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 https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

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 https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

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  https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

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 https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.







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 https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

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 https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

Hanuman

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 https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

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 https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

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 https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

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 https://goo.gl/wdCFDG. 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  https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

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 https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

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
https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

Sillybilly

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 https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

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 https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

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  https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

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 https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

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 https://goo.gl/WRfFc7.

You can follow Natasha on Twitter https://twitter.com/natashaitz?lang=en

She is a member of the following social community for artists, Deviant Art at http://tashatoxic.deviantart.com/.


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 https://goo.gl/WRfFc7.

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  https://goo.gl/WRfFc7.

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 https://goo.gl/WRfFc7.

The Frog Who Was Blue

The Frog Who Was Blue is an enchanting tale from published, prize winning author Faiz Kermani.

Biriwita is a frog. But he most certainly is not like other frogs. Frogs are, in general, coloured green.

Unfortunately for Biriwita, he was not green, he was of a blue hue! As were all the other frogs who lived in Lake Ticklewater, their ancestral home.

He is an ambitious young frog and he longs to be accepted at the highly prestigious Croak College, the most famous and the most elite schools for frogs in the whole of Malawi.

He passes the entry requirements and so he very proudly begins his studies at Croak College.

However, the other frog students just turn their backs on him! Who on earth had heard of a blue frog before? Certainly not them! And they did not intend to even associate with him at all!

In fact, they mocked and ridiculed him to the extent that he became so frightened of the other frogs that rather than sleeping in the school dormitory with them, he chose to hide in a tiny hole near the hill, and cover himself with grass to keep warm.

He couldn't understand why they were so mean to him.

However, their attitude toward him changed during one particularly horrifying evening, wen the green frogs came aware of exactly how helpful a blue frog could be!

The book is wonderfully written and the colourful, vibrant illustrations from Naomi Powell are a perfect compliment.

It's a good, fun read for younger children which also contains some important lessons about life, too.

It costs £6.99 and can be ordered through good book retailers oe bought online at https://goo.gl/WRfFc7.

The Catchpole Curse

The Catchpole Curse is a debut children's book from author Paul Knight.

Ben and Emma are twins and they have the unique bond and communication skills that are common amongst some twins.

Their family has been subjected to The Catchpole Curse for two centuries. The impact of the curse seems about to reach its evil apogee, when the family, once wealthy and now destitute Catchpole family would be forced to sell of their last and post prized possession, their Cornish home.

Whilst exploring, the twins tumble headlong down an ancient abandoned mine shaft on the clifftops not far from their ancestral home.

They find themselves facing the shades of their ancestral twins. Ben and Emma find themselves transported back in time to the early 19th century and become entangled with a gang of ruthless Cornish pirates who force the two children to assist them in their enterprise of smuggling a secret cargo ashore.

But the cargo, they discover, is more than mere barrels of brandy.

Before the gang can enjoy the riches of their enterprise they are ambushed by a force of soldiers who are determined to put an end to their smuggling.

As a result the leader, who believes members of the Catchpole family have betrayed him, brings down a terrible curse upon the family.

But when the twins return to their present time they find themselves involved in a media frenzy.

Faced by a journalist is is only interested in digging up dirt, no matter who gets hurt, by vengeful descendants of the leader of the smugglers, a dangerous armed robber and parents who remain wildly clueless about what is really going on, Ben and Emma are hard pushed to try to make sense the recent events.

All they need to do is to reestablish the family's good name, save their ancestral home and forge a reconciliation with the family that issued the curse that has blighted their family for 200 years.

Can they do it? Children aged 11 to 14 will love to read this book to find out.

It is published by Matador at £8.99 and is available for order from most good bookshops and also online at https://goo.gl/WRfFc7.

Omnipotence

Omnipotence is a debut science fiction novel from author Geoff Gaywood.

The novel is based in our future in about a century or so. Mankind has decided that, if it is to survive, that it must seek out a new home, or homes.

An interstellar mission is established, under the leadership of Arlette Piccard, which is intended to visit a planet on a distant star.

The planet, it is believed, should be capable of sustaining human life and it is the aim of the mission to establish a colony on the planet.

However, the mission is dogged with problems from a violent onboard conspiracy to the unexpected problems of aggressive aliens.

However, Arlette and her crew of settlers are confronted with evidence that all might not be what it seems.

Are events under their control? Or are they under the control and influence of some kind of hidden power which has plans all of its own?

It's a complex and deep novel that exits on several different levels, it's an old-fashioned space adventure, a story of human vanity, of human resourcefulness and of philosophy.

The characterisations of the proponents are all as near enough to perfection as one could hope for and it's quite easy to forget the fact that this is a debut novel. It will be interesting to follow the future career of Geoff Gaywood and see where he will take his readers next.

It's published by Matador at £9.99 in paperback and is available from all good bookshops and online at https://goo.gl/WRfFc7.