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Review of Anti-Social by Nick Pettigrew

Anti-Social: The Secret Diary of an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer by Nick Pettigrew

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Anti-Social is a diary showing the day to day aspects of being an AS officer. His insight into life with individuals (and families) with a variety of problems; crime, drugs, mental health issues, elderly, isolation, court cases, tenancy disputes and more.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

14 September
Not a good day. Tim calls our team and says he has serious concerns for the wellbeing of his neighbour, as well as the wellbeing of his own kids. Tim’s next door neighbour is Anne, who’s in her seventies and lives with her son Alex. And Tim worries that if something isn’t done soon, Alex is going to end up killing his mum.
Tim tells me that Anne can be heard pleading with Alex to leave her alone and to get out of the flat. This is usually accompanied with thuds and crashes, and Alex screaming abuse at his mum.

This book is interesting, it thrusts you straight into the office of a community worker from the first page, showing sometimes the only things that will get you through the day are a dark sense of humour, prescription meds and copious amounts of alcohol and Nick doesn’t shy away from telling us those facts and the toll this job can take on your mental health. It feels like a truly honest reflection (the good, the bad and the ugly).

Cover of Anti-Social by Nick Pettigrew
Cover: Anti-Social

The author offers both compassion and empathy were needed but also doesn’t shy away from the nastier individuals he comes across. He offers genuine insight into the paperwork, the funding issues, the court cases and more. There were often times on a few of his more sensitive cases when it really hits you in the gut just how hard life is for some of the individuals involved in these cases.
I would genuinely recommend this book. It’s the darker side of humanity with often the only lightness being the author’s wit. I feel anyone in the sector, particularly senior management level and above, MPs and probably the courts too, need to read this to better understand the individuals, the paperwork, and more. It’s probably the closest they will get to walking in another person’s shoes and it just might help make better-informed decisions and changes the sector needs.

I have read many books like this that give you insight into someone else’s profession (and life). Confessions of a GP by Benjamin Daniels is a similar book with some equally thought-provoking scenarios for those interested in further reading.

Overall View: Brilliant, upsetting, challenging, funny, emotional and more.

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Review of The Skylight by Louise Candlish

The Skylight: Quick Reads 2021 by Louise Candlish

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The skylight is a crime thriller set in a built-up suburban area. Simone and Jake live on the top two floors of a shared building. Their neighbours Gus and Alina live downstairs and live a life Simone is envious of. Simone soon realises she can watch them through their skylight (and does frequently).

When Simone sees Jake, her partner spending time over at the neighbours house her envy steps up a gear and Simone begins a neighbourly feud which could have deadly consequences.

I liked this book. It is part of the “quick reads” collection which I like to intersperse between larger novels. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than normal book by world-leading authors. One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast-paced with a lot happening in less time. The Skylight is a fast-paced plot-driven story, it meets the quick read criteria perfectly.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘I just saw Alina in the hall,’ he tells me one evening.
‘Oh yes? How is our local mean girl?’
‘Simone,’ he protests.
‘Well, she is.’
‘I’m sure she’s okay underneath it all.’
What, without her clothes on, I think.

This story is told from the viewpoint of Simone, a classic unreliable narrator. Simone tells the reader a story that cannot be taken at face value. It’s difficult to tell if she is insane, deluded or just malicious but you can feel the tension from her from the very first page. This makes the story all the more believable, how many people can’t stand their neighbours. Add in extreme jealousy to that mix and it’s a boiling pot ready to bubble over.

I don’t know how others would take it but I particularly loved the ending. Sharp and clever.
My first time reading Louise Candlish’s work but I would definitely be interested in reading a full novel if this is her calibre of storytelling.

Overall View: Under 100 pages. Dark, deceptive, witty, tension-filled. Amazing work in so few pages.

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Extract - The Skylight
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Review of The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Ruby Pier amusement park maintenance worker Eddie is 83. Spotting a problem with one of the rides he rushes to help, upon spotting a small child dangerously close to the ride, Eddie dives to save her. That is the last thing he remembers, he awakens, young, no longer aching and with a guide ready to reveal the story of Eddie’s life. Eddie’s next journey begins, with many flashbacks to his life on earth.



I honestly think this is one of the best books I have read in a while. I’m not entirely certain what genre it is, spiritual, personal discovery with a dash of adventure. I bought this from an independent bookshop, drawn in initially by the title and then the blurb. It’s not a genre or an author I have read before, but I really enjoyed it.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Eddie was skeptical. His fists stayed clenched.
“What?” he said.
“There are no random acts. That we are all connected. That you can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.”
Eddie shook his head. “We were throwing a ball. It was my stupidity, running out there like that. Why should you have to die on account of me? It ain’t fair.”
The Blue Man held out his hand. “Fairness,” he said, “does not govern life and death. If it did, no good person would ever die young.”

