Review of Blackwater by Conn Iggulden

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Fiction – Quick reads – Crime Thriller – Violence

Cover – Blackwater


📖 This is such a strange book for me. None of the characters are particularly likeable yet the book was enjoyable.

✍️ Davey is the protagonist of the story. The book opens with him standing in the Sea at Brighton, fully clothed and contemplating his life. Through a series of flashbacks, we are introduced to Davey’s older, slightly bullying brother. Then we are told of Carol, Davey’s wayward straying wife. When Carol captures the eye of Denis, a well-known gangster type, Davey soon finds himself in trouble and calls on his brother to help.

🗣 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 think my brother killed him. I’d never had the nerve to ask outright, but our eyes had met as the coffin dropped down into the hole between us. I hadn’t known how to look away, but before I could he’d winked at me and I’d remembered all the secret cruelties of his life.

👓 Without giving too much away, one of the greatest things about this book was the twists at the end. I didn’t predict it at all and love it when something like that catches you out. It is dark and probably not what I would normally read but that is one of the great things about the quickreads series is that it encourages you to try something you might not otherwise.

👫 This is such a strange book as Davey who tells the story isn’t the most likeable character. Yet the author does a great job of intriguing the reader enough to make you want to know what happens to Davey and his straying wife.

🗺 I’ve been trying to think of authors that write similarly to this and the only one that comes to mind is Louise Candlish (The Skylight novella particularly springs to mind).

💭 Overall View: Certainly a quirky book. I imagine if you are into dark crimes or unreliable narrators this will be right up your street.


👍 Please leave a like if you think my review/feedback of the item was helpful to you. Alternatively, please contact me if you want me to clarify something in my review.

View all my reviews

Found messages

I love second hand books. I’ve found a few lately with dedications inside and they always move me. I think a books a lovely gift. Although I don’t think I have ever written a note in a book before.

This is the latest one I have found:

Do you gift books and if so do you write inside them?

Have you ever found someones treasured message?

Review of The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife

My rating: 5 of 5 stars (more if they were available).
Genre: Non-Fiction – History – Animal Welfare – Military – Mythology

📖 Wow! What a book. I bought this as an impulse buy after watching the highly enjoyable “Inside the Tower of London” tv series on Channel 5. I had googled a few facts and stories from the show and up popped this book in amongst my search and I decided to give it a go, I am pleased to say I was not disappointed.

Cover – The Ravenmaster



✍️ Chris takes us through his life before the tower, at the tower and then of course the introduction to the ravens and their antics. The book is smart, funny and really insightful.

🗣 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:

According to Celtic legend, around here is also where the head of Bran the Blessed, the king of England in Welsh mythology, was buried. Bran means ‘raven’, and he’s supposed to have been buried not far from the ravens’ current enclosures, which seems appropriate.

👓 There are so many interesting tales in this book, but I particularly enjoyed all the myths and legends around both the tower and the ravens. I imagine Chris is a particularly interesting person to have a pint with, the stories he could rattle off!

👫 A lot of the stories are quite humorous where the clever ravens get up to some legendary Hijinx (occasionally at Chris’s expense). However, Chris also includes a chapter about the commemorative art installation for The First World War Centenary which saw the moat filled with thousands of poppies. I remember seeing this on the news at the time and it looked spectacular but reading Chris’s story regarding it choked up my throat and brought a tear to my eye! Bravo sir!

💭 Overall View: Hugely enjoyable book that would appeal to history readers, animal lovers, London tourists, military enthusiasts and so much more. Highly recommended.

👍 Please leave a like if you think my review/feedback of the item was helpful to you. Alternatively, please contact me if you want me to clarify something in my review.

IF YOU WISH TO SEE MORE OF MY BOOK REVIEWS PLEASE VISIT:
BLOG: HTTPS://NEW2WRITING.WORDPRESS.COM/
FACEBOOK: HTTPS://WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/KLCALEY/
INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT: HTTPS://WWW.INSTAGRAM.COM/KL.CALEY/

View all my reviews

Review of Tees Valley Curiosities by Robert Woodhouse

Tees Valley Curiosities by Robert Woodhouse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Factual – Travel – History

📖 I was unsure whether to write this review or not but I really enjoyed reading this book and thought I should share that. I love to learn about local histories. I do this a lot when I travel so when I came across this little book I was quite excited to see what was around the Tees Valley area.

Cover – Tees Valley Curiosities

👓 This book focuses more on the interesting objects to be found in the region instead of places themselves. The book is really interestingly laid out. Each object has a history about it, details on how to access it, brilliant photographs and then snippets of stories of it appearing in the press or writings (often historical articles).

