Book reviews, LGBTQ, Uncategorised

The Homeless Heart-Throb by Crystal Jeans – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Alternately hilarious, shocking and sad, Crystal Jeans’ latest novel is set in Cardiff. But perhaps not the Cardiff the urban planners and WAG mavens would use in their shiny advertising campaigns.

Each chapter is narrated by different characters linked by the street on which most of them live and the appearance in them all (to greater or lesser extent) of the title character the alcoholic vagrant who for one of the neighbours is an unusual subject of desire. Set in various homes, streets and parks, and a nearby care home for the demented elderly the story lines are darkly humorous and occasionally rude and crude – up front portrayals of people on the frontline of urban poverty, disenfranchisement, drug culture and unappreciated but essential work lives. Lit up with authentic characters and appealing voices, and the full gamut of human relationships platonic, romantic and sexual this is an unputdownable journey into the underside of contemporary Wales.

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MY REVIEW 

Where do I start? This has to be one of the more unique reads I’ve had. Set in a small neighbourhood in Wales,  this is a collection of seemingly separate stories, but each has a link…..The Monsterberry Crush…..a homeless man who is never without alcohol.

There is a death, a woman with a sexual fantasy about the pee soaked Monsterberry, an artist who sits watching her neighbours, a care home for elderly dementia patients and a carer at the end of her tether, a shit soaked adult nappy, a goldfish and a social experiment with jars of rice.

This is full of human interactions in all their glory, eccentric, emotional, completely dysfunctional, grim, gritty and so very funny…..so real and utterly compelling, this will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour and for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book  and this is my honest, unbiased review.

You can buy a copy here 

https://amzn.to/2TkFbkk

 

  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Crystal Jeans was born and brought up in Cardiff. She lived in Bristol before doing first a Creative Writing BA then an MPhil at the University of Glamorgan. She works in a care home, which inspired a collection of poetry about dementia (Mulfran Press). She has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize (2010), had poetry published by Seren Press, and two short stories published by New Welsh Review.

 

SHORTLISTED FOR THE POLARI FIRST BOOK PRIZE 2017

 

A heart-warming, occasionally scabrous insight into growing up wild in the 1990s when your family didn’t quite fit in. ‘It’s funny, it’s fiery, it inhabits the voice of

its unforgettable characters … Crystal is a top stylist with a soaring mind.’ New Welsh Review.

 

WINNER OF THE WALES BOOK OF THE YEAR, ENGLISH FICTION, 2018

a “funny, dark, shocking and warm novel which propels us through a week in its main character’s life and his journey of self-discovery”. Wales Book of the Year judges.

“convincing, moving, funny, flawlessly sustained, and utterly compelling.” Niall Griffiths

Light Switches Are My Kryptonite

ISBN: 9781909983588

 

KEY SELLING POINTS:

 From Wales Book of the Year award winning and Bridport Prize and Polari Prize shortlisted author

 Will appeal to those who love the novels and stories of Niall Griffiths and Rachel Tresize

 Find Crystal at: @crystaljeans1 https://crystaljeans.wordpress.com/

 Extracts published in New Welsh Review

 

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Clinic at Leicester Royal Infirmary

Had my surgery follow up appointment today with the lovely Mr Yii, the consultant surgeon who removed the tumours. He informed me they measured 7 x 8 x 4 cm and   4 x 4 x 1.3 cm…..so bigger than I expected but all excised. Obviously I still have others that can’t be removed but at least I’m two down, so all good.

Discharged me back to Oncology for my Pembrolizumab to continue as planned.

I had a walk down to the hospital and back today, a mile each way, which always makes me feel better, it was deserted today as the students are still off. There are signs of little flowers, too and fed the birds and squirrels some peanuts…so my good deed for the day is done.

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The Unexpected Genius of Pigs by Matt Whyman – Book Review

BAD17F2C-ED9C-4E03-B384-E796CAC8CD2EAnd now for something completely different….

 

PUBLISHERS BLURB 

We often consider dogs to be our enduring sidekicks but the truth is domestic pigs have played a role in our lives for nearly as long.

Pigs are highly social and smart. They like to play. They’re inventive, crafty and belligerent – and incredibly singleminded.

Ultimately, we have far more in common with these creatures than we like to admit.

