battle their way to the store for the final boss showdown.

This book is nasty, it will make you cringe with the many many bodily fluids that get a mention, it is super violent, up there with American Psycho, there is something to offend everyone…and it has a spinning nut-sack, does any other book have the “balls” to include that? I think not! I loved it, every page is like a refreshing punch to the face so get on board and give it a read…..don’t make me chop you in the fucking neck meat!

If you are wandering about the cover, it is another fantastic piece of art from Marcel Herms, check out his work HERE:

Book Reviews

Nemesis, My Friend: Journeys Through the Turning Times by Jay Griffiths

What Da Cover Says: This new book of essays from the author of Wild tracks the turning light of the day and seasons, an almanac of the turning times. Beginning in night and winter, it moves to dawn and spring, then noon and summer and finally evening and autumn. Set partly at the author’s home in Wales, the book journeys widely, searching for a dead father in Prague, listening to the Sky-Grandmothers of Mexican myth and staying with the people of West Papua who, when they know they will fall over laughing, lie down first. It asks: what is the real gift of the misunderstood Goddess Nemesis? Why should flowers be prescribed as medicine? What do male zebra finches dream of? Where do the sands of time run fastest, and how is that connected to the age of anxiety? It explores the dawn chorus; the tradition of sacred hospitality; dust from the time before the sun even existed; the twilight time of the trickster and the daily rituals of morning. In all of these it asks: why does light, through the hours of the day and the seasons of the year, affect us? Griffiths concludes this extraordinary collection by deciding that light is in fact how we think.

What I Says: What an extraordinary book, Griffiths has such a good voice, so easy to read and much to learn within these pages. I found myself shaking my head in disbelief, nodding along whilst chuckling and blown away by my lack of knowledge. Griffiths has split the book into four parts, it feels like it is structured around the seasons, the essay length starts off long and as the year gets to the end and the nights are drawing in the essays start to get shorter, I haven’t actually counted the pages but this is how it felt, I could almost see myself reading the last chapters sat around a fire. Each essay also has it’s focus on a particular theme or word, singing, hearth, hospitality and trickster are a few examples, having this word as a focus gives the writing a poetic feel and makes in much easier to understand what Griffiths is describing to the reader.

Favourite chapters were about the trickster, where Boris Johnston receives a dressing down, I loved at how easily Griffiths destroys him, words are powerful and Griffiths knows how to use them (Tory opposition should read this book for inspiration for the next general election). The laughter in West Papua started off with a smile and concludes with the genocide that has been going on over there for years whilst supported by the western world, I was shocked that this has been going on for so long and I’d never heard about it before, just goes to show how politicians and media spin things and only let you know what they want you to know about. Hospitality was another interesting essay, the origins of the word, how it was used in the Bible and throughout history and how it compares to today in the UK with treatment of the homeless…how to spend that council money, free shelter or bars on benches to keep the place tidy.

The essay I got the most out of was due to a conversation I had the day before reading it with a colleague at work, they love ice skating and I think it is the most boring thing you can do, going round and round in a circle trying to avoid other clumsy skaters. Griffiths has opened my eyes to “wild” ice skating, out on a lake or a frozen field, now this is what I could get into, the wind in me beard, the restrictions mostly lifted, the potential solitude and that it wouldn’t cost me 30 quid to have a go. I think I’ve been converted…just gotta hope that somehow the climate crisis will given me a chance to give this a go.

A fantastic collection that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading, something to learn in each essay. Griffiths has an original voice and one that is a joy to read.

Thanks to Little Toller Books for sending me this review copy, if you want to check it out then support the publisher by buying direct from them HERE:

Book Reviews

The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas (Special Edition) by Daniel James

What Da Cover Says: Ezra Maas is dead. The famously reclusive artist vanished without a trace seven years ago while working on his final masterpiece, but his body was never found. While the Maas Foundation prepares to announce his death, journalist Daniel James finds himself hired to write the untold story of the artist’s life – but this is no ordinary book. The deeper James delves into the myth of Ezra Maas, the more he is drawn into a nightmarish world of fractured identities and sinister doubles.

A chilling literary labyrinth, The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas blends postmodern noir with artworks, photographs, newspaper clippings, original documents, biography, letters, phone transcripts, and emails to create a book like no other before it.

Da Review:

My History With This Book: April 21st 2019 was when I first finished reading this book, it was an incredible reading experience where fiction started to mess with reality…the paranoia in those pages leaked into real life, I saw signs of the Maas Foundation everywhere and I saw how powerful their reach was as book awarding bodies were forced into blocking wins for the book and anybody showing an interest in the book were soon followed by the Maas Foundation on social media….just for reading this review you’ll probably be on their radar. My review of the 1st edition of this book can be found HERE:

What’s Special about the Special Edition?: Using a new publisher James has created a true piece of art, hand written letters, photos, official government documents, confessions and maps are included with some fantastic artwork from Hanna Ten Doornkaat. Putting all this together gives you a reading experience like no other. Some of the documents even have blood on them, looks rather real, I wonder whose blood it was?

My Thoughts On The Re-Read: Due to the strange experiences after reading in 2019 I decided to play it safe this time, I travelled over 200 miles from my home to read the book in a secure hotel room in Liverpool whilst being protected by John Lennon:

I don’t think it matters how many times I read this book I’ll never be ready for the experience, the puzzle of trying to figure things out, the narration by “Anonymous” directing the reader to the outcome “they” want, the way Anonymous keeps interrupting the story makes me smile as I think “you ain’t controlling me this time”…I reckon maybe I lasted 50 pages before I was under their control. The characters are fantastic you’ll both love and hate Daniel James and you’ll be mesmerised by the life of Ezra Maas as you try to figure out why you have never heard of this man. I may be one of those readers that gets “a little too involved” in a book but this feels way more immersive than a movie, I was seeing clues all over the place, coming up with theory after theory which were soon shot down within a few pages, it was like the idea was put into my head and then taken away again as the book exerted it’s control over me.

You really need to pay attention to what you read, this is tougher to do than you’d expect as so much is thrown at you, little things like a description of a piece of Maas artwork is replicated later on in Daniel James’s life, blink and you’ll miss it.

Decoding Maas: If you haven’t read this book you may wish to skip this bit, whilst it isn’t spoilers it does contain my theories. It is mentioned many times that Maas includes numbers in his work, these numbers then lead you onto the next puzzle, during the reading I didn’t spot any clues, but I’ve done a few escape rooms since and am more adept at spotting clues and they were everywhere. There are over 500 footnotes and you gotta keep a close eye on the numbering, some are duplicated, some are missing. There is also a clue in the text to watch out for how the grammar is used, some pages have extra spaces before a comma…could this be highlighting that you need to look closer at the page? There is also the puzzle of who is Anonymous, I think I have figured it out….Anonymous is none other than 1.

Final Thoughts: This is still one of the best reading experiences I have ever had and it has been greatly improved by the additional images in this edition. The story twists and turns, confusing you at every turn, full of truths and lies, a detective novel without a detective, clues that are there to distract and that unsettled feeling you get from every David Lynch movie. Oh and the ending! Holy crap it is good, guaranteed to leave you breathless and shaking your head in amazement at what you have just read.

  1. Obviously this can’t be shared with the public so for the reviewer’s safety I have redacted this – Anonymous

You can get a copy of the book from HERE:

You can stalk Daniel James on Twitter and Instagram.

You can keep an eye on the Maas Foundation HERE:

You can check out the Books soundtrack HERE:

Book Reviews

Thunderstone: A True Story Of Losing One Home And Discovering Another by Nancy Campbell

What Da Cover Says: In the wake of a traumatic lock-down, Nancy Campbell buys an old caravan and drives it into a strip of neglected woodland between a canal and railway. It is the first home she has ever owned. It will not move again.

As summer begins, Nancy embraces the challenge of how to live well in a space in which possessions and emotions often threaten to tumble. And as illness and uncertainty loom once more, it is this anchored van that will bring her solace and hope.

