Monthly Archives: November 2017
This is Going to Hurt – Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay
Anyone who uses the NHS marvels at the incredible work of the nurses and doctors who look after us, but what is it really like from the point of view of a junior doctor. Along comes Adam Kay with his laugh out loud This is Going to Hurt (Picador) that was released in early September. In recent weeks Adam has won the Books Are My Bag Non-Fiction Book of the Year, the Books Are My Bag Readers’ Choice Award and also Winner of Blackwell’s Debut Book of the Year. Not a bad return for a debut about a junior doctor. Actually it is just brilliant in every respect.
There were times when I was reading this that I was laughing so much I had tears in my eyes not sure what my fellow passengers must have thought on my daily commute to and from work. But at the same time I had tears for very different reasons. Just the pure emotion and also heartbreaking. These are the diaries of Adam Kay when he was a junior doctor for six years.
I said to one of my bookish friends on Twitter that I was going to send a copy to Jeremy Hunt (Health Secretary), well I can now reveal here that I actually did just that, whether the book actually reached him personally is another matter. But I carried out my threat as I believe he and other government ministers should read this outstanding and brilliant book.
Here are his diary entries from 2004 to 2010 after which he gave up his job suddenly and very sadly. Now he writes and my goodness does he write. Though Kay is extremely funny in his writing there is a very serious side to this book and he uses it to send a message to those in power and how the NHS is on the verge of collapse despite those in government denying this for their own agenda.
There is one part that has stayed with me and it is when Adam has just ended yet another very long shift on the wards and is so exhausted that he falls asleep in his car. He has not left the car park at the hospital. He is woken up by the registrar on Christmas Day asking why he is late for his next shift. Then he falls asleep at various points. If this does not get a message across as to just how hard these doctors and nurses are working and to the point of sheer mental and physical exhaustion, then nothing will. These dedicated people are not just human they are super human. They are there to put us back together when things go wrong for whatever reason.
I am not one for watching these medical dramas on TV as I have seen them working at first hand on my over recent years and to me each and every one is a hero and should treated as such.
If you read one book before the end of this year, please make it This is Going to Hurt I promise you will fall over laughing it will make you cry laughing and it will make you angry at the way the NHS is being managed. It is one of my 15 books of 2017. You will not be disappointed. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay is published by Picador and was published on 7th September 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Publisher Spotlight – Candlestick Press
It was the run up to Christmas 2014 and I was looking for a Christmas card but something unique and different from the normal Christmas cards that we buy. I was in Waterstones bookstore in Exeter and came across The Christmas Wren a small pamphlet size booklet and is written by Gillian Clarke in response to Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales a beautiful look back at a Welsh Christmas through the eyes of a child. Magical time of year on wonder, snow and baubles. Published by Candlestick Press. This was just what I was looking for. The response was one of real joy. Every Christmas since I have bought a number of these and sent them either on their own or along with a card. The beauty of these pamphlets is that they come complete with their own matching bookmark and envelope.
Just recently I was delighted to receive in the post a package from Candlestick Press containing some of their recent releases and they are just magical. Poetry and short stories that will be cherished for many years. The idea of sending one in the post to a loved one for any occasion will be a delight to anyone who receives one. So just who are Candlestick Press?
Candlestick Press are a small independent publisher based in Nottingham and were founded in 2008. The team consists of four dedicated people in Di Slaney (Publisher), Kathy Towers (Assistant Editor) and two admin assistants. Their aim is simple to spread the joy of poetry to adults and children alike who love poetry and or may be just beginning their journey in to enjoying poetry. These small pamphlets are just ideal for bedtime reading or like I have been doing and that is enjoying them on journeys.
They have published so many of these beautiful pamphlets on a wide range of topics from Christmas to Cricket, from Dogs to Sheep and even Clouds. With the festive period now upon us this is an ideal time to think of sending cards to loved ones and friends. But there is something a little different from Christmas Cards and that is one from Candlestick Press.
Christmas Garland – Ten Evergreen Poems
Ten new poems by contemporary poets celebrating the natural world and how it enriches the idea of Christmas. One the darkest day of the year, the ancient tradition of ‘bringing in the greens’ is a sign that Christmas is close.
Christmas Stocking – Five Festive Poems for Children – Selected by George Szirtes.
We all enjoyed opening our Christmas Stockings on Christmas morning. This is a wonderful and delightful way of bringing the excitement of Christmas to your children as the big day approaches. Perfect to read before bedtime.
Christmas Crackers – Ten Poems to Surprise and Delight
From busy Christmas malls to the bah humbugs this specially commissioned collection is to be enjoyed and will bring the festive period closer. These poems are just wonderful.
Fourteen Festive Sonnets – Selected and Introduced by James Nash
From a department store’s reluctant Father Christmas to a herd of ponies that break loose from their hobbles to gallop to freedom. A lonely house waiting for snow and the quiet company of a Christmas tree. A wondrous collection with Christmas at its very heart.
Holly and Ivy by Sean O’Brien
We all have sung The Holly and the Ivy at Christmas some of us still do. But here is a contemporary and original take on the old tale. A distant father, a vodka-fuelled stepmother, a fall of snow and some carol singers who are not quite what they seem. Get comfortable and to be enjoyed with a cup of your favourite drink. Log fire is optional. This I loved and will love every Christmas from here on.
Candlestick Press have poetry and short story pamphlets to cover almost everything. Among some of my favourites are:
The Wood in Winter by John Lewis-Stempel
From the Waintwright Prize Winner writer, comes a beautiful piece of nature writing focused on a wood through the bleak midwinter. Looking at traditions of times gone by and his close encounters of the wildlife that inhabit the wood through this time of year. With illustrations by the wonderful Angela Harding. This is a little book that will be treasured by anyone who loves nature writing at its very best.
Ten Poems about Birds
Ten beautiful poems about birds. Those remarkable of creatures that brighten our everyday world. From The Tawny Owl to the Snipe and then the Swallow. With contributions from John Clare, Emily Dickenson, Beautiful poems and words to treasure. A donation will be made to The Owls Trust.
Ten Poems about Sheep – Introduced by Alison O’Neill
We tend to take Sheep for granted, they grace our landscape but how many of us actually much about Sheep and the vital contribution they make to the countryside. These poems reflect just that and the hardships that it takes to looking after Sheep. Introduced by Shepherdess and textile designer Alison O’Neill who can be found on Twitter ( @woolismybread ) posting the most remarkable photos of her life as a shepherdess in the beautiful Lakeland fells.
These are just a small selection of the poetry pamphlets available to buy direct. Your local bookshop may even have some in stock. Alternatively have a look at their website: Candlestick Press Each of the pamphlets cost under £5.00 and they are more than a worthy gift, they will be treasured. I have already bought a selection ready to send to friends and loved ones this Christmas and I am looking forward to seeing more releases through 2018.
Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley
The follow up to the Costa Book Award winning The Lonely is Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley. This is a dark and atmospheric creepy novel based in a valley called the Endlands and the bleak landscape mirrors the horrors that locals hide.
It is autumn and John Prescott has returned to the valley to gather his sheep from the moor for the winter, he has been doing this for many a year but this time something is different, he has brought with him his wife who is pregnant. Now his grandfather (the gaffer) has died and also this is the time for the annual Devil’s Day. Some of the locals still talk and carry out the slaughter of a lamb this according to folklore will keep the devil away. John is arranging the funeral for ‘the gaffer’ while some of the locals from this bleak outpost are preparing the local Devil’s Day ritual.
It was about 100 years ago that the locals believe the devil came to Endlands and took a sheep as disguise during the cold snowy winter and a number of mysterious deaths occurred. Now the locals carry on the tradition of Devil’s Day in songs and the taking of the first lamb of the season.
A dark and sinister story of the past and present traditions and folklore. For Katherine she longs to get this visit over with and head back to her own life away from the bleak moors and valleys. She does not belong here with past feuds and their lifestyle. They have a child one the way and she wants their normal life back.
