#BlogTour The Story of John Nightly by Tot Taylor

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour The Story of John Nightly by Tot Taylor.

About the Author

Tot Taylor is a writer, composer, art curator and music producer. He has worked in music, film, theatre and the visual arts since being signed by Island Records while still at school. For the past thirteen years, he has been co-curator of the Riflemaker gallery in Beak Street, Soho, which he co-founded with Virginia Damtsa. Their artists have been featured at Tate Modern, MoMA, the Pompidou Center and Frieze Masters, among others. The Story of John Nightly is his first novel.

Follow @tottaylor1 on Twitter, on Goodreads, on Amazon, Visit tottaylor.comBuy The Story of John Nightly

About the book

The Story of John Nightly is a novel about the nature of creativity – at the level of genius. It mixes real and imagined lives in the tale of a young singer-songwriter.

John Nightly (b. 1948) finds his dimension in pop music, the art form of his time. His solo album becomes the third best-selling record of 1970. But success turns out to have side effects.

After a dazzling career, John renounces his gift, denying music and his very being, until he is rediscovered thirty years later by a teenage saviour dude who persuades him to restore his quasi-proto-multi-media eco-mass, the Mink Bungalow Requiem.

Can John Nightly be brought back to life again?

Review

This magnum opus disappoints most certainly in one aspect, and that is the fictional nature of the main character. It would be the cherry on top of the sundae if Nightly had a factual source – a real person behind the pseudonym of John Nightly. Wonders whether Taylor had a specific person or persons in mind whilst writing this book?

At nearly 900 pages this is one heck of a read. There is no real direction or plot per se. Much like life it’s kind of a let’s deal with each day and situation as it arises. Set in an era and to the backdrop that cemented certain music genres in our minds and in history. The attention to detail and the accurate portrayal of pop-culture is what makes the story flow and it draws the reader in.

My musical upbringing was very much defined by my parents music, who both had very different tastes, although they did agree on the 60s and the Beatles. Long car journeys were enriched by a limited number of eight track cassettes before the more commonly known cassette tape made its appearance. The way the music winds in, out and around the story reminded me of how my own life was set to a background of tunes and lyrics.

In essence it’s about the eccentricity of genius and the way the flame of creativity can burn and engulf someone completely then just fizzle out. What happens when life has only just begun and you can no longer reignite the flame of inspiration?

This is speculative fiction, experimental even in a sense that Taylor bends and snaps the boundaries and known norms of the contemporary read.

Buy The Story of John Nightly at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound Publishing; pub date 19 September 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour The Last Landlady by Laura Thompson

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour The Last Landlady by Laura Thompson. It’s a memoir, a collection of memories, thoughts and impressions of a strong woman in a male dominated world.About the Author

Laura Thompson won the Somerset Maugham award with her first book, The Dogs, and wrote two books about horse racing while living in Newmarket. Her biographical study of Nancy Mitford, Life in a Cold Climate, appeared in 2003 (re-issued 2015) and was followed by a major biography of Agatha Christie. A Different Class of Murder: The Story of Lord Lucan was published in 2014, and 2015’s Take Six Girls: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters was recently sold to television. She lives in Richmond.

Visit Laura’s websiteBuy The Last Landlady

About the book

Laura Thompson’s grandmother Violet was one of the great landladies. Born in a London pub, she became the first woman to be given a publican’s licence in her own name and, just as pubs defined her life, she seemed in many ways to embody their essence.

Laura spent part of her childhood in Violet’s Home Counties establishment, mesmerised by her gift for cultivating the mix of cosiness and glamour that defined the pub’s atmosphere, making it a unique reflection of the national character. Her memories of this time are just as intoxicating: beer and ash on the carpets in the morning, the deepening rhythms of mirth at night, the magical brightness of glass behind the bar…

Through them Laura traces the story of the English pub, asking why it has occupied such a treasured position in our culture. But even Violet, as she grew older, recognised that places like hers were a dying breed, and Laura also considers the precarious future they face.

Part memoir, part social history, part elegy, The Last Landlady pays tribute to an extraordinary woman and the world she epitomised.

Review

This is a very personal story for the author, because it’s the memoir of her grandmother. A grande dame of the English pub. It describes the way Violet fights for her independence in the industry. Not exactly an easy task when you’re a woman trying to succeed and make your mark in a male dominated business.