✍️ There are so many great objects but here are a few of my favourites:

• Darlington yards and wynds – All these wynds have interesting names but there is one with a bull carving. This is said to be linked to the Bulmer family, who at one time owned the nearby Bull Inn. The hostelry was probably named after the mighty beast known as the Ketton (or Durham) Ox that was bred by the Colling brothers at the nearby hamlets of Ketton and Barmpton.

o Reading this story made me want to find out more about the Ketton Ox. The ox was bred in 1802 by Charles Colling of Ketton, near Darlington.

o The beast, weighing 34cwt and 11ft around the girth, was taken around the country and exhibited at fairs.

• The Hitching stone – A former editor of the Northern Echo, W.T.Stead, often used it to tether his pony after travelling to his nearby office from the family home at Grainey Hill Cottage, Hummersknott. In 1880, Mr Stead moved to London to become editor of the Pall Mall Gazette and was drowned in the Titanic disaster of 1912.

o Stead is such an interesting character, he was the first editor to employ women journalists, he campaigned to get the age of consent raised from 13 to 16, he was imprisoned and of course, as listed above, he died on the Titanic.

o There is an interesting article on him here – https://web.archive.org/web/201204131…

👫 I think the thing that I enjoyed most about this book is that it prompted me to want to know more and more (as can be seen in the two examples above).

🗺 Are there any curios in your town? If so, I’d love to hear about them. 😊

💭 Overall View: A brilliant little book with a fantastic collection of interesting tales.

👍 Please leave a like if you think my review/feedback of the item was helpful to you. Alternatively, please contact me if you want me to clarify something in my review.

IF YOU WISH TO SEE MORE OF MY BOOK REVIEWS PLEASE VISIT:
BLOG: HTTPS://NEW2WRITING.WORDPRESS.COM/
FACEBOOK: HTTPS://WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/KLCALEY/
INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT: HTTPS://WWW.INSTAGRAM.COM/KL.CALEY/



View all my reviews

Meet the Author – C.J. Grayson

Most Tuesday nights in my household are a bit dull. Normally I make a bit of tea, walk the dog, perhaps do a bit at the allotment if the weather is dry, then it’s persuading the toddler that it’s bath and bedtime. Not this week!
This week I had the joy of spending my Tuesday night attending a local author event at Cockerton Library in Darlington to meet crime novelist C.J. Grayson.

MEET THE AUTHOR – C.J. GRAYSON

Grayson launched his debut novel, Someone’s There in 2019 and followed this up with the Byrd and Tanzy Trilogy based in his home town, Darlington.

Chris’s talk was really inspiring, he happily covered everything from his busy home life, writing inspirations, the self-publishing process and aspirations for future books. I took some notes and thought I would share them here (any errors I do apologise, I was trying to do this both subtly and hastily so that I could keep up).

·  What was the first thing you ever wrote?

Chris told us how he wrote a book as a teenager and then again in his early twenties. Looking back he jokingly confessed they weren’t very good but the drive to write his stories was there from a young age.

·  What inspired you to write your book?

Chris told us how his wife is always forgetting his phone and how it sparked the core of his first novel. He tells how the main protagonist rings his wife’s missing phone, but when he remembers seeing it downstairs earlier in the kitchen, he goes to hang up, only for it to be answered by strangers who’ve broken into the house. The strangers are looking for something specific. He said from there the novel grew quite organically until it formed “Someone’s there” his debut novel.

All of his novels have started from that initial ‘what-if’

·  Do you do a lot of research?

Chris told us that his books require a lot of research particularly the crime/police/procedural elements to his novel as this is not his background. He also said he uses a police officer friend to help proofread his books to try to keep them as accurate as the story allows.

·  Are there any locations that have a special connection for you or the book?

Chris told us how all of his Byrd and Tanzy Trilogy is based in Darlington, with several well-known areas appearing. He said he had even used his childhood home as one of the locations used in the novel.

·  Who do you enjoy reading?

Chris enjoys reading most crime novels although admitted he didn’t get as much time as he’d like to read (do any of us?!). His favourite genre to read is crime and he has been enjoying the novels by L.J. Ross.

·  What’s next?

Chris is currently working on his 5th novel….HIDDEN PIECES with a new setting in Manchester and a new female protagonist DS April Fisher.


Big thank you to C.J. Grayson for a wonderful evening’s entertainment (and to Cockerton Libraries, the fantastic hosts). I have my signed copy of his trilogy eagerly added to my to-read pile and can’t wait to crack on with it.

Check out C.J. Grayson’s Amazon Author Page for more info and see his wonderful collection of publications. His books start at just 99p or are FREE to read for those with Kindle Unlimited subscriptions.

KL Caley with C.J. GRAYSON

Or follow him at:

https://www.facebook.com/cjgraysonauthor/

https://www.instagram.com/cjgrayson_writer/?hl=en

Would you like to be featured?

