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

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

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 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

Review of The Auschwitz Violin – 5 Stars

The Auschwitz Violin by Maria Àngels Anglada

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The book opens with a meeting between an older lady violinist and a charmed young man instantly captivated by her, her playing and her instrument, a friendship blossoms and he asks the story of the violin. This leads us to the extraordinary story of Daniel, and his imprisonment at Auschwitz.

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:

’Occupation?’
The question had seemed inoffensive enough, but not everyone had the good fortune to be asked. Those who were selected immediately to die – children, old men and women, the infirm – stood in another line.
Daniel was quick to reply;
‘Carpenter, cabinetmaker.’
It was a half-lie. The answer had risen from deep within the recesses of his mind; only later would he reason it out. It was as if someone had dictated it to him.

This book has it all. Sometimes it is soft and gentle and it beautifully captures the love that violin makers have for their craft. It also has many harrowing details of the treatment and suffering of those at Auschwitz. It sweeps you up and you find yourself desperately hoping that Daniel both completes his beloved violin and more importantly lives.

This is a truly haunting tale that stays with you after you finish reading it. Indeed, despite being an avid reader, I found myself taking a break after reading this book, not yet quite ready to leave it behind and enter another world.

Any Negatives: The book is a translation and at times it can feel a little out of sequence. However, this really did not detract from the fabulous storytelling and intent of the author.

Overall View: This is a great story, capturing both the brutalities of the holocaust and the hope that all humans have that things will one day get better. The book is an easy, enjoyable read, and it certainly makes you stop and think.

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Extract – The Auschwitz Violin

Review of Doggerel: Life with the Small Dog – 5 Stars

Doggerel: Life with the Small Dog by Sue Vincent

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is a book of poetry about a small dog named Ani, her human (Sue) and how they spend their life together. I wouldn’t normally purchase a book about poetry but I loved this book. In fact, I devoured the whole thing in one evening. Each poem was more than that, it was a story, a capturing of time and a glimpse into the wonderful relationship with man’s (and woman’s) best friend. Ani is a smart, sassy pup who keeps her human on their toes.

Being owned by a small dog myself, I could relate to many of the tales (particularly regarding the dreaded bath-time). As my own little four-legged companion is 16 in human years, the scale of ball-throwing related activities is much less these days, instead she can normally be found snoring in her basket, or checking out the perimeters for the maverick squirrel who visits now and then. I imagine in her younger years, she and Ani would have made great friends.
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:

You’ve Stolen all my poems,
Put your name upon my book…
Do you think that I cannot read?
Or that I will not look?

Overall View: A fabulous book. Great writing, lovely images and a brilliant display of quick wit. A book so many will relate to (two-legses and four-legses alike). Ultimately capturing that marvellous unexplainable thing called love.

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Extract – Doggerel

Review of The Mermaid’s Scream – 4 Stars

The Mermaid’s Scream by Kate Ellis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Premise: This is book 21 in the DI Wesley Peterson Crime Series. This story centres around the mysterious figure of Wynn Staniland, an enigma of the literary world. After his wife’s unusual death Wynn stopped producing novels and retreated from the literary limelight, now many years later a biographer set to publish Wynn’s story disappears. Bodies begin to stack up in the area with their only commonality being a connection to Staniland.

In the historical timeline, Neil Watson of the County Archaeological Unit is dealing with his own mystery, the death of Mary Field and a gruesome retelling of her story from the nineteenth century which fascinated Victorian taste for grim tales.

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:

Wesley recognised the object in her hand as a driving license.
‘Maybe he found it.’
‘There was money too.’
‘How much?’
‘Thirty pounds. I know he didn’t have that much. Look at the name on the licence: Zac Wilkinson. I went to that talk he gave last week. Remember? Didn’t you say he was missing?’
Wesley caught his breath as she handed him the license. The picture stared out at him. Wynn Staniland’s biographer; the man who’d failed to turn up at Neston Library.
‘I’d better have a word with Michael.’

Viewpoint: The story regularly changes perspectives from a host of characters and includes diary extracts from the nineteenth century. This makes the story feel fresh and fast-paced even during the more police procedural sections when the police are frustrated with a lack of progress/delays.

Character(s): Using the multi-viewpoint approach also allows the author to introduce us to a great breadth of characters. Some bringing more to the novel than others. There is a sub-story to this of a son navigating trials of being a teenager, a story of a long-lost daughter and the story of a sick wife. All these threads are woven together with great skill without too much distraction from the main plot.

Setting: This novel is mainly set in the region of Tradmouth which is, of course, loosely based on Dartmouth. This setting with small towns and remote locations really compliments the community feel of the novel but also highlights the isolation of the rural communities.

Any Negatives: I love this series, it’s one of my favourites. The author has such a talent for drawing me in quickly so that I am eager to turn the page. With this novel, there were a few things holding me back from going for the full five stars. The first was the random entries of Delia, the mother-in-law. I really don’t think it added anything to the main story or even contributed to the daughter’s cancer storyline. It may be the author setting the series up for a future book, but it didn’t seem to work for me in this book.

The main reason I didn’t give that 5 star is how the standalone book works. I appreciate it is incredibly difficult for any author to balance a book as both a series entry and a standalone and normally I haven’t noticed this as an issue at all. It’s been a number of years since I read the previous novels in this series and I was really struggling to recall details of past relationships etc. The author gave small snippets of info but it wasn’t really enough to clarify things for me e.g. Neil’s girlfriend is working away, Gerry’s relationship with Joyce, Gerry’s daughter Rosie is often spoken of as highly sensitive etc. I just felt like a little more detail or backstory to these would have helped this work better as a standalone, or for those of us whose memories are not as they once were – haha.

Overall View: As always a brilliant book by Kate Ellis. She is a truly fantastic writer. A great array of characters. A lot of fast-paced action. The fascinating historical aspects still pull me in and are so intriguing, I love how she intertwines these with the modern storyline.

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Extract from The Mermaid’s Scream

Review of BEDLAM: LONDON AND ITS MAD – 5 STARS

Bedlam: London and its Mad by Catharine Arnold

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Genre: NON-FICTION – HISTORY – MEDICAL – SCIENCE – MENTAL HEALTH – HORROR

This book is well worth 5 stars. Sometimes it can be quite dry reading and of course a lot of the extracts quoted in it are centuries old with a rather more difficult take on the English language but it really is worth persevering to get a real overview of the history and to get to the best parts (in my opinion) a real sense of the people involved.

Premise: This book captures everything from barbaric treatments, human zoos, manic doctors who were worse than the insane they treated (that is when they actually did the job of treating patients, not something they always did), beautiful buildings, advances through medical history, and even some fascinating insights into the first world war.

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 to those wild, wanton women drinkers, their tipple of choice, regarded as the source of all evil by many commentators, was tea. In his Observations on Maniacal Disorders (1792), William Pargeter condemned the frequent and immoderate use of tea.

I think this is possibly one of my favourite quotes for life now.

I found this book captivating and found myself regularly telling friends of its contents. I also stuck various post-it’s in it of interesting quotes (one of my favourites being about woman and tea as shown above) and of people or stories I want to follow-up and read more about.

Any Negatives: As mentioned earlier sometimes the historic language is difficult but I think once you settle into the book even that gets easier to read as you go along.

Excellently researched, a book that spans the years and gives so many different insights.

Overall View: So, a book that makes me want to read more books will always be worth 5 stars in my opinion. Great job by this author. I am intrigued to research their writing career and see if they have published any further works.

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Extract from BEDLAM: LONDON AND ITS MAD