Feeling Festive

I’ve always loved Christmas.

The last few years have been devoted to giving my small son the most magical Christmas memories. Not showering with gifts but filling every magical moment spare with memories that will last us (if not him) a lifetime. From visiting friends and family, attending the town centre light switch-ons, spotting sparkly ice sculptures on a trail, a visit to a volunteer-run railway and being amazed at an awe-inspiring castle. This year has been packed, already! Phew. 

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. – Charles Dickens

But this year….

This year, we also included a special day out for me. 

We included a trip to one of my most favourite places in the world. 

Barter Books!

With a book for every genre, and an impressive converted train station to walk around, I reckon this place could convert anyone into becoming a book lover.

Me at Barter Books
Barter Books – Tree – Image by KL Caley
Barter Books – Roof – Image by KL Caley
Barter Books – Train – Image by KL Caley
My Alnwick Haul

After such a magical time, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more festive.

Or more thankful to have gotten to spend this time with my wonderful little family.

The most joyful sight of the day, watching these two cuties sitting in the Book Lorry reading together.

Book Lorry – Image by KL Caley

Hope you are all having a wonderful December!

KL ❤

Review of Talking with Psychopaths and Savages

Talking with Psychopaths and Savages: A Journey into the Evil Mind by Christopher Berry-Dee

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cover – Talking with Psychopaths and Savages


📖 Talking with Psychopaths and Savages: A Journey into the Evil Mind. It’s pretty easy to guess what this book is about. The title is straight to the point, unfortunately for me, the book was less so.

✍️Christopher Berry-Dee is quite an interesting author, he is (according to the intro) a direct descendent of Dr John Dee, astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I. He no doubt has a great legacy in interviewing the worlds most notorious serial killers and murderers. The book has an interesting premise, cool cover and showed a lot of promise. It also did have plenty of detailed content about a small number of murderers which fit a definition of ‘psychopath’.

When CBD actually gets into the content, he takes us through some really interesting cases such as JR Robinson, Kenneth Allen McDuff, Arthur Shawcross, Kenneth Bianchi and more. However, he doesn’t start reviewing the cases until page 73 in a 292-page book (that’s 25% of the book that doesn’t really include talking with psychopaths and savages)! That’s a lot of pre-reading before the reader gets what they came for.

🗣 CBD also has this habit of referring to his other works throughout the book. I found it incredibly frustrating and distracting from the current story. I lost count of the number of times he wrote something along the lines of:

‘I fully documented Ross in Dead Men Talking: The World’s Worst Killers in Their Own Words, first published in hardback by John Blake, 2009, but the book you are reading now is not so much about his life and crimes…

👓 These types of self-promotion are a regular occurrence throughout the book distracting from the actual topic. In my opinion, these should have been a footnote (or a bibliography) to allow the reader to look up later if they felt the desire.

I think part of the reason I found all the waffle and self-promotion frustrating is that the author also mentions (repeatedly throughout the book) how he has a tight word count by his publisher so cannot go into details he would like to.

💭 Overall View: I hate to give a negative review and I realise the content of this review is mostly negative. However, I truly appreciate there is a lot of work and research put into writing any book. This subject matter is not a pleasant one and I think kudos has to be given to anyone who managers to spend time with these individuals and trying to understand their mental state. Even more kudos in the instances the author has managed to convince the killers to reveal details of the crimes which has given the families some comfort they would likely not have had otherwise. In these areas the book is really good. Another reviewer wrote a quote that cannot be beaten when summarising this book:

You know those really annoying blokes down the pub who keep bragging about what they’ve done, and you so want to just tell them to piss off but you’re a little transfixed, so you buy them another pint then instantly regret it as they ramble on some more with just enough interesting stuff to keep you going? This book is like that. (Credit: Alyssa Cowell).

I’ve read Jon Ronson’s The psychopath test recently (my full review of that can be seen following the links below) and in my opinion, it’s a better read than this, although this one does contain many more individual cases. Ronson’s book is easier to digest and a bit more well-rounded.

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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.

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.

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Extract from BEDLAM: LONDON AND ITS MAD

12 signs you have a book addiction and why it matters #mondayblogs

So true! I’m not even ashamed!! Great Post By Sue over at Daily Echo…
A Good Book + Tea = A Happy Me

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

There is a strange urge to turn into that scruffy looking shop… a calling that drags at your gut until you succumb.Dust and grime covers everything; there is nothing in there that you would touch without a hazmet suit and yet… there in the corner is a rusting metal basket full of foxed and battered paper. You spot a title you have been searching for since your youth. Suddenly the world is a beautiful place.

You may have a problem…and there are other signs…

  1. Waiting in queues becomes quality time with your mobile phone. The Kindle app is a godsend…
  2. You hope the appointments are running at least two chapters late.
  3. Flu is welcomed as a six-book-a-day event.
  4. Decluttering means throwing out the TV to add another bookshelf.
  5. Getting an early night means a few extra hours reading and even less sleep. (Well, you only had another couple of chapters…

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Time to begin READING again?..

If you’re in a rut of any sort, the BBC Culture website has a novel (no pun intended) approach to solving life’s problems. Their Textual Healing site is a literary twist on the agony aunt column. People are writing in with their problems and getting a reading list to help them with their woes. Books are suggested to help with loneliness, unhappy families and lovesickness. Harry Potter_some_stories_stay_foreverThere are some good tips in there so it’s worth a look even if you’re feeling great.

In 2013, psychologists at the New School for Social Research found that literary fiction enhanced people’s ability to register and read others’ emotions.

As the site says “They may not promise transformation in seven easy steps, but gripping novels can inform and motivate, short stories can console and trigger self-reflection, and poetry has been shown to engage parts of the brain linked to memory. Sometimes an author helps by simply taking your mind off a problem, immersing you so fully in another’s world and outlook that you transcend yourself, returning recharged and determined.”Books wash away everyday life

So is it time to give yourself a fresh start or make a decision? A good book might help. At the very least, you’ll discover some great new titles. A great new approach, read yourself happy, read to cure lovesickness or even read to help you commit (I hope that’s not the crime genre!).

Know Your History – 8th September – UNESCO International Literacy Day & EU Literacy week

UNESCO International Literacy DayOn this day… 8th September – UNESCO International Literacy Day & EU Literacyweek

For todays’ KYH blog I hand over to this special cause:

Approximately 775 million people- 64% of whom are women- are functionally illiterate. In other words, they lack the basic reading and writing skills to manage daily living and employment tasks.

In 1965, UNESCO declared September 8 as International Literacy Day. Since this proclamation, schools, organizations and communities around the world have united to promote awareness with the hope to one day eradicate this on-going human rights violation.

The cost of illiteracy to the global economy is estimated at USD $1.19 trillion. The effects of illiteracy are very similar in both developing and developed nations. This means that the impact of illiteracy – limited opportunities for employment or income generation, higher chances of poor health, propensity towards crime or dependence on social welfare or charity (if available) – can be found wherever illiteracy is found.

Educating girls and women, in particular, has unmatched transformative power. It is estimated that if all women completed primary education, there would be 66% fewer maternal deaths.

Find out more at http://internationalliteracyday.org/

In the EU the 8th September marks the start of Literacy week.

http://www.literacyweek.eu/

Reading and writing is fundamental to function in today’s society. Not being able, for example, to understand the instructions on a medicine bottle is a scary thought.

Did you know that on average:

1 in 5 adolescents and 1 in 5 adults in Europe lack the literacy skills to understand the instructions on a medicine bottle?

11 persons in every European street can not read or write well?

4 children in every European school class have literacy problems?

Our dream is that every European adult can read and write well enough to fully and independently participate in society.