If any New2writing followers have an upcoming book and would like to be featured, please drop me an email at kl.caley@yahoo.co.uk.

author-spotlight

Review of Clean Break by Tammy Cohen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Crime – Relationships – Psychological thriller

📖 Kate wants a divorce. Her husband Jack doesn’t want a divorce. Their marriage has been on the rocks for years, Kate isolating herself from friends and family over the years to appease her controlling husband Jack. When she finally plucks up the nerve to ask for a divorce she begins to feel free but life is never that simple and Jack’s controlling nature surfaces again in unsuspecting ways.

Cover – The Clean Break

✍️ Wow, this book pulled me in quickly and didn’t let go, with an ending that had a hell of a twist in its tale. This book is dark, it’s all about keeping secrets. Yet also, so much of it is entirely relatable.

👓 The story alternates from Kate’s viewpoint to Jack’s, each time revealing just a little more about their past (or their present) with a few surprises along the way.

🗣 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:

For the first hour or so after the policeman left, all she could think of was Tom, and the look in his green eyes when he told her he was falling in love with her.
But now her thoughts have moved to Jack. How his mouth had twisted up when he’d said, ‘I can smell him on you.’ The hatred coming off him in waves.

🗺 This book 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 a normal book by world-leading authors (less than 100 pages). 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. This author certainly uses that fast pace to full advantage.

👫 I have never read Tammy Cohen’s work before but based on this novella I certainly will look out for future works from her.

💭 Overall View: A clever story, with a dark plot and the dual narrator method really pulls you in.

👍 Please leave a like if you think my review/feedback of the item was helpful to you. Alternatively, please contact me if you want me to clarify something in my review.

IF YOU WISH TO SEE MORE OF MY BOOK REVIEWS PLEASE VISIT:
BLOG: HTTPS://NEW2WRITING.WORDPRESS.COM/
FACEBOOK: HTTPS://WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/KLCALEY/
INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT: HTTPS://WWW.INSTAGRAM.COM/KL.CALEY/

View all my reviews

Review of Notting Hill Carnival by Candice Carty-Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover – The Notting Hill Carnival


Genre: Romance – Quick Reads – Retellings

📖 This book is pretty much a modern-day remake of Romeo and Juliet. The story primarily follows a girl named Sapphire who once was the leader of a gang called the Red Roses. She’s turned her life around, got a job and is trying to go straight as it were. Unfortunately, the leader of the Gold Teeth Gang has other plans and Sapphire soon finds herself being pulled back into that old world. On her way to the Notting Hill Carnival, Sapphire finds herself forming a friendship with a boy named Apollo but they both soon have their loyalties tested when they find out they each belong to rival gangs.

✍️ This book 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 a normal book by world-leading authors (less than 100 pages). 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. This book carries a lot of action and a lot of background despite its short number of pages, and I enjoyed that. The romance aspect perhaps could have developed more (as I’m sure it would have in a longer book) but I’m sure the reader got the gist and was willing the couple to triumph.

🗣 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:

‘Do I know you from somewhere?’ he said back, smiling.
Sapphire stifled a laugh. This was the oldest trick in the book, though she hadn’t heard it for a long time. All work and no play in the last few months had made Sapphire feel like nobody would ever be attracted to her.
‘I don’t think so’, she smiled. He was kind of cute. Not as big as the guys she usually went for, but she did like his eyes.

🗺 This book takes place in London (probably obvious by the title) but I enjoyed the author’s descriptions of the areas. You really got a feel for the turf was between the gangs and the busy carnival bringing it all to a head.

💔 Any Negatives: Possibly could have done with a little more romance but to be honest the amount of story packed into such a short book it would have been difficult to achieve this.

💭 Overall View: A brilliant little story and a great tribute to a classic. The story felt sassy and strong-willed. The main character was well portrayed, and you did find yourself willing her to triumph. Overall, very enjoyable.

View all my reviews

Review of The Merciful Women by Federico Andahazi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cover of The Merciful Women

I did make the mistake of taking this book out with me to a quiet Yorkshire town cafe and got a few strange looks.

📖 My first thought on completion of this book (and several times throughout reading) is “what a bizarre book”. I very much think it will be like marmite, you will either love it or hate it. I’m glad I read it as it is certainly intriguing and challenging to the books I would normally read but I’m not sure I’d revisit it.

The book was originally written in another language (Spanish?) and then translated to English. The story is obscure and dark. Most people are aware of the story of Byron, Percy and Mary Shelley’s trip from which the story of Frankenstein was born. This book is a retelling of that tale which includes the story of John Polidori, who is attributed to writing “The Vampyre”.

✍️ John finds himself in contact with an intriguing character who wants to share her story with him and will help him write the greatest story of all time, the vampyre. John, of course, eagerly agrees, but with everything, nothing in this world is free.

🗣 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 behave according to my primitive impulses. In this, Dr Polidori, we may find we share a common trait. I am inexhaustible and lascivious, and I never measure the consequences of seeking that which I desire – or rather, that which I need. I am nothing but one-third of a monster that no imagination, either human or divine, could have conceived.

