Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Surviving the Press-Gang: 70 Crazy Years in Journalism by Leslie Watkins

This book interested me as I do like to keep up with the latest news and are concerned where the media is heading (Especially in Trump's America.) So here is a look back at the golden age of journalism. Some great anecdotes and a snapshot of 1950's politics to now. I gave it 5 stars.

Leslie Watkins gives us a unique glimpse into his life and career as a journalist that started in the late 1940’s. Needless to say, but he knows how to write a story as he must have written hundreds of them over a career spanning 70 years. It is nice being taken back to a time where news had to be fact checked before being printed, although I was surprised that fake news was nothing new. But then making up a few letters allegedly send into the paper is a bit more innocent then the blatant twisting of facts we see these days. I could have done with a bit less of Mr Watkins own views on political events, but it is his book and not a newspaper. Everyone is entitled to his or her views; I just preferred his own story, career and especially the unusual characters in the industry. This is a timely book as most newspapers are struggling and the news mostly comes to us now via online media. A look at a world that is quickly disappearing, and an excellent read.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Red Winter by Julia Underwood

I rather like this author as she just shown me that she can write about a range of topics, but easily captivates the reader with her very readable style. The first book I read by this author was about a heist set in seventies Britain, this one is set in Russia during the revolution. I gave this 5 stars. Click on the picture to take you to Amazon.



Red winter is the Russian revolution seen through the eyes of a young woman; Sophie. Privileged and of Russian and English descent her life is to be changed forever. We see her growing from a naive teenager, head over heels in love with Tolya, an idealistic and serious man, into a rather formidable woman. She is not afraid to make difficult choices and rather heroic when it comes to her husband and family. The historical details are well researched and form an excellent setting to this story, but it never becomes a history lesson; it’s all about how the events of the time impact on Sophie and her family. Very well captured is the changing relationship between Sophie and her former servants. I enjoyed this well written epic of love, war, revolution and above all survival.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Where do you go to: The rags to riches tale inspired by the epic Peter Sarstedt song by Jean Cerfontaine

I picked this book for two reasons. A I thought it was an interesting idea to base a book on a song lyric. B. One of the locations mentioned in the song is Juan les pins. As this is only a few miles from here I wanted to read what the author had to say about my area. We get a nice snapshot of 1950's and 60's Europe and some well known names like Picasso and Yves Montand are woven into the story. I gave it 4 stars as it is hard to emphasise with a character who's life is just so fabulous.



Basing a book on a well-known Peter Sarstedt song was an interesting idea. Time and time you are reminded of the song when Marie-Claire does something or goes somewhere. It builds a familiarity with the character that we wouldn’t otherwise have. After troubled and murky beginnings the young orphan Marie-Claire is adopted by the Le Blancs and starts a new life. And what a charmed life it is. Growing up in the plush surroundings of the French embassy of Rome and then Athens and Moscow, Marie-Claire takes to her new life like a duck to water. As we see her blossom into a young talented woman the action moves to Paris and we get a taste of the early sixties and how the rich and famous lived. The story gets a little repetitive as Marie-Claire’s life seems to be an endless string of parties and holidays. Her past is the intriguing part that hangs over the story like a dark cloud, and although it is resolved in an original way, I think the writer could have done more with it. Well written and a nice snapshot of 50’s and 60’s Europe.

Friday, 28 June 2019

Bad Neanderthal: All He Wants is Justice by Glen Batchelor

With some holidays and fine beach weather I got a lot of reading done. Now I just have to write up the reviews. This one was a fun read, but the humour or satire was not too subtle. I think if you liked 80's series 'The Young Ones', this one will be for you. 4 stars and currently only 99p/c.



Even though this world has Neanderthals in it, we firmly recognise it as post-Margaret Thatcher Britain. It is a not so subtle satire of that area, when the miners’ strike was brutally suppressed by police with the full support of the conservative government. This police brutality is echoed in the character of Sergeant Alf Hucker, a bad tempered, Neanderthal hating paedophile. I like the character of   Zeezee as we see his ‘growth’ from docile Neanderthal, who is incapable of lying or violence. To a lying, murdering, well almost homo-sapien in behaviour. But we remain endeared by our Zeezee as his heart is in the right place and he has the welfare and liberation of his people in mind. This book has a lot of humour in it, and most of it is not too subtle either; for example the name of sex worker and Hucker’s daughter Lovely Cox-Hucker. I enjoyed reading this and there was enough plot to make this a well balanced mix of satire and crime.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Tambula by Susan Wüthrich

This is the second book I reviewed by Susan Wüthrich. I like the fact that this writer sets her stories of love and loss in unusual settings and periods. Be it post war Britain or 1970's Africa as in this case. Her heroes are ordinary men and women just trying to make ends meet. I gave this 5 stars.



This book is set in the early seventies which had me scratching my head as I recognised some of the places but not others. Tambula is a fictional country but a reviewer kindly pointed out it would be located in what is these days known as Eswatini and before 2018 as Swaziland. Also the Capital of Mozambique is these days known as Maputo. Maybe the writer could add some info about the locations used before the first part to set the scene. It doesn’t detract however from the touching story of a young couple in 1970’s Africa. What I liked was the fact that Liz and Dek are a very ordinary couple with a young son that are just struggling to make ends meet. This sets them apart from the other expats around them that are rich and their lives revolve around the club. The story of this couple and their unravelling marriage could have been set anywhere, but setting it in Africa adds another dimension and adds a few interesting subplots that test this couple to breaking point.
Well written and kept me interested to the last page.

Friday, 14 June 2019

The Legacy of the Rhino: First Resistance by John Williamson

I see with horror that my last review was about 3 months ago. I kind of got stuck on a book that was so dreadful that I could not force myself to read on. I did not finish so I wont review it. I don't believe in leaving one or two star reviews as the writer must have put their soul into writing it.
Anyway, I had a few weeks holiday and it was beach weather, so the reviews will be coming thick and fast for a while. Here is the first, which I enjoyed and was happy to give 5 stars. Click on the picture to take you to Amazon.



This book taps nicely into the current mood and our concern for the environment. It also echo’s the radicalisation and fanaticism of certain groups in our society. Here a group called the returners have taken their concern about the environment to an extreme level and have plunged Britain back into the dark ages. In this first book of the series we learn how the village of Dockling is coping with this new world where machines are prohibited and any descent is harshly dealt with by the returners. We meet Charlie, a former bus mechanic and a gruff no-nonsense character who is not willing to give up on common sense and the greater good. His decision to build a grain mill secures their survival for the winter but also plunges the village in a heap of trouble. The villagers make a stand against the cruel Returners and the first seeds of rebellion are sown.
I liked the character of Eliza. She plays rather cruel games with the local village boys. She knows men and uses her charms as a weapon. But she is also very courageous and seems to have the greater good at heart. Greg is the young lad falling under her spell. But as he finds his own courage, she begins to see him as more than an innocent boy to be toyed with. I look forwards to finding out more about this young romance and how the village of Dockling will fare. Well written and exciting start to a series.