Friday, 10 June 2016

The Trial of Maria Montrecourt

The Trial of Maria Montrecourt is a debut novel by Kay Patrick a thespian (RADA-trained) who has acted on Doctor Who (alongside William Hartnell) and was then an equally influential television director, including 20 years with Coronation Street.

It is 1899, and a young French girl, 18-year-old Maria Montrecourt, arrives in the Northern English town of Harrogate.

She is orphaned, yet is supported by a shadowy and mysterious benefactor.

Whilst Maria is struggling to find her footing in a strange and somewhat alien environment, she finds herself drawn into the early dawning of the battle for the rights of women.

But eventually the son of her benefactor hunts Maria out. And, gradually, over time a hideous and terrible secret begins to emerge.

Events that occurred many years before suddenly re-emerge from the past and these events have the power to alter the life that Maria thought she was living forever.

Soon Maria finds herself accused of monstrous sins and crimes and she finds herself alone, in a dark and dank cell, a guttering candle her only source of light, as she is on trial for her life, accused of a notorious and heinous murder.

Who is the mysterious benefactor? Why are they her benefactor? Why must they remain in the shadows?

Did Maria commit murder? Or was the whole case a ghastly mistake? Or was it something else?

This novel is not merely set in the latter part of the 19th century, it actually takes the reader back to that time, so evocative is the writing.

An ideal summertime read and extremely well priced at only £8.99.

It's published by Matador and is published in support of Alzheimer's Research UK, so every copy you buy (either from the That's Books and Entertainment bookshop or elsewhere) you are helping to support Alzheimer's Research UK.)

Diet of Doubt

Diet of Doubt is a love story set amongst the rarified atmosphere of French high cuisine, written by debut author Margaret Christopher.

Lisa Saunders is a freshly qualified catering student. She has a somewhat stormy and unpredictable interview with an internationally renowned master chef, Marcel Peronnaud.

She is shocked but thrilled when he decides to appoint her as the newest trainee at his own restaurant in Paris.

She has to be careful, however, as she is fully aware of his reputation of being a lady's man, with his latest "affaire de cœur" often making the headlines in the tabloid press.

Could she, should she, be the first attractive young woman who enters his life who spurns his amorous advances?

However, all is not quite what it seems. Is Marcel really the Lothario of the haute cuisine demimonde? Or could there a great deal more to this man than his public image?

Whilst travelling through France with Lisa as he records his new cookery programme, she sees a different, much more sensitive side to Marcel.

During the ensuing months Lisa's resolve crumbles and she begins to fall in love with Marcel.

But then evidence comes to light that he may, after all, be nothing more than a player.

Is their romance doomed? Or can a miracle save this culinary "affaire de cœur"?

This is an ideal romantic novel for the holiday reading list so pack it with your sunglasses and your sunscreen!

It's published by Matador in paperback at a very reasonable £8.99 and is, as ever, available from the That's Books and Entertainment bookshop, which you'll find, over there >>>>>> to the right of this review.

Harold's Story The tale of an RAF Armourer in WWII

Harold's Story The tale of an RAF Armourer in WWII is the true story of Harold Marsh.

Harold's cousin, Daphne Davison discovered a collection of old audio recordings on a series of tapes.

The recordings were made by Harold so that his grandchildren would know of his part in the fight against the Nazi and their Axis allies.

Like many service veterans, Harold had not welcomed the opportunity to speak of what trials and tribulations he went through. But unlike most other veterans, Harold actually took the time and trouble to make an audio record of his experiences.

Daphne has merely transcribed the words of her cousin Harold. So the book is entirely his work.

It is also well, illustrated with photographs from the family album.

The story begins with Harold's early life in Seasalter on the north east coast of Kent, how Harold appeared in a carnival dressed as a penny collecting box and his sister dressed up as a butterfly.

Harold joined the Seas Scouts and the ordinary Scouts and attended summer camps and generally enjoyed themselves as young boys do.

He relates the amusing tale of how his grandfather, when using a new electric torch instead of his usual candle, attempted to extinguish the torch by blowing it out!

When Harold was about sixteen and a half he had a fancy to join the Royal Navy.However, his father dissuaded him from joining the Navy and suggested that he join the RAF, instead, which is what Harold did, a year or so before the beginning of World War 2.

However, he was too young to join under the Boy's Service scheme, so was advised to wait until he was seventeen and a quarter to join the RAF. Which he duly did.

The letter from the Air Ministry telling him to attend for a series of initiation tests at the Air Ministry in London.

He, and a large number of other young men, met in a large hall and took a number of different tests including a maths test and a medical test.

After the tests they were marched off to a Tube station and thence on to West Drayton in Middlesex where they began their training as RAF recruits.

The next morning they had a very good breakfast and ice cream at lunchtime and Harold began to think he might have made the right choice of military career!

After filling in forms, swearing allegiance to the King and getting a service number (648355) Harold was in the RAF. Complete with his own housewife! (You need to read the book to learn how and why this happened.)

After his initial training he was posted to Shrewsbury, Shropshire, where he was stationed when war was declared on 3rd September 1939.

Eventually he was posted to Pembrey in South Wales were his training as an armourer would commence.

Harold saw service in a variety of locations within the UK and abroad such as Singapore, from which he and his mates were evacuated in the nick of time, eventually arriving on a crowded ship in Columbo, Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.

They made their way to India where they saw service with American-made Mohawk planes which would sometimes shoot through their own propellers if the timing was set incorrectly.

Mention is also made of the problematic dhobi rash the cure for which was worse than the ailment!

The book then moves on to the post war years and is a moving and loving tribute to an extraordinary man and his loving family.

It is published by the Book Guild in hardback at £12.99 and is a very easy to read book.

It's available via the That's Books and Entertainment book shop, which you'll find just over the the right of this site.


Pendragon Rebel With a Cause

Pendragon Rebel With a Cause is a romantic tale.

It tells the story of a Welsh chieftain who sets out to prove that love can conquer all.

It's a multi-layered book, with interweavings of the spirit of Pendragon, the ancient Welsh chieftain, with the life of a very modern young Welshman by the name of Dewi.

Dewi declines to be browbeaten by his Welsh nationalist friends who, because they know they are right, think this gives them carte blanche to bully Dewi.

But Dewi decides to show them and the world that love can conquer all.

He meets people who are influential in his life. There's the unexpected encounter with a cousin of his from America, then the extremely unexpected encounter with Helen. Extremely unexpected because he had been lead to believe that Helen was dead. But the truth was that Helen was very much still in the land of the living.

There's the swirling emotions of hatred and of love, and also of life and death that permeate this moving romantic novel.

Will a miracle happen for Dewi? If it does, would he recognise it for what it was? And would it make any significant difference, in any case?

The book takes the reader through modern day and ancient Wales, combining and mixing the two in a way that will resonate with everyone with even a tiny speck of Welsh blood within them.

It costs £9.99 and is published by the Book Guild. It is available via the That's Books and Entertainment Bookshop, just to the right of this review.

First Choose Your Congo

First Choose Your Congo is the ninth travel novel by author David Fletcher.

There are two Congos, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo.

Planning a visit to the Congo? Then perhaps you had better take the advice of experienced traveller and author, David Fletcher and remember to First Choose Your Congo!

First Choose Your Congo is the latest in the Brian's World series of novels.

Adjudged by some as provocative and irreverent, they are also highly amusing, as is the latest book.

Brain and his long suffering wife take the advice of David Fletcher and they take the necessary steps to choose their Congo. They opt, sensibly, one might hope, for the safer of the two Congos, the Republic of Congo.

Brian decides to secure a place on an expedition right into the heart of the rainforest of the Congo. Where, thankfully, there are no rebels and dangerous gangs of armed thugs to contend with. Just a blissful paradise of an unspoilt environment, filled with natural wonders to be experienced by the fortunate traveller.

It is a fascinating read, a book, illustrated with a selection of beautiful colour photographs, which takes the reader into a seldomly visited part of the heart of Africa.

From the trials of the tsetse flies and the Brazza monkey, the males of which have a bright blue scrotum and the facial features of an Ayatollah to the Gorilla sanctuaries, this book is certainly a useful primer for the person thinking of visiting the Congo (the right part of the Congo, naturally!) or the confirmed armchair traveller.

It is published by Matador Travel in paperback at £12.99.

It is available for purchase at the That's Books and Entertainment shop, which you will find over to the right of this review.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Small Lives, Big World

Small Lives, Big World is a collection of short stories by R. M. Green.

The inspiration for the stories comes from the absolutely extraordinary amount of world travels that he has undertaken.

Over 90 countries, in total, have brought together the inspirations for these vastly different short stories.

Or are they all that vastly different? For Green has noticed that all the people he met, no matter what their many different and varied lives they lead, there is one common thread that binds them together, that of a firm belief in hope.

The stories, he reassures his readers, are all based on people he has met and on events that he, himself, witnessed on his many different and varied journeys around the globe, from Australia to Zambia. And some from closer to home, too.

There are ten stories in total, they reveal miniature universes of pain, frustration, of angst, fear, of love and joy, and of hope.

The book is published by Matador at £9.99 in paperback and is available from the That's Books and Entertainment bookshop, just to the right hand side of this review.

Summer Skool

Summer Skool is an interesting book about being a teacher. Because it is written by a real teacher, Edmund Irons.

Edmund Irons spent 20 years working as a PR consultant, an industrial editor and a copywriter. He also wrote a number of books, news and feature articles.

Eventually he decided that he had had quite enough of the demanding clients and their often impossibly tight deadlines, so he decided that he would retrain as a teacher, instead.

After all, wouldn't that be a much quieter, calmer lifestyle? A nice, steady income, all those long holidays and never home later than 5pm!

And then, reality hit home and Edmund found himself in a highly stressful job, that was very time consuming and one in which newly qualified teachers could often finds themselves putting in 12 hour days.  And assailed by problem pupils and problem educational policies, too!

During his first year as a newly qualified teacher Edmund found work as a supply teacher, working throughout a total of in excess of a dozen different schools.

He realised that many pupils at the different schools he worked in all used the same tactics during lessons to disrupt the learning process.

"But how and where could they be learning these tactics?" he thought, idly.

Eventually such musings caused him to wonder if someone, somewhere, was offering pupils lessons in the art of disrupting the learning process?

These thoughts eventually coalesced into the book Summer Skool which is about a group of boys who take special classes to learn tactics to disrupt lessons and bring chaos to the classrooms.

And they then test out their newly obtained skills on the put upon Mr Godfrey.

Although the book is humorous, Edmund does point out that it has a serious side to it, as he hopes that if read by teachers -both old and new hands at the education game- it might help them develop a better understanding of what is happening in their classrooms.

We watch as pupils learn the "no pen" trick, the use of relevant conversation to delay a teacher, what break time is really for, the masterful employment of misdirection, the use of blinds to interfere with the lesson and so on.

It's published by Matador Education, so if you are a teacher, or you know a teacher, or if you have children or you were a child at one stage in your life, this book -at £8.99 in paperback- is worth every penny!

It's available from the that's Books and Entertainment bookshop, which you will find to the right hand side of this book review.

Legerdemain

Legerdemain is a new novel by Anne Wodehouse, the distant cousin to P. G. Wodehouse.

It's a romantic novel set in the rural Midlands back in the early 1970s.

A typically urban couple decide that they want to live the good life. For this, surely, will be the answer to the many problems of their lives?

When they arrive in their rural idyl, to live in a derelict farmhouse, they realised that perhaps things are not going to be as idyllic as they had hoped or thought?

As the wheels fall off their metaphorical hay cart, they meet some of the rather flamboyant local residents and realise that running away from your problems is never a good solution as they can all run very quickly after you.

It is a story of relationships that flounder and eventually fall to bits, of new relationships that suddenly pop up and become something more than they might have been, and all set against a backdrop of people weird, wonderful and, when you come down to it, just all very, very human folks, with all the faults and foibles that usually entails.

There's James, who drinks far too much and has a different lie and excuse as to why he drinks to excess to match every drink he takes.

There's his wife, Sarah who is sickened and utterly defeated by what her husband has become and their two children, too.

James will remain in the city in a flat, whilst Sarah and the children will live in a self-sufficient smallholding in the country.

There are marriages, deaths and the hope of unexpected new beginnings both in the city and out of the city.

Legerdemain is published by the Book Guild at £9,99, in paperback.

Legerdemain is ideal to be packed for your summer holidays and you can buy it at the That's Books and Entertainment bookshop, just to the right hand side of this review.

The Voice and the Echo

In The Voice and the Echo BJ Bulckley brings their readers a gritty story of the last 40 years of social and political unrest.

It follow the lives of five neophyte journalists as they stumble from the heady days of the 1960s when everyone was going to change the world, right through to the less-than-inspired Noughties, with the cynical "do whatever it takes" attitude epitomised by the excesses of the tabloid press of the day.

The journalists the reader is asked to follow are Marcus Roache, Clive Parkhouse, Clara Tomlinson, Dave Shearman and Mike Boddington.

They meet together when they are tasked with producing the university's newspaper, The student Voice.

We are with Marcus and Clive, through the ensuing 40 years of major news stories and world events, strikes, political unrest, corruption of police officers and the "institutional racism" of the police during those years. And of the problems and excesses within the tabloid press.

And what happens to the very believable characters within it.

It is published by Matador at £9.99.


Charlie Green and the Pirate's Treasure

Charlie Green and the Pirate's Treasure is the first novel for West Sussex-based writer Martyn Blunden.

He was inspired to write this book by watching his young daughter's pretend play games.

The hero of Charlie Green and the Pirate's Treasure is Charlie Green himself.

He is a feisty and brave boy of 11 years of age, he lives with his mum, his little sister and his older brother.

The family moves to a new house which is next to an abandoned airfield.

An abandoned airfield, next to the house? What a brilliant place for children to play on! After all, it was only used for grazing sheep and there were some footpaths crossing it, so what could possibly be wrong?

But... why were the local villagers so agitated about the airfield and its rusting hangers and crumbling concrete control tower? Why were they so insistent that the children should never be allowed to play there?

And why was there a face at the attic window of their new house? A window to a room nobody had access to?

Of course, the boys decide to search through the hangers, even though they are aware of the villager's warnings and the entreaties of their own mother.

They find that the workshop area of the hanger is filled with valuable tools and they also find that there is a special and very secret airplane with amazing powers.

The previous owner of the property, a man called Oliver, had vanished under mysterious circumstances many years previously.

But Oliver had been searching for a treasure map of Captain William Kidd, the Scottish sailor and Captain who was hung,  some say unjustly, as a pirate.

Oliver is actually trapped, back in time, on board a 17th century sailing ship.

But what did Harry the local postman know about Oliver and his mysterious little trips?

Could the children reach back through the years? If they could, would it be possible for them to save Oliver?

This is an exciting adventure yarn for all children and adults.It is published by Matador at £8.99 in paperback and needs to be on your Christmas filler list!

It's available via the That's Books and Entertainment online bookshop, along with thousands of other books, CDs, DVDs, etc.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Next of Kin

Next of Kin is a fictional book that is rooted in the factual observations of its author, Bernadette Maclean.

The story is set in a typical village in rural Ireland and it commences with a funeral of one of the most valued members of the life of the village, which is called Prim.

The village has just witnessed the funeral of an influential and very wealthy village inhabitant, Luke Mulryan.

Luke had made his fortune -and it was rumoured to be a considerable fortune, at that- in running a highly successful racehorse business.

Luke had made promises to a number of the inhabitants of Prim. But, as the book carefully reveals, some relatives of Luke had designs on his fortune. And as they are without scruples so were none too careful about how they might be able to lay their dirty hands on the money!

However, even the most well thought through plans can come awry when there is added to the mix the greed of the plotters, the lusts of the flesh, gambling and even a little bit of marital infidelity.

And then a sprained wrist -not even the wrist of a main protagonist!- brought about the precipitous and dreadful downfall of the plotters.

This book is a rare triumph. It is the first book by Bernadette Laclean and is set within the type of rural village that she was raised in in County Longford, Ireland.

It is written with joy, clarity and with great sympathy, even, perhaps for some of the characters who might not deserve any sympathy!

It is published by the Book Guild in paperback at £12.99 it is available from the That's Books and Entertainment bookshop, which you will find to the right hand side of this book review.

I can heartily recommend this book.


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Starganzia

Starganzia is a thrilling science fiction novel for children. Apparently it is based upon a car racing game invented by author Jay K Price to keep her son and his friends amused and the works of Dr Immanuel Velikovsky.

The novel tells the story of Marco, Suzy and Jo, and their arrival at Schloss Montrosa, which is a castle that is chock full of magic, microchips and mystery.

They are to stay there for the summer holidays as the guests of their uncle, Professor Egbert  Able, who is a secret scientist.

Soon they find themselves in an adventure that they never could have imagined!

They find a riddle in the castle library, a riddle that leads them on to a quest, a quest to save the very fabric of the universe itself!

They meet a crazy variety of mysterious creatures and denizens of different worlds whilst they are on their quest.

But disaster looms in the form of Spondoolix, the evil and very greedy king of Spondoola.

Will the three children get home?

The book is published by Matador at £9.99 in paperback and is available via the That's Books and Entertainment bookshop, which you will find to the right of this review.





Taking a Chance

Taking a Chance is a new novel written by Lesley M. Francis. It is, in fact, her debut novel.

It tells the story of the relationship between Imogen and her mother, Ada.

When Imogen was 50, Ada was dying.

As people do, Imogen begins to reminisce about the history of their relationship.

Imogen has a quirky way of coping with problems, which the reader will learn about.

However, whilst Imogen (who is one of those poor souls describable as being: "Too nice for their own good") is lovingly and patiently nursing Ada through this, her final ailment, Ada makes a confession to Imogen.

This revelation is an utter bombshell with the capability to not only totally destroy the once living relationship between mother and daughter it also has the power to smash the entire family to pieces.

Ada had employed charm throughout her life to get what she wanted. It must have come as a very rude awakening to realise that there are people, such as the staff at HMP Holloway Prison who... but that's getting a little ahead of ourselves.

To find out why Ada ended up in Holloway Prison and the secret that she nearly took to the grave, but, perhaps rather foolishly, didn't, you will have to read Taking a Chance!

It's an exceptionally well-written and well-realised novel, published by Matador at £9.99, available from the that;s Books and Entertainment bookshop.

The Politician's Daughter

The Politician's Daughter is another Petra Minx mystery written by Marion Leigh.

Oddly enough this is the first mystery novel about RCMP sergeant Petra Minx, but the distribution of the novel has been taken over by Matador for the publisher Rudling House.

Matador published the second Petra Minx novel Dead Man's Legacy, last year.

But to the matter in hand.

The daughter of a prominent Canadian politico took a job for the summer onboard the Titania, described as a megayacht.

Unfortunately, she went missing and so it was that Petra Minx, RCMP Marine Unit Sergeant, is ordered to cut short her holiday and to begin an investigation into the disappearance.  

Due to the fact that secrecy is of the essence, Petra Minx decides that she will handle the case as an undercover investigation.

She obtains a position on the boat as a hostess. The Titania was the last place Emily, the missing girl, was seen alive.

But onboard are several surprises for Sergeant Minx, including the fact that her dear friend Carlo is working as a barman on the Titania, on behalf of Interpol.

Nobody on the Titania denies that Emily was there. But it would have been nice if all of the different stories for the reason why Emily left the Titania could have matched!

So, what exactly happened to Emily? Is she alive or dead? And exactly why is Carlo on board?

What does he know? What can he and Petra find out?

This is another exciting novel about a character who has the potential to become as famous as Poirot.

The book is published by Rudling House at £8.99 and is available via the That's Books and Entertainment bookshop, which you will find just to the right of this review.


Even Stranger

Even Stranger is a new novel in the "Strange" series of novels by Marilyn Messik.

It was the time when the Swinging Sixties were turning into the stolid seventies.

Stella's life is not quite what she had hoped it would be.

Stella is just an ordinary girl. Well, except for the fact that she possess (or is possessed by?) some rather remarkable psychic abilities.

She wants a normal life. She craves a normal life, but unfortunately abnormal things will just keep on happening with to her or near to her.

But exactly who can she trust? What was wanted of her? Could she help? Were they endangering her life? Did the even care?

Could her life ever, really, be normal?

This book is published by Matador at £7.99 and is available from the that's Books and Entertainment book shop.