Sunday, 16 July 2017

Zed and Dez 005 Secret Service Agents

Zed and Dez 005 Secret Service Agents is a book that is firmly aimed at all children from ages seven to nine years of age and it is written by author S G Barfield, a former IT guru and teacher.

World wide, there are children who work for the super secret 005 Secret Services Agency. And Zed is one of these secret agents!

Every week he receives top secret instructions (through a secret vending machine carefully hidden at the rear of his bedroom wardrobe, that dispenses secret mission instructions, rather than snacks and drinks) of his latest daring secret operations.

He is aided and abetted by Lorenzo. Lorenzo may by only nine years of age, but Lorenzo is one of the world's top designers and makers of super secret special gadgets that are used by secret agents like Zed in their missions.

But Zed needs some special help to make certain his missions are all undertaken successfully. And his assistant is his best friend Dez, who is also nine years old!

Together they strive to thwart baddies and save a talent show, stop a kidnap plot, save someone from drowning, make sure Mr Ladd is kept safe and construct a youth centre, amongst other tasks!

And will Lorenzo's weird inventions actually help them?

The story is a good, fun read which is illustrated with some well-executed cartoons.

If you are looking for early Christmas presents, this book is a must buy at £7.99. It is published by Matador and is available at

Living to See You

Living to See You is a romantic novel with a very strong foundation of truth.

For in it, author Bee Johnstone tells the story of her own parents and how they met during the dangerous years of World War Two.

Her father was a bomber pilot, became ill with an infection, fell in love with a nurse who was still within her probationary period and survived the depredations and horrors of the Desert War.

This amazing true love wartime story was the basis for Living To See You, Bee Johnstone' debut novel.

The novel relates the long distance courtship between a pilot of Wellington Bombers flying dangerous missions over the skies of Egypt and an equally young probationary nurse who was tending the patients at a fever hospital, in the last days before antibiotics began to help in the fight against infectious diseases.

The story is told through the medium of the love letters that passed between them as each one battles against the problems that they face, enemy action in his case and seriously ill patients in her case.

It is many things, a romantic novel and also a captivating story about the Second World War, detailing the bravery of the Allied pilots who participated in Operation Jostle in 1941, flying in what were described as: "Winston's Wellingtons" a subject which has not been given as much attention as perhaps it deserves.

This is Bee Johnstone's debut novel, let's hope it is the first of many novels from this author.

The book is published by Matador at £7.99 and can be bought at

Thirty Fifteen

Thirty Fifteen is the last novel in Phil Tomlinson's "Soul Snatcher" trilogy, bringing it to an electric conclusion.

Zoe Marshall is in a jam. She finds herself still on the planet Earth, but it is 1,000 years into the future and it all, from Zoe's perspective, seems to have gone very, very wrong indeed.

People live as tribes in primitive settlements and wild animals roam at will.

The Earth is encircled by artificial planets and these constantly send down armed patrols which attack the settlements and capture their inhabitants.

Zoe wishes to return to her own time. Unfortunately the one person who would almost certainly be able to help her return to her home time is the alien called Kazzaar. But Kazzaar is missing.

Zoe must continue alone in her quest to return home, facing the physical dangers of a very different Earth, but she is also plagued by the horrors of her nightly dreams.

Can Zoe work out a way to return to the safety of her family and friends, back in her own time? Or will she be trapped in the hostile, brutal and dangerous future world forever?

But how can she trust Kazzaar, after all he had done before?

This is an exciting example of juvenile Science Fiction, but it will hold the attention of adult readers too.

It is published by Matador at £8.99 and is available from

Paradise Girl

What if the song: "If you were the only girl in the world..." wasn't just a romantic song from a long-distant era?

What if it were your reality? It is the reality for Kerryl Shaw. Aged just seventeen, she lives with her family on an idyllic and remote farm in the heart of the Pennine Mountains.

But then comes the devastating plague. But wouldn't the Shaw family be safe in their farm? Sadly, even they family succumb to the plague, one-by-one until only Kerry is left.

She knows that it is only a matter of time until she, too, falls victim to the mystery plague that has destroyed humanity.

So she decides to write a diary to a notional person she has dubbed Adam.

As all services start to breakdown the loneliness of her dreadful situation begins to weigh very heavily on her and her mind begins to crack.

She hears her name being called in the darkness of the night, animals attack her, she visits town and is assaulted, strangers outside the farm suddenly vanish and things appear and disappear. And to her, Adam becomes a real, rather than an imaginary person.

She finds text messages on her phone. But how can this be, when there is, apparently, nobody left to text her?

The she gets an invitation to meet a mystery person. Should she? What would happen if she did? But then again, what would happen if she didn't?

Paradise Girl is written by Phil Featherstone and it is published by Matador at £8.99 and can be bought at

Tender is the Scalpel's Edge

Tender is the Scalpel's Edge is a new non-fiction work by consultant NHS surgeon Gautam Das.

He draws on his over four decades of work at the forefront of medical care involved with healthcare within busy NHS hospitals.

He touches on all aspects of  his professional life from his time as a medical student, right through to working as a vital part of a highly disciplined team of healthcare workers working together to save the life of a patient and what happens when the patient cannot be saved.

Although a detailed account, the author is extremely sensitive in how he tells the various stories that he covers.

From self-doubts if he is even suitable to be training as a medical doctor to learning that not only did he have what it took to become a medical doctor, he was also capable of continuing his training, this time as a surgical trainee, until he eventually was at the peak of his profession, a consultant surgeon.

From the moment I opened the book I was immediately drawn into a world of urgent surgical procedures, of patients in need of urgent, lifesaving urological surgery by Mr Das and his team of highly trained professional medical staff.

We also read of Mr Das' early days learning his surgical skills in India -he was the winner of a gold medal for surgery at Medical College- and of how he had to fight off the bed bugs that infected the rooftop hostel shared by the hospital's surgical residents, charmingly described as a "doctor's chummery" by Gautam Das.

We follow Gautam Das through his career in India and also in Britain, when, following his Master of Surgery qualification, he left India in 1979.

In 1981 he was admitted to the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh and he was awarded the Surgeon-in Training Medal of the College in 1988, before continuing on to obtain the Specialist (FRCS (Urology).

He was appointed Consultant Urological Surgeon in Croydon in 1990, a prestigious post he held until his retirement in June last year, 2016.

From 2005 to 2010 he also worked as a Pelvic Cancer Surgeon at St George's Hospital, London.

He has not fully retired, however, as he remains a Trustee-Director of the South East England Cancer Help Centre.

The book is a very human and humane account of his life as a surgeon and anyone with even a passing interest in this subject will benefit from this book. It would probably make a welcome addition to the bookshelves of any medical student or surgeon.

It is published by Matador at £9.99 and is obtainable at

A LIfe Untold

Zara Heart wakes up in a hospital.

She is bewildered and totally disorientated. Utterly discombobulated, as one might say.

Why is she there? What happened to her? Who, actually, is she?

Who is the woman she sees linked to the life support equipment? Who is the worried man who is sitting at her bedside?

All will be revealed when she meets the Head Assistant to the Angel of Death, AKA the D. A.

He is a surprisingly charismatic fellow who tells her that she has seven days left to live, but first he will show her the previous seven days of her life.

But is her death inevitable? Will she journey to the Hereafter or is her time on earth not yet over?

And who will decide? And why did the angel visit her?

The book is by Dallaa Moussallati and costs £8.99 from Matador and is available for purchase at

The Silent Partner and other stories of truth

This is an interesting collection of short stories from author Juliet Castle, with illustrations from Jaye Gray.

The stories are obviously written out of great compassion and wisdom and love, there are stories of love, of devotion of loss and of redemption.

They are all written in a style that touches on the poetic and they speak directly from the soul of the author to the soul of the reader.

From the story of The Silent Partner (he is always there, but always silent) to stories of heartbreak and of pure love, every aspect of human life and emotion is to be found within these short stories.

And they are short. Very short in some instances, yet and yet... the truth is that even these stories, the shortest of these short stories, contains more wisdom and truths than is to be found in many much, much longer works.

You will read and re-read these stories over and over, always learning something new from them.

It's published by Matador at £8.99 (£12.99 hardback) and you can purchase it here at

A Life Between Us

A Life Between Us is a new novel from author Louise Walters.

It tells the story of two sisters, one who has been dead for 40 years.

Due to a childhood accident, Meg, twin to Tina Thornton, dies. 

And for the next four decades, Meg carried a devastating secret, the fact that she blames herself for the death of he twin sister.

Until one day, one fateful day, during a visit to her elderly Uncle Edward and his sister, Lucia, hard, bitter, Lucia, she makes a discovery that completely shatters all that she thought she knew of the day that her sister dies.

She knows how her sister died. But does she? Does she really remember what happened, or are her memories not true?

And Tina is not the only member of her family who harbours some fairly dark secrets of their own.

Exactly how did Meg die? Did anyone kill her? Or was it a tragic accident that took her life?

Tina also examiners her relationships with the rest of her family, Uncle Edward, Simone, her French aunt and her estranged parents.

It is a compelling novel of family rivalries, dysfunction, loss and pain.

It's published by Matador at £8.99 and can be bought here


Condition is one of those thriller novels that grabs the reader by the throat and will not let go.

The story begins in 1966 and RAF Flying Officer Dan Stewart is in trouble, he has been involved in a 'plane crash and he is literally watching his body being consumed by the fire that is raging through the cockpit of his plane.

He awakes from a coma in hospital some six months later, to be greeted by his wife and his daughter, Claire.

But where is his daughter Lucy? And is it his imagination or is there something going on between his wife and Doctor Adams, the medic in charge of his case?

And why can he not recall the mission that he was taking part in when his plane crashed?

And there was the puzzle of his injuries. He had suffered almost 100% burns in the fire. And had survived. How was that even possible?

 And how was it that when he saw his utterly horrific injuries in the hospital, the medical staff, apparently, could not?

And if he had been in a coma for six months, how come his accident had only occurred two weeks before he came out of his coma?

And what of the second accident, whilst he was under the care of the hospital that had, apparently, taken place?

He seems to be hallucinating, but which of the events that are taking place are real and which are the hallucinations?

Who can he trust? His wife? The Doctor? His nurse?

And what medical treatment do they want him to take? What is it? What is the purpose of it?

Dan doesn't want to take it. Is this due to paranoia caused by an injury to his brain? Or does he have a genuine reason for not wanting to take them?

Are his hallucinations and weird dreams a product of his illness, whatever that is, or are they trying to convey some sort of a message to him?

It's said that the truth will set you free, but what if the truth that is, apparently, being hidden from Dan, was so monstrous that it would kill him?

And what were the red pills prescribed by Doctor Adams actually designed to treat?

And what, exactly, is this hospital for? What conditions do they deal with? Burns and severe physical traumas, or is it a facility for treating neurological conditions?

Are the staff, or some of them, lying to Dan and his family?  

And why are all the other patients, including a child, called Alice, all suffering from almost exactly the same devastating burn injuries that are, apparently, afflicting Dan? And how was it that the sarcastic patient Gary knew which patients, including Dan, were not taking their red pills?

And why can't Dan's family see his horrific injuries?

If he just started taking the red pill again, all would be well, he has been assured. But if that were so, why had he stopped taking them in the first place?

The basis for this novel (the first in a series of three) are some rather unpleasant medical experiments undertaken by the military, those experiments are still very highly classified, so classified that the author can only allow a hint of them to be shared.

The novel is, according to Alec Birri, "disturbing science fiction based on disturbing science fact."

This has got to be one of the best science fiction books that I have read in 40 years, in fact it reads like a book written at the height of the British Science Fiction explosion. Maybe this is the start of a new renaissance for British SF?

But don't take my word for it, buy this book at for £7.99.

It is published by Matador and I am eagerly awaiting the subsequent books in the series.

Whiter Than White

Whiter Than White is a novel by veteran Pakistani police officer and writer J. J. Baloch.

It tells the compelling story of Hoor who is a faithful, Pakistani woman who lives her life within the confines of the society in which she exists.

It tells of her personal journey through life, how she protects her honour and her womanhood, bit J. J. Baloch also uses the story of Hoor who make penetrating observations on the issues of how women are treated within Pakistan.

The author takes several themes and deals with them all extremely well, women's rights, or lack thereof, how women are often treated badly by the legal system and society in general, even to the point of being punished when they have actually not committed any crime.

The book is interesting as it looks at the problems that women face in Pakistan (a place where misogyny is real and very dangerous) and is written by an insider.

It is published by Matador at £8.99 and can be bought at

Unto the Skies

This is a biography of Amy Johnson, the pioneering English aviatrix who was the first femlae pilot to fly, solo, from Britain to Australia.

The daughter of Danish born, but naturalised British, Hull fish merchant, it might seem that Amy was an unlikely candidate for aviation history, but this was exactly what happened.

Author K. A. Lalani has undertaken meticulous research into the life and background of Amy Johnson from her very early life right through to her tragic and early death when he plane she was flying in crashed into the Thames Estuary. Her body was never recovered.

As well as being a pilot, Amy became the first British woman to qualify as a ground engineer, defying those who told her that she would never become a pilot to qualify as a pilot, eventually performing her heroic 1930 solo flight from Britain to Australia.

The sad story of her death by drowning in the Thames Estuary has never properly been explained and her remains were never recovered, even though she had been mere seconds away from being rescued. Indeed, one of the people who attempted to rescue her, died as a result.

The book does a great deal to take the reader into the whole life of Amy Johnson, flying ace and woman and it is very well illustrated with a well-selected range of photographs.

It will be welcomed by lovers of biography, of aviation history and of the history of modern British women and her story remains an inspiration to all, males and females.

It is published by The Book Guild at £9.99 and can be purchased here

The Yellow Bills

The Yellow Bills is a very well written book for children, but it will also be enjoyed by adults, too, so it is an ideal book to be read by and to children.

Michelle McKenna has crafted an exceedingly wonderful story (with superb illustrations from Steven Johnson) that tells the story of Mya.

Mya is eight years old and she wants to be just like her uncle, she wants to be a pilot.

She finds a local flying school, which has a 100% success rate in teaching its pupils to fly, enabling them to wear the coveted pilot's hat. But there is a fairly major problem that might block Mya from joining the flying school, she is a little girl, a human little girl, and the flying school is for ducklings only!

The flying instructor Lieutenant Drake chases her away, but when he sees how upset Mya is, one of the duckling pupils decides to help Mya to achieve her dream.

She learns a great deal from her new friend, that birds as well as humans have Control Towers to help make sure there are no crashes, she also learns of the story of Officer Peacock, the first duck who was taught to fly, even though she was only born with one leg.

But there were problems that My encountered, after all, humans aren't supposed to be able to fly and there was also the obstacle of Mr Sour the teacher, the only duck without the coveted pilot's hat.

But with the help of her mum, can Mya defy the odds and Mr Sour? Can she learn to fly?

The book is a fun and exciting read, but it also teaches some very important life lessons, but in a way that is not over-worthy or preachy. Including the most valuable lesson in disability awareness that I have seen in many years.

Your children will love this book, you will love this book.

It is published at £5.99 by Matador Books and it is a must buy book. In fact, there should be several copies of this book in every library and junior school in the country.

You can purchase it here at

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Ley Ryders

Ley Ryders is a fantasy novel by Holly J. Williams who has been a published author even since she was 11 years old.

In Ley Reyders we meet Petronia a girl who refuses to let the fact that she is unable to speak impinge on what she wants to do with her life.

The Ley is a mysterious force that flows through the world. It brings with it the power of life to all who dwell on the world.

There is a group of women, a very select group of women, who have the power and ability to sense the energy of the Ley.

They must devote their entire lives to influencing the Ley, to bring protection and assistance tp all those who require it.

But a hidden evil threatens to expunge the power of the Ley.

Petronia knows that her destiny is not that of her family, ordinary as they are. She feels that there is more for her and more to her than can be known.

Why is she mute? Is this, somehow, linked to the fact that she knows in her heart that it is her destiny to become a Ley Ryder?

But is she? Hayden, her younger brother, is not all that certain.

Petronia has powers that could be equal to or even greater than those possessed by any Ley Ryder, but can she employ these powers with wisdom?

Will her powers help or harm?

The Ryders offer Petronia and Hayden protection and the siblings must set off on a quest with a dispossessed prince,  during which perhaps the truth of Petronia and her destiny will be discovered?

The book is published by Matador at £8.99 and is available for purchase at

Coming Down Again

Joobin Bekhrad is a published author, a journalist and a translator, and his works have earned him some awards.

However, Coming Down Again is his debut novel.

It tells the story of a young Iranian boy called Asha. His dreams are of fame and stardom. To be specific of rockstar fame and stardom.

But he lives in Tehran, the capital of Iran, with all that that entails. 

His prize possession is his cherry-red electric guitar and though he loves the city of his birth, he knows that, in order to become a rock star, he must leave the city and his country and move to London, where he would be able, he believes, to pursue his ambition of being a guitar playing rock star.

The book will resonate with everyone who was ever filled with teen angst and heartbreak, even if they happened not to have lived in Iran.

The wrong music, the wrong clothing, it all seems so intense, so real and so powerful, as this book takes us back to a time when music meant everything, so long as it was not the wrong kind of music. 

The book is published by Matador at £8.99 and can be bought at

Horse-Cow Adventures

This is a collection of the adventures of Horse-Cow who is, perhaps not surprisingly, a half horse and half cow!

Horse-Cow lives with his human who is called Ella. And between them they have a whole series of fantastic adventures. And with some mishaps and mayhem thrown in for good measure!

Written by Maggi King and with some of the best illustrations that I have seen in awhile from Jake Tebbit this book is aimed at children aged three and up and their parents and grandparents.

Horse-Cow met Ella when Ella was in hospital. Ella could not walk, so had to spend all her time in either her bed or in her wheelchair.

Ella and Horse-Cow really hit it off and they soon became close, loving friends in the hospital. And the people at the hospital who helped Ella also loved Horse-Cow and they would say hello to Horse-Cow and they loved to stroke his big, soft wuffly nose and his mane which was very stiff.

When they left the hospital to live together at Ella's home they have a whole host of adventures. They try to bake a cake, and Horse-Cow ends up being trapped inside the vacuum cleaner by Mrs Soap. Luckily Horse-Cow was rescued by a large black beetle.

They also have adventures on the water with Mr Bob, during which Horse-Cow has to be rescued by the fishes. Horse-Cow later was sort of kidnapped by a dog, has fun with a box of toys and makes friends with little Gracie.

Author Maggi King uses a wheelchair and also owns a soft toy which is curiously a lot like Horse-Cow, so how true are these adventures? Why not buy a copy of this splendidly delightful book and help your children find out for themselves?

It's published by Matador at £9.99 and will make an ideal book for individual reading by children and also for bedtime story telling, too.

You can purchase the book here

Sunday, 2 July 2017

It's Not All Rosey

This is not a work of fiction, it is a memoir written by Rosemary Bensley.

It starts with the event that defined her life, a tragic car crash that, randomly, took some lives and spared others, including that of Rosemary.

As many survivors of similar incidents tend to do, Rosemary wondered why she, and not others, had been spared, saved to live on.

Her life is a very untypical story as it can best be described as a "rags to riches" tale, born on the landing of her family's council house (with the umbilical cord wrapped, dangerously, around her neck) and she went from having to wear hand-me-down clothing to attending a boarding school which, although she left at 16 with no formal qualifications, could be said to have been the making of her.

It's a story of triumphs and tragedies of highs, lows and more highs as she finds a career path that leads to over 40 years of success from a lowly office junior to the dizzy heights of being a Managing Director (via many other stops, including that of Finance Director and East of England Businesswoman of the Year, 2011)  of a company in Thailand.

She also looks back at the different males in her life who appeared and sometimes disappeared, whilst often causing great emotional angst.

The book is illustrated throughout with photographs and it relates the story of a strong woman who shows what a woman can do if she sets her mind to it.

It's published by The Book Guild at £10.95 and will make an ideal gift for all women, both young and old.

It can be purchased here

The Jasmine Sari

The Jasmine Sari is a novel set in the world of terrorism. As it is written by Phillip Tucker, a former counter-terrorism officer turned novelist, it contains a good degree of realism based on his years of on the job experience.

He has based his novel on the maxim: "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."

London-based counter-terrorism expert Alex Cadman is sent to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh where it is his job to assist the local police force by sharing his expertise with them.

Unfortunately it falls to him to work with an academic terrorism expert by the  name of Sam Kanoski, who is arrogantly sure of his own abilities, but what is the reality of the man? Is he actually any good?

For a variety of reasons Cadman finds Dhaka to be a city beset by tensions and dangers, so he seeks out the relative safety of the city's Foreigner's Club.

Within the club he meets Jasmina, a mysterious policewoman in the city force who he finds to be utterly charming and beguiling, yet, with her forthright political views, a bit of an enigma.

Despite believing that his days as an active anti-terrorism police officer are long in his past, he suddenly finds himself plunged inot the midst of a live anti terrorism investigation in Dhaka.

The investigation is a race against time. But who, exactly, are the terrorists? What are their motives? What are they going to target?

Can Cadman assist the local police to avert yet another terrorist outrage?

But who can he trust?

An exciting novel, with many twists and turns, it's published by Matador at £8.99 and is available to purchase at

Hawke's Cross

Hawke's Cross is a new novel by David Collenette. And it gripped me from the very first page.

From the note left with a baby abandoned at a police station: "I thought I wanted a baby but I don't. His name's Matthew. Please give him to someone who wants a baby" right through to the last page, this is a stunner of a novel.

When we meet Matthew he is living as a homeless person in London. Although it's more complicated than that as he has a home of sorts (furnished in what one might call "early Marriott") and he finds a lucrative field using his talents as an artist to drew cartoons of people which they pay him money for.

But Matthew has a unique talent. He knows what you want. Not what you think you want, but what you really, truly want, though he doesn't understand how this talent works, he is never wrong.

Unfortunately Matthew comes into contact with a very wealthy, dangerous and evil psychopath called Ethem Connelly.

He plunges Matthew into a bewildering and frightening game which has no way out and no way to win.

Throughout his troubled life Matthew has made few friends and he is near to breaking points when one of his friends is abducted.

A man is sent to kill Matthew, but, surprisingly, they form a friendship and they flee the country as they attempt to stay one step ahead in the deadly game and make sense of what, exactly, is going on.

Will they finally work out what Connelly is really up to? Can his friend be rescued? Will they even survive for long enough to snuff out Connelly's evil game?

David Collenette's writing style is unique, he has a gift to bring characters to vivid life in as few words as possible and to keep the pace fast and furious.

This is his debut novel and I hope that it is the first of many more.

It is published by The Book Guild at £8.99 and can be bought at

Rosa's Story

Rosa's Story is a new superbly illustrated book for children by author Terry McManus.

It brings to children the magic and splendours of the world's rainforests.

Whilst he was employed with Jaguar Cars, Terry was given sponsorship to travel to Belize to paint the wildlife there, concentrating (of course!) on the jaguar cats that live there.

The intention was that prints of his works would be made and sold to raise much needed funds for The World Land Trust.

Terry found that the whole environment there, Mayan culture, wildlife, landscape, etc., but especially the big jungle cats, capture his heart.

Rosa's story is a follow up to his first novel Under the Star With a Leopard.

Readers will follow Rosa on a magical and beautiful journey, but what, exactly, is the end result for Rosa?

It's a super tale that is very well illustrated with first rate colour illustrations and this book deserves to be owned by any child who even showed even a passing interest in big cats.

There are also some interesting facts and figures about jaguars, too.

It's published by Matador at £7.99 and can be bought here

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Counting the Ways

Counting the Ways is a novel that is contemplative in nature, written by Jude Hayward.

Set in the decade of the 1980s, it looks back to an age -not that long ago to many of her readers- when instant communications just did not happen. No tweets, no Facebook wall, no Snapchat or Instagram and e-mails something we might have read about but, at that time, had no likelihood of ever receiving or sending one (how times change!) so communications between individuals were more slower and more contemplative.

We read the story of Grace Barnes who meets, and falls in love with, Archie Copeland.

Grace is thrilled to have met someone who seems an ideal match for her. Well, he shares the same obsession for reading that she has and enjoys the same intellectual pursuits, too.

However, her mother Hester, and Grace, herself, are shocked when Hester's husband Fergus makes an appearance at the wedding of Grace and he beau.

The surprise is a not unnatural reaction to his sudden reemergence after exiling himself from his family by running away to live on a hillside in rural Wales some 30 years previously.

Shocking soon after their wedding Grace is perturbed by a growing distance between herself and Archie. What, exactly, is happening with him?

When they take a impromptu holiday on a Greek island, all seems well, but then Archie vanishes.  

Then Hester, Grace and Fergus take a detailed look at their relationships and how they had reached their current situations.

It's a thoughtful novel filled with multiple layers and costs £9.99 from Matador. You can purchase it at

The Well of the Dead

I love a good murder mystery or a good crime story, so when a story from a former police officer, Clive Allan, comes along, that's a very good day, as far as I a concerned!

This is the second DI Strachan novel form Clive Allan and it features the terrible murders of Duncan Fraser, a distillery owner, and of his wife, Laura.

The small Scottish Highlands village of Glenruthven is shattered by the twin homicides and once again readers meet DI Neil Strachan as he leads the investigation, aided and abetted by his detective partner, Sergeant Holly Anderson.

They find themselves locking horns with a ruthless adversity, a criminal who seems to have a strange obsession with his Jacobite ancestry.

But what, exactly, is really happening?

However, all is not well with the lady in his life, his long-term partner, Cat. Did she lie to him? She's acting strangely, but is she having an affair or is it something else?

At some point his professional life and his personal life begin to blur together and unless he is very careful, his professional reputation could be at risk.

This novel grips from the beginning and it's a great murder mystery that is utterly enthralling, filled with characters that are well-rounded, with intelligent, insightful writing to keep you wondering until the very end.

It's published by Matador at a modest £9.99 and is available to purchase here

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Miss Perfect

Being a social worker was everything for Miss Madge Perfect.

She had devoted her entire life to using the social work system to improve the lot of others, but most especially children.

But now, she is look back at her life from Ireland and she recalls when, yes, social work really was her life.

However, that was before Dan, her ambitious deputy, entered inot a conspiracy to have her removed from her position within the County Council Social Work department.

The name they gave it was restructuring, but whatever name they gave it, it meant there was no place for Miss Perfect, someone who always put her clients first.

Oddball professor of sociology Mitchell is brought in by County Hall to "evaluate service delivery" in Madge's office and this make Mage decide on a spot of evaluation, herself, or rather reevaluation, of her outlook to work and also life.

Mitchell's tenure is enlivened when he caught fire, but then he is dogged by disgrace when a female student brings forward some allegations about his behaviour toward her.

Madge's life seems to continue as normal, until a child in her care goes missing and a body is discovered.

Will County Hall sacrifice her to save face? It seems likely, until help comes from a somewhat unlikely source, a bouncer, who works at the Golden Slipper massage parlour.

But Billy knows Miss Perfect from his time a a child client in his youth and he has some information that he believes will help her. But the information comes at a price. Is it a price she is willing to pay?

But perhaps there might be some really big changes for Madge and for certain other people, too?

It's a heartening book and it is certain that the author Bernard Hall knows probably more about County Council Social Work departments than he might like to admit, as he has the office politics and the machinations of County Hall down to a T!

I can heartily recommend this book, which is published by Matador at £7.99.

It is available for purchase here

The Cow Who Fell to Earth

One night a flock of sheep are doing what most flocks of sheep do at night, when, suddenly, they are interrupted by a star that lands CRASH!!!! right on top of the poor sheep!

The only thing is, it's not a star that has fallen from the night sky, it's a jet pack wearing little cow who is lost.

Unfortunately attempts at communicating with the cow are stymied by the fact that all the cow can say is "WOOO".

He is desperate to get home but this is going to be a tough job if nobody can understand anything he tries to tell them!

However, the sheep all rallied round the poor little fellow and they got him a blanket and, obviously they must have been British sheep, because they also brought him a cup of tea.

They asked him to tell them his story, which he did, but "Wooo, woo-woo, woo-woo" meant nothing to the sheep. Though they did decide that he needed a name and they gave him the name Dave.

Dave could see she had a problem at that point!

The sheep asked Bertha the cow for help, but she couldn't understand the little cow, either.

Kevin the cat, Pamela Pig and the farm dog Rufus were all consulted, but they all couldn't help.

But then the situation becomes a bit more complicated when some chickens managed to launch themselves into space using Dave's jet pack.

With the aid of a photograph of Dave and her family, the sheep realise they have to get Dave back home to the Moon.

But how will they do this without the aid of the jet pack?

Find out how when you read the book!

It's a fantastically silly book which should tickle the funny bone of almost all children and of a lot of adults, too, it's an ideal book to share with the little ones. It's written by Nadia Shireen who also executed the charming and vibrant illustrations, too.

It is published by Penguin Books and costs £6.99 and should be bought for every child in the land.

You can purchase it at

The Tin Heart Gold Mine

In her novel The Tin Heart Gold Mine, Ruth Hartley brings her readers as fast-paced story that relates the life of an artist in the city of London, and brings to life in vivid detail the landscape and politics of an African nation.

It draws for some of its inspiration the author's childhood which was spent in Zimbabwe. She later studied art in Cape Town and learnt politics in Natal.

In the 1960s she left South Africa, seeking asylum in London.

The protagonist of her novel is Lara who is an artist. She has two loves in her life, Tim, who is a journalist who seeks out the truth and Oscar who is an older businessman who is suave and the owner of a gold mine, the Tin Heart Gold Mine.

The novel opens in 1985 and sees Lara and her lover Oscar who are living in Chambesi, an area of wilderness, beauty and hidden danger.

But sometimes things just are not meant to be and when we next meet Lara it is 1997 and Oscar is just a memory and she is now married to Tim, the journalist.

But who is the father of Lara's son? Is it Tim? Or perhaps it might be Oscar?

The marriage is under strain because of Lara's previous love for Oscar.

Tim must leave London for an assignment in Africa, meanwhile a traumatised Lara decides upon a course of therapy in order to help her work through the various issues that face her.

But is everything what it seems? Tim feels that Oscar is a dangerous and untrustworthy man and he attempts to warn Lara of his suspicions.

But exactly how dangerous is Oscar? Is it possible that his secrets are far more dangerous than they suspect?

Could Lara be in danger from Oscar? Is Tim's life at risk?

The book is published by Matador at £9.99 and can be bought here

From Crawley to Carlisle a trawl around league two

Chris Upfield, who is a dedicated Portsmouth FC fan has decided to write a book which is a humour filled observation of the experiences of fellow fans of lower league football clubs.

Chris invites us to join him and his family and friends as they journey to  faraway places (Well, what passes for far away in Britain)  as they follow their beloved Pompey (Portsmouth FC) and the variable successes or otherwise of the team that Chris (on page one, mind!) cheerfully describes as "the team with the worst away record in the league. Even so, on this particular occasion hey'd managed to give poor old Cambridge a 6-2 drubbing. Away to Cambridge.

Chris' style is humorous and quirky. Within the first couple of pages he manages to find himself wondering what difficulties a Cambridge support with one tooth might have with the pronunciation of certain letters of the alphabet, how a toothless Spanish could ever get served when he was attempting to order a beer, or how a toothless German World War 2 officer could have ever convinced a POW that they had ways of making people talk.

He also wondered if the local taxi firm has been taken over by South-west Trains, after waiting for a taxi in the freezing cold for the best part of an hour.

His group had decided to splash out on a hospitality package for the match with twelve tables crammed into a room the size of an office, where everyone was entertained with a football quiz sheet consisting of ten questions.

There then followed a three course meal of mushroom soup with bread rolls (thought to be of the "bake in the oven" variety) eaten well before the 45 minute late soup, in order to stave off the temptation to resort to cannibalism, the soup was described as lacking in mushrooms and having "a tarmac sort of hue."

The main course was a steak and stilton pie (light on the stilton) with tinned peas and a bowl of vegetables believed to be frozen, which was totally inadequate for a table of 11 hungry adults.

The lemon dessert, however, was described as "passable."

Chris then turns his eye to the other VIP guests and notices former stars form previous footballing eras, then there was the report on the match with the surprising 6-2 result.

The rest of the book follows Chris and his party of family members and friends as they travel around the country from football club to football club, taking in cities such as Carlisle, Crawley, York, Oxford, Ipswich and the like.

The book is a good and amusing read for diehard football fans and those with only a passing interest in the "beautiful game." Especially for those who follow teams in the lower leagues.

It is published by Matador at £8.99 and is available for purchase here

Successful People Management

Successful People Management is a new book that takes the reader through the many years of managerial experience gathered by the late David Griffiths.

In fact he finished the book only a very short time before he died, so this book is a fitting memorial to him and his life's work.

In his book Griffiths focuses on the key aspects of the managerial process, studying and examining the basic principles that underpin all management practices.

He also takes pains to stress the absolute importance of good interpersonal relationships between managers, colleagues and staff.

It also offers a wealth of advice that is both practicable and also highly valuable on what not to do, how not to behave, plus advice on what to do and how the good manager should behave.

He believes that the skilled manager should be able to promote positive responses from both colleagues and business clients. And in this book he gives you the tools to ensure that this happens.

Amongst the wide range of topics covered are sales skills, the art of negotiating, undertaking appraisals and meetings.  

All topics are covered in a way that shows a depth of knowledge and understanding that adds much to the value of this important managerial work.

The book is subtitled "Life skills for managers" and amongst the key topis covered are body language, communication skills, team work, dealing with problematic staff members and much, much more, besides.

The book is illustrated with some amusing, but telling, cartoons by James Richardson, a freelance illustrator.

If you manage people, or if other people manage you, then you need to buy a copy of this book.

It is published by Matador at £9.99 and it will be £9.99 well spent, as it will be a worthwhile investment in your future.

You can buy copies here

Listening for Water and other stories

This is a collection of 19 short stories by author Sandra Wallman.

From the cordial, formal and ludicrous (the authors' words!) interaction between the female protagonist and the old man in the van (complete with his dirty long johns) in the first story, Hitchhiker to the paternalistic eye of Lord Russell as he watches over everyone from children to street people, to tourists, students and office workers,  as they are involved in the Square Dance.

The stories are all real. That is not to say that they are all guaranteed to be 100% genuine incidents, but that they all pass what editor and writer Richard Ingrams used to describe as the "smell test."

They all smell real, having been lovingly and carefully crafted by a master of the short story, Sandra Wallman.

However... however, there might be more than that to some of the stories as they are based upon genuine incidents and are inspired by the lives of people she knows. Names and some fine details have been changed to protect the innocent.

A randy. elderly man, the honouring of the death of a neighbour in France, the horrific moment in time captured forever in the minds of a group of people in San Francisco who witness the plunge of a girl from the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. (Reviewers' note: At least 1600 people have thrown themselves from the bridge, although the true figure is unknowable for several reasons.)

The stories are all perfectly formed, microcosms of life.

Sandra Wallman is Professor Emerita in Anthropology at University College in London, and her anthropological eye has been put to very good use with her first collection of short stories. Hopefully she will be writing more, soon.

It's published by Matador at £7.99 and can be purchased at


Hanuman is another in the brightly illustrated and well-written books in  the "Amma Tell Me" series written by Bhakti Mathur and illustrated by Maulshree Somani.

This is the first of a series of three books that tell the story of the character Hanuman, and the Hindu festival of Durga, introducing younger children to the Hindu religion,  yet doing so in a way that is not preachy and also fun.

Bhakti uses rhyming prose to tell the story of Hanuman, from his birth to his attempt to eat the sun (he mistook him for a juicy mango!) his attack by Indra and his miraculous recovery with divine power, strength and intelligence, when Indra repented of what he had done.

And how he forgot his powers until they would be called upon again.

The book helps youngsters to learn about characters from the Hindu religion, such as Anjana, Brahma, Indra, Shiva, Vaanars and Vayu.

It is a colourful, large format book published by Anjana Publishing and is available for purchase here

For the Last Time They called him a murderer

This is a novel by Janet Kelly which looks at the life of a man who is just coming to the end of his life sentence for taking the life of another person.

Alan looks back over his life, at what he did, what he didn't do, and the sequence of complicated events that brought him to commit the act that earned him a life sentence in jail.

At this point in his life, Alan takes stock of who and what he is, and what brought him to be sitting, reflecting in his cell, after his cellmate and friend Trevor has just been let out of prison.

He wonders why Trevor's wife has remained faithful to him whilst he was incarcerated, yet his own wife and left him for someone else even before he had left the court having been given a life sentence.

The novel is gripping from the first page, as it moves forward and backward through Allan's life, showing that, in a very real sense, any other outcome would have been almost impossible to achieve.

Janet Kelly clearly understands her subject matter and she brings life to the characters who populate this book, which is a compelling and thoughtful read. 

Her first novel, Dear Beneficiary, has had an option for a film taken up on it, due for release later this year. And it would be a surprise if this novel was not also made into a film.

It's published by Bobaloo Books at £7.99 and can be bought here

Forgotten in Memory

Forgotten in Memory is a moving and gripping novel that relates the tragic story of three children who face an uphill battle as they attempt to overcome the loss of their parents in an accident.

Yet after nine years the physical pains and the emotional traumas of Joanna, Imogene and Jason are still just as real, the memories of the crash still just as vivid.

Imogene is particularly troubled to the extent that she has become somewhat distanced from her family.

Is it possible that, eventually, they will find some sort of peace, some rapprochement with each other?

Or will the memories of what happened, of who did what and why they did it still rankle and bite at them, keeping them strangely apart and isolated in their common misery?

The book deals with a range of deep subjects, but in a sensitive manner, loss, grief, rivalry, mental illness and more besides.  

I will not reveal any more about this book as it would risk spoiling your reading pleasure, so all I will say in conclusion is that author Chloe Grant-Jones  is a voice that deserves to be heard and I can only suggest,or implore, that you buy this book immediately.

It's published by the Book Guild at £8.99 and you can buy it here

Please look out for the name Chloe Grant-Jones, she will be a writing force to be reckoned with.

Dancing Paws of Magic

Dancing Paws of Magic is a book filled with... dancing paws of magic!

Maria McArdle loves the theatre and she loves ballet. In fact it was her attendance at ballet studios during her youth in Australia that gave her the idea for her stories about the cat ballet company, the Pusska Mogginsky Ballet Company.

The ballet studios, reveals Maria, always carried a certain pungent feline odour. Although no cats were, mysteriously,  ever seen in the studios.

Maria often wondered where, exactly, the cats disappeared to. Which became her inspiration for her stories of the feline ballet company, Pusska Mogginsky.

Pluckerslea Hall is an amazing place! For it is filled with cats who live there, in secret tunnels, the music rooms, the dormitories, the dance studios and also the theatre at Pluckerslea Hall.

The cats are all wearing their finest ballet costumes as they nervously prepare themselves for ballet performances such as Swan Lake.

However, a visit by a mysterious, but beautiful gypsy cat brings them a doomladen warning, things begin to go wrong for the ballet cats.

Bruiser Bumfluff who is evil and ruthless, aided and abetted by his dastardly crows and the vile and villainous Black Treacle Farm Gang, aims to destroy the ballet company.

But there's someone else, someone evil who hates the ballet company and  who is plotting a fiendish revenge against them and who is shadowing the members.

Are they doomed? Or can the ethereal presence of a magic-imbued Irish Lepremogg help bring about the restoration of the cats' "dancing paws of magic?"

The book is amusing, but it is also very moving too and Maria has added some utterly spellbinding illustrations, proving how talented she is.

Children who love cats, children who love the ballet and children who love both cats and the ballet will find this book utterly charming. Their parents and grandparents will find it utterly charming, too.

It costs £7.99 and can be purchased here Please do look out for other books in the series which are also available.


Come Sing With My People

Film and newsreel cameraman Freddie Miller had previously served as an intelligence officer with British Military Intelligence.

We meet Freddie in Berlin at the time of the controversial 1936 Olympic Games. In a cafe, he meets Arthandur Palmai and from this casual meeting a friendship blossoms and, eventually, Freddie is drawn into the shadowy world of a very special group, the Companions of the Circle, a secretive and clandestine organisation that was formed with  the express intent of rescuing and assisting Jewish people in Germany and protecting them from the horrors of the Third Reich.

The head of the group is a Baroness, Christina Von Harstezzen, who is taken from the circle far too early as she was a victim of the fiery Hindenburg disaster.

The story follows the son of Arthandur, Bathan, who the story then focuses on, following him through his life, examining not only him and his family but the other people in his life who influenced him and help him become the man he was.

It's a compelling story which is filled with interesting digressions and insights into human nature.

It is published by the Book Guild at £8.99 and can be purchased here

The King's Tower Rascal

The King's Tower Rascal is the extraordinary story of an ordinary, working man.

Eric Bovin's life was hard and difficult. This even dated back to before he was born, when his furious grandparents to be threw out his mother when she revealed to them that she was six months into her pregnancy.

Their life is a struggle as his mother works hard to keep a roof over their head, clothes on their back and food on the table.

But then, tragically, his mother dies.

This incident shakes Eric's faith to the core and he questions the existence of God.

But, as people often do under such terrible circumstances, Eric survives and, eventually, he thrives, too.

His life becomes fulfilled and he finds himself to be happy. But this makes him wonder about life in general. How can a life consist of both happiness and misery? Can a life, in turn be both cursed and charmed?

The novel, set against a backdrop of north-west England, follows the life story of Eric Bovin, through multiple decade, from the desperation of his poverty stricken early years, his time working on a farm and later in life when he becomes a successful and respected entrepreneur and a loving and loved family man.

However, a devastating loss toward the latter part of his life brings him wisdom and a rediscovery of who he really is.

This is a charming and moving book that tells a story that probably lurks within many families.

It is published by The Book Guild at £9.99 and can be purchased here

Extropia: Mind Game

In Extropia: Mind Game a father and son are enjoying a virtual reality game, Extropia, that his father designed and launched.

However, the game is sabotaged and the pair are left trapped within the game.

Sibling Edward Founder decides to follow them in an attempt to organise a rescue mission, but he is shocked to discover that the virtual reality world within the game has been overrun by an artificial intelligence called Deofol.

He is hold Edward's brother as a prisoner, but Edward is unaware that Deoful has become aware of the real world.

If he can succeed in reaching his brother's prison within the game, then he will, unwittingly, spring a trap that would enable Deoful to escape the confines of his virtual world and escape into reality, with horrendous consequences.

If he fails, not only will his family members remain trapped in Extropia forever, but the fate of humanity would be in the balance.

But in order to even attempt the rescue, has has to battle many monstrous creatures not only in the virtual world of Extropia, but within his own psyche.

This theme has been used several times before (notably in various incarnations of Star Trek) but it must be said that this novel is a worthy addition to the canon of novels with a virtual reality and rogue artificial intelligence theme.

Robin Bootle brings us a novel that is well realised and the writing style is lucid and compelling.

However, it's not over yet as this novel is the first in a series of books about Extropia.

It's published by Matador at £9.99 and is available for purchase here


Sillybilly, the naughtiest boy with a heart of gold is a new book by authors Robin Whitcomb and Bryony Hill.

They are both prolific writers in their own right, but this is the first project they have worked on together.

The book is intended for children aged 7 to 9 years of age.

It's a good, fun read for children and is well illustrated by Bryony, who is also a highly talented illustrator, as well as being an author. Her most recent work was her biography of her late husband football ace and TV football pundit, Jimmy Hill.

But as well as being a fun read, the book has a serious purpose as it contains important lessons such as looking after other people and going above and beyond for those who you love.

It is set in the Northumberland fishing village of Craster. Billy is, probably, the naughtiest boy in the village and perhaps even the surrounding area.

But there's far more than that, to Billy. As well as being naughty, he also has a genuine heart of gold.

He knows that, despite the storm that is about to batter the coast and the village, his uncle and his crew of trawlermen will have to brave the storm in order to try to find, and land, a massive catch of fish.

So Billy, along with his faithful dog Jasper, stow away on the ship in order to help Billy's uncle and the crew.

At the height of the storm, the ship ends up aground on the rocks of the harbour, and the nets become tangled on the rocks.

Without any concern for his own safety, Billy plunges into the stormy sea in a bid to untangle the nets from the rocks.

Does Billy save the day? What happens to Jasper and the crew of the trawler?

To learn what happens, you'll have to read this wonderful book.

It is published by Matador at £9.99 and is a large format book, idea for a bedtime read with an adult.

It's available for purchase here

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Autism Supporting Difficulties

Autism Supporting Difficulties is a highly valuable and very worthwhile book by Gaynor M Jackson.

Gaynor has worked in a professional capacity in mainstream schools as an advisory teacher and has worked with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

During her studies she specialised in the field of working with ASD children.

She has worked with numerous parents of children who are ASD and over the years she has discovered that there are a considerable number of common problems that are faced, especially by parents of children who have had a recent ASD diagnosis.

The subtitle of her book is "Handbook of ideas to reduce anxiety in everyday situations" and this is the aim of the book, to help guide parents and professionals who find themselves involved with an ASD child to offer ideas and point out how common many problems are and how these can be dealt with.

It offers informative and easy to implement tips on how ASD children can be supported by both their parents and professionals to help the children better cope with their problems and anxieties.

Gaynor has come up with a range of interventions and strategic initiatives that are designed at helping children cope with the problems they face in everyday life.

The book contains real life examples of how the techniques can be employed.

The book is very practical and is a must have book for parents of children who are ASD, teachers, doctors and paediatricians and social workers who work with children. It is this reviewer's opinion that at least two copies should be in every school and public library in the country.

It is published by Matador at £8.99 and is available for purchase here

Brazilian Tequila a Journey Into the Interior

In his book Brazilian Tequila a Journey Into the Interior, published author an experienced journalist Augustus Young takes his readers for an interesting ride the the Brazil of his memories and of his travel diaries.

It's part travel biography and part fictionalised account of a trip into the heart of Brazil.

We follow Gus, a middle-aged Irish writer and journalist, as he leaves his old and humdrum life in London to move a a warmer climate. And Brazil is the country to which he decides to move.

Gus arrives in Brazil with certain preconceptions, as all travellers do to one extent or another, but as he flies round the country Gus learns things that shake his preconceived ideas.

For example, corruption is seen as the norm in Brazil and everyone accepts it, and it is plainly obvious that the first democratic elections in many decades are, in fact, not free, democratic elections in the accepted sense of the term, as it is clearly obvious that the elections were being rigged.

During his Brazilian travels Gus meets many people who he perceives to be victims of Brazilian society, such as the young and the poor, yet he is nonplussed to discover that they do not, necessarily, see themselves as being victims.

Yet there are times when his conviction that his European ideals are the correct ones are brought inot question.

He hopes to visit his hero the Brazilian writer Ubaldo Ribeiro to seek guidance. He finds the island that is where Ribeiro has his home, he even sees him form a distance several times, but loses his nerve and never actually approaches him.

Instead he writes him a letter.

It's a fascinating insight not only into Brazil but also into a protagonist, Gus.

It is also illustrated with a number of photographs and images.

It is published by Matador at £10.99 and is available for purchase at

Return to Camlann

This is the last part in the three part thriller series by writing team Richard and John Wilson, featuring their character Hardington "Hardtack" Tachman.

We catch up with Hardtack as recent history catches up with him. Well, not his history, exactly, but it is a history that will impinge greatly on his own life.

Because, suddenly, Hardtack is becoming the victim of a number of cases of mistaken identity.

This is because he is being mistaken for his twin brother, the existence of which he was completely ignorant.

The book starts at breakneck speed which rarely, if ever, falters.

After events that can only be described as truly horrifying, Hardtack makes his way back to America.

His wife, Mei Li, who has lost her memory, is now living with her lover in Italy.

Eventually he is reunited in America with his wife and they take a trip down to Mexico with Maria, who he has began to have an affair with.

However, in Mexico they are seen by Cartel members who mistake Hardtack for a DEA agent, Hardtack's mysterious twin brother.

There are fatal consequences fro some members of the group.

Subsequently Hardtack finds himself in the southwest of America where he is slated to attend a conference.

Because he still has doubts about the fidelity of his wife, he begins a relationship with another woman.

However, it transpires that the conference is a sham and that his new lover was not what she appeared to be.

In the town of Camlann true identities became known and stunning secrets are revealed as there is an utterly shocking denouement when the reality of what has been planned is revealed.

But what, exactly, has happened? And to whom?

The book is published bv Matador at £9.99 and is available (with the first two books in the series) from

That's Home and Household: The Wind on His Back

That's Home and Household: The Wind on His Back: The Wind on His Back is a collection of short stories by author Mary Alexander. They are six of the most perfect short stories that I ha...

Saturday, 3 June 2017

The Whimsical Fashion Colouring Book

The Whimsical Fashion Colouring Book is a wonderful publication book by fashion designer Natasha Itzcovitz.

Although an experienced and highly skilled fashion designer, this is Natasha's debut colouring book, which consists of 100 utterly stunning all totally hand-drawn fashion illustrations.

The book is filled with a wide variety of designs that are both whacky and innovative, featuring historically-themed designs to more recent designs including modern street styles.

You can colour the designs in and also draw inspiration for your own drawings and also for your own fashioned creations, if you are handy with needle and thread and are able to produce your own clothing.

Natasha also makes clothing accessories and pies of art that she offers for sale at markets and also online.

It's an ideal book for fashion lovers, artists, designers and those who love a good, quirky adult colouring book.

The book -in large format-  is published by Matador at a remarkably reasonable £8.99, you can purchase it online at

You can follow Natasha on Twitter

She is a member of the following social community for artists, Deviant Art at

Undiplomatic Episodes

Wouldn't it be good to have an insider's view of the world of diplomacy?

To find out what it's really like?

Fortunately,  now we can, with Undiplomatic Episodes, the memoirs of retired diplomat Martin Berthoud.

After gaining a university degree and a spell in the army, Martin Berthoud decided that a career in the British Diplomatic Service was what he wanted to do.

He served in a wide variety and range of diplomatic missions in all sorts of places, some exotic and some not quite so exotic. Places like Ulan Bator, Iran, South Africa, Australia, Finland and the Philippines.

He became British High Commissioner in Trinidad and Tobago and received his Knighthood on the Royal Yacht in 1985.

After retirement he served for many years as director of the charity the Water Foundation, which he retired from in 2000.

In his first role he served in the embassy in Tehran as Third Secretary from 1956, taking the intriguing and fairly novel decision to drive the entire journey of 4,446 miles from his home in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire all the way to Iran.

He points out the differences between life in Iran now and during the 1950s. Changes which seem not to have been a improvement for most people in that country.

After spending a two year term in Iran he returned to London where he was stationed for a time.

In 1961 he and his wife Marguerite arrived in the Philippines for what was to be their first married posting.

We follow Martin through postings in a variety of places in the world, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, to name a few.

In one of his latter postings he joined the EU monitoring team, members of which group were overseeing the ceasefire in the former Yugoslavia.

The book is a fascinating insight into the world of diplomacy as it existed in the recent past.

It is well illustrated with a range of images.

It is published by Matador at £8.99 and is available from good bookshops or online at

A Life Lived Memories of the Famous and Infamous

A Life Lived Memories of the Famous and Infamous is one of those books that is always very popular.

It is written by Liz Parker. It begins, as all good books must do, at the very beginning, with Liz' childhood in  the India in which she was born.

When she was four years of age she was packed of to England where she had to attend a boarding school.

She always knew that acting was what she wanted to do and so she studied at RADA. Whilst she was learning her craft there, she fell in love with a well known actor, Ronald Fraser.

After seven years of marriage they divorced and Liz had the unenviable task of bringing up their two daughters as a single mother.

Eventually she remarried and had a son with her second husband. Tragically, her husband died and she was left to look after her son, this time as a widow.

Liz developed cancer but benefited from a course of treatment that was both unorthodox and alao successful.

She was then 59 years of age and decided that she needed a change so she decided to purchase a somewhat down on its luck yacht club and taverna on a rather small Green island, assisted by her middle daughter.  

However, tragedy befell Liz again and she was again, left alone. 

It is filled with humorous events and events of great tragedy. It is extremely readable and very well written. 

It's ruthlessly honest and utterly charming, giving glimpses of the lives and loves of a whole post war generation of  actors and actresses the likes of whom we will probably never see again.

Liz never namedrops, but the way she casually mentions famous people she met is truly delightful.

For example, she would often breakfast with Michael Foot eating sausages, baked beans and croissants at his favourite small restaurant in Curzon Street.

She also met a number of people who, although not actually famous when she met them, would become famous later in life. Names that crop up in that context include Peter O'Toole, Albert Finney and Timothy West.

The book is well illustrated with a range of photographs. 

It is published by The Book Guild at £9.99 and is available for purchase from good bookshops and online at

The Fair Maid of Kent

I have heard it said that there is a major story within the ancestry of one's own family (in the case of your reviewer it would be the fact that his grandfather was an MI6 agent during the First World War and in the following decades) and for author Caroline Newark, the family member is her seventeen times great-grandmother Joan, who was the first Princess of Wales.

We pick up the story in the year 1341, Joan is an amazingly beautiful young girl, who was the cousin of the King of England. 

She is on the brink of a very important marriage. However, all is not quite what it seems. For Joan holds a secret, a secret so disquieting that it would be capable of wrecking her marriage and also putting at risk the lives of her loved ones.

Her husband knows something, or he thinks he does, as his suspicions are aroused, so Joan must be very circumspect and take the utmost care. There is a fine line between the truth and sophism, a line Joan dare not cross too obviously.

Disaster strikes at the very heart of the English royal family and Joan becomes imprisoned in her own chambers. Her fate resides with the Pope's Avignon-based tribunal.

Although this is a fictionalised account of the story it is drawn from copious notes based on extensive research undertaken by Caroline Newark's father into the history of his family. 

It's a vibrant and interesting read and delves into a long distant time of the history of England and other European countries of that time.

It is published by Matador in paperback and costs £9.99, it's available through good bookshops and is also available online at