Monthly Archives: October 2019
Cage by Lilja Sigurðardóttir
Translated by Quentin Bates.
As a group of foreign businessmen tries to draw Agla into an ingenious fraud that stretches from Iceland around the world, Agla and her former nemesis, María find the stakes being raised at a terrifying speed.
Ruthless drug baron Ingimar will stop at nothing to protect his empire, but he has no idea about the powder keg he is sitting on in his own home.
At the same time, a deadly threat to Sonya and her family brings her from London back to Iceland, where she needs to settle scores with longstanding adversaries if she wants to stay alive.
Cage (Orenda Books) is the third and also final part in the Reykjavik Noir Series by Lilja Sigurðardóttir following on from Snare and Trap. Goodness how I love these tense edge of the seat thrillers and Cage delivers on all fronts as it was a review copy I was reading I found myself highlighting key parts throughout the book.
Those that have read the previous two novels in the series know that that there are two main characters in Agla and her lover Sonja. For her part in a major banking scandal Agla was locking in prison and know she is out but there is no Sonja to meet her. Agla throughout was a tough no-nonsense character but locked away she has faced her own demons and now she is out she has to face up to life without her lover despite how she feels inside.
Agla has been recruited to look into a scam that spans borders across the world and requests the help of an old quittance in Maria but there is previous with the pair. When Maria realises just how big this fraud is and the scale and who is involved she decides to help Agla. But at the top of this fraud is one man who in in the previous books was the head man of the scams and he will not be stopped and will deal with anyone caught sticking their nose into his business. Ingimar will protect what he has built. All in all, this is an edge of the seat thriller that keep a pace all the way through. What Sigurðardóttir has delivered in the trilogy is a stunning read from book one to the last page of book three. It has everything from drug-smuggling, banking scandals, politics, murder and love. One aspect of Cage I like was that the chapters are short and this makes for a perfect read on the commute to work. (nothing worse than having to leave a chapter half way through). All in all, Cage delivers and I will miss the characters in the series. So now what Lilja Sigurðardóttir what on earth are you going to give us? Highly Recommended.
My thanks to Karen (Orenda Books) for the review copy of Cage by Lilja Sigurðardóttir.
Cage by Lilja Sigurðardóttir was published by Orenda Books and was published on 17th October 2019 and is available to through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames by Lara Maiklem
Mudlark (/’mAdla;k/) noun A person who scavenges for usable debris in the mud of a river or harbour
Lara Maiklem has scoured the banks of the Thames for over fifteen years, in pursuit of the objects that the river unearths: from Neolithic flints to Roman hair pins, medieval buckles to Tudor buttons, Georgian clay pipes to Victorian toys. These objects tell her about London and its lost ways of life.
Moving from the river’s tidal origins in the west of the city to the point where it meets the sea in the east, Mudlarking is a search for urban solitude and history on the River Thames, which Lara calls the longest archaeological site in England.
As she has discovered, it is often the tiniest objects that tell the greatest stories.
Before I settled down to write this review I Googled ‘What is a mudlark’ and it say they are people who scavenge along river beds for items of value. But there is so much more to Mudlarking than just looking for items of value. The River Thames is tidal and is really an archaeological site all of its own. Just stop and think about the history of the Thames. Now Lara Maiklem in Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames (Bloomsbury) gives us an insight to the items she has found and that each one has a story.
As the tide recedes then history is just waiting to be discovered. the Thames is the main artery of London. Would London even exist if the Thames was not there? Where there is a main river then towns and cities are built and with it comes items that are discarded into the river all just waiting to be discovered by Lara Maiklem. For Maiklem she has been walking the Thames now for about fifteen years and every item she finds is of historical value. Each has a story back in years gone by. From the many clay pipes that are discovered daily to items of incredible value and even ordnance dropped by German aircraft in WWII as London went through the blitz.
Of course you just cannot turn up at the banks of the Thames and start searching for items, being a Mudlark is not that simple. You have to apply for a permit and you have to be a member of the Society of Mudlarks and even then you have then needed to have held a standard permit for over two years and then it is still not that simple. This is a society surrounded in mystery. There is so much history to the Thames. I lived in London for over thirteen years and was fascinated by the river.
There are those of course who see the river as a bit of a goldmine just waiting to discover the next item of value with their metal detectors, but not for Lara. Each item she finds is carefully examined and cleaned and then researched. From early man to the Romans through to the period of the Great Fire of London when people hurled their belongings into the river rather than seeing them being consumed by the fire that spread along the river bank.
There is so much history just beneath the mud on the banks of the Thames and each time Lara makes a visit as the tide drops she looks and finds. Just turn over that rock and there is another piece of history just waiting to be found.
What I loved about Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames was that it read so easily and Lara’s care and also interest in the items she has found. Lost items are just waiting to be found it may take a few hundred years but someone else will be find our lost items. Some years ago I tossed an engagement ring into the Thames from London Bridge after a relationship ended. I would like to think that in a few hundred years-time a Mudlark scouring the riverbank will find that very ring. That in itself is a romantic thought. A wonderful read and highly recommended.
Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames by Lara Maiklem was published by Bloomsbury and was published on 18th August 2019 and is available to through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Breaking & Mending: A Junior Doctor’s Stories of Compassion & Burnout by Joanna Cannon
had never felt so ill. I was mentally and physically broken. So fractured, I hadn’t eaten properly or slept well, or even changed my expression for months. I sat in a cubicle, behind paper-thin curtains and I shook with the effort of not crying. I was an inch away from defeat… but I knew I had to carry on.
Because I wasn’t the patient. I was the doctor.”
In this powerful memoir, Joanna Cannon tells her story as a junior doctor in visceral, heart-rending snapshots.
We walk with her through the wards, facing extraordinary and daunting moments: from attending her first post-mortem, sitting with a patient through their final moments, to learning the power of a well- or badly chosen word. These moments, and the small sustaining acts of kindness and connection that punctuate hospital life, teach her that emotional care and mental health can be just as critical as restoring a heartbeat.
In a profession where weakness remains a taboo, this moving, beautifully written book brings to life the vivid, human stories of doctors and patients – and shows us why we need to take better care of those who care for us.
Many will know of Joanna Cannon the author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and Three Things about Elsie but before Joanna became an author she graduated from medical school and became a hospital doctor before specialising in psychiatry. Now Joanna Cannon has penned a powerful memoir Breaking & Mending: A Junior Doctor’s Stories of Compassion & Burnout about her time working on the wards.
What Joanna Cannon has created here is a window into her own world back in the days when she graduated and suddenly everything became real. From attending seminars an and all the studying now suddenly Joanna was faced with pressures of being a junior doctor and seeing real patients with real medical problems, all of them want to be seen and made well. Then there is attending the first post-mortem. We have all been patients in one form or another but many of us would run a mile at the thought of becoming a junior doctor and the sheer pressure of just the job title would be enough to frighten many of us. It takes a very special person to hear the calling of wanting to go through all the training and studying to become a junior doctor and then enter the NHS that is creaking under so much pressure and cut-backs.
I have only met Joanna Cannon once but I have known Joanna on Social Media since before her first novel was released. There are some people who a just destined in their lives to help others and Joanna is that person. Her compassion for her fellow man has been clear since those early days and a heart that cries out to help others. When I was reading Breaking & Mending I was so moved by her own story of being a junior doctor and at times moved me to tears.
When we are broken in one way or another we enter hospital to be mended and we see nurses and doctors constantly under pressure. When a junior doctor or anyone else working in medicine is broken who is there for them? That is a question many of us will have asked ourselves when we have been in hospital but never see. They are human just like we are and they break but in a way that we may never see or hear. But reading Joanna’s powerful memoir those stories are here contained on each page. Those that work in medicine deserve our respect and also our understanding.
The stories that Joanna shares with us are incredibly emotional and at times utterly heart-breaking. Yet this is one of the most beautiful and heartfelt books I have read this year. I am so very grateful for being given the chance have read Breaking & Mending and is a book I would recommend to everyone.
I have held back this review as Joanna Cannon is appearing at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on Monday 7th October at 6.30pm.
There are just a few tickets remaining at the time of writing this. For more details: Please visit: Cheltenham Literature Festival 07.10.2019 Event
My thanks to Profile Books for the review copy of Breaking & Mending: A Junior Doctor’s Stories of Compassion & Burnout by Joanna Cannon.
Breaking & Mending: A Junior Doctor’s Stories of Compassion & Burnout by Joanna Cannon was published by Profile Books (Wellcome Collection) and was published on 26th September 2019 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Ring the Hill by Tom Cox
It is a book written around, and about, hills: it includes a northern hill, a European hill, some hills from East Anglia that can barely be called hills at all. Each chapter takes a type of hill whether it be knoll, cap, cliff, tor, bump or even mere hillock as a starting point for one of Cox’s characteristically unpredictable and wide-ranging explorations.
These can lead to an account of an intimate relationship with a beach, a journey into Cox’s past or a lesson from an expert in what goes into the mapping of hills themselves. Because a good walk in the hills is never just about the hills: you never know where it might take you.