The book is full of anecdotes and charming stories about Violet and her punters. It’s a little bit like everyone knows Peggy Mitchell (Eastenders) as the epitome of pub landlady. Brash, loud and absolutely in control of everyone in the pub – no matter how drunk or belligerent. It’s as British as it gets.

Thompson veers off quite often into opinions on today’s society and in the era of her grandmother and long before her time. The culture of drink and drunkenness, especially as it pertains to women. How the pub and pub culture as we know it came to be.

It’s not told in a narrative per se or in chronological order, but rather in a series memories, reflections and collection of impressions. Tales of eccentric patrons and amusing situations sometimes make light of how difficult it must have been at times for a woman in Violet’s position.

At times it felt as if the world of Violet was being infused by the thoughts and opinions of Laura, which then made it less of Violet’s memoir and more Laura’s memoir. To be fair the blurb describes it as part memoir, part social history and part elegy.

It’s a memoir, a collection of memories, thoughts and impressions of a strong woman in a male dominated world.

Buy The Last Landlady at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound pub date 5 September 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour The Deaths and Afterlife of Aleister Crowley by Ian Thornton

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour The Deaths and Afterlife of Aleister Crowley. It’s alternate history come historical and biographical fiction.

About the Author

Ian Thornton’s debut novel, The Great and Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms (How One Man Scorched the Twentieth Century, but Didn’t Mean to) was published by Simon & Schuster Canada in September 2013. Harper Collins published worldwide on June 28th 2014 to coincide with the centenary of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the pivot of the novel. It was translated across Europe and taught at the Sorbonne.

Prior to becoming a novelist, Ian worked for Broadcast magazine in London and also for Variety. He is a co-founder of the global television industry publisher, C21 Media and http://www.c21media.net.

He covered the Royal wedding in London for CTV, Canada’s premier independent broadcaster, and has recently written for Wisden Cricketer, The Guardian, The Hindu and for the Soho House magazine, House. He also wrote on the football World Cup in South Africa for the Canadian sports channel, The Score, and has worked for Queen’s University in Ontario, where his project was presented at the White House as part of President Obama’s new media initiative.

Ian is the official biographer of the Compton cricket club in California and has been a judge on the largest Latin American film festival, Expresion en Corto. He is currently producing a feature documentary.

Originally from Leeds, Ian currently resides in Toronto with his wife Heather Gordon and their children, Laszlo and Clementine.

Buy The Deaths and Afterlife of Aleister Crowley

About the book

Aleister Crowley – otherwise known as the Great beast – is one of the most reviled men in history. Satanist, cult leader, debauched novelist and poet, his legacy has been hotly contested for decades.

But the truth is: Crowley is alive and well, in the elevated and life-preserving air of Shangri-la. they used to call him the wickedest man in the world, but the Great Beast only laughs at those fools. the British Secret Service, Churchill and Rasputin all knew the real Crowley, who was the greatest spy and the Scarlet Pimpernel of the twentieth century. this genuine English hero and unrivalled drug fiend used his pre-eminent knowledge of the Occult to run amok behind German lines in two world wars and to turn both Mussolini and Hitler into twitching and hollow wrecks.

And so now, the inspiration behind the music and sexual revolutions of the sixties is about to return for his curtain call, for there is a dark Orwellian dystopia coming. And Aleister Crowley is convinced that only he can save the world.

Review

‘There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt. Love is the law, love under will.’ The problem with people who believe their own myth is that they can be dangerous, and also very convincing. Crowley was like many charismatic people who like to shower themselves in the admiration of others. Creating his own set of rules, guidelines and morals in order to excuse his own lack of adherence to any the aforementioned dictated by society.

If you read between the lines I think Thornton allows a window into the relationships, events and experiences that could have shaped Aleister into the man he became. Although hidden behind the sarcastic meanderings and a seemingly nonchalant attitude Crowley has towards his childhood and experiences as a young man, the scared and vulnerable child shines through. Neglect, abuse and association with adults who would rather use than guide the child, all of those things define the young boy and meld him into the grown man he becomes.

The suggestion being that we only ever see the surface and can never know what a person has been defined by. It puts a different slant or perspective on the historical version of Crowley, albeit one based on a fictional narrative.

