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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Review of Women & Power by Mary Beard

Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover – Women and Power


📖 I picked this book up at the airport on the way to a holiday. I had never heard of Mary Beard prior to it and it was just the concept and the initial pages which pulled me in but I must say it was an enjoyable read and I felt quite empowered after reading it.

✍️ The book is based on two lectures previously given by Mary Beard. Short but to the point. The historical aspects of the book were most intriguing. It explores the male authority within the western culture from multiple historic viewpoints, Greek, Roman, it even has a quick look at Queen Elizabeth the first and her most famous words “I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too” or were they?

🗣 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:

In the early fourth century BC, for example, Aristophanes devoted a whole comedy to the ‘hilarious’ fantasy that women might take over running the state. Part of the joke was that women couldn’t speak properly in public – or rather, they couldn’t adapt their private speech (which in this case was largely fixated on sex) to the lofty idiom of male politics.

👓 I wouldn’t say I agreed with every concept approached in this book, however, like all good books, it was certainly thought-provoking. Beard’s arguments are very compelling. It also stayed with me for quite some time after reading.

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At the time of reviewing this book it is on sale for £2.84 at Amazon (affiliate link):

https://amzn.to/3rW2DFY

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Review of Wish You Were Dead by Peter James

Wish You Were Dead by Peter James

Genre: Crime – Thriller – Police Procedural

Cover – Wish You Were Dead

📖 This is a great holiday read for those wanting a crime twist to their holiday reading. Roy Grace is a detective superintendent who packs up his family for a luxury holiday at a small boutique type hotel in France. Arriving late, things go wrong very quickly, with an unhelpful host, and a member of their party not yet arrived, the holiday is stalled before it has even begun. Yet, things take a more sinister turn which leaves Roy fighting to protect his family from an old adversary he had hoped never to meet again.

✍️ As other reviewers have pointed out, this story does not involve the traditional police procedural detective novels some might expect if they are familiar with the Roy Grace novels. It instead focuses on his family and his need to protect them. I have never previously read the Roy Grace series but didn’t feel this detracted from the story.

🗣 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:

As Cleo dialled yet again, Bruno announced, reading from his iPad, ‘Papa, Mama, Listen!’
‘Yes, Bruno?’ Cleo said.
‘It says that next to being in a car, this is where you are most likely to die. Guess where?’
‘In an aeroplane?’ said Cleo, who did not like flying.
‘Wrong!’
‘Your kitchen,’ Roy Grace said.
‘Wrong, this is the third most likely place! It says here the next most likely place to dis is on holiday. We’re in a car and we are on holiday. Doesn’t that make it probable we are all going to die?’
Roy frowned. Bruno often came up with weird stuff. ‘So it’s lucky we’re not in a camper van, then, Bruno?’
‘Why?’
‘Because they have kitchens. So we would be in a car, on holiday and in a kitchen!’
They all laughed.¨C22C

👓 The story itself was fast-paced (which is how I like my crime novels) with the whole thing taking place in around 24 hours. I hadn’t read any of the previous Roy Grace novels but felt it gave more than enough backstory to those books to figure out who was whom and why they were important.

💔 Any Negatives: I enjoyed this story. I wouldn’t say it was as good as some of the other quick reads mostly because it is clearly an extension to or even an excerpt of a much larger series. Therefore, it is probably not the best place to start within a series. As a member of the quick-reads collection, it is often the aim to encourage the users to pick up a book and read which they wouldn’t normally. Something with so much backstory is probably not the best place to start. If a new reader now wanted to continue the series they need to decide whether to go back to the beginning of the Roy Grace series or try to pick up where this book sits and continue from there. I think that could be off-putting.

💭 Overall View: I enjoyed this book and it was great to see a lighter crime novel in amongst the quick-reads series. I enjoyed the story, the characters and the setting. I would certainly look out for other works by this author.

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Review of The Unmumsy Mum by Sarah Turner

The Unmumsy Mum by Sarah Turner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Non-Fiction, Parenting

Cover – The Unmumsy Mum

📖 The Unmumsy Mum writes candidly about motherhood like it really is: the messy, maddening, hilarious reality, how there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach and how it is sometimes absolutely fine to not know what you are doing.

✍️ Life with small children is an amazing, eye-opening wondrous thing. An adventure I am so thrilled to be part of. However, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows and Instagram worthy pictures. It’s hard work (and often tiring). This is what this book aims to capture, the difficult sometimes bizarre times that no manual covers, making you realise that hurrah – you are not the only one feeling this way or going through this.

🗣 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:

The calm and collected woman from Birth One failed to show up for Birth Two. She sent her twin sister instead, who was a bit of a moron.
James’s assessment of Jude’s delivery (which kind of erased the reigning ‘You did so well, babe!’ praise) was ‘You were mental. I’ve never seen anything like it.’
Throughout the labour I switched from hysterical to withdrawn. I sploshed into the birthing pool with the expectation of labouring serenely while submerged in water, but it was less than an hour before I ungracefully heaved myself out, demanding ‘something that works!’

👓 I genuinely laughed out loud whilst reading this book. I hadn’t followed the author’s blog or even heard of her work but I was recommended the book by a fellow mummy friend and what a good recommendation it turned out to be. It’s smart, funny, sassy and enlightening. Whilst reading I took pictures of paragraphs and sent them to mummy friends with LO’s the same age as mine who I thought were likely to be going through the same things too.

👫 Whilst reading the book and laughing my husband actually made the remark, they need one of these for dad’s so I went online and found him one – Man vs Toddler, which I also highly recommend. Life is just so much more enjoyable when you can laugh about it. Even more so when you can enjoy it together and swap stories.

💔 Any Negatives: I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone pregnant or thinking about trying for children. It will probably scare them off but the book is meant to be light-hearted and taken in jest.
💭 Overall View: Make yourself a big bubble bath, grab a glass of wine and read this when your kids have driven you up the wall all day. It will make you feel so much better (and if it doesn’t you still have a bubble bath and wine – so it’s a win-win).

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At the time of reviewing this book it is on sale for £4.99 at Amazon (affiliate link): https://amzn.to/3r0Rrc4

📣 Disclaimer: This book review contains an affiliate link. This means I earn a small commission if you use the links on my book reviews to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, but you will help support my reading habit and keep me supplied in books to review. Thank you. 😘

Review of The Thursday Murder Club

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Thursday Murder Club Cover

📖 I’m always a tad sceptical when I come across these celebrities turned author type books. There seems to be so many of them at the moment (especially in the children’s range) but I had heard good things about Richard Osman’s book, watched/listened to several interviews with him discussing it) and in general was quite intrigued by the premise so when I saw it on special offer I thought I would take the punt and I am so pleased I did.

✍️ The story takes place primarily in a retirement village, where most of the central characters reside. Each week a small group of residents meet up and review unsolved murder cases. When the builder who built the retirement complex and then the owner of it both are murdered, the team find themselves intrigued and soon very much involved in the police investigation. Can they help catch a killer?

🗣 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:

So it seems we are investigating a murder. And, better still, I have been in a police interview room. This diary is bringing me luck.
It was interesting watching Elizabeth in action. She is very impressive. Very calm. I wonder if we would have got along if we’d met thirty years ago? Probably not, we are from different worlds. But this place brings people together.
I do hope I’ll be of some help to Elizabeth in the investigation. Help to catch Tony Curran’s killer. Perhaps I will, in my own way.
I think that if I have a special skill, it is that I am often overlooked. Is that the word? Underestimated perhaps?

👓 The book switches between viewpoints but the primary character recording the anecdotes is Joyce, a retired nurse and general newbie to the group. Adding Joyce into the mix was a stroke of genius from Osman and I love how her thoughts ramble across the page. I think most people will have a relative that they find is very much like Joyce. The “Club” is made up of: Elizabeth (unknown, perhaps ex-spy, she seems to have a lot of contacts), Joyce (former nurse), Ibrahim (retired psychiatrist) and Ron (ex-trade union boss).

💔 Any Negatives: None really. The only thing I can think of is Joyce seems to be far too sweet and far too nice. I hope she has a really interesting back story or thing from the past that comes out of the woodwork in later books of the series.
The correspondence with the police is perhaps a tad far-fetched at times but I think is needed to drive the story forward and it certainly doesn’t detract from the story.

💭 Overall View: A truly cosy crime mystery. An enjoyable read with a great pace. An interesting cast of characters. I can see this series being around for a long time with the characters’ stories developing and being explored more as the series goes on. I looking forward to reading more from this series and indeed book 2 is on my Christmas list.

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At the time of reviewing this book, it is on sale for £4.50 (2 for £8.00) at Amazon (affiliate link): https://amzn.to/3ti04k8

📣 Disclaimer: This book review contains an affiliate link. This means I earn a small commission if you use the links on my book reviews to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, but you will help support my reading habit and keep me supplied with books to review. Thank you. 😘

Review of Before the Crown by Fiona Harding

Before the Crown by Flora Harding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Before the Crown – Image by KL Caley

My rating: 4 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

📖 This is the story of Elizabeth and Philip before Elizabeth took her role as head of the royal family. It follows her story from a young girl, first meeting Philip to becoming a young woman, set to marry him. Obviously, creative license has been used but we do see Philip in a very different light, as a poor prince, evicted from his home country, brought up in England by a relative, estranged parents, and even more estranged sisters due to the war. We also get to see Elizabeth through her early years, quiet and thoughtful, slightly envious of her sister’s confidence, and most importantly very intrigued by Philip.

✍️ I am a huge fan of The Crown and was slightly nervous upon reading this book that it wouldn’t live up to that, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed it. It feels well researched, for example, it gave quite a lot of knowledge of Philip’s family and his relations around the world which was really interesting. It also recounted a lot of his naval experience through the war. As mentioned above they are told with creative flair but I imagine the facts and dates behind the events must be somewhat accurate to have been included.

🗣 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:

As February blows itself into March, it feels to Philip as if he is leading a strange kind of double life… actually, a triple life, when he comes to think about it. There are those innocent evenings at the palace, drinking orangeade and larking around in the corridors, and then there are the evenings he spends in London with David Milford Haven and other friends, drinking in smoky clubs, all of them struggling to adjust to the dull grind of peace-time life.
Then there is another world again, at HMS Arthur in Corsham, where he is training petty officers and sleeps in a chilly and sparsely furnished munitions hut with a tin roof. He spends his evenings in the Methuen Arms, drinking mild and bitter and playing darts or skittles and discussing the possibility of cricket in the summer. It is a long way from Buckingham Palace.

👓 Viewpoint: This book is told both from Philip and Elizabeth’s viewpoint, often recounting the same event but from one or the others perspective. This was quite effective, and I enjoyed the author’s interpretation of how they might have felt about events in the royal household.

👫 Character(s): Philip’s character particularly in this book was really interestingly portrayed; humorous, smart, funny, quick-witted and even quicker to anger. Elizabeth was portrayed as stalwart and resilient, everything we would expect and need from our queen but there was a gentle side to her, particularly the times when Philip was in her orbit.

💔 Any Negatives: I would have loved to see a little timeline of events for this story (similar to what Barbara Erskine and others include in their historical book). Obviously, that’s not a requirement to the story, which as you can see from my review, I thought was fantastic, but I found myself wanting to break away from the book to google some of the events mentioned.

💭 Overall View: An interesting book, it feels like a step into Elizabeth and Philip’s lives and thoughts. The story is sweet with a charming naivety about it but also shows strength of character (when required). I felt like I learnt about the couple and particularly the events they went through which I always feel is a good sign of historical fiction. I really enjoyed it and would certainly recommend it to others.

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At the time of reviewing the kindle edition of this book it is on sale for £0.99 at Amazon (affiliate link):
https://amzn.to/3nbRkbm
📣 Disclaimer: This book review contains an affiliate link. This means I earn a small commission if you use the links on my book reviews to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, but you will help support my reading habit and keep me supplied with books to review. Thank you. 😘