Over recent years I have become a bit of a fan of Tom Cox’s writing, I pick up one of his books and I am lost for the entire day. Now just released by Unbound is his latest offering. Ring the Hill. This is a book about hills! So for someone like me who loves hills and mountains (though mountains are not included in the book) the first thing I did when a copy of Ring the Hill arrived was to Google: What constitutes a hill? The answer is really quite simple according to the National Geographic. A hill is a piece of land that rises higher than everything around it. So there you have it. Armed with this I settled down to what turned out to be a real gem of a read.
So what is Ring the Hill all about. In Tom’s own words A knoll, cap, cliff, tor or even just a bump, Tom is going to take you the reader on a trip across the country and even a European hill.
The first thing that I have to say is what a glorious cover design and Glastonbury Tor on the cover. I was sold straight away and talking of Glastonbury and its Tor, it does take centre stage for me in the book as Tom takes us around the mystical town and surrounding parts of Somerset that have mystery just around every corner. I hold Glastonbury Tor very close to my heart it is a very special place but I just don’t know why. It has history of course as the last About of Glastonbury Abbey, Richard Whiting was hanged, drawn and quartered along with two of his Monks on the 15th November 1539.
There is so much to rejoice in Tom’s writing as he makes it look so easy (I am sure he would argue with me over that) and it is a real pleasure to read as he takes us across the land to hills and bumps and Knolls. And there is great humour in Tom’s writing while on his adventure to discover the hills and the towns around them.
Ring the Hill is the sort of book you want to pack in your rucksack and head off to climb a few hills one Sunday and them find a cosy pub with a log fire and settle down with your favourite tipple and I promise you time will just disappear while you read this joyous book.
Now get your walking boots on! Highly recommended.
#RingTheHill @cox_tom @unbounders
Thank you to Unbound and also Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of Ring the Hill by Tom Cox.
Ring the Hill by Tom Cox was published by Unbound and was published on 3rd October 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal by Horatio Clare
As November stubs out the glow of autumn and the days tighten into shorter hours, winter’s occupation begins. Preparing for winter has its own rhythms, as old as our exchanges with the land. Of all the seasons, it draws us together. But winter can be tough.
It is a time of introspection, of looking inwards. Seasonal sadness; winter blues; depression – such feelings are widespread in the darker months. But by looking outwards, by being in and observing nature, we can appreciate its rhythms. Mountains make sense in any weather. The voices of a wood always speak consolation. A brush of frost; subtle colours; days as bright as a magpie’s cackle. We can learn to see and celebrate winter in all its shadows and lights.
In this moving and lyrical evocation of a British winter and the feelings it inspires, Horatio Clare raises a torch against the darkness, illuminating the blackest corners of the season, and delving into memory and myth to explore the powerful hold that winter has on us. By learning to see, we can find the magic, the light that burns bright at the heart of winter: spring will come again.
Released on 3rd October is The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal (Elliott & Thompson) in Paperback. Written in the form of a diary that starts in October and works its way through from autumn through the winter months. This is a repost of my review for the hardback edition which was released in November 2018.
I am someone who loves the outdoors and all things nature, the dark winter months trapped in an office has often left me feeling tired and exhausted and then come the weekend I cherish every moment of the hours of daylight.
Here in Horatio Clare’s excellent diary, he talks openly of how he to suffers as we move from kicking our way through the autumn leaves and then as the days grow shorter and then into November one of the darkest months of the year. I really found Horatio’s open and honest account to be very reassuring. Many of us suffer in silence especially in the workplace.
The excitement of Christmas comes to Horatio Clare and his family, with memories of childhood and now with his own family. But silently he suffers knowing that there is a tax bill and other debts to be paid and how he is going to find the money to pay all this. It is during the winter months he becomes more or less withdrawn to save money. At times there is a little tension in the household.
Seasonal depression is not something anyone should suffer in silence with (all except me apparently). Nature too shuts down but there is joy to be found in nature during the darkest months. The joy of chilly frosty morning walks at the weekend. There is so much we can enjoy about winter but we have to appreciate its beauty. The Light in the Dark is a moving and poetic look at this time of year and one book I rejoice in. This is a torch to guide us through the dark winter days until Spring’s first rays of light warm us. I am delighted to highly recommend The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal.
#TheLightInTheDark @HoratioClare @eandtbooks
The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival The 70th Anniversary 4th – 13th October 2019
The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival 2019
The 70th Anniversary
4th – 13th October 2019
Salt & Time: Recipes from a Russian Kitchen by Alissa Timoshkina
I am delighted as part of The Times and Sunday Times 70th Anniversary Cheltenham Literature to bring you a little taste of Russia. For my part on the celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Cheltenham Literature Festival I am bringing to the Blog Tour a Russian recipe from Salt & Time: Recipes from a Russian Kitchen by Alissa Timoshkina. Alissa will be appearing at the Festival on Thursday 10th October. Details can be found below on how to purchase tickets. My grateful thanks to Charlotte Cooper at Midas PR for this guest post by Alissa Timoshkina.
