Monday, 29 February 2016

Book Review: The Deadliest Bite by Jennifer Rardin (Jaz Parks #8)

I have two choices. Carve Brude's name into Hell's bile-encrusted gates. Or lose my soul.

After an assassination attempt on Vayl, I find myself pulled into a tangled web that takes the gang to Romania. So how will I save a ghost, rescue a demon, and cheat the Great Taker out of a soul he's slavering for while defeating my nastiest foe yet so that Vayl can, at last, cherish a few precious years with his sons? With careful planning, major violence, and one (hopefully) final trip to Hell.

My Review:
So to the final book of the series. I have to admit that overall I'm pleased that it has come to an end as it was very hit and miss in places. This book was much better than the previous book which was a major relief. There is nothing worse than sticking with a series to the end and it going out like a damp squib!

Vayl and Jaz are trying to have a fun filled vacation which of course is ruined by the attempted assassination of Vayl by a young assassin. Cassandra thinks that Aaron is the reincarnated soul of one of Vayl's sons and thinks that they need to identify the other quickly in case that is another assassin. When they discover that Vayl's other son is about to be killed in a bike stunt gone wrong, they need to intervene and stop him being sent to hell. Only then can they concentrate on saving Jaz who only has days left before she is doomed.

I'm pretty sick by now of the saga of Vayl's bloody sons. It has contributed nothing to the overall plot of the series and proves to be a distraction from more interesting plots. Thankfully, I was able to put up with it here knowing that there will be a resolution to it in some way. Cole is still suffering the after effects of his demon possession but is cheered to know that his soulmate will be the niece of Jaz. OK that seemed a bit Twilight book 4 plot alert to me and I'm not greatly convinced by the idea. Mind you at least he is no longer obsessing about Jaz. Took long enough for it to sink in.

The star of this book is Bergman! He gets to show real bravery in the face of evil and it was so great to see him get that moment of glory. He is the only smart enough to notice, like me, that Cassandra is pregnant. Everyone else must be pretty dumb not to have spotted it because it was so obvious! Jack is totally brilliant as usual and should get his own spin off series! I also quite liked Helena's story which had a group wrap up.

It is a complex plot which has everyone getting ready for a trip to hell so that Jaz can carve Brude's name into Hell's gate to escape a grim fate and lose her soul. It was an interesting plot with plenty of action and tension as they have several things to overcome. It was a decent end to the series and everything was solved in a pretty satisfactory manner. I did enjoy a lot of the series but at times I just wanted more from it. At least it was finished well which was the main thing.  

Read January 2015
star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png

Book Review: Bitten In Two by Jennifer Rardin (Jaz Parks #7)

Jaz. Is. Pissed. She and Vayl had been operating like a couple of finely carved gears…until now. Just as they’re arriving in Morocco to secure an ancient artifact that must carve the name of Jaz’s possessor into the gates of hell if he’s to be vanquished, Vayl wakes up calling Jaz by another woman’s name. And it’s not even a good one. But since any form of argument transforms Vayl into an unholy terror, Jaz is forced to play along until she and the gang can figure out what kind of power has so vastly altered his perceptions.

My Review:
On arriving in Morocco to find the weapon needed to save Jaz from demonic possession, Vayl suddenly loses his memory and believes it to be 1777. He thinks that Jaz is his housekeeper and Miles is his female ward which does not please either of them. They have to pretend to go along with it so they don't upset Vayl, while they watch him drink from humans and try to find Seers to help him locate his sons.

Oh FFS seriously? The series was back on track with two good books and then we go off on a pointless crap story again. We are back to the plot from book 3 with Vayl's obsession over his sons taking over everything and causing angst for Jaz. The author seemed determined to continually spoil the series by ruining Jaz and Vayl's relationship again. For the first half of the book Vayl is behaving badly and the others are pretending to be servants which is boring and frustrating. There was nothing of interest in that part of the story! Even the flashback scenes added nothing to the plot. Basically the plot stops moving until Vayl gets his memory back and then we finally get on with saving Jaz. So annoying!

There were a few good things which kept me from throwing the book out of the window. Bergman gets a woman at last and it is a very funny relationship! Yousef is just brilliant and I really loved the guy. Pity we can't have him instead of Cole...Finally Vayl gets his memory back and the plot resumes. The second half of the book is an improvement over the first but overall it wasn't a great addition to the series.

Read January 2015 
star rating photo: Three Star Rating 3stars.png

Book Review: Bite Marks by Jennifer Rardin (Jaz Parks #6)

Jaz Parks here. But I'm not alone. I'm hearing voices in my head - and they're not mine.

The problem, or maybe the solution, is work. And the job's a stinker this time -- killing the gnomes that are threatening to topple NASA's Australian-based space complex. Yeah, I know. Vayl and I should still be able to kick this one in our sleep. Except that Hell has thrown up a demon named Kyphas to knock us off track. And damn is she indestructible!

My Review:
Again this was a better adventure which I was pleased about and the entire team is back together AT LAST which I'd been hoping for. Gnomes in a cult in Australia worship their God on Saturn and are getting annoyed at NASA messing with its rings and decide to destroy the program. The team are sent to investigate so the last thing they need is Jaz being possessed and Cassandra's demon locating her at last.

I so much liked the cult of gnomes story. OK so it sounds a bit dumb but it was a fun idea and better than some what happened in books 3 and 4. This book had plenty action scenes and daft humour which the series was in need of I think. I liked Bergman's new smart cat robot invention which leads to some amusing scenes with it and Jack. I also liked seeing Raoul's obsession with train sets which gave him a bit more of a human side. Readers have had mixed views about the voices in Jaz's head but I found thatr Granny May in particular was pretty funny. There was also a shocking and unexpected twist that took me by surprise but I won't spoil the book by talking about it.

*sigh* Why does Cole even exist? I thought all that crap with him chasing Jaz was over with in the last book but no, he's still trying to win her away from Vayl. Look you dumb muppet, it's never going to happen so leave the girl alone! Seriously he is like a deranged stalker and if I was Jaz I'd be reporting him for sexual harrassment. He drives me round the bend. I hate Cole so much and I'm fed up with him. Can't he just die or something? The other annoying thing was Jaz refusing to tell everyone the rather important detail about being possessed. You are working with a team of paranormal experts Jaz so for once in your dumb life, let them help!

Despite Cole, this was another good book and it was great to have Cassandra and Bergman back at last. Why can't we have them instead of Cole spoiling things? Grrr. Or have Albert on the team again! Albert and the gnomes had so much potential in my head! Anyway, a good story to enjoy as we go into the last two books in the series.

Read January 2015 
star rating photo: 4-5 star rating 4-5stars.jpg

Book Review: One More Bite by Jennifer Rardin (Jaz Parks #5)

It's Jaz Parks. I've already smoked the guy who was the pain in the CIA's you-know-what for the past few years. But now, in the power vacuum left by the death of Edward "The Raptor" Samos, a struggle for supremacy has begun between his former allies.

The CIA feels the balance must be maintained. So when an agent planted among the Weres discovers a plot to assassinate the Coven's leader, my vampire boss and I are brought in to take out the woman hired to do the deed, a killer who might be as wily and Gifted as ourselves.

So it's off to the Scottish Highlands for some twisted fun among murderers, demons and half-crazed relatives. Sometimes being a top-secret CIA assassin isn't all it's cracked up to be.

My Review:
When this book started, I was already wondering what had happened to the series as I had loved the first two books and had not enjoyed the next two offerings. Thankfully this was a much better story.

A were assassin is planning to kill a coven leader which could start a supernatural war and Jaz and the team are sent in to stop it happening. They go undercover as ghost hunting experts at a big convention where they expect the assassin to strike. Jaz and Vayl also have to try and repair their relationship under extreme pressure and that is not easy when working with Cole and Albert.

One of the things I most enjoyed about this book was finally having a book set in Scotland where we are not portayed as a bunch of miserable tightwads living in a wet, cold and dreary climate. I was pleased that the author avoided this dreadful book cliche about my country! The storyline itself was interesting with the events around the guesthouse and the convention. The ghost groper incident was quite funny and I wanted Jaz to just shoot the idiot! She deserves to have some fun after all! Another plus point is that all the stupid angst we have had to endure between Vayl and Jaz was finally sorted...yea! I think we've all been wanting the two of them to sort themselves out at last!

Another plus point that I wasn't expecting was the grumpy bugger moments featuring Albert! He is driving Jaz mad on the flight over and I'm surprised that she didn't actually attack him. He continues to cause her angst through the mission with his grumpy and stubborn attitude and it does add a nice bit of humour to the plot. He is much more interesting than the blandness that is Dave. More Albert please!

There just had to be one thing to spoil the book and that was the continued immaturity from the idiot that is also known as Cole. What the hell is wrong with this guy? How many times does Jaz have to tell him that she isn't interested in him? How many times does she make it clear that she loves Vayl? Why can't he get it through his thick skull? He acts like a sulky five year old when he can't get her attention. He goes in a mood when he can't force her to fall in love with him. Yet he keeps making the sexual comments and trying to undermine her relationship with Vayl and the whole mission. It takes 194 pages before he starts to finally get the message! I hate him so much. When we first met him he was a funny and intelligent man who joins the CIA and now he is a whiny and immature moron.

Still overall it was a good book if you could forget about Cole. Hopefully this means an overall upswing for the series in the last three books!

Read January 2015 
star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png

Book Review: Annapurna by Maurice Herzog

Before Everest, there was Annapurna. Maurice Herzog led an expedition of French climbers to the summit of this 26,000-foot Himalayan peak in 1950. At the time of the assault, it was the highest mountain ever climbed, a remarkable feat in itself made all the more remarkable by the fact that it had never previously been charted. Herzog and his team not only had to climb the darn thing, they had to find the route. As riveting as the tale of the ascent remains nearly half a century later, the story of the descent through virtually unsurvivable--think avalanche and frostbite, for starters--conditions is unforgettable. Herzog's masterful account, finally back in print, is a monument of courage and spirit, an epic adventure excitingly told.