What I Says: This was wonderful, a memoir that is honest and intimate, Campbell shares things on these pages that I think is incredibly brave of her. Campbell has a very tough lock-down and as a way of finding her place in life again she buys a caravan and with the help of the mighty, very lovable/annoying Sven, she parks up in a neglected wood alongside a canal. Here she meets a wonderful collection of people happy in the life they are living and it is them that help her find her place.

The book is written as diary entries from June to September, with a section at the front explaining what came before and why Campbell was in a caravan. Like a proper diary you get to read the writer’s opinions on whatever is current that day or events happening in the writer’s life, you get little titbits about things she sees, a snail undulating across the window or a new plant that has started growing and Campbell shares her huge knowledge of all things and fantastic writing to almost teach the reader something new every day…sticking with the snail as an example I now know how they feed and why they don’t go in a straight line….turns out they ain’t the drunkest animal on the planet. The community of people she meets are wonderful, they take her in and treat her as one of their own, which works well as the further into the book you go the more you start to care for Campbell, you really appreciate how they come to her aid again and again.

If the lock-down was tough then the caravan was in direct competition to make things as tough as possible, disaster after disaster really started to affect Campbell’s mental health and it was Sven that steps in to save her life. A very knowledgeable man I learnt loads from him too. Campbell is such an observant person and she shares what she sees and there is a lot she sees that most people would miss. She also shares her love of books and a few more have been added to my tbr list.

I have enjoyed reading and learning with Campbell and with how the book ends I am wondering if there will be a second season in the caravan as I’d love to hear about how all the plants are doing and how the gang are getting on. Great stuff!

Thanks to Elliott & Thompson for sending me a copy you can find out more about the book and where to get a copy HERE:

Book Reviews

Immoral Origins by Lee Matthew Goldberg

What Da Cover Says: It’s 1978 in New York City, and disco is prominent. As are mobsters, gritty streets, needle parks and graffiti-stained subways. Jake Barnum lives in Hell’s Kitchen. He’s a petty thief selling hot coats with his buddy Maggs to make ends meet and help his sick kid brother. At a Halloween party downtown, he meets a woman with a Marilyn Monroe mask who works for an organization called The Desire Card-an underground operation promising its exclusive clients “Any Wish Fulfilled for the Right Price.” As Jake becomes taken with its leader, a pseudo father and sociopath at heart, he starts stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. In other words…himself. But as he dives deeper in with the Card, begins falling love with Marilyn, and sees the money rolling in, clients’ wishes start becoming more and more suspect-some leading to murder.

The first book in the Desire Card series, Immoral Origins follows those indebted to this sinister organisation-where the ultimate price is the cost of one’s soul.

What I Says: This was a cracking opening book to the Desire Card series, a proper atmospheric Noir thriller that pulls you into the action and which makes you read this at such a pace you have to fight to keep up. Jake Barnum is a petty thief who has a chance meeting at a party, he meets none other than Marilyn Monroe and gets pulled into a sinister underworld catering wishes for the rich and powerful.

The characters are wonderful, I love the dual personalities of the mask and the wearer underneath. Also the setting, 1978 the year I was born, I reckon more books should be based then seeing as the bestest reader arrived on Earth then. The relationship between Jake and Marilyn was well written the passion almost drips of the page, as their bond grows more intense Jake finds himself pulled further and further into the mysteries of The Card…who exactly is Gable, what is the issue with Peck and what the hell is Bette typing on her typewriter.

Goldberg does a good job of keeping the reader tied to the era, references to political events, well known locations like Studio 54 and a cracking selection of disco music, although Jake’s abuse of the poor Beegees was rather uncalled for. The further into the book I got, the more engrossed I became, reading far quicker than I normally do. There are 5 books in this series and they are all being released in 2022, how cool is that? No waiting around for the next book whilst I forget what I read.

This book was good fun, full of violence, intrigue and an amazing retro feel, the sort of series of books that would work well on TV so get on board and start this before all the kids say that it’s sick (or whatever word they use these days, I was born in 1978 so have no idea). Bring on book 2 I say!

