Wildwood Review: The Perfect Pastoral Escape From The Harshness Of Reality

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Over the past few months, while I’ve been trapped in the house, I’ve been searching for escapism in the form of beautifully written books.

While the majority of the books I’ve been reading are mystery and crime fiction, I’ve also been searching for nature books that take me out of myself.

One book that I found buried under a pile of other books on my bookshelf, which I picked up months ago in a charity shop, was Wildwood. I chose it simply for the gorgeous front cover and the fact that it’s about trees.

I adore trees; they’re beautiful and majestic, and I feel like they’re under appreciated. They remind me of the power and symbolism in the natural world, so I was intrigued by the book and, as it was about 50p, I picked it up and threw it on my shelf.

With so many other books to read, and so much drama going on with the pandemic, I clean forgot about Wildwood until a few weeks ago, when I was searching for an easy, relaxing read to comfort me.

At first, I wasn’t sure about this book, but I’m glad that I carried on and read more of it, because this is a glorious read that will make you see nature, and trees in particular, in a whole new light. 

Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees, is part tree book, part autobiography, and all love affair with the great outdoors. Roger Deakin takes his readers on a journey around the world, starting from his home in the Suffolk woods.

From there, we travel alongside him as he visits Spanish horse festivals, the wilds of the Australian outback and more. Deakin paints an intimate portrait of every new landscape that he visits, making you feel like you’re actually there with him.

Thanks to his knowledge of trees, wood and the way the material works, Deakin is able to paint an evocative picture and show the reader his passion for trees and the natural world.

When he’s talking to artists and sculptures that work with wood, Deakin makes an amazing case for handmade, artisan crafts over mass-produced junk, if you ever needed one.

Between the beauty of the natural world and the majesty of the trees in it, not to mention the delicious fruit that he eats, Deakin manages to transport the reader out of their lockdown blues and into a world full of sumptuous smells, tasty treats and atmospheric landscapes.

So, while I was moping around indoors and whiling away the days, Roger Deakin was able to take me out of myself and give me a sense of belonging in a natural world that I’ve either not been to in years or, in many cases, never even experienced.

As well as talking about trees and walking readers through some of the world’s most magnificent forests, Deakin also weaves in quotes from amazing poetry and cute illustrations, which create a visual representation of each of chapter.

All in all, this isn’t just a book- Wildwood is an escape from reality into a world of nature and wonder: it’s an innovative combination of autobiography, retrospective and much more. It is rich with the author’s passion for nature, so it’s the perfect read for anyone who wants to feel calm and informed.

No Signal Review: A Dystopia To Rival The World Outside

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As the world struggles with its own dystopian reality, I thought now was as good a time as any to review a book set in an even more challenging and controlling world.

The second in the iMe series, and the follow up to the incredible Proximity, is another thriller sci-fi masterpiece.

Author Jem Tugwell delivers a searing indictment on technology, control and surveillance as he brings back DI Clive Lussac, a disenfranchised policeman with very little to do now that technology has rendered his job essentially void.

Following the events of Proximity, not much has changed in Tugwell’s compelling setting. Everything and everyone is still tracked through iMe, although many are now campaigning for less state control and more personal freedom.

On the other side of the debate is a tyrannical church, which Clive is compelled to attend by his girlfriend and his doctor, as they both believe it will help him to curb his cravings and make positive changes to his lifestyle and mood.

At the same time, a sinister game is being plotted and played in Europe, with contestants playing to win a coveted place in the Forbidden Island augmented reality universe.

The game takes place in the UK, and when contestants travel here they are forced to wear iTourist bracelets, which track their every move and interaction, much like the iMes that citizens wear.

When these game contestants take drastic measures to take themselves off-grid, Clive finally has some proper work to occupy himself with. It becomes apparent pretty quickly, both to Clive and the players, that this is no ordinary game. Something sinister is happening here, and it’s up to Clive and his limited team to find out what and stop it before it wreaks havoc.

As he did in his first novel, Tugwell has displayed exceptional knowledge of technology, and the ability to explain it brilliantly. There are no wordy explanations or info dumps here; just a gripping thriller that draws you in and doesn’t let go until its jaw-dropping final chapters.

The plot races along thanks to the author’s storytelling prowess, with very few stops to describe the events or technologies involved. Every character, plot twist and setting seamlessly weaves its way into the story, making the book very hard to put down.

The result is a thrilling adventure that takes readers around the world and into the depths of human desperation. Unlike the first in the series, No Signal doesn’t focus on a murderer; this time, it’s about a network and the extreme lengths it will go to achieve its ambitious goals.

So, if, like me, you’re completely aghast by the state of the world right now, then transport yourself to a slightly worse one with the help of this incredible writer.

 

 

Three Perfect Liars Review: A Unique Thriller That Keeps You On The Edge Of Your Seat

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Following my previous review of Heidi Perks’ Now You See Her, which I loved, I was excited to check out her latest novel, Three Perfect Liars.

This innovative book tells the tale of three very different women and the series of events that culminates in a fire and a murder.

It begins with Laura, who is returning to work following her maternity leave to her job in an advertising agency and expecting her temporary replacement to be leaving. However, when the young woman not only remains at the company, but also retains Laura’s biggest account, she becomes suspicious of her motivation.

Switching between the perspectives of Laura, her young colleague/ rival Mia and Janie, the wife of company owner, the novel shows an overview of all of their opinions and ideas, and how their lives become intrinsically linked over the course of the story.

The story is told through a range of mediums, including interviews with staff at the advertising agency after the fire and flashbacks to the events that occurred in the lead-up to the tragic event.

A uniquely structured novel, Three Perfect Liars gives little away, and the reader doesn’t actually find out who has been murdered until it’s almost over. Instead of telling us what’s going on, Perks drives the narrative forward by slipping in small details, leaving the reader constantly clamouring for more.

Perks uses a variety of narrative structures in this book, including interviews, time jumps and intense dialogue. With these different styles of creative writing, the author is able to bring into play a variety of ideas and complications, including the role of women in society, the treatment of working mothers, and many more. They’re all introduced in a unique way, so that the reader doesn’t feel preached at, but rather that they are seeing these issues in action.

It’s this approach, combined with the tension that seeps through every chapter, which makes it so hard to put this novel down. Despite its immense heft, I still managed to finish it in less than two days, which is no mean feat when you have a full-time job, part-time blog and still want to have as much as a life as you can when you’re stuck in your home.

So, if you’re looking for an enticing, gripping thriller to get you through the lockdown, then Three Perfect Liars is an ideal choice for you. Although as mentioned above, you should be warned that you’ll get through it very quickly because you won’t be able to put it down!

The Folio Society’s Edition Of The Franchise Affair Review: A Perfect Read For Anyone In Need Of A Distraction

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These dark times call for a change in reading habits, which is why I’ve switched from vicious thrillers to twee, calm crime fiction in an effort to keep my anxiety and fear at bay.

My latest foray into this, my favourite sub- genre of crime fiction, is The Franchise Affair, in which no murders take place. Instead, a complex plot involving abduction, arson and aggravation keeps the reader enthralled.

Written by Elizabeth MacKintosh and published under the pseudonym Josephine Tey, this intriguing novel gives us the perspective of Robert Blair, a local solicitor in a sleepy English town.

He’s going about his business as usual when he is drawn into a unique mystery: a young girl claims to have been abducted by Marion Sharpe and her mother, who live together in a large, isolated house called the Franchise.

The girl identifies the house and claims that she was held there as an unwilling domestic help and beaten into submission until she was able to flee in the middle of the night. Her dramatic story is unproven, but its reveal in the newspapers leads Blair and his new clients on an intense and strange journey.

I’m reading this incredible novel for the first time in an amazing edition from renowned luxury book publishers the Folio Society. This stunning cloth bound book looks like a present and reading it feels like a very decadent way to spend my time in lockdown.

Mark Smith gloriously illustrates this rich, fascinating novel about human nature. His gorgeous, colour images bring the story to life and show the characters as they were meant to be seen. For many, like me, it can be hard to envision these classic paragons of good taste and decorum, but the illustrations really bring them out of the page and into the light.

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In all, this is a gorgeous edition of this classic, cosy crime novel. If you’re looking to treat yourself during social distancing and occupy your time by reading more, then check out the Folio Society’s extensive range of books.

The Folio Society edition of The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey, introduced by Lady Antonia Fraser and illustrated by Mark Smith, is available exclusively from http://www.FolioSociety.com

 

Miss Fisher And The Crypt Of Tears Review: Fans Will Love It, But If You’re New Then Don’t Let This Be Your Introduction

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Regular blog readers will know that I’m a big fan of Kerry Greenwood’s amazing Miss Fisher novels, centred around the exploits of the eccentric, affluent lady detective.

The TV series has garnered significant acclaim, and with good reason. It’s a masterpiece of writing, directing, acting and production. Although it bears little similarity to the book series on which it is based, it is still every bit as enjoyable. It also showcases an unusual female protagonist, who is a woman of independent means and an older age than is normally showcased in the media, but who proves herself to be every bit as energetic and fantastic as her younger counterparts.

The film is an extension of this, which was partially crowd funded by eager fans and came out earlier this year. Alone, the film is a triumph, and showcases the beauty and majesty of the roaring 1920s. The costumes, settings, acting and dialogue are all particularly praiseworthy, with Essie Davies doing a great job as the sartorially perfect titular character.

In comparison to the series, however, it falls significantly flat. There’s no time in the movies runtime, which at an hour and forty odd minutes, is short by comparison to most films nowadays, doesn’t allow for enough time to develop new characters or introduce viewers to the new circumstances of the existing cast members.

There’s also a notable absence of many of the favourite characters from the series, some of whom are only involved briefly at the beginning, which means that we’re hastily introduced to a new cast of characters. As the series relies on a formula, which works impeccably well, the absence of these characters makes it feel a little rushed.

The plot feels especially hastily put together, in comparison to all the splendour of the costumes and the wry wit of dialogue. It begins with the exhilarating rescue of a young woman from a prison in Palestine, which, seemingly kills the lady detective.

As expected, she isn’t dead, and reappears with a flourish in the early scenes of the movie. She and her inspector friend Jack Robinson, who had come to England to attend her memorial alongside the now free prisoner and the Uncle who involved Phryne Fisher in the first place, are quickly thrust into an adventure involving ancient curses, huge gemstones and wars in the Middle East.

The thrills come thick and fast, with Miss Fisher darting about, jumping from trains and throwing herself from rooftops at an alarming rate from the very beginning. Those gripping scenes are enjoyable and bold, but what happens in between isn’t as thrilling as you’d want it to be.

With many nods to the series, this film is great for fans, but newcomers who’ve never heard of Miss Fisher will struggle to understand the hype, as the limited time frame allows for limited development of either existing or new characters. The jokes and character banter have been long established in the series, so you’ll really love some of them if you’re a big fan like me (I laughed out loud at many). This doesn’t make for a great film, however, meaning that many viewers will struggle to get what’s going on. In terms of cinematic prowess, the movie puts costumes and settings ahead of bold camera shots and crisp editing, meaning at times it can look a little amateurish. If you’re a fan, or a big lover of period costumes, then you won’t notice, but if you’re searching for searing cinematic shooting then this isn’t your film.

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As a standalone crime movie, Miss Fisher And The Crypt Of Tears is interesting, but not particularly well rounded. The plot basically revolves around stopping a curse and finding out who stole cherished jewels from a temple many years ago; unlike most of the series and books, there’s really not masses more to it than that. Usually there are twists and turns all the time, but in the film it’s just a straight line towards the finish point, peppered with a few red herrings and unconvincing threats that don’t really lead anywhere.

Bolstered ancient tombs and the British army’s war in Palestine, as well as a railway deal gone south, the plot meanders around the world with a final twist involving a character we’ve barely seen, and whose involvement is, frankly, preposterous. The result is incredulity from watchers and, honestly, a lack of interest in the overall outcome.

Once the perpetrators have been revelled and the full extend of the banality is out in the open, I was bored and sad that the movie hadn’t turned out to be the masterpiece that I’ve been waiting for. I still love it, particularly as it continues to showcase masterful acting from Davis and Nathan Page, who plays Jack Robinson, but it didn’t turn out as great on its own as I would’ve liked.

So, in ending my second ever film review, I just have to say that I again have a similar opinion of this as I did Kenneth Branagh’s version of Murder On The Orient Express: while this looks like Miss Fisher, it most certainly isn’t the same. Turning a series as great as this into a film changes it fundamentally, and in many cases not for the better.

While this film is an intriguing concept and interesting story, which has been exquisitely executed, I’d like to see the series return again, rather than a feature length sequel. Miss Fisher And The Crypt Of Tears isn’t a fitting end to the Miss Fisher franchise, so I sincerely hope there’s more. Thankfully, the cliff-hanger at the end of the film suggests that there will be; with any luck we’ll get a forth series, not another film.

The Treadstone Resurrection Review: An Enticing Addition To The Jason Bourne Series

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As part of the blog tour for this latest action novel, today I’m reviewing The Treadstone Resurrection.

The latest in the Jason Bourne universe is a heart-stopping, thrill-packed ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

It’s obvious from the very first sentence that author Joshua Hood has extensive experience in the military. He understands guns, fights, military weaponry, codes, the CIA and more.

This experience and knowledge is what really sets this book apart from other military thrillers you’ll see in bookshops throughout the summer. They’re a quick read staple, something you can enjoy without having to put much effort in.

The Treadstone Resurrection introduces a new character: Adam Hayes, a witty, battered and bruised former asset turned carpenter who’s trying to turn his life around when his past comes back to kill him.

After he receives a mysterious email from an old friend containing encrypted photos, Hayes is rapidly drawn into a sinister international plot.

He quickly has to leave his new life as a contractor and abandon his plans to visit his family to face his enemies and battle against some of the world’s best military agencies.

With his friend dead, Hayes has to rely on his wits, ingenuity and waning international contacts to fight back and get justice. His journey takes him across the USA and into the wilds of South America, where he battles against deadly foes with far better equipment, teams and plans than he has.

The novel is gripping from start to finish, and Hood has expertly created an engaging replacement for Jason Bourne in the form of Adam Hayes. He’s a smart, wisecracking hard man with the potential to go far.

The only thing I have a serious problem with is the depiction of women in this novel. Hood’s female characters are just pouting, opening extra buttons on their blouses in response to hot guys, or sobbing at the first sign of trouble. Either way, it’s clear that the author hasn’t actually met that many real women. His female characters are a male fantasy, and in today’s action genre, where women read just as many novels as men, this simply isn’t acceptable.

Despite this, I actually enjoyed reading The Treadstone Resurrection. It’s a gripping thriller that might be a little formulaic at times, but for the most part delivers the kind of gritty, deep drama readers of the Jason Bourne series are looking for. The novel sets itself up for a sequel, which I’m looking forward to; I only hope that this time they’ll be more realistic female characters in it.

Wilding Review: An Impassioned Rumination On A Return To A Rural Idyll

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I promised it last year when I reviewed The Peregrine, but I’ve been busy since then so apologise that this review is a little late.

Better late than never, I’ve finally had the chance to read and review Isabella Tree’s phenomenal book Wilding: The Return Of Nature To A British Farm.

The author is married to the owner of Knepp castle and estate, in Sussex, where this incredible pastoral experiment took place. She and her husband decided to stop using the land for farming, and instead return it to a more natural state and allowing free-roaming animals to graze on natural plants, shrubs and bushes.

Trees were allowed to die and remain as havens for animals, birds, flora and fauna, with minimal human intervention to keep the space as naturally wild as possible.

The author delves into the history of Knepp, European wild animals and how we came to achieve the ‘closed canopy’ theory, which says that the UK and most of mainland Europe was covered in dense trees before humans cultivated it.

Isabella Tree disagrees with this theory, and sites a lot of evidence to highlight why she believes that the landscape was in fact covered in a diverse range of plants cultivated by grazing herbivores.

She tells the story of how she and her husband learned, through trial and hilarious error, the means by which they could rewild Knepp and turn it into a natural British paradise.

Funny, intelligent and enlightening by turns, Wilding is a perfect pastoral book for anyone who wants to educate themselves on British wildlife and the history of man’s long and strained battle against nature.

At a time when the world is, ridiculously slowly, opening its eyes to the realities of climate change and man’s impact on our planet, this is a very timely reminder that there are things that can, and are being, done to help restore our land to its former glory. The book also shows how science is often very out of touch when it comes to the mysteries ways of Mother Nature.

In short, if you’re looking for a book to read that will take you on an eventful journey through British, and international, natural history, and end with you wanting to explore everything that nature has to offer, then I’d thoroughly recommend Wilding. Isabella Tree is passionate about bringing biodiversity back into the world and proving that every avenue is worth exploring as we journey towards a greater understanding of how the earth was before we started taking it over.

 

 

 

A Death In Mayfair Review: Another Incredible Addition To A Phenomenal Historical Crime Series

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As long-time readers of my blog will be aware, I’m a big fan of Mark Ellis’ Frank Merlin series, which began with Stalin’s Gold, continued with Prince’s Gate, and moved on to Merlin At War, which is where we pick up from in the latest part of the saga, A Death In Mayfair.

Set slightly later in the Second World War, Ellis’ latest novel touches on Pearl Harbour, the cinema scene at the time and London’s gangs, who emerged during the Blitz and become key players in the city’s criminal underworld.

Like I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of historical crime fiction. Or at least I wasn’t, until I read Mark Ellis’ books.

Ever since I’ve come to look out for crime fiction novels set during the Second World War, although I’ve never found any other writer who can hold a candle to him in terms of characterisation, recreating war torn London and generally just keeping me hooked until the very end.

As such, I was excited to read this latest novel and find out what’s in store for Merlin and London, which plays as a big a role as any character in Ellis’ work.

We return to the tales of Frank Merlin, Scotland Yard’s finest, right after he becomes a father for the first time with his new wife, whom we’ve already met as his girlfriend in previous books.

Sonia and the baby are out of London visiting her parents, so readers get the Detective Chief Inspector all to ourselves. He’s just nabbed a couple of heavies from an important gang in a raid, but his good luck is interrupted when the powers that be order him to investigate the death of film star Laura Curzon.

This beautiful starlet had just returned from Hollywood when she fell to her death from the balcony of her flat. Merlin is ordered by on high to investigate, whilst also dealing with the corpse of a mystery young girl found in a bombed building who was strangled before being preserved in the ruins of the property.

The two cases quickly become connected, and in the course of his investigations Merlin and his team encounter everything from corrupt Hollywood bigwigs through to child prostitution, black mass and beyond.

Somehow, despite all of those interlinking ideas and various plot strands, Ellis masterfully keeps A Death In Mayfair’s readers hooked throughout. The plot moves at a quick pace, but it’s surprisingly easy to keep up with everything that’s going on.

One of the main reasons for this is Ellis’ exceptional characterisation, which is once again the defining feature of his work. Each character has been meticulously defined, but without dumping info on the reader all at once. Somehow you just connect with the characters, and that’s a rare achievement for a writer.

The only issue I have is with the dialogue, which in places is patchy. Other than that, the novel is enlightening and fascinating, showing readers a unique glimpse into war torn London at a time when relations in Asia and closer to home, in Germany, were strained and when Britain was blighted by rationing and other social problems.

It’s also a thrilling police procedural, with Merlin and his ever-intrepid team working doggedly to uncover several mysteries, all of which quickly intertwine to become one big tangle of criminality, debt, drugs and general debauchery.

To summarise, if you’re looking for an enticing novel to get you through the bleakness of the end of an English winter, then look no further than A Death In Mayfair. Mark Ellis has once again created an intriguing mystery that will have you hooked.

 

 

5 Great Books To Read If You Want To Learn More About Donald Trump

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As the world girds its loins in anticipation of a potential third World War thanks to the American President’s recent act of terrorism against Iran, which saw him order commander Qassem Soleimani to be killed, you might want to learn more about the man responsible.

Whilst checking out his Twitter account might be an idea, he’s renowned for exaggerating, bending the truth and, quite frankly, outright lying.

So, how can you find out more about the man behind the madness? Reading books by those who’ve studied him and the way he behaves, both as a business leader and a President is probably the best way. As such, here are five of the best books out there on the Donald.

5. A Warning: Written by an anonymous person who claims to be a ‘senior Trump administration official’, this expose is filled with shocking insights into the way the 45th President runs his version of the White House. Expanding on an article published in the New York Times previously, the book goes into detail on the way that America is being led, and it’s pretty scathing. An eye opening read for those who want to find out more about what goes on inside the Trump administration (spoiler alert: not a lot, and not very quickly).

4. A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership: The memoir of former FBI director James Comey, this book shares a lot of Comey’s personal experienced working alongside the Trump administration. Appointed by Barack Obama, the revered Lawyer was sacked by Trump for failing to do his bidding and back down on his quest to find and showcase the truth about Russia’s interference in the election that had won the President his seat. As such, his book gives an honest and open account of the Presidents that Comey has served under, in his varied roles, and paints a portrait of Trump as the most shambolic and corrupt of the lot of them.

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3. It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America: You might already have realised by now that Trump’s policies, such as his family separation, concentration camps on the Mexican border and his revoking of many funding options for lower-income American families, will have a lasting impact on the country and the world. However, you might not understand the full extent of what Trump and his handpicked cronies are doing. If you want to find out more, then David Cay Johnston’s book is the perfect read for you. It shines a light on exactly what’s going on and the lasting legacy of hurt that Trump’s policies and actions will have on the American legal, justice, political and economic systems. From the climate to his border wall and everything in between, the book is a no-holds-barred showcase of all the damage that Trump’s White House is causing.

2. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House: An explosive book when it first came out in 2018, Michael Wolff’s expose on the Trump administration remains relevant and important reading to this very day. As a journalist, Wolff was given unprecedented access to lawmakers, governors and others within Trump’s inner circle, and he details all the revelations they offered to him in horrifying detail. From the President’s disinterest in his work, through to his nepotism and bullying leadership tactics, it’s all laid out so you can see the stark reality of what is happening to America if you read this gripping book.

1. Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump: Revered Sports Writer Rick Reilly explores how the way that Trump plays, and lies about playing, golf, shows a lot about who he is, both as a man and a leader. Interviewing some of the best golfers, course managers, tournament organisers, fans and caddies in the industry, Reilly paints a picture of a chaotic man who tries to control the narrative even when simply playing golf. Trump’s intriguing relationship with the game is shown in harrowing detail, and the book highlights just how deceitful, dishonest and disconnected the President really is.