The novel started slowly and it builds as you get further in to the story and there is tension and it builds as the story progresses. Hurley can really tell a creepy tale and this is just as good as his debut novel. If you liked The Lonely then Devil’s Day will be for you. This is not a horror story but it is dark with secrets of the past and its traditions and local feuds that threaten. The is a sense of unease that burns away through the storyline. Andrew Michael Hurley delivers with Devil’s Day and is a worthy read for these dark nights. RECOMMENDED.
Thank you to for John Murray Publishers the advanced review copy of Devil’s Day.
Devil’s Day by is published by John Murray and was published on 19th October 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
CWA Anthology of Short Stories – Mystery Tour – Edited by Martin Edwards
Firstly, an apology from me. I am a little late with this review purely down to pressure of work commitments.
Many will know of my love of short stories so I was delighted when a copy of CWA Anthology of Short Stories – Mystery Tour landed on my doormat from Orenda Books. The Crime Writer’s Association has brought together some of the very best crime writers for a world tour – of crime writing. Now this is my kind of world tour.
From the UK to France, the Ukraine, South Africa and India along with many more on a murderous crime spree of twenty-eight short stories. This is just the most incredible collection of stories by some of the very best in crime writing.
With contributions from: Ann Cleeves, C.L. Taylor, Susi Holliday, Martin Edwards, Anna Mazzola, Carol Anne Davis, Cath Staincliffe, Chris Simms, Christine Poulson, Ed James, Gordon Brown, J.M. Hewitt, Judith Cutler, Julia Crouch, Kate Ellis, Kate Rhodes, Martine Bailey, Michael Stanley, Maxim Jakubowski, Paul Charles, Paul Gitsham, Peter Lovesey, Ragnar Jónasson, Sarah Rayne, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Vaseem Khan, William Ryan and William Burton McCormick.
I do though say that this is the first of the Crime Writer’s Anthologies I have read. How I have managed to avoid not reading any of the prior volumes is beyond me as they are just so good. The names just like a roll call of great crime writers. Ann Cleeves, Anna Mazzola and Ragnar Jónasson just three of the writers I was looking forward to reading as I am a bit of a fan of their writing.
One of the great aspects of a collection of short stories is how different they can be but when you bring together so many different writers the stories just take on a completely new dimension and also the varied writing styles of each of the writers. Diverse and gripping is how I would describe each one in turn. The real beauty of this anthology is that each of the stories is about ten pages in length. Which if you are travelling to and from work is just perfect. I read this book inside two days. But just imagine for a moment how difficult it is in writing a crime story in ten pages. I could not leave this book alone it is that good. One of the stories by Christine Poulsen is called Accounting for Murder and is a crime story based purely on receipts there are no words written it is just receipts. Think about that one. It is actually rather clever and it worked.
As for the story by Ragnar Jónasson called A Postcard from Iceland yes I loved it. It is two pages and a postcard from someone to their mother. It is just the ending. I will say no more.
To say this is a fabulous collection is an understatement. It is simply brilliant. I am going to dip in and out of some of the stories again and again through the long chilly winters nights. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Thank you to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the review copy of CWA Anthology of Short Stories – Mystery Tour.
CWA Anthology of Short Stories – Mystery Tour is published by Orenda Books and was published on 15th November 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
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The Future Can’t Wait by Angelena Boden
Following on from her debut novel The Cruelty of Lambs Angelena Boden returns with a deeply emotional story of a mother’s love in The Future Can’t Wait. If you have not yet discovered Angelena Boden’s writing, then read on as I give you an insight into her second novel.
There is no love like the love of a mother and in The Future Can’t Wait the story really is heartfelt and powerful that I think even beats Angelena’s debut novel were she is not afraid of writing about difficult situations.