👫 This book has everything you would want in a gothic horror; a dark re-telling, an isolated location, secret candlelight stories and a creature of the night.

💔 Any Negatives: This book is excessively erotic at times, often drifting into the more vulgar aspects.

💭 Overall View: Another reviewer wrote, reading this was like having a psychedelic dream and I feel that is probably one of the most accurate interpretations of this book. It is smart, dark and daring, yet sometimes too bizarre for my tastes.

👍 Please leave a like if you think my review/feedback of the item was helpful to you. Alternatively, please contact me if you want me to clarify something in my review.

IF YOU WISH TO SEE MORE OF MY BOOK REVIEWS PLEASE VISIT:
BLOG: HTTPS://NEW2WRITING.WORDPRESS.COM/
FACEBOOK: HTTPS://WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/KLCALEY/
INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT: HTTPS://WWW.INSTAGRAM.COM/KL.CALEY/

View all my reviews

Review of The Other Side of You by Amanda Craig

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Crime – Gangs – Fresh Start – Retellings – YA

Cover – The Other Side of You


📖 This book follows Will, a young man from a rough estate who seems perpetually down on his luck. When he returns to his home he finds his Aunt murdered by a local gang and knows he must escape or he is next. Through chance, Will escapes and discovers a place he can hide safely; a garden with a greenhouse. He soon realises the food grown round about him is edible and even figures out how to grow more.

✍️ Will meets Padma and through his distant awareness of her (and later friendship with her,) he begins to reform, he no longer wishes to cause fear but be kind and even understood. He wants the opportunity to start again but as with all fables, his past doesn’t allow that and soon catches up with him.

🗣 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:

How did the glasshouse stay warm? The glass helped but there was even electricity. I flicked the switch just to check, and almost jumped out of my skin. Someone was talking out of a dusty old radio. I turned it off, sweating. But nobody came to check. It was as if I had become invisible.

🗺 This book 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 a normal book by world-leading authors (less than 100 pages). 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.

💔 Any Negatives: Despite being quite fast-paced, I didn’t initially get into this novel at the beginning with all the gangs and running around. However, I am really pleased I stuck with it as the story is great once it gets going.

💭 Overall View: The author has written this contemporary fable with the primary focus on the capacity to change. The desire (and ability) to leave one’s old life behind and begin again. The tale is sweet and the characters grow on you as the story progresses.

👍 Please leave a like if you think my review/feedback of the item was helpful to you. Alternatively, please contact me if you want me to clarify something in my review.

IF YOU WISH TO SEE MORE OF MY BOOK REVIEWS PLEASE VISIT:
BLOG: HTTPS://NEW2WRITING.WORDPRESS.COM/
FACEBOOK: HTTPS://WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/KLCALEY/
INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT: HTTPS://WWW.INSTAGRAM.COM/KL.CALEY/

View all my reviews

Review of Future Bright, Future Grimm by D.J. MacLennan

Future Bright, Future Grimm: Transhumanist Tales for Mother Nature’s Offspring by D.J. MacLennan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Future Bright, Future Grimm – Cover.



Genre: Fantasy – Fairytales – Mythical

📖 Disclaimer – I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

✍️ This book has such an interesting writing style, it is almost antiquated yet also modern, an intriguing blend. In a strange way, you feel smart reading but at the same time, the stories are recognisable as variations on traditional tales. Although these variations are far from the Disney versions you may be more familiar with.

🗣 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 come to take your daughter,’ said the red-lit being. ‘With me, she actualises; with you, she dies.’

‘I don’t know who or what you are,’ cried the woman, ‘but please don’t take my daughter. She’s all I have!’

‘You are all you have; she is all she has,’ came the dry rustle of response to the woman’s desperate plea. Then, with a loud pop-zip, the being was gone.

The woman stumbled back to her shack, whimpering as she went. She unlocked the sheet-iron door and burst in. But she was too late – her beloved daughter had been taken.

👓 This book contains 24 short stories and at the end of each one, the author provides detail of the original story and an overview of areas he changed during the re-telling (e.g. trading male for female viewpoints, adjusting time periods etc). I really enjoyed these creative insights. The stories are dark, shocking and striking. If anyone has ever read the “original” Grimm stories (for example in the original Grimm version Cinderella’s sisters cut off their toes to try to make them fit the slipper), Maclennan very much pays homage to this writing style.

👫 The author also includes a detailed introduction about the different terms used in fairy tales (such as Transhumanism) including insight into its use and historical references. This is very interesting

🗺 As a little side note (not that it should particularly matter) but the cover is also rather beautiful, harking back to traditional storybook style covers.

💭 Overall View: Not for the faint-hearted but this is a really intriguing collection of dark stories.