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Books we've read through our Indie Author Review System. If you're looking to give an independent author a chance, look no further.
Unto This Last is a historical fiction centred around John Ruskin the Victorian era art critic amongst many other things. Before reading this book I had perhaps heard of Ruskin but didn’t know too much about him. Despite this lack of previous knowledge I found Unto This Last a detailed and interesting depiction of Ruskin’s connection to Rose La Touche. I found that this book was very well written, it seemed to me to be written in the style of a period novel while also managing to maintain a degree of self awareness that I thought allowed for a more critical eye on a range of topics such as mental health and Victorian attitudes in reference to women. I think the relationship between Ruskin and La Touche is quite delicately handled, with Ruskin coming across as almost naïve to me early in the story. I also particularly liked the additional literary nods throughout the book. The title itself is taken from one of Ruskin’s works and the chapter heading “State of Denmark” as a nod to Shakespeare's Hamlet are great examples that I noticed. I think that this book has been very well-researched and written with real insight. I think that anyone who enjoys period novels would enjoy this book without needing to know a great deal about the main character beforehand. The book covers an extended period and also fills in details about Ruskin’s early years and first marriage. I also think this is perhaps a great starting point for any interested reader to do more research on John Ruskin’s life. I would say that Unto This Last is a substantial and yet fascinating read that provides a considered look at the life and work of John Ruskin.
'Obscene Genes: The Ride of a Lifetime' is Steve O'Grady's third book of entertaining scientific theories. As a graduate in bio-science, the study of which he undertook as a mature student after a variety of jobs, the author uses his life experiences and great sense of humour to try to explain what it is that makes us tick. His conclusion is that our genes are the things that drive everything we do throughout our lives. They alone are responsible for our behaviour, whether that be deemed good (such as caring for babies, appreciating grandmas and being loyal friends), bad (from being greedy, inventing and using guns, to getting disgustingly drunk) or downright ugly (indulging in extreme pornography, racism and violent revenge). We should, therefore, not be surprised or shocked by nor too critical of any of these behaviours, as they are being forced upon us by our genes' relentless need to replicate themselves. Even the apparent disregard by many younger people of the current Covid-19 restrictions can be put down to this over-riding force compelling us to give in to basic instincts and share our genes. By the author's own admission, however, this was not the book he had set out to write, so, after discarding most of his original work, he amalgamated the remainder with the section just described. The following few pages then proceed to explain the very complex workings of the human gene replication system by way of an even more complex analogy of train carriages, passengers, platforms and timetables! The reader will soon get the gist though. The final section is a veritable romp through some very funny and/or poignant personal experiences from the author's childhood family life, his single-sex Catholic school career and from his work as a prison officer. It may seem that the author is condoning all manner of behaviours, as, according to him, we could rightly claim that 'it wasn't my fault, my genes made me do it'. But no. The reader is left in no doubt that Mr O'Grady believes in free will and urges us, at all costs, to use it as often as possible and thwart our genes, which would have us do things that, in the cold light of day, we know to be wrong. The world of education has long pondered the question of 'nature versus nurture', in which our genes' need to be copied is pitted against the society, shaped by laws, culture and religious beliefs, that we all have to live in. This extraordinary book provides much food for thought and should help the reader to a better understanding of him/herself and the world around. A very rewarding read. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
Chloe is a brindle boxer. Socrates, the Devil Dog, is a pekingese, as is Darby who qualified for the title "great dog". Together with Young Pup and Old Vet the author uses these four-legged friends to explore and illustrate the New Testament book of James in an insightful and memorable way. I for one will never look at soft-serve chocolate ice-cream in the same way post Socrates It is a simple but not simplistic read, which engages and educates but doesn't preach! I would recommend this book even if like me you weren't looking for a bible study but are happy to read life stories. The doggy pictures are a joy too. Cath Sell, A LoveReading Ambassador
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, who would want to read a book about a horrendous disease sweeping through the country? In the light of the mistakes and cover-ups surrounding the Coronavirus, who would want to read a medical conspiracy thriller full of lies and deceptions? I hope that the answer is a lot of people because, otherwise, a lot of people are going to miss out on one of the most exciting and gripping debut novels around...'Poison in the Pills' by August Raine. Jack Bright is a researcher for pharmaceutical company Rathbury-Holmes in Manchester, working on finding a cure for the disease affecting a large proportion of the population and commonly referred to as 'The Itch'. Some early research seems to establish a link between the disease and a street drug, known as 'Dose', so the cure hangs on producing something that will purge the system of sufferers of all traces of that drug. Jack has serious doubts about the efficacy of this type of cure but is ignored by the powers that be in his company. The final clinical trial of the cure goes disastrously wrong and seven people die. Jack, determined to get to the truth, starts poking about at work and is in his boss's office late at night when a bomb goes off. He is suspended from his job then framed as a drug dealer. Can things get any worse? Oh yes. Will Jack get to the bottom of what's really going on and who's behind it? Well, you'll have to read the book to find out. This story raises many questions about what means it's acceptable to use to uncover the truth and whose interests the pharmaceutical industry are serving best. A very thought-provoking and unpredictable read and, I hope, not the last featuring Jack Bright. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
'The Winding Road to Portugal' is Louise Ross's companion and comparison study to 'Women Who Walk: How 20 Women from 16 Countries Came to Live in Portugal'. This time 20 men from 11 countries share their stories of when, how and, above all, why they too came to up sticks and relocate to Portugal in particular. This is a fascinating and illuminating work, consisting of the words of the newcomers themselves, with analysis by the psychology trained author, the journalist and author Richard Zimler, who has also taken the winding road and Dr. Nigel Hall, a distinguished psychiatrist. If this all sounds a bit heavy, I assure you it's not. The whole book will stir such a gamut of emotions, that the reader cannot help but be curious about the causes of such upheaval. Though far from being simply down to one reason, for some, language must have been an important factor. Those from Angola or Brazil were already fluent, whilst those from UK, Ireland, Poland, Netherlands, Denmark or Germany may have been beguiled by the promise of the Mediterranean climate. Escaping political, economic or social hardship was also cited, as was being an 'accompanying spouse', supporting their partners in their new location. At the end of the day, we work abroad because we can. The free movement of labour in the EU and the rise of the digital workplace, means that, if we have the inclination and the incentive, we can work anywhere. However, the year 2020 brought a whole different scenario. The author decided to recontact her interviewees to see how the pandemic was affecting them and included an add-on to each section with their thoughts. Those working in tourism, such as taxi drivers and owners of hotels or guest houses, were not faring as well as, say, those working for international companies but most were optimistic that the future would be better. We all certainly hope that it won't be worse. The winding road by definition is not straight forward and not everyone interviewed saw Portugal as their final resting place. This study will surely make it's readers think carefully about their own life's journey, which can only be a therapeutic exercise. A very instructive and thought-provoking social observation. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
In 'BEYOND: The Frozen Future' Ema Cory offers us a terrifying version of the future for our planet. Her short science fiction/horror story builds on trends already evident in society today and progresses them in a frightening but thought-provoking way. The writing is crisp and concise, the characterisations clever and original and the use of Biblical sounding titles to the chapters reinforces the apocalyptic feel of the storyline. The year is 2279. After WWIII devastates the world's population, China and North Korea are put on an enforced zero-child regime and the world's essentials- food, water, waste, housing and transport- are placed under the control of a global organisation. Climate change creates millions of refugees, terrorism millions more, who along with the indigenous poor, live largely on the streets, beneath a smothering of smog and constant drone cover. The elite live in climate-controlled luxury, barely venturing outdoors, thanks to a well-developed teleportation system. When or just before their time comes, life expectancy having stalled at 90 thanks to the failure of science to eradicate disease, those who can pay have themselves and their loved ones cryogenically frozen, whether they believe in the system or not. Alison Greshwood is the CEO and majority shareholder of Life Beyond, one of the largest body freezing organisations in the world, based in London. Through her we learn of the history, organisation and weaknesses of the company, the latter eventually culminating in it's demise as the US Threat Protection Committee puts it's secret plan into action. We are left with the promise of a continuation of Alison's story as she puts Code Black into operation and disappears. Can't wait! Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambasador
Missing a Beat and Other Stories is a varied collection of short stories. There are 11 different short stories, spanning a variety of genres although contain a similar thread. Each of the main characters seemed a little bit broken in their own way, with additional obstacles and challenges to face. I like the variety within this different collection of short stories, this is a book that you could return to, dipping in and out to find a story to suit your mood. Each short story is well-developed and the characters within them are nuanced and well written. Each story draws you in with fresh questions about what has happened and what will happen. I paused between each story to ponder the events. My favourite story was ‘Out of Sync’, the setting, description and atmosphere really brought this story leaping off the page for me, and I especially like the added touch of the bobble head, it added both whimsy and foreboding and was a good example of small detail bringing everything vibrantly to a life. A great short story collection that I would recommend and return to in the future.
'The Wynnman and the Crimsons Paths' is Trevor P. Kwain's second adventure set in a Wimbledon that exists only in his imagination. As in his first book, 'The Wynnman and the Black Azalea', the newly arrived Italian baker, Enrico LoTrova, plays amateur sleuth, aided by his friends and neighbours, exposing the shortcomings of the local police and solving clues in the most audacious way. This is an exciting and fast-paced read, Bond-like in it's conception, with characters who are either completely good or bad. The villains are truly evil or mad but at the end of the story we are left wondering whether the good guys are really all they seem to be. There are murders, robberies, explosions, secret tunnels and strange experiments that rock the neighbourhood...never a dull moment! The sentence construction and language used are sometimes distracting but the pure fantasy of the story is compelling and beguiling. As the author writes about a book found during the course of the narrative, there is a 'thin veil..between reality and fantasy'. As at the end of the first book, the arch villain escapes undetected, so we look forward to the third episode of 'The Wynnman' to bring us his further nefarious deeds and hopefully discover what he's really up to and, I'm sure, eventually be brought to justice. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
How Lucky Can You Get takes us on a walk with the author down memory lane. Taking us through their experiences of the 1930s to 1990s and beyond, this book covers the pre and post war years while focusing on Ray’s early years, family, and varied working life. I think that this memoir is nostalgic, and is a good reflective piece for readers interested in personal accounts of history. This is a very direct account and I would have personally liked more descriptive language or imagery to really engage with the story. However, as an autobiographical account I think it flows and reads well as it is. The author states “This true story of triumph over adversity can give hope and inspiration to many people, young and old, who are facing anxiety and hardship in these difficult times.” and I think How Lucky Can You Get is a good reminder of the different challenges faced and overcome in the past, which can be a source of encouragement to persevere. There were also a few moments throughout the book where the events of the past are compared to society now, which offers a space for reflection. I think that How Lucky Can You Get is an interesting and detailed memoir and I think it would be enjoyed by history and non-fiction fans.
When a volunteer doctor stumbles across inconsistencies in HIV treatment, his life and those of his friends is put in danger. But will he be able to get to the bottom of what’s happening? Pharmacrime is a tense medical thriller that follows the story of Lenny as he discovers that the efficacy of HIV treatment is dependent on where the patients register to receive it. There are some gritty and graphic parts throughout although I was intrigued to find out whether Lenny would be able to stay safe long enough to bring the truth to light. Kenya’s political situation becomes more unstable, making the investigation in to the drugs more fraught. I liked the little pill images at the start of each chapter and the book flowed well and was easy to read. I found that the characters were well developed and all had their own distinct voices and motives. Although a few of the more graphic scenes made me wince, I think that they added to tense atmosphere. Pharmacrime comes to a dramatic conclusion that almost left me cheering out loud. This is a gritty book dealing with a worrying scenario: what would happen if the lifesaving drugs you were receiving were fake? An interesting read that I would recommend.
A Cobra's Bite Doesn't Hurt by Anil Nijhawan is as potent and daring as the title suggests, but in a way that felt endearing and fondly reminiscent. Kalu "Cobra" is an impoverished orphan boy who grew up in a mice and cockroach ridden orphanage, called Durga Bhabi Bal Kalyan in Haridwar, India. He often spends his days staring out the window of his hidden alcove, dreaming of escape. Then one day, his fortunes seemingly change when he is forced to work for some gangsters as a pickpocket, out in the big city of Bangalore. His retrospective tale, recorded on an old Japanese Sanyo is addressed to the leader of his country, Mr Narendra Modi, who claims to care for the poor and dispossessed but whose actions prove the opposite to be true. This book is an unfiltered recollection, rich in cultural representation, that I very much adored reading, despite my minor grievances with the writing. I felt like the execution of the story, the pacing, the development of Kalu's endearing character and the cultural undertones more than compensated for this and made me empathise with Kalu's plight. It was a candid statement about the tragic path that often results owing to a lack of opportunity because of a person's social class. Put simply, I can't wait to own it! Lois Cudjoe, A LoveReading Ambassador
Not in my Name by Michael Coolwood is an interesting mix of political fantasy and murder mystery. It is earnest and passionate but quite straightforwardly written, which makes it also suitable for younger adult readers. The plot revolves around a group of activists living in a commune in an imaginary version of 2003. Each of the group has their own reasons for being there and their own personal problems that they have brought with them. The trust and camaraderie that the group feel towards each other is suddenly put in jeopardy, however, when they discover that they have been infiltrated and then...the murders begin. The writer has cleverly used authentic but edited contemporary quotes from public figures, applying them to a different situation, thus underlining his premise that politicians will say, do, promise almost anything in order to gain or remain in power, a very high profile scenario happening right now in the U.S. The book is also timely in the descriptions of the way the activists are treated at the hands of the police, very reminiscent of the BLM protests. The ending is slightly unexpected but perfectly reasoned and inevitable, going a long way to restore the reader's faith in human nature and family ties. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
Blood Ties is a nuanced story that addresses issues of power, corruption and modern slavery. Ritchie Morlan is an experienced advertising executive. His children work as activists against people-trafficking and modern slavery. Ritchie’s aim to use his knowledge to support his children’s cause massively backfire, leading him to make modern slavery not only more widespread but acceptable to the general public. This book manages to intertwine a lot of different themes. There’s family drama as you watch Ritchie work to become closer to his children and find out more about their relationship and past. The storyline also covers corruption and money in politics, protest, anti-immigration policies and advertising and the media. I think that this was an interesting and well-written story that seemed to take a lot of inspiration from modern current affairs and twisted them into a convincing political, almost dystopian thriller. This book manages to deal with the microcosm of Ritchie’s well-meaning efforts to help amplify his children’s work, while also dealing with the bigger picture view of a dark outcome to anti-immigration feeling and political messages that is visible online and in the news today. Blood Ties had me intrigued from the early pages and my interest was held throughout. A worryingly believable plot that I would recommend it for readers who enjoy political thrillers.
The Tale of Miss Berta London is one of reinvention and introspection. Following the powerful fashion editor as she experiences knockbacks and must work as a nanny, a position outside her comfort zone but one that allows her to reflect on the important things in life. I found the premise for this book to be quite traditional; the story of the rich person, through a degree of adversity, re-educated to become of benefit to society (A Christmas Carol anyone?) is a classic storyline that can be reinvented to suit a wide variety of situations and time periods. As I started reading, I admit I had to take a brief pause to find out what era the book was supposed to be set in, the writing appeared to me to be more traditional in tone. I liked the concept of the story and the lessons it aims to teach, that you can follow your own path, not the ones parents lay out for you, and that there’s always a chance to change your ways and make sure what you do can benefit others. I liked the flashbacks to earlier in Beta’s childhood, as I felt this allowed me to understand the path she has taken and why, as well as pre-empting the strong family values that come to light later in the book. Although I would recommend suspending disbelief while reading (the speed of repurchasing a home and moving in one obvious example), I think that the underlying message is wholesome and of value. I think that The Tale of Miss Berta London is a light-hearted, traditional style tale that could be read and enjoyed by a wide range of ages.
An entertaining short story that doesn’t get bogged down the details. A fight between good and evil plays out in this sci-fi story. I am amazed at how much detail the author has managed to fit into a book of such an unassuming size. Penchant for Darkness is like a tardis, it contains an expansive plotline covering space travel, aliens, clairvoyance and Mile’s discovery and training of his anomalous powers as well as tender moments with his wife, Richelle and the battle closer to home to conceive and manage their family’s expectations. All this plotline condensed into an adventure you can enjoy in the afternoon. I personally think there could be more tension built up in order for it to fit perfectly in the thriller category and would say this book sits well in the sci-fi, adventure and perhaps relationship or family genres. When I closed the book I wondered whether the science fiction aspect of the book was metaphorical for the struggles faced by a couple trying to conceive, with Lucifer a spectre of Miles’ potential feelings of inadequacy and Michael, Rafa and Gaby representing the doctors and specialists on their journey. Whether you read in to it that way, or enjoy it as a short and snappy sci-fi story packed to the brim with plot, this is definitely a book worth picking up.
Legally High is a combination of self help and memoir, detailing the author’s experiences of incarceration and solitary confinement in Holloway prison facing a life sentence in Broadmoor hospital for the criminally insane. Alongside this rather eventful background, Nikki also shares a range of mindfulness techniques that she uses and claims could transform how you feel in 10 minutes. This book begins by focusing on the author's personal experiences of being charged with arson, endangering life and intent to kill, the pronouncement of the psychologists that she was too far gone and should be sent to Broadmoor, her time in solitary confinement and the work done by doctors to correct a hormone imbalance that seemed to be at the root of the problems. I state this here not as a spoiler but as a warning that although this is a book on mindfulness, there are some intense subjects covered. The intention of this first section of the book is to explain that how we experience life and how we react to life events can shape us in a positive or negative way depending on our reaction and behaviour from then on. The text flows very easily, with the ideas put across in a clear way, with imagery and description to keep the book interesting and entertaining. The mindfulness techniques themselves are all about slowing down, with claims in the book that you could “see a 200% increase in levels of calm and over a 100% decrease in anxiety levels.” in two weeks, with results after the first session. With claims like this I was intrigued. I read through the explanations of each element of the Breathing Space techniques, what they did and why they were important, however, there weren’t any specific practices included within the book. These day to day practices come when you download the author’s app and sign up to the free 10-Day challenge. As a result of this, I would recommend this book to anyone already familiar with Nikki and her work, or those researching mindfulness techniques to see which is the best for them, but not as a ‘one and done’ book for those wanting to find examples of meditations and practices to follow.
Little Else is a character created by award winning international cartoonist Mike Payne. She was born out of lockdown, when there was indeed little else. At 4 years old going on 40, this is her take on the world as it is right now. Her wisdom and insight shine through in this book of the first 120 cartoons to be published. Else loves her parents, her grandparents, her teddy and even her baby brother. She has perceptive opinions about mental health, comfort eating, the NHS, red letter days and home deliveries, not to mention President Trump! As you can see, there's a serious side to these very funny drawings, which make the viewer laugh then stop and think. This is a must have for these pandemical times. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
Size Zero is a crime thriller set in the high fashion world. Covering everything from the fashion trends to sex trafficking this is an intense plot that you might not be able to predict. Although this book follows Cecil as he seeks to find out what happened to Annabelle and who her murderer was, this story delves into an all too believable world where the elite can hide the most perverse activities because of who they are. The characters throughout are eccentric but well-crafted and the description was vivid, brutally so at times. Handling issues such as rape, sex trafficking, paedophilia, self-harm and eating disorders this isn’t one for the faint-hearted. The author manages to integrate the plot of Size Zero into the modern world, with references to names and events everyone will be aware of. For me, this helped to make the story more believable and emphasised the critique of the high-fashion industry (Which I think this book ultimately is). About halfway through, everything seemed quite straight forward for Cecil, and I wondered at that point how, and perhaps why, there were so many pages left. There were a few more twists and lots of events that I think benefited from the author’s detailed descriptions, and I flipped through the rest of the pages easily. With black humour and a dark narrative, I don’t expect that this will be for everyone, but if you’re wanting something hard-hitting this could be the book for you.
Available in all ebook formats here. Pre-school children will delight in the sounds and rhythm of the alliterative phrases that accompany the whimsical drawings in An Amusing ALPHABET. Several of the drawings contain unstated objects or animals that start with the subject letter. Children will enjoy the challenge of finding them.
Shadow Selves starts in the midst of the action, after a visit to Dr J. Jones a hypnotherapist ends in a suicide. As a reader you have many questions about this book from the start, which helps to throw you off balance and create a sense of unease and as the plot twists and turns. There’s a lot of good plot points throughout the book and I found it interesting that most of the story was written from the perspective of Callum, a fake therapist who has a lot to lose if he is exposed and I think that this perspective adds to the tension in the story. The events of the book come to a fairly dramatic conclusion and I liked that Shadow Selves doesn’t necessarily end “happily”. There are more questions raised by the final page which I also think puts the reader off balance and lets the uneasy feeling linger with the reader after the story concludes. Playing on the fear of manipulation by medical professionals, I think that as a thriller Shadow Selves works. I personally wasn’t hooked as I read, but it was an easy thriller to read and may be good for fans of the genre.
Us & Everything Else is a collection of poems and short stories by Francoise Helene, in which the author explores her feelings about many different aspects of her life. Covering topics from love and loss, pain and healing to joy and wonder, self-appreciation and inner strength. There are also atmospheric black and white illustrations used throughout which are lovely. The poetry is in free form and the reader will relate to it on a very deep level. Each poem is written from the heart and truly inspiring. Francoise has made herself vulnerable when creating Us & Everything Else so that we may share her connection with the world and indeed the universe. I would challenge anyone not to be moved by these beautiful poems with their amazing imagery. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
Unlikely Return is an effortlessly stirring expression of the complexities of human relationships. It is told against the backdrop of an unlikely, yet equally damning tragedy that befalls five men, whilst aboard a sport-fishing vessel. Captain Jack, his petulant assistant Tony and three other passengers; Paul, Ben and Stuart all board the Princess Rose, for a weekend away of fishing and as a means of escape from the woes of their everyday lives. Each of these men carry the burdens of estranged relationships and emotional trauma, which a shared life-altering experience at sea, will force them to confront and forever change them. This book is extremely cognizant of human emotion and how one's sense of self is deeply influenced by one's formative years. It stirs empathy within the reader and explores a wealth of different perspectives that make for fantastic characterisation. Unlikely Return is an insightful slow-burner of a book which I relished sinking my teeth into! Lois Cudjoe, A LoveReading Ambassador
The Vanity of Humanity is an entertaining look at anthropology and our perception of ourselves as different and special in comparison to the other creatures that inhabit the earth. I found this book to be very interesting and enjoyable. Throughout the author refers to his experience as a prison officer as well as wider reading that impacted his studies and worldview. Although you don’t have to read or be familiar with any of the other titles he mentions to enjoy this book, they and the bibliography serve as a list of recommendations for further reading. The Vanity of Humanity flowed quite seamlessly from topic to topic, handling evolution, communities, prison and the justice system, celebrity, death, money and God to name just a few. The author’s arguments are written in a clear and concise way, with humour and anecdotes throughout that help to make the abstract subject matter more enjoyable to read and easier to understand and digest. I enjoy reading books that focus on human nature and behaviour and I enjoy them even more when I’m not left struggling to concentrate on the language. This book uses understandable references and avoids jargon in order to make The Vanity of Humanity a really accessible book. I particularly liked the comparison of the creation of humanity to Frankenstien. The handling of more scientific concepts by equating them to simpler scenarios such as lego blocks was skilfully done. Part autobiographical, part popular science, this book calls into question humanity’s place in the world and the concept that we are any less animalistic than our primate relatives. This is a book that I enjoyed and would recommend.