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

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Sunday, 21 December 2014

Dylan Thomas - A Child's Christmas in Wales

Book review written by Sue Major & read live on bookshow 18th Dec 2014

Postmen and presents and good things to eat, snowballs, music and song.....Dylan Thomas's classic account of Christmas in a small Welsh town is filled with festive fun and excitement.

This is one of my favourite reads at Christmas. It's a magical little story which recalls the   wonderful Christmases of his childhood, and it stirs nostalgic memories of family get-togethers on many Christmas days in my past. It's a quick accompany a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie, perhaps....but it's a joyous one which always leaves me  with a warm glow.
 Dylan tells us of his pals and carol singing, of his presents “Useful and not”, his Aunts who come to visit “ some of them brittle like faded teacups” , and his large Uncles trying out new cigars in front of a roaring fire and of snow in which you can write rude words about your neighbours.

It is written in Dylan Thomas's metaphorical language which might be tricky for younger children, but it is in no way a book just for the's a smasher for adults of all ages, and I highly recommend it to everyone .

Michael Morpurgo - Private Peaceful

Book review written by Brian Lowen & read live on bookshow 18th Dec 2014
A lovely book this set in the times leading up to the first world war, suitable for adults and children.

The story is told by Thomas Peaceful, sixteen years old, who is holed up in an old barn, somewhere in France, near the front line in the war. He is spending the night here, waiting for the dawn and unable to get to sleep, but we do not know why and what dreadful thing he is waiting for, until the end of the story.

As he lays there, hour by hour, he thinks back over his short life and all the things that have happened to him and his family.

Tommo, as he is known, is the youngest of three children with Charlie as the next up and the oldest is Big Joe who unfortunately is a bit simple and cannot read or write so did not go to school with Tommo and Charlie. Charlie was always one class ahead of Tommo but he always looked out for his younger brother and then Tommo was lucky in palling up with Molly, who he had a big crush on. The three of them had many adventures together on the large estate where they lived. Their Dad was a forester for the Colonel who lived up in the big house and owned the estate, including their small cottage, which was tied to the job.

So, hour by hour, through the night we follow the story until the two boys leave school and get jobs on the estate. When war
breaks out, Charlie is volunteered by the Colonel to enlist in the Infantry. Tommo, not wanting to be separated from his brother, lies about his age and enlists as well.

The story is full of lovely reminiscences and is a joy to read. The characters are all well drawn, and this is an easy to read book.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Alan Johnson - This Boy

book review written and read live on the bookshow by Maggie Perkovich on 11th Dec 2014
(showhost said "just hearing the title of the book makes you want to burst into the Beatles song but with my voice I wouldn't be that cruel")

A memoir by a politician who has really lived life at the bad end. Born to
a family with an errant dad and very poorly Mum, life in the 1950s was hard.
They lived in condemned housing with the ensuing health problems.
No central heating, no electricity, and no running water. The money that
kept the rent paid and food on the table was supplied by Lily his Mum who
against Doctor's orders worked all the hours there were in the day and night.
Dad spent his time in the local pub where he played the piano and entertained
other women. Without his older sister Linda, the family after his mother died
would have been split up. She took on the burden of a young brother to keep
and showed the local authority that she could manage without interfenence.
She was still a teenager when this happened.
Alan tells a gutsy story without seeking pity, he praises Linda without stint,
saying "Without her input we would have gone under" To illustrate on
happening. Lily ran up a large debt in the local grocers. Linda offered to
work yp pay it off. He accepted and she later worked for him after the debt
was repaid.
This Boy is a book about success against all the odds and a vivid picture
of a bygone era. Well recommended. Maggie Perkovic.

Rosie Goodwin - Review Home Front Girls

book review written and read live on the bookshow by Maggie Perkovich on 11th Dec 2014

This is the sort of book you think you have read before, three different
girls being friends because they are working together in Coventry's only
Dept. store, they are totally different in birth and in upbringing.
However I found a gripping story and a well written book.
The war has jsut started, Annabelle has never worked and is angry that
circumstances at home are making her do so.
Dotty has always lived in an Orphanage and is shy and afraid, while Lucy
comes from a loving family but with her brother at war and caring for
her little special needs sister she has secrets concerning her mother
and father that she cannot share.
As war continues they all change for the better mostly but still keep
that deep friendship no matter what life throws at them.
Quite convincing and very enjoyable. Recommended. Maggie Perkovic.

Charity Norman - Freeing Grace

book review written and read live on the bookshow by Maggie Perkovich on 11th Dec 2014

Another page turner from Charity Norman This author has the edge on
writing about families and difficult decsions to be made.
Grace's teenage mother dies shortly after birth.
The perfect adoptive parents are found for her. Until that is her teenage father
decides he wants to keep her.
Should the court give her to the father so she knows her parentage even
if his life is far from perfect? What about the parents picked to adopt, they
couldn't be better, a Vicar and his pharmacist wife who long to make their
life complete?
This story will tie you in knots and keep you guessing till the end.
Highly, very highly recommended. Maggie Perkovic.

Virginia Ironside - No I Don’t Want to Join a Bookshop

book review written and read live on the bookshow by Ro Bennett on 11th Dec 2014

From the Inside Flap
"Certainly not!" said Marie Sharp, when a friend suggests she join a bookclub when she turns sixty. "Bookclub people always seem to have to wade through Captain Corelli's Mandolin or, groan, The God of Small Things. They feel they've forever got to poke their brain with a pointed stick to keep it working. But either you've got a lively brain or you haven't. And anyway, I don't want to be young and stimulated any more.

Too young to get whisked away by a Stannah Stairlift, or to enjoy the luxury of a walk-in bath (but not so much that she doesn't enjoy comfortable shoes), Marie is all the same getting on in years - and she's thrilled about it. She's a bit preoccupied about whether to give up sex - Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! - but there are compensations, like falling in love with her baby grandson, and maybe falling in love with someone else too? 

Talking about giving up sex - I found that aspect of the book extremely tedious and a tad distasteful -  all the elderly characters seemed to be agonising over sex, more like rampant teenagers than well balanced older people - there are 65 mentions of the word sex - which is all very pertinent in a Fifty Shades of Grey type book, but seemed out of place and rather extreme and boring in this context. 

Apart from that aspect, I did enjoy the book. There were plenty of laugh out loud parts and I liked most of the characters and could identify with them and the challenges of growing older they were encountering. There was a good story line and some pathos as well. 

The story is a record of a year  in the life of Marie, a recently retired art teacher as she is approaching her 60th birthday. I did wonder how she got to retire before she turned 60!  It’s a mainly pleasant, easy and relaxing, feel good read. 

Virginia Ironside is a prolific writer. Her first book, Chelsea Bird, came out when she was nineteen. She was sixty-three when she wrote the book and is now nearing 70. She's written many books and for years was an "agony aunt" advice columnist for several English newspapers. She lives and writes in London.

Lilian Jackson Braun - The Cat Who Could Read Backwards (Jim Qwilleran Feline Whodunnit)

book review written and read live on the bookshow by Ro Bennett on 11th Dec 2014
The world of modern art is a mystery to many. But for Jim Qwilleran it turns into a mystery of another sort when his assignment to cover the art beat for the Daily Fluxion leads down the path to murder. A stabbing in an art gallery, vandalised paintings, a fatal fall from a scaffolding - this is not at all what Qwilleran expects when he turns his reporting talents to art. But now Qwilleran and his newly found partner, Koko the brilliant Siamese cat, are in their element - sniffing out clues and confounding criminals intent on mayhem and murder. 

This is the first in a series of detective books all featuring an intelligent Siamese cat called Koko. Qwilleran (Qwill to his friends) is a man who goes from late forties to mid fifties over the course of the series. His most distinguishing feature is his "luxurious moustache which is more than just facial hair -  when something is wrong or his instincts are right, he will get "a tingling sensation on his upper lip."

A recovering alcoholic, down on his luck and very broke, Qwilleran applies for a job at the local news agency in the city he has recently moved to. This former prestigious, prize-winning crime reporter finds himself reduced to the task of feature writer mainly reporting on the local art scene - something he knows very little about. However his life soon takes an interesting and rather alarming  turn with the stabbing of a gallery owner and the disappearance of a famous painting. Qwilleran finds himself drawn into the role of amateur detective as he tries to solve the mystery of this and subsequent deaths. 

This book was  written in 1966, and it was interesting to remember how much harder and slower it was to communicate and find out information without the modern technology we now take for granted, like mobile phones and the internet.

I enjoyed it, although I had to keep turning back pages to see who was who and when a murderer was revealed, I spent ages trying to find out where I had read the name previously and in what context. It was a charming and pleasant light-weight murder mystery, with a well constructed plot,   interesting characters, and lots of entertaining twists and turns. A relaxing read.