The concept is quite clever and allows for a multitude of scenarios and storylines. There seemed to be a slight fixation on the sexual side of the story. The way the abuse as a child was smoothed over and led straight into the manipulative sexual rituals of certain groups, was slightly disconcerting.

It’s an ambitious piece of work, there’s no doubt about that. I enjoyed the style and the writing. It’s alternate history come historical and biographical fiction.

Buy The Deaths and Afterlife of Aleister Crowley at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound; pub date 22 Aug. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour In Truth, Madness by Imran Khan

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour In Truth, Madness by Imran Khan. It’s a contemporary read with elements of a dystopian story wrapped in the powerful pull of history.About the Author

Having kickstarted his career in the heady world of 1990s independent magazine publishing with work on Dazed and Confused, and launching seminal style title 2nd Generation, Imran Khan jumped into the mainstream with BBC London – hosting radio shows on popular culture, arts and news as the millennium approached. Despite having a face for radio, in 2001 he produced a series of short documentaries for BBC Newsnight, Britain’s leading current affairs programme. His work was noticed in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks and Channel 4 commissioned the award winning film “The Hidden Jihad”, which he wrote and presented. Imran subsequently moved full-time into TV news, working as a BBC producer and correspondent reporting from Lebanon, London and Qatar, with freelance stints in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He became a correspondent for Al Jazeera English in 2005 and is known for his extensive reporting from Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestine and Libya, as well covering the Arab Spring and the conflict in Syria. He continues to work as a correspondent for Al Jazeera English, dividing his time between the Middle East, South Asia and London.

Follow @ajimran on Twitter, on GoodreadsBuy In Truth, Madness

About the book

Meet Malek Khalil. In his mid-40s, Malek is a brilliant reporter with decades of experience in the field. If there has been a war, natural disaster or political crisis, Malek has been there and will be there.

But the years of conflict reporting have taken their toll and Malek is slowly unravelling. His colleagues, Neeka and Justin, have noticed a change in him. Neeka should know, she has been his producer for decades and knows him better than he knows himself. Justin the cameraman has shot his material for just as long. Together they make a formidable team. But they are only as strong as each other – and Malek is fast going down the rabbit hole.

Born a Muslim but an atheist to his core, Malek undertakes a voyage that takes him around the world  and back in time to ancient Babylon as he finds himself arguing with a God in whom he doesn’t believe.

The novel takes place throughout Middle East, South Asia and London where the backdrop of war, religion, political skullduggery and love play out to take the reader on a journey through some of the most dangerous parts of modern culture and the ancient world.Review

I think what I enjoyed most about this read were the factual elements both the historical and more current ones. The political and religious opinions, and the deep well of emotions he sometimes draws from. Moments like the guilt Malek feels as a journalist, because he is able to come and go as he pleases in the war-torn countries, ergo not being allowed to claim the burden of PTSD.

I think in this case it’s perhaps easier to let each reader enter the world Malek inhabits and decide what journey he is taking his readers on themselves. I found it an intriguing journey of self, which battles with the pain and destruction humanity causes, and ultimately a conversation with self about faith or lack of it. An sardonic panel of arbitrators who determine which path we take, do we determine it or have our cards fallen long before we are aware of it.

At times I felt as if there was an inner struggle going on, a tug-of-war of the stories within the story. The stories the author wants to tell, but melds them together with ambitious eagerness. The fantasy come historical fiction tale of the character and the connection to Babylon, the man who braves the war-torn countries, and then the political and religious complexities of the Middle East. All of them worthy of a read in their own right, together they get less attention and give the story a slightly disjointed feel.

There is no doubt Khan has plenty to tell his readers, and he does so with compassion, intellect and a very strong voice. I can imagine conversations with him would be quite interesting, because despite some controversial opinions, depending on your views, there is an attempt to keep a balance throughout.

It’s a contemporary read with elements of a dystopian story wrapped in the powerful pull of history.

Buy In Truth, Madness at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound Digital; pub date 22 August 2018. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Unbound.

