Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Hidey Holes

Hidey Holes is a book of Beautiful Hideaways, Bolt Holes and Harbours in England and Wales.

It is by Robin Whitcomb and it is a truly fascinating book. So fascinating that I have had to wait for a couple of weeks to review it because my wife was absolutely riveted by it!

Yorkshire-born Robin Whitcomb has lived an interesting life. A student of Cranleigh School in Surrey, after a couple of years working in the oil industry in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he spent time in LA with his older brother Ian, a musician who had a smash hit with "You Turn Me On", who introduced him to Sonny and Cher, who, at that time, were a pair of rapidly rising stars.

Robin became their drummer and perchusionist and who played on their smash massive hit: "I Got You Babe".

After returning to the UK, Robin played cricket for the MCC and rugby for Richmond and other clubs.

Amongst other things, after several years on The Daily Telegraph he taught at Dulwich Prep for 33 years.

This is his third book.

The book brings the reader to a variety of absolutely charming places in and around the coastal areas of England and Wales.

There are some perfectly crafted paintings by local artists and also some stunningly beautiful and well-composed images photographed by Robin himself.

There are also some first class descriptive texts that tell you all that you need to know about the villages, towns, hamlets and small communities that he found on his travels with his (late) companion, his Labrador Coco. She was his constant companion throughout the five years that it took Robin to create this utterly charming and quintessentially English book, which he, with considerable English charm,  dedicated to Coco.

See the drama that is Mullion Cove, the majesty of Boscastle -and the local Witchcraft Museum!- the Ship Inn of Mousdehole and the story of how it was attacked and almost totally destroyed by Spanish raiders. Squire Jenkin Keigwin was able to kill six of them who had attacked his house, before he was cruelly murdered, but still with his sword in his hand. A brave Cornishman to the very end!

It was later famed as the home of Dolly Pentreath who died at age 101 who was reputedly the last person able to speak in the ancient Cornish tongue, when she died in 1777.

See dramatic mine ruins, read about the smugglers who worked the coast and of novelists like D. H. Lawrence and Agatha Christie who made Cornwall their homes for lesser or greater times.

There are preserved railway lines, cliff railways and much, much more.

Moving on to Northern England there are castles, like Bamburgh, fishing villages like Craster, and locations like Robin Hood's Bay.

Moving round the coast we find the magic of Norfolk, with basking seals, motoring museums and the birthplace of Lord Nelson. And more preserved railway lines, like the Wells-Walsingham Railway.

There's the magical coastline of Pembrokshire, including Porthgain. There's Solva -with the horrifying story of why there was always three light house keepers and there's Abereiddy with its Blue Lagoon and the interesting story of how it came into being.

This high quality coffee table sized book is published in hardback by Troubador at a remarkably reasonable £14.99 and will make a wonderful conversation piece and an equally superb present for the armchair traveller. Or for the person who wants to have things to look for when they take a coastal holiday.

It is available from the That's Book and Entertainment book shop, which you will find to the right hand side of this book review.


More Thorns Than Roses

More Thorns Than Roses is a remarkable collection of short stories from H. A. Howe.

It's an interesting collection of disparate ideas and themes.

It's light and frothy, yet it is also tart and salty. It's as if someone has made a really rather splendidly fluffy meringue and replaced half of the caster sugar with some crunchy pink Himalayan salt.

There are tales of love, of betrayal, of fears, real and imagined and tragedic events of the kind that make people shake their heads and say: "We should have seen that coming" but, somehow, nobody ever does.

There's guilt, sometimes where there should be none, and an absence of guilt where guilt should be a crushing remorse.

There are cruelties upon cruelties and acts of stupidity, thoughtlessness and of fecklessness.

Yet there are also moments of great tenderness, of love, and of sacrifice and of hope. And of situations that are beyond all realistic hope. And, finally, of light.

This book is published in paperback by Victory and it is her second collection of short stories.

It is available through the That's Books and Entertainment book shop, which is to be found on the right hand side of this book review.

If I Can touch You With a Thought

If I Can touch You With a Thought is a collection of poetry and narrative prose by Bob Levine.

Blank verse is an interesting short poem seeing the world through the veil of a cataract. (A subject which your reviewer has some personal knowledge of, so read with interest and be-stirred memories.)

Other poems touch on the fleeting memories of our childhood days, of coal fires and the black and white images flickering on the telly, the time of your life, a surprise meeting, a time when someone, or something, takes over the land of the night.

When there is someone who is, truly and really, our best friend, and we, hopefully, there's.

Thoughts that arise when one is on a bench, by the sea, just you and your thoughts.

The different feelings engendered by one species over another, memories of disasters that have already been and others that might yet be.

For a mere £6.99 you can slake your thirst for new experiences in this delightful little well of ideas and thoughts.

It's published by Matador and is available in all good bookshops, including ours. You'll find our bookshop to the right of this review.


Planes, Passports and Porkie Pies - Slice One

Planes, Passports and Porkie Pies - Slice One is a fascinating read about what life was really like as an Immigration Control officer in the UK.

And, as author Mike Clarke points out, it's certainly nothing like as seen on TV!

Mike gives a genuine behind the scenes look at what it was like being involved in Immigration Control in and around London, working at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted Airports, then actually on the streets of London itself.

All of the stories contained in his book are utterly true. Though some names and some details may well have been changed in order to protect the innocent and the not-so-innocent. And also, as Mike points out, the details are as accurate as his own fallible memory allows.

There's the story of the Nigerian bank robber who was apprehended at the airport with the proceeds of his bank robbery found badly concealed about his person.

He was sent back to Nigeria. And was executed by firing squad almost as soon as he had been bundled off the plane.

There were forged passports, some that were so clever that they were hard to spot (these were the long ago days before barcodes and pre-electronics)  and some that were so badly done that the Immigration Control officers must have wondered exactly what on earth they had been thinking!

For example the man who had on hi date of birth no day, no month, just the year of 1845.

This would have made him to be 127 years of age.

And in the space for occupation was written 'witchdoctor.'

The passport had stamps in it showing he had visited the UK several times had had only ever made short visits each time.

So, was he really 127 years of age?

He was, once again, allowed in to the country. Probably just as well, really...

There were stories of 'helpful' MPs sticking their noses in to cases, a weird assortment of liars and chancers (that's not the MPs, by the way) and people who pretended to be children but who, in reality, were almost certainly were really adult Pakistanis, one of whom had x-rays but forgot he had a finger missing, or not, according to his x-rays. Or could this mean they weren't actually his x-rays. Oops!

This book is well worth the £9.99 price. It's published by Matador and will be available from all good shops, including the That's Books and Entertainment book shop which you will find to the right hand side of this book review.



Sunday, 17 April 2016

Release From Stasis The Future is now

Release From Stasis The Future is now is a new novel by scientist, writer and author Dr Graham Clingbine, BSc, MSc.

The book is set in a far, distant future. Earth is dramatically different, it is under constant bombardment with deadly solar radiation which is being emitted by the ageing Sun.

John Powell -the father of Kevin Powell, seen in the earlier novel Disclosure, is the last surviving member of the human race.

He has a scheme to help repopulate the Earth by kidnapping humans from the past times of planet Earth and genetically modifying them so that they would be able to survive in the harsh environment of future Earth.

But there is a violent solar eruption that is so unprecedented in its sheer violence that all of his human test subjects are wiped out.

John Powell takes his family and a few other survivors aboard a spaceship and they flee planet Earth to undertake a long journey through space, safely placed in stasis.

When they become released from stasis John and his family are bewildered to discover that the other occupants of the ship have formed to opposing religions, Muons and Pions.

The groups are divided one against the other and, as a consequence, are at war.

John and his family decide to escape from the strife and, by employing a time-travel portal device, they are able to leave the ship and return to an earlier incarnation of Earth and start over, again.

The ship carrying the Muons and the Pions lands on a planet that is habitable and the two groups are left to work out their own destinies.

This science fiction novel costs £9.99 paperback and £15.99 haqrdback and is available from the That's Books and Entertainment book shop, which you will find to the right hand side of this book review.

Grand Vizier of Krar Strings of Destiny

Grand Vizier of Krar Strings of Destiny is the launch of a new voice in fantasy fiction, retired lawyer W. John Tucker.

The story introduces Blan and her followers and allies.

Blan and her adherents are trying to introduce a more advanced civilisation in a far distant future time on planet Earth, which is recovering after a catastrophic calamity almost destroyed all life on it.

But they are battling with an enemy who seeks to dominate mankind and planet Earth.

Sailing ships are, again, plying the high seas and seek safe ports.

Blan would like to continue to stay living in her peaceful seaside village. But she knows this will not be possible and she has to leave her village.

Blan is kidnapped by pirates and, upon obtaining her freedom, is horrified to discover that she has fallen into the clutches of the Black Knight, who wants her for his own bedchamber.

But Blan is made of stronger material than that and she uses her knowledge and wits to confront a great evil and to fulfil what is her true destiny.

But she must also rescue her own grandfather who is injured. He is a most important man as he possesses a special, secret knowledge that is vital to the ambitions of the Black Knight.

Great and terrible forces of tremendous evil face them. They meet with apparently insurmountable odds.

But can Blan and her followers and allies face them down and succeed?

If you are a fan of fantasy novels, or if you have a fantasy novel fan to buy a present for, then buy this book at the That's Bools and Entertainment Book Shop which you will find to the right hand side of this book review.

It's a stirring and exciting book and it costs £15.99, published by Matador.




The Secret Scrolls

The Secret Scrolls is a new novel by a Church of England Priest, Sonia Falaschi-Ray. Originally trained as an engineer she has also worked as a City investment analyst and is now a Church of England Priest and a published author.

The Secret Scrolls tells the story of historian Verity Hunter who has discovered a chest hidden for two Millennia in a catacomb in Sicily.

When she opens the chest she is astounded to find that it is stuffed with documents.

Together with a classicist colleague, Crispian Goodman, they work feverishly to translate the documents and put them back before anyone else becomes aware of their existence.

Once the content is revealed, there develops a major fight for possession of the documents and the information that they contain.

For they are of great doctrinally sensitivity. And it is for this reason that the Catholic Church believes they should be transferred to the Vatican to ensure that they are taken into safe custody, as it were.

The director of the catacombs wants them kept for a tourist attraction, historians and theologians want them for their historical data and someone who is charged with their restoration is fully aware of their true financial value.

However, who is the mysterious Russian private collector of religious artefacts and relics? And does he really have links with the Mafia?

But. Are the genuine? And if they are, what is the likely outcome of their existence?

The book is exciting and the story is propelled along with pace, but not excessive speed, thankfully!

But as well as being exciting and entertaining it does something Dan Brown has never done in his works. It is genuinely thought-provoking.

So this book out Dan Browns Dan Brown!

It costs £9.99 and can be bought via the That's Book and Entertainment bookshop which you will find to the right hand side of this book review.

The Truth in Fiction

The Truth in Fiction is a collection of short stories by a highly skilled author, Peter Crawley.

A decade ago Peter's sister-in-law was undergoing stem cell transplant therapy whilst she had leukaemia.

As a way of helping to keep her mind occupied, Peter wrote her some short stories.

Over time he wrote more short stories and eventually, these grew into The Truth in Fiction.

There are 18 stories, all written within the last decade.

We read of the story of Padraig, in 'A Prodigious Epiphany for Padraig. This story was written in Santiago de Compostela, after the compeltion of walking the Camino de Santiago.

Why is Padraig taking this walk? Why did he have to say then Hail Marys? And why does he have a scar on the palm of one had?

Other stories are set in a variety of locations including  London, ("I Know" is a particularly poignant story) Geneva, and New Zealand.

At £9.99 this is a must have book for those who enjoy their stories short and capable of casting illumination upon the human condition.

You can buy it at the That's Books and Entertainment bookshop, which is to the right hand side of this review.

The Frog in the Skyscraper

The Frog in the Skyscraper is a wonderful book for children superbly written by Faiz Kremani and skilfully illustrated by Korey Scott.

It tells the story of Frijibold who is a frog in a million, to be honest.

Not for Frijibold the common lilly pad for his accommodation! Because he wants to live in a skyscraper!

He was bored with his life in the pond in the centre of New York.

Oh, no! Not more of the "singing" of his elderly uncle  Krustnut? Exactly how much could a young frog take?

He decided that he would leave his relatives and friends to their life in the pond. Because he wanted to become a dweller in a skyscraper with the humans!

He obtains a luxury apartment in Shark Fin Towers and then everything seems to start happening all at once!

Add some crazed TV presenters, and ambitious property developers and his life becomes one long, action-filled adventure.

But would he tire of this great adventure? Would he begin to pine for his pond life? And would he ever taste another mouthful of Mrs Bogel's spicy fried fly pizza?

It is published by Matador at £9.99.

This is a great book for adults and children and you can buy it at the That's Books and Entertainment bookshop to the right hand side of this review.


Saturday, 2 April 2016

At Night You Sleep Alone

At Night You Sleep Alone is a new novel by Parkash Sohal. It is his first novel in English, having written novels previously in Punjabi and Hindi.

The novel is set in India in the 1960s. It relates the story of a love that was born in the innocence of the young.

It is a happy, idyllic love between two soulmates, Parkash and Nirmal who knew that they were destined to be together forever.

However, Nirmal's mother, who is a politician, takes a decision, apparently a tiny one, that sets of a chain of events that spell disaster for both Parkash and Nirmal.

It causes Nirmsal to be forced into a life that is horrendously different from what she could ever have imagined. And unfortunately there is no place her soulmate, Parkash, in this, her new life.

It seems now that Nirmal's life must depend entirely upon the fanciers and whims of her mother.

But what will her mother do? Tend to the needs of her daughter? Save the honour of her daughter?  Or sacrifice her daughter to her own political career?

A couple of decades pass and eventually an older and wiser Parkash is suddenly faced by his own past and by what he had thought would be his destiny.

But could there be salvation? Could the past be re-imagined as the future? Could there, after all these years, be even one glimmer of hope for the love story of Nirmal and Parkash?

Your reviewer will not reveal any more, but suffice to say that he was left with several tears in his eye at the end of this beautifully and sensitively written book.

It is published by Matador at £8.99 and is available for purchase through the That's Books and Entertainment online shop, which you will find to the right hand side of this review.


Never Trust Professors

Never Trust Professors, Life and Death on Campus, is a novel by Donald Read.

Now, I say that is is a novel, but it seems as if it might make uncomfortable reading for some professors as it looks to be a little too close to the truth of saome of our higher seats of academe!

Blackchester University is a somewhat troubled place. There are problems on campus that are making life harder for both students and staff members.

The English and History departments are in a state of war, with the Professors of each department battling and bickering over student numbers and how to increase them.

And, once they have more students, they might like to work out a way to stop the female students falling in love, not only with their fellow students but with the teaching staff. Including the married ones.

And you know what journalists are like. Even a whiff of a sexual scandal at a university gets the prurient side of their dander up and you can almost write the headlines in your mind's eye now, can't you?

And parents read those headlines in the morning papers and fret and worry about what might be happening near or (God forbid!) to their precious little innocent child!

But who can the parents trust for a straight answer? Certainly not the professors for, as the headlines scream: "Never Trust Professors!"

The Daily Express even has a reporter embedded (if you'll pardon that expression!) in the campus.

But what about the stories behind the headlines? The truth behind the common room gossip, the veiled looks and tutting as a certain person walked by?

And what of those who should have known better, but acted as though they didn't?

What happens when a married woman becomes pregnant and the likelihood is that she has been impregnated by a professor? But unfortunately not the professor she is married to.

What would the press make of this scandal? And what of the poor innocent baby in all this muddle and drama?

And what happens when the situation escalates to outright violence?

The book is a satire, true, but it is very sensitively and thoughtfully written by a Professor of History who, like your reviewer when at university heard rumours and saw some rather strange goings on.

The book is £17.99 in hardback and is published by The Book Guild.