My Review:
I have never climbed a mountain in my life-never really felt the urge to climb anything except the stairs in my house! But I do love reading about expeditions and this is without doubt one of the best. There is so much detail about getting ready for the trip, the trek to the mountains, the climb and then trying to trek back out. It really was a dramatic read.

It starts with the arrival in India and being held up at customs for two days as they are cheerfully told by staff 'Your equipment can all be impounded for the duration of your expedition. It will come to no harm!' Um yeah, not very handy when you actually need all these things to do the climb! That was a bizarre start to the trip! They then have to trek across India and into Nepal to have a look at the first mountain they are considering-Dhaulagiri. They spend a lot of time assessing the mountain from all sides before deciding it is too difficult. Instead they go looking for Annapurna. Due to the poor quality of their maps and cloudy days, they cannot find it. It takes days of trekking to find the correct area and more time to find a route to the mountain itself.

So much time has been wasted that they now have 12 days until the monsoon rains are expected so they have to get all their camps on the mountain fully stocked and get the climbers to the summit and back within this time window. Modern expeditions would probably never have attempted this and I was knackered just reading about it! The men had to take huge loads up the mountain with only overnight rests and no real time to rest and recover in between. It hardly helped that fresh snowfalls meant breaking trail every day and I'm shocked that they actually continued with the mad plan! Already suffering from cold feet, Herzog and Lachenal decide to make a summit bid.

What follows is a shocking tale of frostbite, open air biovack, snow blindness, getting lost, avalanches, horrific medical procedures that I don't even want to THINK about ie arterial and groin injections that had men screaming in agony and amputations without painkillers, and then the long trek back to get help in dreadful weather and life endangering conditions. It really was a shocking story and why people put themselves through these things to climb is beyond me! The detail of the medical side had me cringing. I just can't imagine what these guys were thinking and feeling. *shudder*

When you read about these early expeditions where they have to trek to the mountains, you actually wonder how any of them had the strength to climb when they got there. They don't have all the high tech equipment and help that is available now to make things a bit easier. These men really achieved amazing things with what was available to them and I do salute their courage, even if I think they are a bit bananas!

This is a fascinating read and it really shows you what happens on a climb where everything seems to be conspiring against the climbers. Highly recommended to fans of mountain climbing books.
star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Book Review: Holding On by Jo Gambi

Being the first married couple to complete the 'seven summits', Rob and Jo Gambi's story is interesting given that Rob has twice suffered from serious bouts of cancer - and once came very close to death stranded high in the Himalayas. The cancer has not stopped them from living life with an incredible intensity.

My Review:
Rob has recovered from cancer when he meets Jo but when it returns, painful treatment takes its toll and he and Jo decide to take time away from work to travel and spend more time together while he is in remission. The insane idea of doing the Seven Summits occurs-climbing the highest mountain on each continent. On a training climb in Nepal, Rob takes ill and is in danger of dying as they first cannot get a weather window to get him off the mountain and secondly, conditions and staff at the hospital are shocking. Reading about nurses assaulting Rob as he resists treatment with unsterile equipment, random strangers wandering in to gawp at him, filthy conditions, cleaners doing medical procedures and Jo standing guard to fend off the determined nurses is pretty horrific!

They start their task with Denali, which has weather conditions that I'd never want to experience. The hairy flight in, dragging sledges packed with gear across snow hiding huge crevasses, sickness, biting winds, sub zero temperatures, a mountain from hell to I don't think it is my idea of fun! Only a lucky break in the weather brings them success. They follow with trips to Africa, Antartica (with a guide who has no polar experience), a hike to the South Pole,, then off to Argentina.

Seriously, I don't know where they got the strength to do this in such a short space of time, pushing Rob's health to the limit. I can understand why friends and family thought they weren't having enough rest time in between. Seven weeks after Argentina, they arrive at Everest. The description of that brutal climbing season was not for the fainthearted. Madness and summit fever have usually sensible people ready to kill themselves to get to the top. Jo's account of the struggle is pretty grim and I can't say that I wanted to switch places with her.

This was a good book. The health struggles and the tough tasks that they set for themselves were fascinating to read about, even if I thought they were a bit mad at times. I hope that Rob is still in remission after all of his cancer treatments as they were a really nice couple.
star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png

Book Review: FIVA by Gordon Stainforth

In 1969, teenage twin brothers Gordon and John Stainforth set out from their home in Hertfordshire, England, to climb the highest rock face in Europe — Norway’s Troll Wall. The route they targeted is called “Fiva” (pronounced “fever”). Poor judges of their own abilities, experience, and gear, they began the climb convinced they would return to their tent in time for afternoon tea.

Within hours of starting the route, things went terribly wrong. Fiva is the story that Gordon Stainforth lived to tell, 40 years later. While it’s a tale that climbers will embrace, the adventure is one that all readers of non-fiction adventure will enjoy and find absorbing. It’s a story of innocence, brotherly love, youthful folly, and of danger, danger, and more danger.

My Review:
This was a typical example of a couple of over-confident and underprepared idiots who almost got killed on an 'adventure'. The levels of sheer stupidity in this book are mindblowing!

-setting off on a climb with a couple of cheese sandwiches and chocolate bars
-no emergency rations
-limited pegs for climbing
-relying on a few lines in a guidebook to 'plan' your attempt on a climb you've never done
-not paying attention to markers and signs so continually having to retrace steps and going the wrong way countless times
-no breakfast before starting the climb

If all that wasn't bad enough, when one has an accident and breaks his knee, do they turn back? No of course not, they decide to climb on to the summit with no food and we have to put up with the idiot moaning and complaining non stop about the agony he was in from the injury. I had no sympathy at all for him as he brought all his misery on himself.

The injured one got on my nerves all through the book with his constant whining. Ooh I'm in pain, I'm hungry, I'm cold, I'm lost blah blah blah. Well if you had went properly prepared and equipped and shown a bit of common sense, none of the bad things would have happened. He was constantly imagining that the walls were alive and mocking him and he was holding strange conversations with them and swearing constantly at them. Seriously weird! We get 100 descriptions about how evil he thinks the place is: Troll's Arse, Troll Buggers, Troll King, Hall of the Mountain Troll, Giant Peak of the Trolls,Herr Troll...he's obsessed with damn trolls and I found this way beyond annoying. I wanted to FEED him to a TRoll by the end of it.

And of course The Trolls were answering him with insults like blundering piddlers, and he was going on about English pixies, flushing toilets and trouser wetting. I mean seriously, what the hell is this idiot author talking about? It was confused and baffling crap! Add in his so called witty soundbites and jokes, and the use of derogatory words for the physically impaired and I wanted to kill him. I did NOT find it amusing to describe himself as climbing like a spastic. The author frankly comes across as rude, self obsessed and moronic.

I don't recommend this rubbish to anyone.
star rating photo: 1 star orange-1star.jpg

Book Review: On Top of the World by Rebecca Stephens

My Review:
Frankly I found the author to be somewhat arrogant, self obsessed, unpleasant and whiny. She gets herself onto an Everest expedition as a journalist and very amateur climber and frankly, she should never have been there. Her attitude to training, climbing and other people is totally wrong and it is an insult to proper female British climbers that this woman was the first to climb Everest. It was certainly not deserved.

As the expedition is prepared, Rebecca ignores all advice for training with heavy bags on hillwalking climbs and prepares by climbing the escalators in the London Underground plus 15 minutes on step machines. No I'm not kidding. Her lazy response to why she isn't training hard is 'there are no hills in Fulham'. Funny. Is it any wonder the other climbers thought that Rebecca and her friends were a bunch of clowns? On the expedition, she is bored by the mountain talk (?), doesn't realise that the 4000 foot climb up to advanced base camp is vertical (it's a MOUNTAIN, of course you go UP to get higher, you dumbass) and then slags off the Base Camp cook for being a 20 stone vegetarian. Cheeky bitch. I swear she needs a good slap.

She then manages to get frostbite on her finger in the Icefall at the bottom of the mountain because she didn't put on her proper gloves for the trip, then sulks about it back in her tent. It turns out that Rebecca has used a jumar once and other members of the team have never seen one-what are these idiots doing on a serious Everest climb and HOW did they all make it out of there alive? People like this should never be let near Everest as they are a danger to themselves and others, especially the Sherpas who are expected to save them from disaster.

This book will encourage others with no skill to try and follow her example. I dread to think. It was sheer luck and excellent Sherpas that got her up and down safely, nothing more and I certainly see no need to applaud her for that.
star rating photo: Two Star Rating 2stars.png

Book Review: The Flame of Adventure by Simon Yates

My Review:
Simon talks about some of the climbs that he has done and his new experience of Russian snow holes that can house dozens of climbers, and the dodgy safety equipment they were using. He talks about meeting Joe Simpson and dealing with the attention after Joe's infamous accident, climbing in Pakistan with a dodgy stomach and tackling the North Face of the Eiger.

While I enjoy his climbing tales, I do find Simon and his friends to be reckless and careless about their health, and with safety issues. The Dangerous Eating Game was designed to see who would get sick after eating at filthy street stalls. The lack of basic hygience led to hepatitus and losing the chance to climb Makalu with some top climbers. They do things on the cheap, never prepare properly so they always forget something vital and behave like utter idiots.

Mark is reckless and selfish, never pulling his weight, causing injury to others and getting beaten up by taxi drivers because he has no money to pay the fares. I hate people who act like that. He was trying to cheat the taxi driver out of what was owed to him-the guy has a living to make and shouldn't be treated that way by arrogant Brits who think they can do what they like. Simon is just plain rude, barking orders at people in Thailand as if he is something special to be obeyed, then moaning that the people there are not to his taste because they expect to receive polite requests instead. Yeah, another example of British arrogance towards others.

As I said I like the climbing stories but I don't like the writer and his friends much so I'll be giving future books by him a miss.
star rating photo: Three Star Rating 3stars.png

Book Review: Secrets of the Street by Lynne Perrie

My Review:
Lynne Perrie tells her story as if she is sitting with you in the pub and just having a chat and sharing stories. She is a fun storyteller with no concern over her language, story content or attempts to edit it to make it less offensive. That is why I liked the book so much-it really was warts and all with all the details. I prefer this in a memoir as I see little point than reading an edited version of the persons life!

Her relationship with her husband is certainly unconventional and she doesn't hold back on what she sees as his faults-being tight with money, never showing her affection, refusing to live with her in Manchester when she was on Corrie, having little sex drive. Lynne on the other hand freely admits to all her faults-infidelity, wasting money, alcohol problems, prescription drugs addiction, domestic violence, not being there enough for her family. At times they really seemed to hate each other yet neither asked for a divorce and Lynne admits that they do love each other in their own strange way. There really are some bizarre moments between the two of them over the years. Lynne does say that Derrick was an excellent agent and would ferry her around to gigs, enjoying being slagged off in her comedy routines.

She doesn't hold back when talking about her countless affairs and the man she wanted to leave Derrick for. She admits to having affairs with Coronation Street co-stars but does not name those involved to respect their privacy. The details are quite shocking when she talks about her sex life as you still her see as the straight laced Ivy from Corrie in your head! It was certainly entertaining and a few of her conquests are household names. Lynne also admits that when her father refused to let her marry DErrick, she got pregnant just to force him to give his blessing.

Her adventures in Africa on the Cabaret circuit were very funny. Her story of Chick Murray's attempt at seduction, getting arrested for persuading a black hotel worker to use the white only lift, running screaming from the toilet with her knickers round her ankles at a party because of huge spiders roaming the bathroom, being tricked into sitting on an ostrich egg to get it to hatch and trying to watch the moon landings with a pair of binoculars as she had no TV! I liked the story of when she asked the black houseboy if he would call his employers if there was an uprising and he responded 'No no madam I couldn't do that. I kill the family next door and their boy kills everyone here.' You don't know how to react to that!

Lynne talks in detail about her Corrie co-stars. Her friendships with Pat Phoenix, Johnny Briggs, Charlie Lawson, Anne Kirkbride, Julie Goodyear, Jill Summers etc. Her uneasy relationship with Geoff Hinsliff began on the first day when he told her she was too old to be his wife and he looked down on anyone not classically trained. Her friendship with Liz Dawn was up and down due to some rivalry between then and Lynne thinking that Liz was always trying to copy her. She talks about the young actors like Warren Jackson and Chloe Newsome needing sorted out, Bill Roache being a ladykiller, the jealousy aimed at Julie Goodyear as she took over the Rovers, Simon Gregson's issues adjusting to fame, Bill Waddington's penny pinching and her own position as the gossip hound of the Street.

Lynne talks about how lonely she was on her own, living in a small place near the studio, and getting drunk most nights in the pub that the cast went to. For all her problems with her husband you can see that she wanted him there. I liked what she said about Charlie Lawson always ensuring that she got home safely after a drinking session and that Johnny Briggs, also lonely on set was a platonic friend she could always count on. She is also open about her decision to have plastic surgery and why she was really sacked from Corrie.

This book is full of drama, shocks and a lot of laughs! It was one of the best memoirs that I've read and I recommend it to Corrie fans and those who like interesting memoirs.
star rating photo: 4-5 star rating 4-5stars.jpg

Reading with Chuckles

I have renamed my TBR Reading Challenge and changed it back to Reading with Chuckles as it sounds better, especially at times when I have no specific challenge running. So this is where I'll share what I read and abandoned each week, and I'll give the odd update on the state of my poor TBR! It does suffer at times...! The link under the book takes you to the Goodreads page for that book so you can decide whether to read it, and see my reviews when they are posted.

This was Prepper Week at The Book Cave, where I looked books with a disaster theme that were meant to have preppers in it. Turns out that not every one had preppers in it but all disasters count for this week's theme so I'm happy. I got a lot of reading done and that always helps the tbr-until I add the next pile to my Goodreads page! Anyway here is my progress for this week!


Boyd Craven III-The World Bleeds 

Boyd Craven III-Cries of the World 

Boyd Craven III-The World Cowers 

Chad Evercroft-0600 

Chad Evercroft-Prepping for the Unknown 

James Hunt-Static 

Bobby Andrews-Prepper's Crucible 2 

Bobby Andrews-Prepper's Crucible 3 

Bobby Andrews-Prepper's Crucible 4 

Bobby Andrews-Prepper's Crucible 5 

Chris Harris-UK Dark 

Arthur T Bradley-Prepper's Instruction Manual 


Chad Evercroft-No Tomorrow 

James Hunt-World War IV 

James Hunt-GMO

Kirk Allmond-What Zombies Fear

Paul Grzegorzek-Flare

Jeffrey B Thomas-A Living Train in a Dead City

Jeffrey Littorno-The Most Uncommon Cold

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Stacking the Shelves #123

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks! Click on the link under the book to find its page on Goodreads or Smashwords. 

Please note that I always leave a message on your STS/SP if you visit me, but if you use DISQUS or a similar third party I will not be able to leave a comment on your page. I don't allow any company access to my social media accounts and I certainly don't allow them to edit and take over my accounts. So if you use DISQUS, I can't visit you! And sometimes, I have problems leaving messages on blogs hosted by Wordpress so you might get a double message sometimes! Blame them, not me!
Another week has gone by without me getting much done. I spent the second half of the week with a bad stomach so there was no homemade soup or much housework getting done! I didn't get any films watched on Sunday as an alarm on someone's house was screaming its head off for nearly 12 hours without a break and driving me nuts. I couldn't hear the TV for the noise so film night was cancelled! I did manage to keep reading though, as well as watching reruns of Robot Wars. How I wish Craig Charles was going to host the new version of the show-it won't be the same without him! Anyway on the reading front it was Prepper and Disaster Week so there were preppers and EMPS and zombies etc! Lovely! I haven't decided yet if I'm having a theme for next week or just a 'whatever I feel like' week. I'll decide on that tomorrow.

I bought a few Prepper books that I read and enjoyed during my themed weeks so a couple of them arrived this week. As I included them when I got the ereader copies, I'm not adding them to my STS but it was books by Boyd Craven III and Darrell Maloney. I did get a few new ones though which was exciting. On the download side of things, I'm still uploading books I grabbed several weeks ago. I picked by a couple of new ones this week by Boyd Craven III in the series of his that I've enjoyed so that should keep me happy!




Friday, 26 February 2016

Book Review: Jack Duckworth And Me by Bill Tarmey

Actor Bill Tarmey is best known as Jack Duckworth, one of the UK's best-loved soap characters. Bill grew up in post-war Manchester, began a career in the building trade, but a love of singing drew him to the entertainment business. By the late 1960s he was established on the northern Working Men's Club circuit and also doing part-time work as a TV 'extra'. He was spotted as one of the crowd in the Rover's Return pub on the set of Coronation Street and soon offered the role of Jack to on-screen wife Vera, which he has played for 31 years. He retires from the show in December 2010.

My Review:
When you hear the cast who worked with talk about Bill Tarmey, they always talk fondly of what a lovely man he was, and that is exactly what you think when you read this book. He does sound like an honest, decent and caring human being, who was totally devoted to first love and wife Ali.

The book covers his early life, trying to make ends meet to provide the money to marry Ali, who he felt was out of his league in every way. He gets involved in singing in clubs and makes a living from that and work as an extra on TV. It was during these appearances as an extra on Coronation Street-remember the man who once dropped the bar hatch on Ernie Bishop's hand?-that he was spotted and brought in as the husband of Vera Duckworth.

Bill goes into a lot of detail about his years on Corrie, including a year by year update about what was happening to the Duckworths. It was actually very sad to read about the filming of his and Vera's on screen deaths and the effects that it had on everyone involved. He talks about his protests to Brian Park for the spate of sackings he brought in. He was angry that Kevin Kennedy was sacked because the writers couldn't think up a story for his character Curly, which he thought was totally crazy when these people are paid to think up stories.

His on set stories are funny. He first appeared as Jack at Gail and Brian Tilsley's wedding, and Liz Dawn who plays Vera stood too close to a heater between takes and set her dress on fire. His first filming with Liz ends with them on the ground and him slapping her bum to get the flames out! That would've been pretty funny to watch! It's no surprise that it started one of the funniest partnerships ever seen on Corrie.

Bill went through some very scary health scares with his heart, on one occasion being saved by a friend getting him medical help. Sadly that ill health finally caused the death of the actor. He was a great character and a lovely man from all accounts which is a good legacy to have.
star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png

Book Review: Just Julie by Julie Goodyear

For twenty-five years, Julie Goodyear became part of everyone's family when she played Bet Lynch, the loveable brassy barmaid of the Rovers Return in Coronation Street.  

Julie's father walked out on the family soon after her birth, so, she was brought up by her mother and stepfather. At just thirteen, Julie had to deal with her beloved grandmother's death when she was found in a canal. Julie fell pregnant at sixteen, marrying Ray Sutcliffe. The marriage lasted three years. 

In 1966, Julie made a six-week appearance in Coronation Street as Bet Lynch from Elliston's Raincoat Factory, a role which made her Britain's best-loved barmaid. In 1996, she was awarded an OBE. Julie's much anticipated autobiography reveals, for the first time and with incredible candour, the truth, sadness and spirit behind this larger than life woman.

My Review:
It was horrific about her experience of having a baby with that bitch of a nurse humiliating and assaulting her. That seriously evil witch should never have been in charge of a ward, causing fear and misery, mistreating patients and babies alike. I'd never read anything like it! Having to crawl around the floor under the beds to sneak some time with her own child? Being abandoned after the delivery and left untreated and having to be rescued later by a doctor? Our NHS now has problems at times but I seriously hope that things like this are not happening. Julie was (reluctantly) married at the time yet was abused for being 'that sort of girl' who would amount to nothing. I think my favourite part of the book was when Julie sees that nurse again on a ward at the height of her Corrie fame...!

Julie is open about her bisexual relationships throughout the book and this was common knowledge in the media through her career so I knew about some of what she had to say. I was pretty shocked when her partner of four years decided to abandon her on the eve of her cancer surgery, only to come back after it was all over and expecting to pick up where they left off. Nice woman that! The time you need the support of your loved ones is times of stress and illness and I know myself what it feels like to be abandoned. I really felt for Julie. It was also horrible to see the way the press behaved when her mother was dying, trying to get a photo of the poor woman. To have these lowlifes yelling through the letterbox to give them the photo so they could all go home was shocking, but not a great surprise.

I don't actually remember the fraud trial that Julie had to endure. What is it they say, no good deed goes unpunished? Well that was certainly true here. Julie wanted to see better screening for cancer and was raising money through a charity set up in her name. When people involved in the charity were accused of fraud, she was dragged into it. Despite it being obvious that she had done nothing wrong, it was when when Julie found out who her true friends were. Close friends vanished when she was accused and then crawled back a year later when she was cleared. Yeah it's always lovely to have friends that shaft you like that.

There is also good humour in the book, like the time that she was trying to knee Denis Thatcher in the privates at a Downing Street party for touching her breast! In fact, Julie tells her story with a lot of humour and emotion which makes it a really good read. I'd recommend it for Corrie fans and those who like a good memoir.
star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png

Book Review: It's Not A Rehearsal by Amanda Barrie

Born Shirley Broadbent, Amanda Barrie has been working since she was three. She has performed on stage countless times, from chorus girl to West End lead, appeared in a number of films and has been a familiar face on television from its earliest beginnings. In this autobiography, Amanda recounts anecdotes from her packed professional life, including her famous roles in "Carry On Cleo", as Alma in "Coronation Street" and conwoman Bev in "Bad Girls". She also reflects, with characteristic humour, on events in her personal life including her disrupted childhood, disastrous school life and her relationships with men and women including the remarkable threesome that she shared with her husband Robin Hunter.

My Review:
What a fascinating woman Amanda Barrie is! I've known her work from Carry On Cleo and Coronation Street and her own story has more shocks and scandals than a soap script!

I knew from the media that she was bisexual but I had no idea of the struggle she had through the years with her sexuality. It must have been tough for a lot of celebrities in the public eye to keep their private lives private for fear of destroying their careers. Amanda is blunt about her horrific eating disorders, her mental breakdowns, her dyslexia, her body image issues and her drug habit. How she managed to stay alive to make it into Coronation Street is a mystery to me.

She is more honest than most about who she liked and didn't like from her time on Corrie and she talks openly about the rising workload that the extra episodes brought, leaving many of the cast exhausted. I've always agreed that there are too many episodes a week because of the stupid ratings war. When you watch Corrie from the 1970's the quality is great because there were only two episodes a week. Once they started with four episodes I think many great characters vanished because there was too much stress on the actors. Amanda also talks about her exit from her show and her anger over the storyline. She gave the management notice so that they could construct a good exit but believes it was rushed and medically unrealistic. She also objected to trying to give Alma a romance as she fought cancer. It was interesting to get that insight into the clash between the actress and the producers and scriptwriters.

I also enjoyed a lot of things in the book like the tour of South Africa that she did with her husband in Cabaret. The numbers of ways that she annoyed the Apartheid Government amused me and the efforts she went to in order to do a secret show for a black only audience was great. I really admire a lot of what she has done in her life.

This was a fascinating book on so many levels.
star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png

Book Review: Coronation Street The Inside Story by Bill Podmore

My Review:
I read a lot of biographies of the stars of Coronation Street, hoping to get the behind the scenes gossip about the fights, who got on well and who fought with each other. This is the nearest I have got to that and it was an enjoyable read. Bill talks about his time in charge of Corrie and has strong opinions on the most talked about events, a few of which are below:

1)Peter Adamson (Len Fairclough)-his alcoholism was well known and Corrie stepped in to get him help, which was a great success. He was not sacked for the child abuse allegations which he was cleared of. He had been given warnings for selling stories to the media and was finally sacked for continuing to do so.

2)While the character of Fred Gee was a success, Fred Feast was unpopular with the cast for being rude, arrogant and his wind habits! After badmouthing the cast and management when he left, years later he asked when he was being invited back to Bill's horror!

3)Renee Bradshaw's character was stifling the potential of Alf Roberts when they married and she had to be killed. The hiring of an inexperienced young actress to play Susan Barlow and the relationship with Mike Baldwin was a mistake. Having Eddie Yeats marry was a mistake as it caused the actor to quit.

4)Pat Phoenix was a diva who broke all the rules and had a difficult relationship with Jean Alexander. Pat, Peter Adamson and Barbara Knox were all angry at the storyline of Len marrying Rita as each feared losing screen time. The actress who played Minnie Caldwell had foul mouthed rants when she wasn't happy.

Bill goes into detail about the pay dispute with Stephen Hancock which led to the murder of Ernie Bishop and almost saw the character of Emily axed. He does not paint Stephen as the troublemaker that he was alleged to be in the media so it was nice to see the full story. He talks about how many times Ken Barlow was saved from the axe up to the early 80's. There are other interesting disputes and sackings that are discussed but I don't want to tell you everything and spoil it!

This is a good book for Corrie fans who want a real look behind the scenes.
star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png

Book Review: Keeping the Home Fires Burning by Daran Little

It is 1914 and for fifteen-year-old Ena Scholfield, life will never be the same again. As she joins the waving and cheering crowds, Ena watches childhood pals, workmates, and neighbours proudly marching off to War. Ena's friendship with Mission caretaker Gladys Arkswright brings her into daily contact with the occupants of Coronation Street and she is welcomed into a community bereft of young men, but one where there is never a dull moment. 

Packed full of wartime romance, emotional hardship and resilient humour, "Keeping the Home Fires Burning" embraces all that the show's twenty million fans love about Coronation Street.

My Review:
This is a Coronation Street novel set against the backdrop of World War One and featuring characters from the series when they were much younger.

It follows the life of young Ena (who becomes battleaxe Ena Sharples) as she watches all the men start to leave for war. She feels sympathy for shy Albert Tatlock who has nobody to write to him and she agrees to be his new friend. She finds first love with Phil, nephew of the Mission Hall caretaker Gladys, who takes Ena under her wing. There are also Ena's friends which include sharp tongued Martha and dotty Minnie.

The book does cover a lot of what was happening during the war. The local shopkeeper and his wife are targeted and beaten because she is German and gossips wrongly claim that she is going to poison the customers. This was a really ugly scene in the book which you can imagine did happen to innocent people. There is the pressure being put on men to volunteer and even underage boys are feeling forced to go and sign up in case they are thought of as cowards. The day to day struggles are worsened when the telegrams about the dead and injured from the Street start to get delivered. You just just imagine the terror of seeing the postman stop at your door if your husband and sons are fighting. Every family have relatives or friends who are fighting far from home and they share the delight of letters home and the dread of what could be happening.

Ena is a kind and tolerant young girl who is eager to help people around her. She does not share the wild patriotism of her mother and she is one of many to suffer the grief of losing loved ones. Her friendships with Albert and the married son of a shady doctor, Alfred Sharples, get the tongues wagging around her. Friendships are also tested when the man Minnie loves and wants to marry makes a pass at a horrified Ena, and Martha continues to spread her bile and gossip with little regard for truth or accuracy.

This was an enjoyable book featuring characters we know from the TV series as well as characters that were introduced through various Daran Little books about the Street ie the spiteful and evil Ivy. What is it about that name in Corrie! I recommend it to fans of Corrie, fans of historical fiction and those with an interest in the home lives of those during the war.  
star rating photo: 35 star rating 3-5-stars.jpg

Book Review: Pulling Myself Together by Denise Welch

One of our most popular actresses, Denise Welch got her television break in the BBC's Spender opposite Jimmy Nail and followed it by achieving success in ITVs worldwide hit drama Soldier Soldier. She really became a household name when she took on the role of Rovers Return landlady Natalie Barnes in Coronation Street. Today she stars in the award-winning drama Waterloo Road and is a regular on the hugely popular Loose Women, where her warmth and honesty have won the nation's hearts.

But even as her career was taking off, Denise was hiding a secret—that she was suffering from a crippling post natal depression so severe that she was at times suicidal. As she concealed her heartbreak on the set of Coronation Street, she turned to alcohol and drugs to cope. She even had an affair that threatened her marriage.

Now she reveals for the first time the full details of her battle with depression and alcoholism, how she fought back and, helped by the love of her husband Tim Healy, turned her life around. Powerful and moving, Pulling Myself Together is ultimately an uplifting book that will appeal to her many fans old and new.

My Review:
This was a well written and interesting book which didn't pull any punches and was full of the worst of her behaviour. It seems that some people were shocked by the book because of its content but for me, there is no point in a celebrity biography that misses out the embarrassing or contraversial things. I want to read the full story, not edited highlights. This book certainly provides a lot of detail.

I used to watch Family Affairs and thought that David Easter was seriously hot but Denise is blunt about her destructive relationship with him. I try not to judge when I've only read one half of the story but if what she says is true, I would not have wanted to be in her shoes. She claims that he was a possessive bully and a serial cheat, all of which he has since denied. Her second husband Tim Healy seems to have been the polar opposite and Denise took a long time to really warm to him. He sounds like a decent bloke for the most part.

Denise talks about her battles with depression, which I could very much relate to and I am so grateful that I never went down the road of feeling suicidal. Quite a few of her doctors could have done with a good slap for the way they treated her. Thankfully, healthcare has improved a lot since her treatment and more help is available for depression now. She talks also about her drug taking which I had less sympathy for and her battle with alcohol.

She talks also about her varied career-Byker Grove, Grease stage show, Spender, Soldier Soldier, Coronation Street and Loose Women. How she was able to perform so well in these shows with all her problems is beyond me. The other thing I found interesting was the jealousy shown to her by Robson Green when Simon Cowell was looking to offer her a record deal after seeing her sing on Soldier Soldier. Robson obviously didn't like the idea of anyone stealing his thunder and Simon had to withdraw his offer when Robson threw a tantrum about it.

Interesting book.
star rating photo: Three Star Rating 3stars.png