#BlogTour The Stranger’s Guide to Talliston by John Tarrow

Technically it was my turn on the Blogtour on the 16th, but moving house and reading and preparing the completely wrong book and post got in the way of that, so here we are today instead.About the Author

John Tarrow is a novelist, poet, storyteller and award-winning writer. His fascination with folk and faerie tales has taken him around the world, gathering threads of story and legend to weave into his own mythologies: hiss extensive studies in Lakota Sioux and Druidic traditions offer readers stories resonant with magic, folklore and the wonder of the natural world. he pent twenty-five years transforming a three-bedroom, semi-detached, ex council house in Essex into the world famous Talliston House and Gardens.

Follow John Tarrow on Goodreads, on Amazon,Visit tallistonhq.wixsite.com/tarrow, Buy The Stranger’s Guide to Talliston

About the book

Abandoned and alone, thirteen-year-old Joe’s world is shattered when he enters a deserted council house and becomes trapped within a labyrinth protecting the last magical places on earth. There, Joe discovers a book charting this immense no-man’s land, without time or place.

Its thirteen doors each leading to a different realm. Hunted by sinister foes the boy is forced ever deeper into both the maze and the mystery of his missing parents. What will he find at the labyrinth’s centre, and can it reunite him with the family he so desperately needs?

Crossing through diverse landscapes from Victorian Britain to fifties New Orleans The Stranger’s Guide to Talliston is inspired by the internationally famous nd gardens dubbed ‘Britains’s Most Extraordinary Home’ by the Sunday Times. It is a classic YA tale of adventure that introduced readers to an otherworld hiding in plain sight, cloaked in magic and steeped in imagined history. Yet beyond its fearsome huntsmen and battling magicians dwells the secret that lies within all of us -the power to live extraordinary lives. Review

This is a YA read, but I would also recommend it for older children who are advanced readers. It’s Pullman with shades of Pratchett, and if your child reads either of those authors then they will enjoy this.

I love the fact this is based on a real house and gardens. What if Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree came to life and became an actual place to visit, that’s what this book is like. The Talliston House and Gardens are magical and full of imagination, it’s only right that an author should try to capture some of that magic.

Joe’s life is full of rules, fear and anxiety, even more so since his parents just abandoned him one day. Now he lives by himself avoiding human contact and trying to follow the rules he has been taught. At some point he has no choice but to wander out into the world to stay alive. On his travels he comes across an aggressive teenager, who in turn introduces him to Talliston.

A world of doors, places, secrets and magic. Whole worlds within a single house, but what a house it is. Full of darkness and moments of light. Joe learns to trust in himself and focus on his abilities and strengths.

It’s an intricate, fascinating and ambitious YA fantasy. I can understand wanting everything in one story or book, however the sheer magnitude of ideas and worlds probably needed more depth and page space. A series of books perhaps or this one and then a series of books with a focus on a different area each time.

Please note that the hardcopy is an especially beautiful book and as if that wasn’t enough at the very back of the book there is a special gift for the reader. The kind of gift that would make you sever a page at the back (it’s says you have to), although that is absolute sacrilege to a bookworm.

Buy The Stranger’s Guide to Talliston at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for an other retailer. Publisher: Unbound; pub date 11 July 2019. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Unbound.

#BlogTour Razia by Abda Khan

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Razia by Abda Khan. It’s a contemporary read with a modern crime, a heartfelt attempt to raise awareness.About the Author

Abda Khan is an author and lawyer who works with victims of domestic violence. She was born in Bradford in 1969 to Pakistani parents, and she now lives and works in the West Midlands. He first novel Stained, was published in 2016, and described by Booklist as ‘a contemporary Tess of the d’ Urbervilles’. She was Highly Commend as a finalist at the 2017 NatWest Asian Woman of Achievement Awards, in the Arts and Culture category.

Follow @abdakhan5 on Twitter, on Goodreads, Visit abdakhan.com, Buy Razia

About the book

Farah is a young lawyer living and working in London. She’s just ended a long relationship, and her parents are looking for a husband – whether Farah wants one or not. So far, so normal. But at a work dinner, hosted by a dangerously powerful man, she comes across a young woman called Razia, who Farah soon realises is being kept as a domestic slave.

We follow Farah’s daring investigations from the law courts of London to the brick kilns of Lahore, as she begins to uncover the traps that keep generation after generation enslaved.Everywhere she turns there is deep-rooted oppression and corruption, and when the authorities finally intervene, their actions have dire consequences.

Farah teams up with a human rights lawyer, Alia and the two become close… but can she trust him: can they hep Razia and others like her: and will they ever discover the explosive secret behind these events.

Review

It’s such a bizarre and difficult thing for women of certain cultures, both religious and from an race and ethnicity perspective, to have to walk a tightrope between a modern life and cultural traditions.

Farah appears to walk through modern life with confidence, and yet as soon as she hears the beating of the biological clock she scarpers back to the haven of cultural traditions. It seems like such a contradiction, especially given the fact she isn’t exactly a shy wallflower. In her work and when she feels she has to step up to the mark, she does so with gusto and passion.

So the contradiction and clear imbalance is a woman who asks her parents to fix an arranged marriage for her and in the same breath she fights for the rights of a modern slave. Can she even see the hypocrisy of bowing down to an oppressive and patriarchal society, and trying to help the victim of the same society at the same time?

Aside from the modern slave angle, Khan also ventures into plenty of areas of oppression, maltreatment and sub-human treatment of women. She lays the cultural differences, and of course the religious ones, on a plate to be taken on board and observed.

Unfortunately modern-day slavery has become quite common in our era. Cheap labour forces who are coerced into working for nothing or ridiculous compensation, it isn’t a new type of crime, but it is a very lucrative one. Personally I think it’s the same as trafficking and should receive high punishments. It’s also not a crime bound by gender or age.

It’s a contemporary read with a modern crime, a heartfelt attempt to raise awareness.

Buy Razia by Abda Khan at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound; pub date 11 July 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness. It’s part memoir, part mental health coping strategy, but most of all it is one man sharing in the hope he will help others with his words and his bird therapy.

About the Author

Joe Harkness has been writing a Bird Therapy blog for the last thress years. In 2017, he had articles published in The Culew and Bidwatch magazine as well as recording three tweets of the day for BBC Radio 4. He is employed as a Special Educational needs teacher and has worked in the youth sector for nine years. He lives in Norfolk.

Follow @BirdTherapy on Twitter, on Goodreads, Visit birdtherapy.blogBuy Bird Therapy

About the book

‘I can’t remember the last book I read that I could say with absolute assurance would save lives. But this one will’ Chris Packham

When Jow Harkness suffered a breakdown in 2013, he tried all the things his doctor recommended: medication helped, counselling was enlightening, and mindfulness grounded him. But nothing came close to nature, particularly birds. How had he never noticed such beauty before? Soon, every avian encounter took him one step closer to accepting who he is.

The positive change in Joe’s wellbeing was so profound that he started a blog to record his experience. three years later he has become a spokesperson for the benefits of birdwatching, spreading the word everywhere from Radio 4 to Downing Street.

In this groundbreaking book filled with practical advice, Joe explains the impact that birdwatching had on his life, and invites the reader to discover these extraordinary effects for themselves.

Review

In a day and age where people struggle to cope with the pressure of life, work and relationships, and mental health illnesses are on the rise, a book like this is a necessity.

The keyword in regards to this book is coping strategy. If you have found a strategy that helps you work through mental health issues, as long as it doesn’t harm yourself or others, then that’s a good thing. If you feel others can benefit from being introduced to a new strategy, then share away.

The most interesting element about this book was the way Harkness opened up completely and examined every single thought and action in connection with the bird therapy and his surroundings. This is especially apparent in the last chapters of the book, where he identifies what is ‘off” or not quite right about the new bird watching environment he has moved to. It’s incredibly introspective and he offers up his vulnerability in an attempt to help himself and others at the same time.

There is the man, a member of one of my local FB groups, he takes nature photographs the majority of which are of wildlife and birds. They are so beautiful, so detailed and fascinating. It’s a stark reminder of what passes us by in life and of the beauty we don’t take time to appreciate. Looking at those pictures of birds, wildlife and nature it isn’t hard to understand what a soothing effect it can have on a person, especially when you experience them in real time.

The illustrations by Jo Brown are an added bonus to the written content. They give the read an air of serenity and peacefulness, and hint at the beauty of the avian world. They also give a indication of what the author is talking about.

It’s part memoir, part mental health coping strategy, but most of all it is one man sharing in the hope he will help others with his words and his bird therapy.

Buy Bird Therapy at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound; pub date 13 Jun. 2019. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Unbound.