Review of The Lazarus Prophecy by F.G.Cottham – 5 Stars

The Lazarus ProphecyThe Lazarus Prophecy by F.G. Cottam

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story mostly follows Jane Sullivan, a woman who has worked her way up through the metropolitan police ranks and now heads a police investigation in the murders of several women. When the killer moves from unknown prostitutes to public figures Jane’s investigation takes a serious step up, now in the public eye herself everyone watches her wondering where the investigation will go. Jane brings into her confidence Jacob prior a theologian who tries to translate the mysterious clues left behind by the killer. With links to a mystical religious priory and the Ripper cases, this novel has a lot going for it.
I think this novel with its theological twists would be enjoyed by Dan Brown fans. The writer had a great format that drew readers in quickly to the characters small triumph’s in what was otherwise a difficult time. Despite including the Ripper case and the religious orders secrets, the story still felt very fresh and original.
The main characters were well cast and I think the reader certainly felt part of their emotional journey. I enjoyed the multiple viewpoint story-telling.
I also loved the variety of settings in this novel ranging from the French Pyrenees, the poorest quarters of London, and the wealthier homes as the killer steps up his game. All are explained emotively through the characters. The Iconic London rivers and parks are also woven into the story expertly.
Overall I found this novel an exciting and fast-paced read from a writer that I have overlooked in the past.

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Review of Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham – 5 Stars

Sleepyhead (Tom Thorne, #1)Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This kicks off with a chilling fast-paced storyline from page one. A psychopath has murdered several women. One woman, Allison, survives but has locked-in syndrome, so she is mentally aware, but unable to move or speak. The novel twists through the stories of Allison’s internal torture and that of DI Tom Thorne the detective assigned to the case. It even gives brief insights from the killer’s point of view.
Billingham takes an interesting new twist to the whodunit genre with this book. In this tale DI Thorne thinks he knows who the killer is but all the evidence is circumstantial, so the novel instead takes the reader on a trail of did he or didn’t he?
The characters in the book are also really likeable, Thorne is a weary detective who has seen better years and carries his own emotional scars. The character develops well in the story getting the reader to will that he is right. Set in London adds to the fast pace of the story and helps the author explain coincidences’ “the killer could reach several hospitals why pick this one?”
Overall a great detective read and quite a few good new spins in an old genre. Well done!

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Review of The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker

The Witch of NapoliThe Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I suspect this book will be a bit like marmite for readers; they will either love it or hate it. I fall well and truly into the first category.
I loved that the origins of this book are found in the true life story of Italian medium Eusapin Palladino and that Schmicker managed to include wording from the newspaper reports and scientific reports of that time period. Schmickers story follows a young photographer making his way in the world, and how he came across his first big break “Alessandra, the medium”. He quickly gets caught up in her drama from her mafia hubby, troubled childhood and of course her psychic phenomenon. Can she really do all the things she claims with no tricks? Tomasso sets out on a journey to prove just that.
With charming enigmatic characters, a fantastic selection of scenery and travel descriptions and an ever intriguing plot, this story truly is the definition of a page turner.

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Review of The Ghost House by Helen Phifer

The Ghost House (Annie Graham, #1)The Ghost House by Helen Phifer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fantastic story full of complicated and intriguing characters that entice you in from the first page and capture the readers’ imagination quickly. Annie, the main protagonist is a female police officer, so she is determined to present a tough exterior to the other officers, however as the story unfolds viewers are given little glimpses to her vulnerabilities which make her very readable.
Annie discovers a diary while house-sitting which leads the reader to the second storyline set in the past. Both stories weave together superbly and the author captures the era very well. The small town setting of the stories ties everything together, giving the author a real chance to show off her writing style by describing these well early on so that she can use them to build suspense and drama later in the story. A great start to what looks to be an intriguing series.
An excellent combo of “who-dunnit”, tragic timelines and haunted houses.

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