Book Reviews

Everything Dissolves by Hank Kirton

What Da Cover Says: Treading the viscous, lysergic fluid between unshackled dreams and a world wracked with doubt, Kirton presents 23 stories from an intemperate brain, a peek beneath the calcified crust of hope, love, and life lived on the edge. True to its title, Everything Dissolves into a slushy sludge of longing, loathing, and the mess left in between.

What I Says: I reckon that Kirton has captured the essence of an acid trip within these pages, using flash fiction (each story around 2 pages long) he takes you from one trippy story to another with barely a chance to take a breath. Each story jumps between violent, drunken, drug fuelled worlds with a pinch of sex added to distort the vivid stories just a little bit more. And just when you are starting to be worn out trying to keep up with these short trips the last story brings you down to Earth, it’s a story of three lads going to a funeral after taking acid and it is far longer than what came previously. Witnessing what those guys were going through calms the reader and almost prepares them for entry into the real world. I’ve no idea if any of that was intentional but that’s how if felt to me….In fact I’m not 100% certain that I have left the story and maybe none of this is real……..

This book is good fun but possibly not suitable for those that prefer a book to…..actually no, it’s suitable for all! Give it a read.

You can get the book from Amazon or download the PDF version for free from HERE:

Book Reviews

Ghost Signs by Stu Hennigan

What Da Cover Says: Ghost Signs – Poverty and the pandemic – An eyewitness account of the impact of the early days of the pandemic on those living in poverty in Leeds, as Stu Hennigan delivered emergency food and medicine to communities that had already suffered 10 years of austerity. It is a blistering exposition of what happened to a community in one of the richest countries in the world.

What I Says: First off before I start this review I have to say that in my opinion this book is going to go down as one of the most important eyewitness accounts of the Tory government before and during the COVID pandemic and that anything I write after this sentence ends is never going to do justice in showing just how much this book has affected me.

Stu Hennigan was a volunteer during the first lock-down in 2020 delivering food parcels/collecting prescriptions for those in self isolation and this job was to become far more harrowing than he could possibly have expected. Day after day he would visit the poorest most run down places in Leeds, seeing people living in filth, so starved of food that they don’t have the strength to lift the bag of food he had just delivered. He would meet people who were dying, lonely people that were starved of human contact and those too scared to even answer the door even though they were expecting a food delivery. Most traumatic of all though were the children, what sort of world are we living in when a company like A****n can make £Billions whilst a child can be in tears when given a free bag of food?

Whilst it is disgusting that a situation exists where this book has the material to be created there are some good moments, Leeds council seemed to have been quick of the mark to get this food project off the ground and it wasn’t long before the public took advantage, it wasn’t just those in isolation needing the food, it was the starving, those who had lost their jobs and unable to get by and not once does it get mentioned that they were turned away, fantastic response in my opinion. Then we have the many volunteers, what they achieved was incredible, at times fearing for their safety, witnessing poverty far beyond what you could comprehend, what this book shows is how amazing it was that they kept it up, Hennigan was a wreck after only a few deliveries and in my eyes he put in a super-hero effort to keep going. I know that I couldn’t have done it, I was welling up at times just from reading the book.

The damage caused by so many years under Tory rule is staggering, will we ever be able to recover? The leaders of Labour and Lib Dems need to pick up this book and use it as their biggest weapon to take down the most corrupt government the UK has ever lived under.

Bluemoose books have published their first Non-Fiction book and what a book to kick it all off with! Not only is Hennigan a mighty human being he is a fantastic writer…it truly was an honour to read these words, the experience is never going to leave me.

Do not buy this book from A****n, get it direct from a book shop or from the publisher HERE, support indie publishers so they can produce more fantastic literature like this.

Book Reviews

The Overhaul by Kathleen Jamie

What Da Cover Says: The Overhaul continues Kathleen Jamie’s lyric inquiry into the aspects of the world our rushing lives elide, and even threaten. Whether she is addressing birds or rivers, or the need to accept loss, or, sometimes, the desire to escape our own lives, her poetry is earthy and rigorous, her language at once elemental and tender. The Overhaul is a midlife book of repair, restitution, and ultimately hope—of the wisest and most worldly kind.

