Book Reviews

The Cabinet of Calm Soothing Words for Troubled Times by Paul Anthony Jones


What Da Cover Says:  Sometimes we all need a little reminder that it’s going to be okay… Open The Cabinet of Calm to discover a comforting word that’s equal to your troubles.

The Cabinet of Calm has been designed to be picked up whenever you need a moment of serenity. Just select the emotion listed that reflects whatever you’re feeling and you’ll be offered a matching linguistic remedy: fifty-one soothing words for troubled times.

From ‘melorism’ to ‘stound’, ‘carpe noctem’ to ‘opsimathy’, these kind words – alongside their definitions and their stories – will bring peace, comfort and delight, and provide fresh hope.

Written with a lightness of touch, The Cabinet of Calm shows us that we’re not alone. Like language, our emotions are universal: someone else has felt like this before and so there’s a word to help, whatever the challenge.

What I Says:  If you are wondering what sort of book this is and how relevant it is today then check out these words found in the chapter called Xenodochy.

“Xenodochy is a word of tolerance and empathy, curiosity and cooperation.  And if ever a new watchword for our modern world were needed, this is surely it.”

Powerful stuff and if ever a book was needed to deal with the stress of 2020 (viruses, Trump, social media trolls and climate crisis) then this is surely the book to help you heal.

This is the first book I’ve read by Paul Anthony Jones, I’ve seen others about but never gotten around to buying one of his books, I loved how this is laid out, a brief introduction and then come the words with a brief line to state when it would be helpful followed by a chapter on that word.  You get so much information on the origins, examples of when it was first used and the odd tale about the words first use.  I found it interesting how many of these words had a Scottish origin, I never knew how much influence they had.

My favourite word has to be Hurkle-Durkle, absolutely love how that one rolls off the tongue and it is very me…in fact I reckon most of us love a bit of Hurkle-Durkle now and then.  Don’t google it, buy this book to find out it’s meaning.

This book isn’t going to heal you but it will help you to calm down and re-centre yourself, getting lost in words for a while will be very soothing, just as the cover states.

A brilliant book that I am now passing on to my daughter who starts A-Level Psychology soon, hopefully it will provide inspiration during the course…..Now has this author done a book on swear words?


Book Reviews

This Ragged, Wastrel Thing by Tomas Marcantonio


What Da Cover Says:  This Ragged, Wastrel Thing: Book One of Tomas Marcantonio’s Sonaya Nights Trilogy.

After serving eleven years in The Heights for the murder of his childhood sweetheart, one-eared vagabond Daganae Kawasaki is finally free. But beneath the neon glare of a sprawling Sonaya, he soon discovers the backstreets are bursting with strange new shadows. Confronting plucky street orphans, bitter biker girls and down-and-out expats, Dag is swiftly embroiled in a fresh homicide case – and finds his murky past isn’t done with him yet.

What I Says:  Ooooh!  This is one slick story, you are quickly drawn into a world of dark squalor, flashing neon and a big old helping of booze & violence.  If you are a fan of In the Miso Soup by Ryū Murakami then you’ll gonna love this, you get that same feeling of seediness and the lack of general remorse at death from the characters,  in Sonaya death happens every day,  if you’re weak you ain’t gonna make it.

The point of view from this book is from Daganae Kawasaki, it reads like the old Philip Marlowe detective novels, you have that constant internal monologue going on and at times he can be quite witty.  Seeing everything from Dagenae’s point of view worked well for me, you only know what he knows and even though you can see others plotting you’re stuck inside his head for the ride.  The are plenty of wonderful characters in the book and one of the best bits is, you’ve know idea who is on what side.

Sonaya itself is one hell of place, very futuristic, drones flying around filming everything you do, that gap between rich and poor is greater than ever.  Marcantonio brings in some interesting ideas, a new type of taxation depending on how hot you are, the higher the rating the tougher life will be….personally being a 10 I would find this future quite a tough place to survive.

I have enjoyed this story big time,  I’m so looking forward to the next one in the series, the only issue is I can’t see all my favourite characters surviving to the end…there be dark times ahead.

Massive thanks to Storgy for this review copy.  Check out the book HERE.  This one is highly recommended by me.


Book Reviews

Hemingway in Italy by Richard Owen


What Da Cover Says:  Ernest Hemingway is most often associated with Spain and Cuba, but Italy was equally important in his life and work. Hemingway in Italy, the first full-length book exploring Hemmingway’s penchant for Italy, offers a lively account of the many visits Hemingway made throughout his life to Italian locales, including Sicily, Genoa, Rapallo, Cortina, and Venice.

What I says:  This must have been one tough man to research, Hemingway was a legend for exaggeration and constantly changing his life story.  One line in this book, a quote by his 4th wife Mary Welsh, sums him up perfectly:

“I could never detect when he skidded off fact into fiction.”

One of the most famous events in his early life was getting injured on the front during WWI, his story changes again and again, sometimes exaggerating and sometimes more humble.  Richard Owen has done a good job, instead of trying to prove which one was real he has shown the reader each version in a sort of timeline and how that fits into each of his books.  Owen’s writing is really easy to get into and right from the off I was hooked, I was able to use google along side this book to find images of Hemingway in these places and the people he hung out with, I loved the pictures on him as a young man on the front line in his uniform.  One of the biggest things to stand out in this book is how much he loved Italy and how much the people he met loved him, it just shows what kind of man he was to make so many friends.

It has been a long time since I read anything by Hemingway, so long in fact that all I can remember is that I didn’t get what was so great about his writing, nothing really happened and then it had a dark ending.  This fascinating book by Owen really does add a whole new dimension to Hemingway’s books and I’m planning to get a couple of them to read again and put my knowledge gained here to good use.

Thanks to Haus Publishing for sending me a copy of this book to review.  Check it out and grab a copy HERE.


Book Reviews

What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire By Charles Bukowski


What Da Cover Says:  This second posthumous collection from Charles Bukowski takes readers deep into the raw, wild vein of writing that extends from the early 70s to the 1990s.

What I Says:  What a title!  I read this during the Coronavirus madness and the title fits that situation perfectly.  This was a collection created after Bukowski died and they’ve done a good job pulling together material that showed his mood in those years.  From unwanted visitors telling him how great he is to freeloading friends trying to get a few bucks from him to his cats.  Each time I read one of his poems about cats I can see how much he lived his life like a cat, eating, drinking, going after ladies and then spending the rest of his time chilling.

There are a number of pieces here about death, other writers, artists, friends, women, his mother and his own.  Highlight of mine was him describing himself as being in no hurry to meet death, he’ll just sit there drinking wine and watch the stars whilst waiting for Death to make its move.  He is also very open about himself and tries to explain why he is like he is, “beast” is incredible, it leaves you with a lump in your chest.

Favourite poem for me in this book was “lifedance”

“the area dividing the brain and the soul
is affected in many ways by
some lose all mind and become soul:
some lose all soul and become mind:
some lose both and become:

There is so much in this book, how one man could right so much that could have meaning to so many people is mind blowing.  The man was a genius and this book rocks!


Book Reviews

Journey Into Cyprus by Colin Thubron


What Da Cover Says:  It was an unique journey – a 600 mile trek on foot around Cyprus, in the last year of the island’s peace. Colin Thubron writes about it and with great immediacy, intertwining myth, history and personal anecdote. What emerges is a tapestry from which characters and places, architectures and landscape all spring vividly to life.

As a guide to the island and its survival through centuries of turmoil, JOURNEY INTO CYPRUS is invaluable. As a fine narrative of travel, it is compelling.

What I Says:  This is quite a unique book, Thubron must have been the last person to freely walk around Cyprus in the 1970’s before things went to hell and the island was split in two.  During his walk he interviews both Greeks and Turks to try and judge their level of animosity towards each other.  On the whole they seemed quite peaceful, not much hatred towards each other…surprisingly there wasn’t any hatred towards the British who had carried out their usual colonial brutality on the locals.  Everybody he met was kind and they fed him, gave him shelter and asked how much his boots cost.

I’ve read a lot of travel books and this is one of those rare books about a country I have visited and it was nice to see Thubron visit a village that I have been to, each place got a little cheer from me.

The best part of the book was when Thubron found a small cave at a popular ruined site and he went exploring, soon the cave got smaller and darker.  Thubron was relieved to see some daylight coming from a gap in a paving slab above him and had a look through it, so see a lady looking back at him.  Just imagine the shock of seeing an eye staring back at you from beneath the paving slabs.


This was an interesting read, I liked how much the focus was on the history of the island,  there is so much to learn about Cyprus and this only touches the surface.


Book Reviews

Death Of A Painter by Matthew Ross


What Da Cover Says:  When Mark Poynter discovers a murder on his worksite, all of his financial problems suddenly seem a lot closer to home: was this a warning his debts are overdue?

Suspected of being the killer, but more worried about being the intended victim, the murder only makes Mark’s money problems worse, leading him to turn to the local villain, Hamlet, who has his own unique repayment plan in mind for Mark.

When two more deaths plunge him even further into debt, Mark finds himself faced with a choice – help the Police and clear his name or help the villain and clear his debt.

Death Of A Painter is the first in a new series of darkly comic crime fiction novels featuring the beleaguered builder Mark Poynter, aided and hindered in equal measure by his trusted crew of slackers, idlers and gossips, and the lengths they will go to just to earn a living, because in the cash-in-hand shadows of the economy there’s no job too big, no dodge too small.

What I Says:  Well this was a breath of fresh air, I usually have an uncanny ability to figure out the murderer right near the beginning of the book, in this case I had my man before I even started, my confidence was high when my culprit was actually a character in the book but alas it wasn’t to be.  In fact this book had me still unsure right up to the last 20 pages, it is good to be beaten by a book.

I do enjoy a good crime story, I tend to restrict how many I read though to stop them blurring into one story, when I saw this one on twitter the bright bold cover caught my attention, the small comic strip style images tell you exactly the type of book you are getting and I loved that.  Most of the whodunnit books I’ve read had have the killer and the cop/detective relationship, Matthew Ross though has an electrician as the main man trying to figure out who the killer was, whilst being prime suspect No.1 himself.

Marky Mark is the electrician and he has himself surrounded by some brilliant characters, the loveable alcoholic Disco was easily my favourite, Perry was a very supportive character and plays well off Mark, an almost stabilizing influence stopping the story getting out of control.  Hamlet the gangster and his two cronies had just the right amount of sinister in them.  The one  weakness though was Senia the detective working on the case, it would have been good to see a bit more of him, Mark’s treatment of him was very funny, which is probably why I craved more.

The plot is nice and tidy, tough to figure out but all loose ends worked out at the end.  Mark also has a really good sense of humour, at times the book felt like you were at the pub with Mark as he tells you this story, the more beers you have the more laughs in the story.  There were a few very funny lines that did make me laugh out loud, luckily nobody noticed so embarrassment wasn’t an issue.

This is a quick read, with a great cast of characters and I was pleased to see this is the first in a series so I’m looking forward to somebody getting brutally murdered just so I can get to read about Mark, Perry and Disco again.

Thanks to Red Dog Press for sending me a copy of the book to review.  You can grab a copy at Amazon and also on Red Dog Press’s website.


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Book Reviews

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty


What Da Cover Says:  Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles the turning of 15-year-old Dara McAnulty’s world. From spring and through a year in his home patch in Northern Ireland, Dara spent the seasons writing. These vivid, evocative and moving diary entries about his connection to wildlife and the way he sees the world are raw in their telling. “I was diagnosed with Asperger’s/autism aged five … By age seven I knew I was very different, I had got used to the isolation, my inability to break through into the world of talking about football or Minecraft was not tolerated. Then came the bullying. Nature became so much more than an escape; it became a life-support system.” Diary of a Young Naturalist portrays Dara’s intense connection to the natural world, and his perspective as a teenager juggling exams and friendships alongside a life of campaigning. “In writing this book,” Dara explains, “I have experienced challenges but also felt incredible joy, wonder, curiosity and excitement. In sharing this journey my hope is that people of all generations will not only understand autism a little more but also appreciate a child’s eye view on our delicate and changing biosphere.”

What I Says:  I have been reading bits and pieces online by Dara for a while now and I’m always impressed with how eloquently he writes.  He sees nature in a way that so few can, he sees beauty in everything (because of Dara I now leave dandelions alone, no more ripping them up) and he has possibly the most patient parents ever,  mine would given me a slap if I started picking apart animal scat to find bugs, instead of freaking out Dara’s parents discuss with him what his found.  This book shows that it is this parenting that has helped to create “A Rock-star of the Natural World”.

Dara puts all his emotion onto these pages, telling the reader about the bullying he experienced at school, feeling so alone and not fitting in, he shares how close he came to ending it all.  I still see him getting bullied on twitter, it doesn’t seem to be kids anymore, this is adults now and anybody with a soul can’t help but defend him, it is great to see so many rallying to his defence.  I know a couple people who are autistic and reading this book gave me an insight into what is going on with them and how they deal with being overwhelmed.

One of my favourite books is Notes From Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin and I couldn’t help but compare when reading, it has that same smooth writing that hooks the reader.  The smallest thing Dara writes about, from a feather to a stone, becomes so easy to picture.  I reckon this book will be heavily quoted by writers in future nature books for years to come.  One of the best debut’s I have ever read…still can’t believe somebody so young could write something so wonderful and I look forward to what is next for him.

Check out this page for a selection of his work HERE.  I’d also like to thanks Little Toller for the copy of this book they sent me.  This gets a 100% recommendation from me.