Here is a charming ode to one of the most common, yet surprisingly intelligent, animals populating our landscapes. In this gentle and illuminating study, Matt Whyman embarks on a journey to uncover the heart and soul of an animal brimming with more energy, intelligence and playfulness than he could ever have imagined.

In his bid to understand what makes a pig tick, having climbed a steep learning curve as a keeper himself, Whyman meets a veterinary professor and expert in pig emotion, as well as a spirited hill farmer whose world revolves around hogs and sows.

Packed with fascinating research and delightful anecdotes, this entertaining and informative celebration of all things porcine covers everything from evolution, behaviour and communication to friendship, loyalty and broken hearts – uncovering a surprising notion of family along the way. 

MY REVIEW 

The book tells the tale of the purchase of two cute mini pigs with the intention they would live in harmony with Matt’s chickens at home in West Sussex. 

However, it was soon obvious, that Roxi (which amused me no end as that’s my daughters name) and Butch were just regular large piggies….

The story is about the adventures of Roxi and Butch, their escapes, drunkenness and sheer mayhem they caused.

There is also a serious side and covers porcine evolution, behaviours and social structure and is quite fascinating.

This is also a cautionary tale of buyer beware !….and the ending is quite emotional as Roxi and Butch move to a new home as they quite literally out grew their home. There are some lovely drawings through the book too and ts a fun and entertaining read.

I would like to thank the Author/the Publishers/NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

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The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby-Book Review

144932C0-A8D9-48B5-869F-F701C5DF9884Written by Carolyn Kirby, The Conviction of Cora Burns is set in 1880’s Birmingham. Cora has had a difficult start in life after being born in a Gaol, then sent to the workhouse and as she grew up, at sixteen was sent to work as a laundress at the Asylum.

Her childhood friend, Alice Salt was a bad influence and many awful things happened, which Cora cannot fully recall. Cora ends up in Gaol herself for 19 months but when released is sent to work for the Jerwoods as a between maid. There she settles in and is good at her job, but she meets a young girl Violet, who is part of an experiment into nature versus nurture by Mr Jerwood.

Cora begins to believe there is more going on in the house and that she is involved somehow as the mistress of the house calls her Annie in her more lucid moments.

This is historical fiction with gothic feel, the dark atmosphere of the time, with women being admitted to asylums for depression or ‘hysteria’ and generally treated poorly. The characters are well written and rounded and Cora for all her ‘issues‘ is likeable and you have such sympathy for her. The language of the book is beautiful, the intrigue believable and it comes to a truly satisfying end. I can see this being a must read and a favourite for book clubs everywhere.

I was given a free copy…and giving an honest review- due for publication in March 2019

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Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce – Book Review

CF58217A-48A2-4BF1-9D9E-221EECB51AAFPUBLISHERS BLURB 

Sent to Carthak as part of the Tortallan peace delegation, Daine finds herself in the middle of a sticky political situation. She doesn’t like the Carthaki practice of keeping slaves, but it’s not her place to say anything — she’s just there to heal the emperor’s birds. It’s extremely frustrating! What’s more, her power has grown in a mysterious way. 

As the peace talks stall, Daine puzzles over Carthak’s two-faced Emperor Ozorne. How can he be so caring with his birds and so cruel to his people? Daine is sure he’s planning something. Daine must fight the powerful Emperor Mage, knowing that the safety and peace of the realm depend on stopping Ozorne’s power-hungry schemes

MY REVIEW

This is Book 3 in Tamora Pierce’s Immortals Quartet and originally published in 

Daine, Numair and Alanna arrive at Carthak in their ship, for peace talks with the Emperor, while Daine has been sent to heal his  beloved birds. She believes they may have been poisoned,  So there is plenty of intrigue among the Carthaki.

The Badger god has again warned Daine, something unpleasant is going to happen to Carthak as the gods are unhappy with Orzone.

Daine’s power is growing and has some interesting results and she also learns more about her background and it’s secrets.

I really enjoyed this new chapter in the quartet, but it had quite a different feel to the previous books and there is a lot more politics and pomp and ceremony. There is still plenty of adventure for Daine and the dinosaurs episodes were unique! I feel there is still plenty more to come for Daine and the troupe and I’m looking forward to the next in the series.

I would like to thank the Author/the Publishers/NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

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The Taking of Annie Thorne by C J Tudor

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I’ve just started reading this ARC from NetGalley and it’s really got me hooked….

some great wrting, as in…. “People say time is a great healer. They’re wrong. Time is simply a great eraser. It rolls on and on regardless, eroding our memories, chipping away at those great big boulders of misery until there’s nothing left but sharp little fragments, still painful but small enough to bear.”

Something nasty is coming…I just don’t know what yet….brilliantly slow burning tension…

 

full review once I’ve finished obviously!

 

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Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson- Book Review

Snowblind is the first in a series of books by Icelandic author Ragnar Jonasson and has been translated into English by Quentin Bates.

Snowblind takes us into a small community northern Iceland. One of those small towns where everyone knows everyone and it takes years for a newcomer to be accepted, if ever. We follow Ari Thor, a young police officer in his first post. He finds this too quiet and 5he Police have very little to do. However, a woman is then found half naked and bleeding out in the snow.

Then a local elderly and esteemed author is discovered dead at the local amateur dramatics society. Can Ari Thor track down the killer?

One of the things that engages you in this book is the wonderfully chilly and increasingly close atmosphere. It is almost overwhelmingly claustrophobic, with the darkness and constant snow and Ari Thor feels it and it really worries him. As the Winter becomes harsher and the town is cut off by snow, this only gets worse. Menace lurks, within this small community with links to the amateur dramatics society. The tension builds and you fall in to it.

There are plenty of characters, some decidedly odd and of course the young Ari Thor. From Palmi, a playwright, Tomas the Chief of Police and Anna. There are many possible suspects in this Cold tale with secrets, jealousy and lies.

This is a thoroughly gripping and atmospheric read…I loved it. DDE29CC1-FE67-4EC0-BAFC-7FE44A104624

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Bitter Leaves by Tabatha Stirling- Book Review

AD48D9DE-1A27-4A9A-8211-E8B13E15F318I was lucky enough to get to read this on The Pigeonhole for free and this is my honest opinion.

MY REVIEW

This is a story of the lives of the wealthy and their maids in Singapore. There are different nationalities of the Ma’am’ s and the maids are mainly Filipina. There any similarities end, as the treatment some of these poor girls receive is at times brutal, cruel and violent, yet at others there is such kindness and love…it’s a rollercoaster of a read and your heart will be broken, but then gently put back together.

This is an amazing book, the writing was just so emotional and evocative I have been transported to Singapore. I loved the separate POV’s as it gave each character their own voice and personality. Tragic, sad, anger inducing and then hope and love, a book to touch your soul. This will stay with me for a long time and I’m going to have to read it again soon. Thank you Tabatha for an experience and Pigeonhole for the opportunity read such an original tale.

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The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal – Book Review

 

 

 

C0E06A3D-EFAE-4AA9-9691-36D7813F33D3PUBLISHERS BLURB 

The Doll Factory, the debut novel by Elizabeth Macneal, is an intoxicating story of art, obsession and possession.

London. 1850. The Great Exhibition is being erected in Hyde Park and among the crowd watching the spectacle two people meet. For Iris, an aspiring artist, it is the encounter of a moment – forgotten seconds later, but for Silas, a collector entranced by the strange and beautiful, that meeting marks a new beginning. 

When Iris is asked to model for pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, she agrees on the condition that he will also teach her to paint. Suddenly her world begins to expand, to become a place of art and love.

But Silas has only thought of one thing since their meeting, and his obsession is darkening…

MY REVIEW

Set in 1850 London,  Iris and her twin sister Rose, who is scarred by smallpox are working long long hours for the spiteful owner of a doll shop. Sewing beads and trimmings onto dolls clothes made by much poorer locals, and painting dolls faces to be like their intended owners, many of these deceased young girls. 

Iris then meets Louis, an artist and a member of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, she agrees to model for him as long as he agrees to teach her to paint.

Another character, Silas Reed is obsessed with taxidermy. He is often brought ‘Road Kill’ by a young urchin, and when he is brought conjoined puppies he is thrilled. 

He is introduced to Iris by the young urchin and Silas is attracted to her slightly misshapen collarbone and becomes obsessed with her. 

Elizabeth Macneal has written an incredibly evocative gothic tale of Victorian London at a time of advances in both technology, art and new ideals, but still dealing with the abject poverty and squalor for those less fortunate.

The absolutely chilling, gruesome portrayal of Silas’ damaged mind is so well done it gives you the shivers, and you will want to read it with all the lights on…marvellously creepy.

I would like to thank the Author/the Publishers/NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

#TheDollFactory #NetGalley

The Doll  Factory

 

by Elizabeth Macneal

Pan  Macmillan  

Picador

General Fiction (Adult) , Historical Fiction

 

About The Author

Elizabeth Macneal was born in Edinburgh and now lives in East London. She is a writer and potter and works from a small studio at the bottom of her garden. She read English Literature at Oxford University, before working in the City for several years. In 2017, she completed the Creative Writing MA at UEA in 2017 where she was awarded the Malcolm Bradbury scholarship.

The Doll Factory, Elizabeth’s debut novel, won the Caledonia Noel Award 2018. It will be published in twenty-eight languages and TV rights have sold to Buccaneer Media

(details from Goodreads)

 

 

 

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The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz – Book Review

B7C33AA4-E36B-47CF-B1EE-C321EBAD62B8PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Death, deception, and a detective with quite a lot to hide stalk the pages of Anthony Horowitz’s brilliant new murder mystery, the second in the bestselling series starring Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne. 

_________________________ 

‘You shouldn’t be here. It’s too late… ’

These, heard over the phone, were the last recorded words of successful celebrity-divorce lawyer Richard Pryce, found bludgeoned to death in his bachelor pad with a bottle of wine – a 1982 Chateau Lafite worth £3,000, to be precise.

Odd, considering he didn’t drink. Why this bottle? And why those words? And why was a three-digit number painted on the wall by the killer? And, most importantly, which of the man’s many, many enemies did the deed?

Baffled, the police are forced to bring in Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne and his sidekick, the author Anthony, who’s really getting rather good at this murder investigation business.

But as Hawthorne takes on the case with characteristic relish, it becomes clear that he, too, has secrets to hide. As our reluctant narrator becomes ever more embroiled in the case, he realises that these secrets must be exposed – even at the risk of death…

MY REVIEW

I love the way this is written, the fiction mixed with fact, it’s just so original and entertaining.

Anthony Horowitz is an author, who works alongside the investigator Daniel Hawthorne, an ex-police officer, because he is in a 3 Book contract to document the crimes and investigations he is looking into.

He’s not sure if he likes Daniel, due to his manner,  casual homophobia and racism, but he is an excellent investigator and they get mixed up in all sorts of scrapes, with Anthony usually coming off worse.

There are mentions of Horowitz real life work, on tv series such as Midsomer Murder and Foyles War and his books like the Alex Rider series, which all lend such a feeling of reality you forget this is fiction.

The characters are all so believable, I really want to know more about Hawthorne and his background as I’m sure there’s more to come. The story itself is fast paced and with its touches of humour is totally engaging and has the great twists and turns of a classic whodunnit. I can thoroughly recommend it.

I would like to thank the Author/the Publishers/NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

#TheSentenceIsDeath #NetGalley

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Upcoming books on The Pigeonhole

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Two new books about to start on The Pigeonhole, The Flower Girls, by Alice Clark-Platts and My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite….this is a great way to read along with others and share comments and insights into each book. They are issue in staves each day and each stave is usually a couple of chapters long. You can add comments and interact with other readers….great fun.

 

 

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Bitter Leaves by Tabatha Stirling

I’m currently reading Bitter Leaves by Tabatha Stirling via The Pigeonhole.

Pigeonhole releases books, FREE, stave by stave on a daily basis, so you get a few chapters a day. This is like an online book club, where you can leave comments as you read and interact with other readers, so you can see others opinions as you read. It’s just brilliant.AD48D9DE-1A27-4A9A-8211-E8B13E15F318

As for Bitter Leaves, oh my this is a heartbreaking, anger making read. It’s so well written you really do forget it’s fiction and I’ve become so immersed  in the story I can’t wait for the new stave each morning to catch up with the characters. It’s about the awful treatment of female ‘maids’ in Singapore, the abuse they suffer and the downright slavery at the hands of their employers. I don’t know how this is going to end but I hope there is a little joy for some of the characters.

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Bitter Leaves by Tabatha Stirling

AD48D9DE-1A27-4A9A-8211-E8B13E15F318I’m currently reading this via The Pigeonhole, it’s a brutal heartbreaking tale of Indonesian housemaids in Singapore. It’s slavery by any other name and not an easy read. I’m about halfway and it’s making me both angry and upset at the same time, some brilliant writing and I’m intrigued as to how this will end……tough stuff.

 

 

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Surgery done

Just a little update.

The surgery’s done and the surgeon confirmed two tumours removed. I do have to wait for histology for the results of biopsy etc, but as the mass was black, it’s definitely melanoma. As I have that already elsewhere this is no surprise, just lucky they’ve been able to remove at least some. I had a chest drain for a couple of days but that’s now gone, they are such a nuisance to carry around everywhere. There is some bruising and I’m still a bit sore and itchy, but the dressings are removed tomorrow so that should help, and I’ll get to see how long the wound is, judging by the dressing etc it’s about 6 inches long, so matches my axillary dissection scar, will look like train tracks !

I have one breast higher than the other too, but it’s probably only me that will notice ! Other than that seems ok so far, which as it’s only been a week I’m happy with how it’s healing.

 

 

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Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid Book Review

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Published by Random House UK

 

PUBLISHERS BLURB

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six.

They sold out arenas from coast to coast.

Their music defined an era and every girl in America idolised Daisy.

But on July 12 1979, on the night of the final concert of the Aurora tour, they split. Nobody ever knew why. Until now.

This is the whole story, right from the beginning: the sun-bleached streets, the grimy bars on the Sunset Strip, knowing Daisy’s moment was coming. Relive the euphoria of success and experience the terror that nothing will ever be as good again. Take the uppers so you can keep on believing, take the downers so you can sleep, eventually. Wonder who you are without the drugs or the music or the fans or the family that prop you up. Make decisions that will forever feel tough. Find beauty where you least expect it. Most of all, love like your life depends on it and believe in whatever it is you’re fighting for.

It’s a true story, though everyone remembers the truth differently.

MY REVIEW

This is the first book by Taylor Jenkins Reid I have read and I was drawn to this by the official blurb and the groovy covers if I’m honest.

Set in the sixties, and shows the music scene as a life of sex, drugs and rock and roll. It’s told in a series of interviews from different perspectives of various people both in the band and those close to them. 

It begins in 1965 with a coming of age tale of Daisy and her intent on singing in clubs, her voice and looks get her invited to join bands. It continues through the years to the disbanding of Daisy Jones & The Six.

The story moves at quite a pace and builds a slightly frenzied atmosphere through the stores of the band members. Great writing which captures the atmosphere of the swinging sixties, totally entertaining and believable.

I would like to thank the Author/the Publishers/NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

 

#DaisyJonesAndTheSix #NetGalley

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The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau – Book Review

EE89189A-218F-4636-94E4-2365F3933E1BOFFICIAL PUBLISHERS BLURB

In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture.

For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice. 

When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelain, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue… 

The ensuing events take Genevieve deep into England’s emerging industrial heartlands, where not only does she learn about porcelain, but also about the art of industrial espionage. 

With the heart and spirit of her Huguenot ancestors, Genevieve faces her challenges head on, but how much is she willing to suffer in pursuit and protection of the colour blue

MY REVIEW 

This is the story of Derby Blue and the porcelain obsession of the 1700’s. Genevieve meets Sir Gabriel at a soirée held by William Hogarth, the artist. She had attended this with the intent of asking Hogarth to sponsor her as an artist, but her dreams are shattered as she is just a woman and they do not paint in oils. Distraught she returns home to her Grandfather, who is sending her to work in a Derby porcelain factory to decorate the items, as this is felt suitable for her talents.

Then Sir Gabriel visits and so the adventure begins, he wants her to be his spy at Derby, to find a formula to a new Blue, by getting close to the young scientist, Thomas Sturridge, but the plan goes awry as they fall desperately in love.

I can’t say much more without spoiling the plot, but it’s full of utterly engaging intrigue and even Madame de Pompadour and King Louis and a war between France and England at that time are all part of this tale.

There are fascinating insights into the history of porcelain, which may sound a little dry, but believe me, Nancy Bilyeau’s writing has brought this to life. The sheer obsession and competition between countries to develop the best is beyond belief.

This is an absolutely stunning novel, with a really strong female character in Genevieve, intrigue, fear,violence, persecution, passion, obsession and love. This is a must read and I’m sure book clubs are going to adore it as much as I do. Oh and the cover is beautiful too. Historical fiction at its best.

Thank you to The Pigeonhole for the opportunity to read this. 

 

 

 

Published 3 December 2018