What I Says: Massive fan of Kathleen Jamie, I’ve loved everything of hers I’ve read so far and you can add this collection to that list. She has this ability to write about the sort of things you might see often, rooks for example, she is able to shine a new light on that thing, seeing it in a way you’ve never considered and it brings it to life on the pages. I especially liked Hawk and Shadow where the poet gets lost trying to focus on the bird and it’s shadow as it glides across the hills.

Favourite was a collection of 5 poems called Five Tay Sonnets a snapshot of 5 brief moments which transport you to the moment. There were a few in Gaelic (I’m guessing the language here) I’ve not much of an idea what they mean but they sound beautiful when read aloud.

A wonderful collection about nature, humanity and hope which will look great on anybody’s shelf.

Book Reviews

Always More: New & Selected Poems by John D. Robinson

What Da Cover Says: Horror Sleaze Trash proudly presents the poems of John D Robinson.

“These are survivor poems, battle scarred verse that hits the soul and assaults the frontal lobe. Here is a poet who has lived several lives and emerged on the other side intact.” —Joseph Ridgwell, author of Burrito Deluxe

“This book is not decorative art. This book is not the exercise of the commercial artisan. This book is stripped of 21st century consumer bullshit. This book is a way in to what matters. Get ready. It is going to hurt. And you will love it.” —Henry Stanton, UnCollected Press.

What I Says: This is some of the grimiest, down-right nasty poetry you’ll ever have the pleasure to read…it is also some of the most sensitive and moving poetry you’ll ever read. Robinson shares with us his fights, his self-abuse (drink and drugs), his relationships, his highs and his lows. He gives his opinions of those who abuse kids, I have never read anything like those, the rage is so intense that it feels like the letters have been punched onto the pages and it is written in such a way that you are left feeling that rage.

The stand-out poem in this collection that I have now read a few times is “No Hang-ups here” incredible opening lines are matched by the closing lines. You’ll find yourself laughing, shaking your head in disgust or holding your head in shame…he really does get under your skin and you forget these are somebody else’s words.

If I had to describe John D. Robinson I would say he was a fine human being who loved children and animals and nature, a gentle spirit and spiritual guy who scribbled poetry…pretty sure I must have picked up those words subliminally. Read this as it’s a corker of a collection.

Book Reviews

The Witnesses Are Gone by Joel Lane

What Da Cover Says: Moving into an old and decaying house, Martin Swann discovers a box of video cassettes in the garden shed. One of them is a bootleg copy of a morbid and disturbing film by obscure French director, Jean Rien.

The discovery leads Martin on a search for the director’s other films, and for a way to understand Rien’s filmography, drawing him away from his home and his lover into a shadowy realm of secrets, rituals and creeping decay. An encounter with a crazed film journalist in Gravesend leads to drug-fuelled visions in Paris – and finally to the Mexican desert where a grim revelation awaits.

The Witnesses Are Gone is a first-hand account of a journey into the darkest parts of the underworld – a look behind the screen on which our collective nightmares play.

What I Says: What a disturbing book this was, I feel I have been on an epic journey, dragged along with the main character as his reality gets twisted and his life becomes corrupted the more he looks for the films of the mysterious Jean Rien. The book is narrated by Martin Swann, after discovering a disturbing film in the shed of his new home he becomes obsessed by finding out more about it’s director, his journey takes him to Scotland, Paris and Mexico, the further from Birmingham he gets the more the decay sets in. The reader is left wondering what is real and what is in Swann’s drug filled mind, the paranoia in the book really grabs you.

Whilst the story is happening Joel Lane gives the reader his political opinion of what is happening at the time, the imminent invasion of Iraq looking for those “hidden weapons of mass destruction”, the media spin on events to promote the war as a good thing and that they are all terrorists over there and there is a wonderful description of President Bush and how you can tell what sort of man he is from his eyes. I would have loved to have read what Lane thought of the messed up world we are living in now.

The writing is incredibly vivid and at times I did think I was viewing a movie (almost David Lynch in style) and it really does get under your skin, I’ve just been reading this out in the sun and yet still felt the cold in me bones. Lane truly was a master of words and gone way too soon.

Thanks to Influx Press for this copy, you can pre-order ca copy of the book from HERE: