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:

Book Reviews

Along the Amber Route: St Petersburg to Venice by C.J. Schüler

What da cover says: Light, portable and high in value, amber is an ideal commodity for long-distance trade. An Amber Route, comparable to the Silk Road, ran from the Baltic to the Mediterranean for thousands of years.

C.J. Schüler followed this route by bus, train and boat for 2,500 kilometres along river valleys, forest paths and Roman roads. His journey traces both the greatest fault lines of European geopolitics and his own family’s history. As he explores lands contested by Romans and Vandals, Teutons and Slavs, lost empires and
the former Iron Curtain, Schüler must also confront his own family history, Nazism and the Holocaust.

What I Says: I had heard of amber before, all thanks to the mighty Jurassic Park, but I’ve never heard of the Amber Route, I couldn’t even hazard a guess as to it’s location. As soon as I saw the map I knew I had to read this book, an area of the world I have barely read about.

This was a fascinating read, Schüler takes the reader across present borders and past borders whilst tracing the route that the amber trade used, all the time keeping an eagle eye for any bits of amber he can find on beaches. During this journey he shares with us the history of the area, so much turmoil going all the way back to Roman times, it is incredible just how much conflict there has been. During this trip Schüler tries to trace his family, looking for their legacy, where they lived and worked before they had to flee during WWII, the stories he shares are heart-breaking, there is no place on the route that escaped this conflict and it didn’t matter how many times Schüler revealed the damage and deaths it never failed to hit you in the pit of your stomach.

One of the most interesting parts of the book was the famous Russian Amber Room, still missing since WWII, Schüler gives an interesting account about how it was made, whom made it and who for, how it was moved around and all about the remade panels currently in their place. It is almost a mini-book within the main book.

Schüler has a vast knowledge about music from this era, I’m always impressed when somebody is able to identify a piece of classical music but to identify a piece that a park bench is playing??? I doff my hat to you Mr. Schüler very impressive. He also discusses the architecture that can be scene, describing what is there currently and comparing it to what was there before it was destroyed during one of the many conflicts in the region.

I felt this book was missing one thing, locals, whilst Schüler does meet the locals he doesn’t share much of the conversations he must have had. Apart from this one bit this was a fantastic read, so much information within these pages, this is one of those books that will sit on my shelf and be dipped in and out of when I need to find a fact to win an argument.

Thanks to Sandstone Press for sending me this book, Grab yourself a copy from HERE cos it be well worth a read.

Book Reviews

Neither Weak Nor Obtuse by Jake Goldsmith

What Da Cover Says:I am very ill. That would be the first and most obvious thing to know.” Thus Jake Goldsmith, a young man with cystic fibrosis, begins this memoir, a sustained, profoundly honest and searching reflection upon the phenomenology of illness: how we perceive and respond to living with illness and dying from it, and how we fearfully evade doing so. His impassioned writing, marked by a brilliantly agonistic, idiosyncratic eloquence, transcends the snare of his own tragic circumstances, and holds up a mirror to society’s time-honored complacencies: our callous attitudes towards the disabled, our false gods, and our general neglect and distortion of the search for meaning that has for those with life-limiting conditions an especially stark urgency.

“In a letter to Goldsmith’s hero, Albert Camus, Boris Pasternak wrote that while there may not be anything beyond “sensualism”, “one that is completely naked and extreme becomes weak and obtuse.” Jake Goldsmith leads us towards a humanely grounded materialism that is neither of these, valuing what is vital in human life: friendship, humor, and love, and giving us a moving glimpse at a partial truce with fear, for, he writes, “we may grow less afraid in each other’s arms.”

What I Says: Before you read this review, I have to admit that a chunk of this book went over my head a bit, I have read very little philosophy (possibly just the one book) and nothing by Camus, whilst it was beyond me at times I feel I understood the basic idea that Goldsmith was trying to put to the reader….so without further a-do here is my misunderstood review of “Neither Weak Nor Obtuse”.

Goldsmith has lived with a chronic illness all his life, he knows his time on this planet is shorter than most and this book is an insight into the mind of a man living with that knowledge, dealing with the pain and difficulties, trying to fit in and wanting to leave his mark, not wanting to disappear never having been known. I found a lot of what he says to be very interesting, especially the idea of the market being saturated, so many memoirs out there and anything Goldsmith has to say has probably already been said, so what can he do to be heard over the many voices out there? I found myself easily drawn in to his discussions, some real “holding my chin and nodding along stuff”, the more interesting side of the book was him discussing trying to live in this world where everybody has an opinion and will share it with you regardless of whether you want to hear it. Particularly heart breaking was when he was stuck in a depression spiral, he forces himself to move and look after himself, a hard walk to the shops for groceries he can barely carry back results in him losing control at an old lady who comments on his health. The despair he shares with the reader after this event is the sort of thing I’ve never considered before. For these little insights into his life I recommend this book, I think it has changed the way I’ll look at people in the future.

This is a book well worth reading, Goldsmith is incredibly honest in his writing, for somebody living with a grim future he has done a good job of giving this book a unique feel by mixing social observations with his rather dark sense of humour, I really think he has produced a memoir that will stand above the many others out there.

Thanks to Sagging Meniscus for sending me this copy to review. If you wanna check it out you can get a copy from HERE: Published July 2022.

Book Reviews

Blog Tour: The Chemical Cocktail by Fiona Erskine

What Da Cover Says: Jaq Silver is back with a bang in this high-octane third novel in the series

When Jaq Silver’s mother dies, she is handed a poisoned chalice. An inheritance more valuable to her than she could have imagined. Travelling from Portugal to Brazil amid conspiracies and corruption to get to the bottom of her family mystery, Jaq learns she is not the only one with an interest in her unusual inheritance. Racing against the clock as the threats to her life increase on all sides, Jaq must use her scientific know-how to save what matters most.

What I Says: I made a bit of a mistake here, I really enjoyed Erskine’s last book so much I jumped at the chance of reading this one…turns out it is book 3 in a series. It’s my mistake but all the pressure is on Erskine, will this book work as a standalone novel or will those readers new to numbers be complaining during their whole review? Luckily Erskine is a mighty fine writer, and this book works well without having read the previous ones, you get a little background that doesn’t get explained and that is enough to entice you into checking out what came before whilst not taking anything away from this reading experience. The character descriptions are spot on so that I can see they won’t get repetitive as you work your way through the series…so in conclusion for this opening paragraph, this book works.

Our main character is Jaq Silver (an autobiographic representation of Erskine herself methinks, kick-ass and a scientist), a rather unusual character, she is tough, knows how to fight, has an uncanny ability to spot trouble and she knows her stuff when it comes to sciency things, but she also shares her weaknesses, she can be selfish by using others to get what she needs and even though she has all these great positives she is lacking in confidence at times, which had me cheering her on as she battled with her confidence. Her mother has just died and in part of her inheritance she receives some proper good “soap-opera” news, as things were building up to the big reveal I had all kinds of ideas but was still way off the mark.

There is plenty of science going on in here and Erskine has this ability to take something complicated, make it easy enough for the layman to understand whilst still making it look complicated enough that you feel clever for understanding it….if that makes sense. There are lots of cool gadgets whose functions are explained in detail and if you are left disbelieving then at the end of the book Erskine shares how close these gadgets are to being a reality, I can’t wait to travel to work just using my belt.

The story is made up of quite short chapters and this makes the action more intense, whilst the story flows along at a fast trot. The plot is tight, everything gets explained well, and it was very easy to get drawn into the story, with the intrigue over the inheritance to have me committed early on. One of my favourite things about this book was the food, a lot of writers will say that a character is eating and that’s it, Erskine must have a real passion for food because the images were so vivid I actually drooled onto the page when Jaq was at one restaurant.

Another fine book from Erskine that leaves the reader wanting more, luckily for me there is more as I will now have to go get books 1 and 2. Highly recommended read for those who like a good thriller.

PS: Check out page 58 🙂

This was my stop on the Chemical Detective Book Tour, if you wanna check out this book then you can find it HERE. Make sure to check out the other stops on the tour.