Set in multicultural Birmingham were there are some who try to radicalise young people. Kendra is half Iranian and her daughter Rani seems to be going through something of a crisis. Yes, we have all been through this period when we were young, who are we and why? But this looks sinister to Kendra. This is an ever real situation and when a mother sees her daughter cut all ties with her, Kendra’s life just collapses, with her own life now in a crisis. What has happened to her daughter? Now she fears the worst. Rani has just vanished with no clues to where she is. She has severed ties with her mother and step-father. Kendra is now worried sick that she has become mixed up with the wrong people and is being radicalised. The emotion just pours from every page as Kendra tries in vain to find her daughter before it is too late. There are times when I was reading this that I found it so difficult as it is just so powerful and deals with mother/daughter relationships. This is real and it is very much set in the present day with the issues that are being discussed in the novel.
One aspect of the book really shook me was when Kendra sought help from psychics. This is totally believable as a good friend of mine did exactly the same after a tragic accident claimed the lives of a number of people a number of years ago. To-date his close friend that survived and blamed himself has never been found. The memories flooded back at this point.
There are so many incredible characters in this book and each one plays such an important role which helps make the book so readable. But to see Kendra’s life just spiral out of control is just heart-breaking. A little warning from me. This is not a comfortable read for a Sunday afternoon, so be prepared
To say I was swept away by Angelena’s writing is an understatement. This is a novel I would recommend for book clubs as so many questions arise from reading The Future Can’t Wait.
Thank you to Matthew at Urbane Publications for a review copy of The Future Can’t Wait.
The Future Can’t Wait by Angelena Boden is published by Urbane Publications and was published on 2nd November 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
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Year of the Drought by Roland Buti
First published in 2014 in Switzerland Year of the Drought by Roland Buti went on to win the prestigious Swiss Literature Prize. Set in the sizzling Summer of 1976 and is a coming of age novel that is just simply beautiful written and a novel that is a must read for anyone who loves great literature.
It is the time of the school holidays and the summer is going to be long and hot and on the family’s farm in Canton of Vaud in Switzerland 13–year-old Gus is the key character in this beautiful novel yet under cloudless skies and endless blue skies this is a tragic story unfolding.
The family have invested everything in thousands of chickens and a modern barn but something clearly is wrong and the heat and drought are now killing the chickens in their hundreds and the crops are now wilting under the baking sun and this is clearly affecting the family and is hitting the farms finances to add to this the arrival of the glamorous Cécile who is a friend of Gus’s mother and life suddenly changes for Gus, now he dreams of those dreams that have been suppressed until now. Our narrator watches as his family is tested like never before the bonds and ties of family unity are now under the most incredible strain and the novel reaches its finale with great tragedy that cannot be undone. The family is literally blown apart. Roland Buti clearly has written a novel that at times is poetic with some humour a novel that one will read and re-read in the future and one not to be ignored. Beautifully constructed and written it is no surprise The Year of the Drought has won awards and a book I am happy to HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
Thank you to Old Street Publishing Ltd for a review copy of Year of the Drought.
Year of the Drought by Roland Buti is published by Old Street Publishing Ltd and was published on 12th September 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
The Secret Life of the Owl by John Lewis-Stempel
I was delighted to have been invited to the Wainwright Prize award in August at Blenheim Palace and seeing John Lewis-Stempel collect the award for the Where Poppies Blow. This was the second time the John has won the award and it was great to meet him after the ceremony and talk about his book. John is one of this country’s greatest nature writers and he returns with his next book The Secret Life of the Owl
The Secret Life of the Owl is may only be short at 96 pages but this is a unique look at the Owls of Britain in both word and verse. No other bird has captivated us more than Owls both is legend and also in mythical terms.
Here John talks about all the species of Owl that make this country their home including Eagle Owl and a winter visitor the Snowy Owl also a few of the rarer species of Owl that have come to Britain. There are some incredible facts that even this life-long bird watcher did not know, for instance it was once known that if you touched or ate an Owl it would cure drunkenness, though I am not sure I would eat an Owl. There is also Poetry that makes the pages which as a lover of poetry I enjoyed. At the start of the book there is a Prologue and at the end an Epilogue John talks about ‘Old Brown’ the Tawny Owl he knows so well in Three Acre Wood both are really worth reading and enjoying John Lewis-Stempel’s words as he talks about his wood and ‘Old Brown’.
