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. 🙂

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.

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:

Book Reviews

The Ten Musketeers by Anthony E Thorogood

What Da Cover Says: For Jack Hamma, Private Detective, life never has a dull moment but you can have too much of a good thing. His house is invaded by a mystery assassin, his car is blown up and just for good measure someone tries to run him down in the street. What is going on?

What I Says: The tenth book in the Jack Hamma series, I find it amazing that a writer can keep coming up with stories for the same character and still make them fell unique. Thorogood has done another great job with Jack Hamma, after 10 books he does have a soft spot in my heart so any wrong step by Thorogood would make this reader rather angry. Somebody is trying to kill Jack, car bombs, being mowed down in the street makes for some very tense reading, just how many lives does Jack have left?

The best thing about this book was finding out about Jack’s past, he has hinted in previous books that his time in the army was not a good experience, something went down that did traumatise him a bit, not that he would admit that and it finally gets revealed what happened.

Thorogood includes his usual sense of humour, some great banter during shoot-outs, crazy characters…particularly one rather rich lady and there is a huge amount of action. This all makes for a exciting and fun read, not a dull moment to be had. One of my favourite series of books.

Book Reviews

On Fiji Islands by Ronald Wright

What Da Cover Says: In little more than a century, Fiji islanders have made the transition from cannibalism to Christianity, from colony to flourishing self-government, without losing their own culture. As Ronald Wright observes, societies that do not eat people are fascinated by those that did, and often used this fact as an excuse to conquer, kill and enslave. Touring cities bustling with Indian merchants, quiet Fijian villages and taking part in communal ceremonies, he attributes the remarkable independence of Fiji to the fact that the indigenous social structure remains intact and eighty-three per cent of the land remains in local hands.

What I Says: I have read two other books by Ronald Wright and they have been about South America and the Mayan Civilisation, they can come across as rather dry due to Wright being an expert, in fact I would say his book Time Among The Maya is the go to book to learn all you can about their culture. Fiji was new to Wright and whilst thinking of an idea for his next book he got the chance to travel around Fiji with a friend and jumped at the opportunity. What we get in this book is the lighter side of Wright, his sense of humour comes through as he becomes a tourist for a while. He fully immerses himself and takes part in ceremonies, whilst trying his best to follow their very strict rules. This book is a perfect blend of Wright’s experiences and a history of this little group of islands and it’s people.

My knowledge of Fiji was absolutely rubbish…I was way off on it’s location, think I was getting confused with Tasmania…whoops. The more books like this I read the more embarrassed I am for being British, the destruction of other cultures in the name of “The Empire” never fails to shock, in Fiji though there is a bit of hope, amazing what one correct decision can do. One of the first governors of Fiji made the choice to give the locals as many rights as was possible and letting them keep ownership of their land, this allowed the Fijians to survive where other civilisations were destroyed by the British. This start allowed the Fijians time to adapt to the new rules, dodgy dealings and missionaries. Just when things feel hopeful you find out this same Governor made some awful decisions in the future which allowed the destruction of Islands and it’s people, this is covered in great deal in this book and was fascinating to read. If you are interested in cannibalism then this the cook book for you, Wright goes into a lot of detail about this gruesome bit of Fiji’s history.

I found this book very interesting, there is so much to learn here and a sure sign of how good a book is how often I annoy the wife by reading out facts. One of the best travel books I’ve ever read.

Thanks to Eland Publishing for sending me this review copy. I highly recommend this book and you can get a copy from HERE:

Book Reviews

Captain Jesus by Colette Snowden

What Da Cover Says: When three brothers find a dead magpie and peg it to the washing line, the resurrection re-enactment becomes a portent of tragedy to come, and a reminder of past guilt and trauma.

What I Says: This is one of the most powerful, beautifully written books I’ve had the pleasure to read, an exploration of grief and guilt and how it becomes a part of ourselves. It’s gonna be tough to write a coherent review without putting in any spoilers but here goes!

The first things that attracted me to this book was the epic title and the eye catching cover, it really is a brilliant piece of artwork. I had no book info to know what I was getting myself into, but I could tell from the cover it was gonna be good. We follow the life of a family, Snowden expertly uses the voice of a young lad called Jim as he is playing in the garden with his brothers when they find a dead Magpie which they peg on the washing line to make it look like it has come back to life. What follows is an unbearable tragedy, a family struggling to hold it all together and a gradual revealing of past guilt. Jim is a wonderful character, you feel for him, sharing in his grief and his letters to Father Christmas will break your heart. There is one more character that needs a mention, Jenny, absolutely loved her, a real guardian angel. The book also gets bonus points for mentioning Basingstoke…woooooo!

This is a special book, the grief is so palpable, a lot of readers will be in tears. I think it does an excellent job of handling the subject matter, Snowden has used a great deal of care which comes across big time in this stunning release.

Thanks to Bluemoose Books for the review copy of this book, one of the last of the books I’ll read in 2020 and what a way to end the year. You really should put this book at the top of your 2021 tbr lists. Link to purchase it HERE: