book reviews , different studio guests each week. Join us every Thursday between 12 and 1pm on Radio Scilly 107.9fm or log on to

Missed any programmes? See below for list of guests, books and other details discussed.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Steven Galloway - Cellist of Sarajevo

review by showhost
In commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day the people in my radio show book review group each chose a book to read about a country included in the HMD leaflet.  One was the genocide in Sarajevo, so I chose this book which although fictional, the story of the cellist and other aspects are based on facts.
It isn't harrowing or gruelling it is more a snapshot into the daily lives of three of the people living in war torn, besieged Sarajevo, who are under constant sniper fir from the hills and mortar bomb attacks, over 300 a day.
The cellist, a local musician, played the same haunting tune every day for 22 days in the market square where 22 people lost their lives from mortar shelling, whilst queuing for bread.  The cellist was an open target for snipers but he survived possibly because of the protection of one of their own snipers who was acting like a guardian angel over him.
The three people we meet are Dagan, an elderly gentleman who's wife and child he managed to get out of the city and into the safety of Italy.  Dagan tries to dodge the snipers as he goes to the bakery where he works to get his wages of bread to feed himself, never knowing if the next bullet will be the one which finds him.
Arrow, a young girl now alone after the death of her father, who has been taught to shoot by her father and was working for the government in a very loose way.  She was a sniper with morals, she would decide if she shot anybody and who the person would be but this changed when the head of the army changes.
Kenan, who has a wife and child, has to go to the old brewery where the only fresh water supply still exists, and carry back six containers of water to last his family a week and also two containers for the old woman who lives downstairs, who he doesn't like but can't refuse.Each day he goes out he never knows if he will come back.
They watch their beloved city fall apart under constant fire and friends and family killed by sniper bullets, or mortar shells, remembering the city as it was.  It's their thoughts and feelings we read about. 
Arrow to me was the character I looked forward to reading about most.  A young girl who doesn't want to randomly kill as she knows that memory will live with her forever.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Robert galbraith - career of evil

review by showhost
I just love these books by JK Rowling.  A good book always makes me late for work as I keep wanting to read one more page, one more minute. Cormoran Strike is such a good lead character.
Cormoran Strike is ex army SIB turned private investigator.  He has a prosthetic leg, the result of his leg being blown off below the knee, when in a patrol car in Afghanistan.  He has proved to be a 'thorn in the side' of the police after having made them look inept when he solved a couple of crimes they could not, one which they claimed had been suicide until Strike proved different.  This did his business the world of good, jobs started to roll in but he realised, then, that he needed a secretarial type person.  Robin came as a temp but is now still with Strike as her previous training in psychology and her desire to be a detective help the business.
In this latest story Robin is horrified one morning when she opens a parcel at work addressed to her and finds a severed human leg inside. The police are called. This will not be the only souvenir to arrive over the next couple of months. A dismembered body is found and an investigation begins. With the leg was a verse of a song from an obscure rock band which Strikes drug fuelled mother, in one of their squalid flats, with one of her many boyfriends, would listen to. Whoever sent the limb was getting at Strike through Robin.  Robin is now considered a potential next victim so she is warned not to travel at night alone and to keep with crowds during the day, surveillance is also posted where they work.  The business starts to suffer as the jobs stop coming in because of this bad publicity.  Robins looming wedding is getting ever nearer but the arguments with

her fiancee Mathew continue over her work which he considers too dangerous and extremmely poor pay. 
Strike has narrowed his possible suspects to three, two of whom were ex army of whom he made enemies putting them away for crimes such as domestic abuse and child abuse. But first he has to find them.  The story is tense, gripping, sometimes grisly but always additctive.
We learn more of Strikes past, it's like a slowly unfolding story with each book.  You don't have to read them in order as there is sufficient reference to previous books to give the reader an insight. But why deprive yourself of two really good books!  I can't wait for the next one.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Val McDermid - vanishing point

review by showhost
O'Hare airport, Chicago.  Stephanie Harker is taking five year old Jimmy on holiday to America.  As is usual, the metal detector sounds as Stephanie passes through due to a steel plate in her leg.  Jimmy has already gone through.  As Stephanie is waiting to be frisked down, Jimmy is approached by an airport security man and they walk away.  Stephanie shouts and tries to go after them but all the airport security team see is a woman trying to escape, to avoid being frisked and shouting/screaming.  They taser her to restrain her.  By the time she has chance to explain about Jimmy he has disappeared and a child kidnapping is launched.
The majority of the story is Stephanies tale of how she got to this point.  Which at times I found myself wondering if the FBI and Stephanie would sit and have this really long life history/chat when every minute was ticking away in the hunt for Jimmy. 
Stephanie is a ghost writer for celebrities.  She became the ghost writer for Scarlett Higgins, a girl who got her fame from reality tv.  During the writing of Scarletts story Stephanie forms a strong friendship.  Scarlett is not the vacuous bimbo she is portrayed in the media but a sharp, shrewd young woman (and lets face it if Scarlett really were the loud-mouthed dumb blonde she appears to be on television, her friendship with Steph would be implausible).  Scarlett becomes pregnant and the father is her partner Joshu, who is a minor celeb, junkie DJ.  When the baby is born Stephanie is one of the godparents.  Steph has to deal with her own partner Pete who becomes obsessive about her spending so much time around at Scarletts and becomes almost abusive to keep her at home and stalks her when she leaves him.
Scarlett finds out she has cancer, and when she discovers it is terminal she wants Stephanie to look after/adopt her 5 year old son, Jimmy after her death.  Who has kidnapped Jimmy and why? 
The build up to the event is interesting and builds the characters.  The ending wasn't what I expected so the red herrings fooled me but left lots of unanswered questions like what we're they going to tell the US police about how they got Jimmy back?  I kept thinking about Jade Goody when reading this book as so much was very similar to part of her life.  I thought it was going to be a frenzied race against time to find the boy kind of book but it wasn't.
Did I like it?  Well it kept me interested, albeit with some events seeming quite improbable.  But the ending was totally out of character for Steph and so abrupt.  I would probably give it 3.5 stars out of 5

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Judy Astley -Blowing It

Review written and reviewed live on radio scilly by Brian Lowen
 A light hearted, frothy novel, more for the modern miss, struggling with family life and stroppy teenagers.

Not really a man’s book, but it made a change.  The names of the many fashion houses and must have clothes and accessories left me cold and I tended to jump some paragraphs but apart from that I enjoyed the story.

There are three children of Mac and Lottie, retired groupies from a once famous rock band.
            Sorrel is about to go off on her gap year. She sooo wants a home to come home to

            Ilex, her brother, is trying to upgrade his flat and marry his smart girlfriend, Manda. He’d like some immediate equity.

            Clover, the elder sister, has plans that involve a bijou second home in France. And she wants it now.

If only their parents would be sensible. If only they would sell their large, rather grand but somewhat dilapidated house and hand over their inheritance.  But parents aren’t always as sensible as their children! Thank goodness! These parents have a history of failed schemes and extravagant purchases and are planning on blowing the lot.

I must admit to having read other Judy Astley books and particularly enjoyed Just for the Summer which is set in Cornwall and is about a family moving down to their second home for the summer holidays.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Philip Carter - Altar of bones

review by showhost 
 Mix of Indiana Jones and Davinci.  A conspiracy thriller,  600+ pages long but it ran out of steam.
Starts well enough, 1939 Siberia in a brutal prison camp and Lena Orlova escapes with her lover, she knows a safe place to hide.  A cave hidden behind a frozen waterfall in the frozen, bone chilling wilderness, where lies the legendary altar of bones. Lena is the keeper of the alter and must protect it.
Fast forward to present day and San Francisco where Zoe, Lena’s granddaughter, unwittingly becomes the next keeper after the murder of her grandmother.
Zoe soon finds herself fearing for her life as the assassins start the chase , backed by government agents and powerful business people.  They want the secret of youth behind the alter of bones.
Zoe is befriended by Ryan O’Malley whose father was part of the JFK assassination plot, a plot which was linked to the alter of bones (as well as Marilyn Munroe and Rasputin the Mad Monk).
So it’s lots of shoot em up & wild chase scenes and just a sprinkle of sex (the stuff all unbelievable, farfetched plots are made of ie James Bond, Indiana Jones).  The beginning drew me in and I had high hopes I thought I had found another Dan Brown (I loved the Davinci Code), but for me it started to lose steam and the plot about the fountain of youth unbelievable (roll my eyes and groan kind of unbelievable).  Yes, some of you out there will say, so was Dan Browns Davinci far fetched but I found that plot much more plausible to the point I googled things like the paintings mentioned in the book to have a look.  If you like escapism in the form of Indiana then give it a go (I did enjoy the Indiana films as I do the James Bond films but I didn’t want to read the books).  Who's pseudonym is Philip Carter I can't find out who this author really is?

Julian Stockwin - Pasha

review written by Brian Lowen and read live on the bookshow 10th dec 2015

This is book 15 in the series featuring the rise of Thomas Kydd from pressed seaman to captain Sir Thomas Kydd, Order of the Bath, all set in the glorious days of fighting sail during the Napoleonic wars.

The book sees the culmination of the careers of the two heroes in these books – one being Thomas Kydd and the other is Renzi – his great friend and personal secretary.

They have both returned from adventures in the Caribbean and Kydd is not sure how he will be received by the Admiralty but is pleasantly surprised to find that he is a national hero for exploits in Caracoa.  He is knighted and also given the Order of the Bath by King George III.

Renzi meanwhile fell in love with Kydd’s sister, Cecilia, way back in the earlier books but he has felt unable to propose marriage because he has no proper means of support needed for a wedded couple.  However, when he gets back he discovers that his novel has been published much to his surprise and his hated father, from whom he ran away to sea, has died and he is now Lord Farnham, head of a large estate.

After all this, the seagoing part of the story is set in Turkey, hence the title, and sailing through the treacherous Dardenelles.
It does look as if Kydd and Renzi have been finally split up but we learn this is not so as Renzi has been appointed an unofficial ambassador and also has travelled to Turkey to try and stop France taking over in Turkey and providing a gateway to the British Indian continent.  Turkey is an ally of Britain and Renzi’s job is to keep it that way.

This is a wonderful story and is especially heartfelt to those who have read previous books in this series.  Thoroughly recommended.  I look forward to seeing how the author will bring our two heroes together again in following stories.


Hans Fallada - Alone in Berlin

review written by Brian Lowen and read live on the bookshow 10th dec 2015
An unusual book this as it looks at the Second World War from the viewpoint of a German factory worker.

There appeared to be a great divide in Germany between those who belonged to the party and thought Hitler was great and those others who didn’t belong, probably because they could not afford the fees, and subsequently suffered, being the have nots and were depressed and under pressure from party members and particularly the Gestapo.

Life in Germany for the poor common workers was even worse than it was for the British people with food in very short supply, harsh working conditions and the constant fear of a knock on the door by the Brown shirts, the Gestapo or the SS.

It is 1940 and the party members are celebrating the success of the German Army in their campaign across Europe and now massed on the Channel shore, poised to take England over next. This will not take long they think, but how wrong they were.

The Party members may be celebrating, but one particular couple are not. Otto and his wife are mourning the loss of their son, killed at the front and have fallen out with the German party machine. They are so disillusioned with the war that they decide to do something about it. They start writing out lots of postcards

pleading with Germans to forsake the war effort and the party and stop supporting it and then distributing them around Berlin, being careful not to be seen when they drop them in public places.

This sabotage comes to the notice of the Gestapo who are naturally furious and set out to track down this phantom postcard writer.

The book is interesting in how it describes life in Berlin at that time but I found it too long.
There is very little action and several sub plots which all tend to get rather confusing.
I am afraid that I did not finish the book, just checked the ending to see what happened so am unable to recommend it.