This book is mainly told through Eddie’s eyes or memories but with each guide they also present a snapshot of their stories, how Eddie interacted with them, seeing the things he couldn’t see. It was such a clever representation of “walking in another man’s shoes”.

I loved the range of characters in this book. Each one interesting and complex, yet ultimately simple. They did their best with what they knew. This book is so beautifully crafted. The writer really compels you to think about your actions and interactions big and small. So much of the story resonates with events we all have in our lives, angers we hold onto, opportunities we think we have missed, yet it shows the other side of the coin, the light, the things we gain in return for losses. Its messages are subtle but thought-provoking.

Overall View: An emotional rollercoaster ride of a book. It was everything I had hoped to find in the title and so much more. The novel actually leaves you feeling uplifted and full of hope. This book will stay with me for a really, really long time and I would happily recommend, even encourage others to read it.

I actually bought this book from a cute little independent bookshop in Richmond named Castle Hill Book Shop. Tucked off down a little side street away from the market square and castle I was delighted to come across this little hidden gem and in turn, find this wonderful little book. The beauty of supporting an independent bookshop is being drawn to treasures like these that I would be very unlikely ever to have found by browsing online. After all this time, I still love the magic of a bookshop.

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Review of The Baby is Mine.

The Baby is Mine by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


After being thrown out of his house, Bambi goes to stay in his deceased uncle’s house. He is surprised when he gets there to find not only his Auntie but also Esohe, the woman with whom his uncle had an affair. Also in the house is a baby boy; both women claim to be his mother. Strange events start to escalate in the house and soon Bambi is fearing the little boy’s wellbeing, he needs to figure out who the mother is before it is too late.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Esohe’s eyes widened. She seemed surprised that she was being thrown out, which was odd, considering the battle these two were in. I watched as Esohe’s mouth opened and shut. But then her eyes narrowed and she tilted her head to one side. We waited for her to say something. And finally she did.
‘No.’
‘What?’
‘I’m not going anywhere. In fact, the house belongs to my baby and me now. This is Folu’s gift to us.

I liked this book. It is part of the “quick reads” collection which I like to intersperse between larger novels. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than normal book by world-leading authors. One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast-paced with a lot happening in less time. The Baby is mine is a fast-paced plot-driven story, it meets the quick read criteria perfectly.

Bambi is a really great character who goes from being really quite selfish and self-centred to caring for the little boy, his safety and his future.

I also really liked the fact this briefly book covered covid and lockdown making it feel really relevant to what the world has been going through. It added to the stories tension without making it too dry.

Overall View: Affairs, death, epidemics, family drama. A lot of story in 104 pages. I am really looking forward to reading more of this author’s work.

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Extract – The Baby is Mine
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Review of The Dream Weavers by Barbara Erskine

For a long time, Barbara Erskine has held the crown of queen of time-slip novels and this novel proves to be no exception to that title. The detail, particularly in the historical viewpoints is just exceptional.

For a long time, Barbara Erskine has held the crown of queen of time-slip novels and this novel proves to be no exception to that title. The detail, particularly in the historical viewpoints is just exceptional.

This book primarily follows Bea Dalloway, a psychic cleanser (for want of a better word) who quietly helps souls move on to a more restful place. When she is called out to historian Simon’s cottage, she soon realises there is more going on there than she expected to find. Soon Bea finds herself observing the Saxon age, primarily Eadburgh daughter of Offa.

When Eadburgh begins to also haunt Emma, Simon’s teenage daughter, Bea becomes scared there are other dark forces at play. Emma has no control over her abilities and Bea must quickly show her how to protect herself, but the pull of the past may just be too much for Emma to resist.
I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘Well, you can’t believe anything they say,’ Eadburgh retorted. ‘He might have chosen any of us. Me, for instance. I may be the youngest but I’m the prettiest!’
‘Her sisters both laughed. ‘I think we can guess who he has in store for you.’ Alfrida fixed Eadburgh with a mocking gaze. ‘He’s obviously got the puppy from Powys lined up for you.’
Eadburgh stared at her. ‘Who?’
‘Prince Elisedd.’ Alfrida giggled. ‘Why else would he send you off with him to stare at a line of wooden stakes and a thousand men carrying baskets of mud for his wretched rampart when he could have sent one of his surveyors. Marriage is the best way to ensure peace between the kingdoms. He’s told us often enough.’

This book contains a great range of characters; Bea and Emma are at the forefront of the modern storyline but there is a great supporting cast. Emma’s father Simon, a historical novelist and initially non-believer is a great character. Bea’s husband Mark is a cannon connected to the local cathedral. This brings in a Christian element to the story which is a great mix. I also loved that Barbara Erskine gave a nod to Meryn Jones, a druid who had occasionally appeared in her earlier books. It would have been great to see him brought in more (maybe for future books).

This book has mixed settings. The modern storyline is set around Offa’s Dyke and the Hereford area, in the historic timeline it starts in that setting, but later features the Kingdom of Wessex and the court of Charlemagne. This is one area where Barbara Erskine’s writing really shines for me, she captures so many of these past elements beautifully and it really feels like you are listening in to court squabbles and wandering along the herb gardens.

One of my favourite things about Barbara Erskine’s novels are the little extra’s she adds, in this novel she has included Anglo-Saxon maps, history on Offa and his children and even a glossary of Welsh words.

Any Negatives? As others have mentioned online, there are quite a few spelling mistakes in this first edition. This doesn’t detract from the story and can easily be overlooked.
I did feel slightly disappointed in the storyline of Sandra, I thought that was likely to have a darker element like some of Barbara’s earlier books but it didn’t really lead there, again this didn’t really take away from the main story which was still incredibly strong.

Overall View: Brilliant story. Great use of the spiritual Pagan/Christian/New Age elements. Enjoyed learning snippets about this particular time in history. I can’t wait for the next book.

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Review of The Donor – 5 Stars

The Donor by Clare Mackintosh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Premise: Fourteen-year-old Meg is in recovery, six months previously she had a heart transplant. She has been given a second lease of life and is desperate to live it to its fullest. Her mother Lizzie is somewhat nervous, after years of living with the worry of Meg’s illness, she can’t help be cautious. When the bereaved mother of the donor, Karen, makes contact and asks to meet Meg, Lizzie worries, but she feels obligated to her for giving her daughter this new lease of life, begrudgingly she agrees. Soon Karen’s motives come into question and Meg’s attitude begins to change. Has Lizzie made a huge mistake allowing Karen to get to know Meg, worse still, is her daughter in danger?

I really enjoyed this short story, part of the “quick reads” collection which I love to intersperse with longer reads. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than a normal book by world-leading authors. One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast-paced with a lot happening in less time. I’m proud of authors who take on the challenge of writing these books so that they can be enjoyed by all even those who aren’t keen readers.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘She’s taking a lot of pills already,’ I say. The bottles are in the bathroom, their labels filled with long names I can’t pronounce.
‘These are supplements. They’ll help Meg stay healthy.’
‘She is healthy. She’s doing really well. The consultant said so.’ I don’t mean to sound so abrupt, but Steve turns to look at me, a shocked expression on his face.
‘Lizzie!’

The story is told from Lizzie’s point of view. She has felt so much strain from her daughter’s illness over the years. Her guilt and stress are palpable through the page and it’s pretty easy to picture yourself in her position, what would you do? How would you react?

The story of course captures the concept of organ donation (for a real-life insight into this I highly recommend Dan Walker’s book Remarkable People, there is a chapter on organ donation that is both heart-breaking and inspirational). The author also dabbles with the theory of cell memory, a really interesting concept that really adds to the story.

Overall View: Fast-paced, well-written, character-driven short novel. A really good read. A fantastic novelist! Cannot wait to read many more of her works.

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Extract – The Donor
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Review of The Tools: Transform Your Problems…

The Tools: Transform Your Problems into Courage, Confidence, and Creativity by Phil Stutz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A self-help book aimed at overcoming everyday burdens that block you from progressing towards what you really want. With helpful exercises included. It shows scenarios with individual cases and how they applied the techniques, even some initial failures where repetition is needed.

I enjoyed this book, the size of it is brilliant and makes it so much less daunting than some of the larger textbooks on similar subjects. I have read a few of these books such as The Secret and Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffries. In reality, they all make sense in their own way and it depends upon your scenario’s and how you apply them. I found some of the tools from “The Tools” more effective than others, equally, I found some of the approaches to Feel the Fear and do it anyway more realistic than others.

However, having recently had a baby which is an emotional enough period, followed by a fall-out of a fifteen-year friendship and an incredibly difficult working situation, this book had enough motivational and straightforward content to give me what I needed from it at that point in time. So, I suspect if you yourself are going through a period of change or reflection, this book could be what you need.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Its power has touched your own life as well. You started life as a helpless infant; yet in a remarkably short time, you moved from crawling to standing to walking. You did this despite countless painful setbacks. Watch a child learning to walk now. No matter how many times he falls, he soon picks himself back up to pursue his goal. His sense of purpose is amazing; he’s tapped into the Force of Forward Motion.

Any Negatives: Long-winded in places in comparison to other self-help books. It does also repeat itself regularly, but I guess that could be useful if you are dipping in and out.

Overall View: Easily digestible. Great comparisons/real-life stories associated with the ideas and tools. Useful to have on the shelf for future reference.

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Extract – The Tools.
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Review of The Fool’s Girl – 4 Stars

The Fool’s Girl by Celia Rees

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This story is a nod to the twelfth night and its characters and of course William Shakespeare.
Violetta the Duchessa (the equivalent of a young princess), has fled her home country to come to London in search of a holy relic taken from her home in Illyria so that she can restore it to her people. She has the companionship of Feste, her clown from childhood. When they meet playwright William Shakespeare, their fortunes finally seem to turn around.

I adore Celia Rees’s writing. She captures the past magnificently. Her descriptions are always rich and details. Pirates and Witch Child are phenomenal books, I would highly recommend both. However…

The fool’s Girl, I really struggled with. It just took me a long time to settle into the story. The characters and timeline jump back and forth (which is quite normal for both the historical fiction genre and Celia Rees’s writing) but on this occasion, it left me struggling to keep up and pinpoint what was going on.

Once I got into the story, I did enjoy it. The action was great, the love story was enjoyable as was the characters introduced. The historical landscape of London was really visibly brought to life and I was of course left really intrigued by Illyria.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

VIOLETTA
…Until the year when I was ten years old and everything changed. At the end of each summer, the palace was closed up and we went back to the city. I saw less of Stephano during the winter, but that year he did not appear at the summer palace at all.
‘Sebastian has claimed him,’ Lady Olivia said. ‘Made him his page. He wants to make a man of him.’ She laughed but there were tears in her eyes as she said it.
I missed him sorely, but I hid my sorrow in the way that children do. I always had Feste to teach me new tricks and laugh me out of my misery. He’s no child, but he can enter into a child’s world.

Overall View: I begrudgingly gave this a four-star but in reality, for me, it was a bit less, 3 and a half would be more accurate. A mixed bag, great writing, loved the historical aspects but just a lot of effort upfront to get to the good bits.

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The Fool’s Girl – Extract
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Review of Right, Said Fred

Right, Said Fred by Freddie Flintoff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Freddie Flintoff’s pearls of wisdom on an eclectic array of topics. Of course, the obligatory cricket is covered (I am not particularly a fan of the sport but Freddie’s descriptions help to make it sound more interesting), Top Gear (Woohoo) and many other random facts and ideas from all other aspects of his life.

I’ll be honest, I’m not often a fan of these celebrity, blow-their-own trumpet, did they even really write them, autobiographies, but for some reason, I was drawn to Freddie’s. I adore him in his new role at top gear, his camaraderie with the team is brilliant. I have found him quite hilarious in many of his other TV roles, so after reading his earlier book “Do you know what?”, which genuinely had me laughing out loud at times, I thought I’d give this one a go too and I was not disappointed.

Much of the book is very funny. The writing style is great, and it does feel like he is actually talking, having a conversation in his own words, not what some journalist thinks he should be saying. It felt like a real insight into his personal and professional life. In fact, it often feels like a conversation with a bloke down the pub, putting the world to rights and questioning the bizarre and intriguing in the world that rarely tends to pop up in day-to-day conversation.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

When my fourth child was born, I didn’t tell anyone about it apart from family. I did an interview in Australia for Ninja Warrior and the bloke said, ‘I understand your wife is expecting your fourth child’, and I replied, ‘Yeah, it’ll be brilliant when it happens.’ The fact was, he was already about three months old. I just didn’t think anyone apart from family needed to know about it.

Any Negatives: Not quite as funny as “Do you know what?”. I genuinely laughed out loud reading parts of that book. But it’s still really pretty good.

Overall View: Honestly, highly recommended. Freddie comes across as open, honest, likeable and so much more human than the media persona everyone thinks they know. Funny with a tad of seriousness when needed. A bit of light-hearted reading which after 2020, I think we all needed.

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Extract – Right, Said Fred