As a keen birdwatcher back in my younger days, I would go out on to the marsh were I knew there was a pair of Barn Owls and look for Owl pellets and then taken them home to study what the Barn Owls were taking as prey and here in The Secret Life of Owls John, does indeed take a look at Owl pellets.
I am lucky to have a Tawny Owl that visits the tree during the autumn and winter evenings and there is nothing better than hearing the call of a Tawny Owl during the dark hours, and even early of a morning while standing in the garden I know there is a pair of eyes watching every move I make. Over the years I have manged to see every Owl that makes Britain its home from the Tawny Owl through to the Snowy Owl these have been some of my most magical experiences in watching and studying birds.
This is a wonderful little book for anyone who want to know a little more of some of our most secret of birds and ones that should be celebrated. I have already bought a few copies to give as gifts this Christmas to friends who enjoy our cherished Owls.
Thank you to Sophie Christopher at Transworld Publishers for the review copy of The Secret Life of the Owl.
The Secret Life of the Owl by John Lewis-Stempel is published by Doubleday and was published on 19th October 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
At the End of the Century by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Anyone who has enjoyed watching Howards End, The Remains of the Day or A Room with a View may not know that it was Ruth Prawer Jhabvala wrote the screenplays for the films and won awards and was nominated for many others. In 1975 she won the Booker Prize for Heat and Dust a book a read some years later and still love to this day. In 1998 she was awarded the CBE. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala died in 2013. She also wrote some of the most incredible novels that will stand the test of time. A literary genius. A master storyteller.
Released today 9th November in a collection of seventeen of her short stories published by Little,Brown.
I have loved short stories for many years and when I was offered the chance to review At the End of the Century ahead of publication this was an offer I could not refuse. As soon as the book arrived I sat with the book for an entire evening and was lost in the writing of a writer I can only admire. A shining light and a genius with the written word.
Throughout this wonderful collection of stories, you will find everything that life is all contained within 448 wondrous pages’ stories from India, Europe and America. There real sensitivity in the storytelling with humour and wit added throughout. There is a real passion in Ruth’s writing which I have not seen in many years. Anyone who aspires to want to write should read some of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s past novels and draw inspiration.
1975 Booker Prize Winning Heat & Dust
At the End of the Century is subtle yet she seemed to have her finger on the pulse on various cultures. There is an introduction from her friend Anita Desai. All these stories are collected from her previous collections and now some of the best are here in one quite stunning book to enjoy and to cherish for many years to come.
This is a book that will remain on my bedside cabinet for a long time and there will be nights when I will again lose myself in the fabulous writing of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. A joy and one book I HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
Thank you to for Amelia Reid the advanced review copy of At the End of the Century by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
At the End of the Century by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is published by Little Brown and was published on 9th November 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
In Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba
Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba may only be a 112-page novella but do not let that put you off, this is a book that once started it creeps under your skin until you finish the book but it will leave a chill running and down your spine long afterwards.
Marina has lost both her parents in a dreadful car accident and now she is orphaned. She will tell everyone that her “father died instantly and her mother in the hospital” in a rehearsed tone. Now Marina and her dolly (also named Marina) are at an Orphanage along with other girls but what the other girls do not realise is that Marina is not like the others. She is different. They are about to find out.
Now Marina and the other start to play games and Marina introduces them to her Doll. From this moment on things will never be the same again in fact this only starts a series of events that is for nightmares only. The other girls take her Doll and rip all of its limbs and bury them in different parts of the ground. Now it is bedtime and Marina has a new game for the other girls. They killed Doll now they will become Doll. This is a chilling novel that takes fear and hatred and when it is playtime or bedtime games take on something dark and sinister. This story is actually based upon real life incident from the 1960’s Brazil. I must give credit to Lisa Dillman who manages to keep the chilling nature of the story alive through the translation. One book to read at night with the light switched on. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba is published by Portobello Books and was published on 3rd August 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.