I don’t know about you but I love to experiment with recipes from different parts of the world, but I have to admit I have not tried any from Russia.
Alissa has selected one of the recipes from her book to share with you a little taste of Russia. I hope this inspires you to have a look at the book (details below) and may be try some of these in your own kitchen.
Borsch to Eastern Europe and Russia is like hummus to the Middle
East. We all eat it, we all love it, yet we simply can’t imagine that
any other country owns the rights to it. It has its origin in a hogweed
soup commonly consumed by the Slavs from the 15th–16th century
in territories occupied today by Poland, Ukraine and Russia. There
are so many variations of the soup, not only in each country but in
different regions within those countries, that borsch often becomes
synonymous with Eastern European soup. As much as I love a good
traditional borsch, and to me this means a passionately red beetroot
soup, cooked with a soffritto base as my Jewish–Ukrainian greatgrandma
would do, I sometimes struggle eating a plateful of chunky
discoloured vegetables that have given all their best to the broth.
So here I am taking a bit (okay, a lot) of creative licence, offering my
own take on the iconic dish, which consists of a rich red broth, raw
sauerkraut, roasted vegetables and baked red kidney beans. Lovers of
traditional borsch recipes look away – this one is pretty iconoclastic!
If you can make the broth 24 hours in advance, you will be
rewarded with an even better tasting soup, but a few hours of resting will also do the trick.
unrefined sunflower oil,
for frying and roasting
1 large onion, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and grated
6 raw red beetroots
2 red peppers
2 tablespoons tomato purée
2 litres cold water
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
4 garlic cloves, peeled
bunch of dill
small bunch of flat leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves, grated
500g Red Sauerkraut
with Garlic & Chilli
(see page 159)
2 tablespoons pomegranate
1 red onion
1 tablespoon brown sugar
400g can red kidney beans
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
4 tablespoons soured cream
Heat up a tablespoon of sunflower oil in a large pan and fry the
onion and carrot for about 8 minutes until golden. Meanwhile, peel
and grate 2 of the beetroots and core, deseed and thinly slice 1 red
pepper. Add the vegetables to the pan together with the tomato
purée and a splash of water. Season with salt to taste and fry for a
further 5–8 minutes.
Top with the measured cold water, add the bay leaves along with
the peppercorns and all the seeds, whole garlic cloves and half the
bunches of dill and parsley. Season with a tablespoon of salt and
bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, add the grated garlic and half the
sauerkraut with its brine and simmer, covered, over a low heat for
40 minutes–1 hour.
Turn off the heat and let the borsch rest for another hour, while
you prepare the rest of the elements.
So far, so good, but here is where the recipe starts to deviate
from the norm quite a lot: to prepare the vegetables that will grace
the plate and also add extra flavour and texture to the soup, you will
need to do a bit of roasting.
Start by preheating the oven to 160°C fan/Gas Mark 4.
Peel the remaining 4 beetroots, cut into wedges and dress with oil, salt and
the pomegranate molasses. Peel the red onion, cut into wedges and season
with salt and the brown sugar to bring out their sweetness and promote
caramelization. Place on a roasting tray with the beetroot and roast together
for 30 minutes. Drain the kidney beans, then dress them with salt, oil and the
smoked paprika. Core and deseed the remaining red pepper, then cut into thin
strips and dress with salt and oil. Roast the beans and pepper together, as they
will need only 10–15 minutes.
When ready to serve, strain the broth through a sieve or a muslin cloth,
discarding the solids. All we need is that rich broth! Reheat again if necessary.
Next, create layers of texture and flavour in each bowl by adding a heaped
tablespoon of the remaining sauerkraut to each, as well as a handful of roasted
beetroot, onion, kidney beans and red pepper. Top each bowl with the hot broth
and add a dollop of soured cream and a generous sprinkle of the remaining dill
and parsley, chopped. The intensity of the flavours and textures of this dish is
beyond words, while the look of the bowl will seduce the eye without a doubt.
Alissa Timoshkina will be appearing at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on Thursday 10th October between 12 and 2pm. Tickets are still available at £30.00 plus a booking fee that include a two course lunch and a glass of wine. For further details: Flavours of Russia
Tickets for the 70th Anniversary Cheltenham Literature Festival are now on sale. But be quick some of the events are selling out fast. Cheltenham Literature Festival
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