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

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

Monday, 15 August 2016

Jenny Blackhurst – How I Lost You

review by showhost
Well she certainly lost me!!  Alex Marwood said ‘fast-moving and unputdownable’ – sorry but I don’t agree.  Mid to end of the story I was totally confused as to who was who and actually couldn’t care less by then, I just wanted it to end.  Characters had nicknames which were sometimes used and sometimes not, the main character Susan or was it Emma was so pathetic you wanted to slap her. 
Susan Webster was convicted of killing her twelve week old son, Dylan, the verdict was post natal depression.  After serving only three years in a psychiatric hospital she is out on parole having given herself a new name - Emma Cartwright (which is hardly referred to in the book).  Her best friend is Cassie, also a murderer, who befriended her whilst she was in prison/hospital and saved her from suicidal tendencies.. Emma/Susan lives in a small town in Shropshire. with a relatively small population, in which to hide.
Four weeks after her release, certain events have Susan beginning to believe that Dylan is, in fact, still alive (starts off with a photo of a four year old boy and on the back the name and dob of her supposed dead baby). A journalist turns up at her door out of the blue – how did he know where she lives with this new identity (I’d be worried straight away).  She immediately trusts this journalist Nick, (handsome with muscles of course)  Cassie doesn’t trust the journalist and becomes a little jealous.  But other items of Dylan start to turn up – like his blanket which her dad had, so Susan thought.  Her dad whom she hadn’t spoke to since going in prison.  She obviously turns to Nick and not Cassie for support and help.  She goes to see the solicitor who represented her during her trial as they find evidence which wasn’t brought up during the trial.  Some of the witnesses are gone.  Her solicitor isn’t now the friendly person she was but on the way out she meets one of the associates of the firm and imagines going on a date with him....( example of M&B adjectives: "He smells expensive, tailored Armani suit well built, and his face has been chiselled by a steady hand").  Her house is trashed so she goes to live in Nicks house.  When his house is broken into they go to live in a Travelodge.
How did neither her or her husband at the time, take one last look at their deceased baby child.  Your baby is dead – you smothered him.  Oh ok then.  I don’t remember doing it but if you say so.  There was too many unbelievable events and the sheer volume of names & nicknames, especially when it goes back in time to the 90’s was totally confusing.  I definitely won’t read another by this author.

Judith Cook - To Brave Every Danger

review written and read live on bookshow by Ro Bennett, 11/8/2016

This is a biography about a woman called Mary Broad who was born into a fishing family in Fowey in 1765. Life was very tough in Cornwall so she left home to seek work in Plymouth where she became involved in petty thievery. After being arrested for highway robbery of a silk bonnet, jewellery, and a few coins, she was committed by the Mayor of Plymouth, to gaol and then was sentenced to seven years' transportation to Australia. 

In May 1787, when she was only 22 years old, Mary was sent as a prisoner aboard the ship Charlotte to New South Wales. Mary gave birth on the journey to a baby, whom she called Charlotte. When she arrived in Australia, she married William Bryant who was also from Cornwall. Bryant, who had worked as a fisherman, was a convicted smuggler. He was also on the Charlotte with Mary and they later had a son, Emanuel, born on 6 May 1790.

On 28 March 1791, William and Mary Bryant with the children and six other fellow prisoners stole the Governor’s six-oared cutter. After a voyage of sixty-six days, the group reached Kupang on the island of Timor, a journey of 5,000 kilometres. Timor was then under the control of the Dutch. The Bryants and their crew claimed to be shipwreck survivors. They were later discovered to be British convicts, apparently after William became drunk and confessed in the process of bragging. To avoid an international incident they were sent back to Britain to stand trial. The punishment for escaping from transportation was generally death and Mary was sent to Newgate jail. I won’t reveal any more details of the journey back to England or what happened once the prisoners arrived there because not knowing anything about Mary’s story made the book an absolute page turner for me. 

This was an excellent account, informative and very well researched. Apparently other fictional books have been written about Mary Bryant as well as a TV movie, plays and a musical. I can understand that as her story is certainly fascinating and stirs the imagination. This book is factual but extremely interesting and easy to read. It describes life in Cornwall at the time, the multiple reasons for the widespread grinding poverty of the rapidly increasing underclass - a half starved population living, quote “cheek-by-jowel with conspicuous wealth. 

It describes in depth the horrendous prison conditions, the even worse conditions on board ship and the unbelievable deprivation suffered by the convicts as they struggled to survive while building everything from scratch - the houses which they made from wattle and daub collapsed in the strong winds and rain, the cereal crops rotted, the vegetables failed to thrive while disease and lack of food decimated the animals. The rations of old salted meat, weevily flour and dried peas had to be cut. Clothes were becoming ragged. Ships bringing new supplies were wrecked and there was no way to get news of their plight back to England. Major Ross the Vice Governor who hated the country, the natives, the marines, the convicts and most of all his staff was loathed by everyone in return. Discipline was harsh and disease rampant. It was an absolutely wretched existence and it was no wonder that the Bryants planned an escape, especially after William had been been punished with a hundred lashes which nearly killed him. 

It is an excellent book brimming with information and suspense - absolutely gripping and unforgettable. 

John Ironmonger - Not Forgetting the Whale

review written and read live on bookshow by Ro Bennett, 11/8/2016
This was for me a very unusual and clever novel, a real page turner. 

The story begins with the residents of St Piran, a fictional Cornish village, who collectively remember and celebrate an event that occurred fifty years ago.
At that time a naked young man was washed up on the back of a whale and deposited on the beach. He was quickly rescued by the villagers. From the retired village doctor and the beachcomber, to the priest's flirtatious wife and the romantic novelist, they take this lost soul into their midst. 

But what the villagers don't know is that Joe Haak is a city analyst who has fled London, fearing he may - inadvertently - have caused a global financial collapse. Joe is so talented on the share trading floor, that he has managed to invent Cassie, a computer programme which will predict the rise and fall of the market. By combing through every piece of financial journalism, every scrap of knowledge of every last supply chain, and every piece of economic activity in recorded history, Cassie can anticipate market movements, and forecast share prices. This of course should be invaluable to his company. However it is after being led by Cassie into a spectacularly disastrous trade, that a terrified Joe flees to the remote Cornish fishing village. 

Then, just as he begins to settle down and find some peace, Cassie starts predicting the end of the world. A global flu pandemic will wreak havoc. Oil supplies will be cut off and Law and order will break down, millions will die and civilisation will be back in the Stone Age within a week.

Joe advises the villagers to save themselves and seal the village off from the rest of the world before it is too late.

The narrative weaves between the past and present, London and Cornwall and this helps build up the tension and suspense as Cassie’s prediction proves to be accurate. 

As far fetched as the story might seem, this concept is actually rooted in reality which is rather scary! Ironmonger consulted Diamond, the scientist whose book Collapse (2005) examined the rapid decline of civilisations such as that on Easter Island. 

Based on this information, John Ironmonger’s description of the intricate mesh of supply networks on which we all rely is really thought provoking. Just think about the implications of a world-wide outbreak of severe flu, with billions of people incapacitated and unable to work and the impact that would have as power stations closed and produce wasn’t harvested or delivered and petrol stations had to close and supermarkets ran out of essentials etc. Imagine god forfend that the Gry didn’t come for weeks!!! 

The book however doesn’t focus on the gory details of such an event but upon the more heartwarming side of human nature - self-sacrifice for the good of many as opposed to the savage fight for survival of the fittest. As such,  it’s a gentle, uplifting book with warm engaging characters who demonstrate the inherent goodness and generosity of spirit in us all.
This is a book which will stay with me for a long time.

Gordon John Thomson - Time and Miss Whiplash

review written and read by Brian Lowen live on the bookshow 11th Aug 2016



(note from showhost: to those of you who are expecting a sado-masachist book you will be disappointed!)

 
Having just finished The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, featuring a private detective with a strange name and an attractive assistant, I have now read this book which features a private detective with a strange name and an attractive assistant.

But there the similarity ends as Cormoran Strike was a hard up disabled ex-soldier whereas in this book we have Thomas Time who is quite well off in the private investigation business with his young, colourful assistant, Sam.

Thomas takes on a case of looking for the teenage daughter of Digby and Philippa Renfrew who has absconded from her private school in Dorset.

Thomas starts his investigation at this school where he meets the domineering headteacher Rachel Carstairs, who he nicknames Miss Whiplash.

His enquiries then lead him to some of London’s sleazy nightclubs and he gets himself involved with Joey Tully, a gangland boss and also some Russian oligarchs and ends up being pursued by both sets of criminals who are determined to kill him. 


This is a great story with plenty of action and several dead bodies but all rather in James Bond style and I preferred the more down to earth and believable detective Cormoran Strike.

This is quite a change from the previous book by GJT that I read which was also set in London, but in the sixteen hundreds.


 

John Hannavy - Britain’s Industrial Heritage



review written and read by Brian Lowen live on the bookshow 11th Aug 2016

This is a book that I received for my birthday and is described as a Handbook and Gazetteer.

I think it would make a great present for anyone who is remotely interested in the industrial past of this country.

It describes in easy to read text with plenty of accompanying photographs the history of the following:
Windmills and waterwheels and how they provided power to the factories.
Canals are dealt with, describing their rise and fall and now rising again in popularity as a leisure industry.
Mining is featured with details of the terrible conditions experienced by the miners seeking seams of coal and metal ore.
The iron and steel industry, which is particularly topical at the moment is also explained.
The railways and there rise and fall following the  Beeching Report and now their rise again with the coming to life of many heritage railways which are so popular with the public.
Shipbuilding is really a sad story because as it was once a great industry it has now faded away and there does not seem to be any recovery. 

At the end of the book is a very useful gazetteer listing all the places that you can visit, relevant to the industries dealt with in the preceding pages, and brief details about each.

A good little hardcover book that is useful to keep as a reference.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

ALEX SCARROW – THE CANDLE MAN




A VICTORIAN , GRUESOME THRILLER.
IT STARTS ABOARD THE TITANIC, 1912, IT IS STARTING TO TAKE ON WATER AFTER HITTING THE ICEBERG.  A LADY IN A WHEELCHAIR IS PUSHED INTO THE DINING ROOM AS THE STEWARD WAITS FOR THE LIFEBOATS TO BECOME AVAILABLE.  IN THERE SHE FINDS AN ELDERLY GENTLEMAN.  HE HAS A STORY TO TELL, HE KNOWS HE WON’T GET ON A LIFEBOAT,  IT IS WOMEN & CHILDREN FIRST.

HIS TALE TAKES PLACE IN WHITECHAPEL IN 1888  A MAN IS PAID BY SOME POWERFUL PEOPLE TO MURDER A WOMAN AND HER CHILD.  UNABLE TO DO THE DEED ON THE CHILD HE THEN EMPLOYS TWO OF HIS WHORES.  HE FINDS A LOCKET ON THE WOMAN WITH A PICTURE OF HERSELF, HER CHILD AND A MAN WHICH HE TAKES, SENSING THAT THIS MAN IN THE PICTURE IS VERY IMPORTANT AND POSSIBLE BLACKMAIL MONEY IN THE OFFING.  THE PEOPLE WHO PAID THEM TO DO THE ‘JOB’ CANNOT LEAVE ANY LOOSE ENDS SO THEY ARRANGE FOR A HITMAN FROM AMERICA TO COME & TAKE CARE OF THEM AND SO STARTS THE RUMOUR OF JACK THE RIPPER.

  IN ANOTHER PART OF WHITECHAPEL PROSTITUTE MARY KELLY FINDS A NEARLY DEAD MAN LYING IN THE GUTTER.  HE HAS A SATCHEL WITH A VAST AMOUNT OF MONEY IN IT, SHE TAKES THIS AND FLEES.  THE MAN WAKES IN HOSPITAL WITH NO MEMORY OF WHO HE IS OR HOW HE GOT THERE.  MARY DISCOVERS HIS WHERE ABOUTS AND HIS CONDITION AND FINDS HERSELF INVENTING A LIFE FOR THEM, WITH THOUGHTS OF A POSSIBLY HAPPY FUTURE FOR THEMSELVES, AFTER ALL THIS RICH AMERICAN MAY HAVE MORE WEALTH BACK HOME SHE CAN TAP INTO. 



IT IS A TALE WHICH INVOLVES THE DISCRETION OF YOUNG PRINCE ALBERT, HIS MISTRESS AND CHILD, AND MURDERED PROSTITUTES.  CONSPIRACY THEORY AROUND JACK THE RIPPER MURDERS AND TITANIC (BEAR IN MIND THE TITANIC IS VIRTUALLY NON EXISTANT EXCEPT FOR THE BEGINNING COUPLE OF PAGES AND THE END).  BEWARE, SOME OF THE MURDERS ARE QUITE GRAPHIC AND BRUTAL
.

Jasvinda Sanghera - Shame

review showhost July 2016.
I feel that everybody should read this book to enlighten us of the ritual and beliefs of some Asian families.  Also to understand the cruelty & violence that befalls young indain girls who are still forced into marriage with a stranger at 15.  This book is the story of one such girl who had the courage to break away.  This made her an outcast in the Asian community & brought shame on her family.  She was disowned, considered dead, for most/all of her life.  These girls are shown a picture of a man (often a lot older and living elsewhere in the world) and told they will go out for a few months to meet and marry him, then he will come into this country as her husband.  They are treated no more than dogs to serve & obey and be punished when they don’t.
She had gone from being a virtual prisoner in her own home to having to cope for herself in the wide hostile world.  Her crime was that she was a woman & had chosen to marry a man of her choice who she loved.  She escaped and ran off with the man, they lived in squalor, they had children, she fell out of love and met someone else. 
She went on to do adult education courses and set up a refuge for other women who were either being beaten or forced into marriage. But her family still would not talk to her or acknowledge her existence.  Honour is more important than happiness.
Although I admired her courage and tenacity I can’t say I warmed to her when she cheated on her husband.  The husband who had stuck by her, loved her and supported her in the beginning.
These reviews were written in 2007/8: