Book Review – Telling Stories from Chaucer to Joyce by David James

October 16, 2018

This is not something I would normally read or buy but I know some of the author’s other works and know he is a fine writer in his own right.  This book takes us through the work of seven major literary figures from the 14th to 20th centuries.  It chooses one example from the writings of each namely, Chaucer – The Canterbury Tales, Bunyan – The Pilgrim’s Progress, Laurence Sterne – Tristram Shandy, Jane Austen – Mansfield Park, Charles Dickens – Great Expectations, George Elliot – Middlemarch and James Joyce – Ulysses.

David James reviews and contrasts each of these writings with each other, and provides an ongoing commentary on what he believes is the thoughts of the author behind each work.  This clearly provides helpful notes for any budding student of literature.  I have read examples or either watched or listened to screen or radio adaptations of the books listed here.  I have not studied literature formally since my schooldays but David’s analysis provides me with a good insight into the minds of seven great literary geniuses and for this I am grateful.  I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in great literature.  Hopefully, it will also serve to help me in my own writing.

Keith Jahans

Available on Amazon as a paperback and ebook

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Medicine in literature

August 15, 2018

I was surprised when Amazon classified my new novel Magic Bullets as Medical Fiction.  But then I read an article I saw on the Wellcome Book Prize webpage (see https://tinyurl.com/yaf3hb7c) where judges and former winners picked their all-time favourite fiction books that touch on this topic and it seemed that their links to medicine appeared rather vague.  So I decided to list three books that I felt could be similarly classified.

The first one on my list is Trouble with Lichen by John Wyndham.  This is about two biochemists who extracted and anti-aging drug from an unusual strain of lichen only to find that it could induce harmful side effects.  My memories of the book are rather vague as I read it a long time ago.  I do remember it as being rather heavy reading but I kept going as I found the plot most intriguing.

The second on the list is The Invisible Man by H G Wells.  In this book Wells goes into great detail about how to change a body’s refractive index and become invisible.  What I liked about the story was that Wells skill in explaining the science behind the plot makes it seem entirely plausible.  I have read this book several times and still enjoy it as an absorbing read

But my favourite has to be The Double Helix by James D Watson.  It is an autobiographical account of the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.  It is controversial due to Watson’s willingness to appropriate data surreptitiously from others and his sexist attitude towards scientist Rosalind Franklin who, because of the harmful nature of the X-rays she worked with, died early and therefore could not share the Nobel Prize.  Despite these flaws, I found the story fascinating.  It is probably the greatest medical discovery of all time which has lead and is still leading to momentous breakthroughs in modern medicine.  It is the best detective story I have read and is the main reason why I followed a career in biological science.

 

Keith Jahans


Available on Amazon in hardcover, paperback,
as an ebook and audiobook.


Book Review – Game Changer: Eight Weeks that Transformed British Politics by Steve Howell

July 12, 2018

This is a must read for anyone who wishes to understand the processes that go on inside political campaigning in British politics.  It is told by an insider who helped organise Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign during the 2017 British General election.  It is therefore unashamedly biased towards the philosophies of the Labour Party so if you are a supporter of any other British political party, particularly the Conservative Party, many of the views expressed here will be extremely hard to take.  But even so anyone who actively supports such parties will find a great deal to learn from the events described by the Author.

When Prime Minister, Theresa May called a snap election in April that year no one in the mainstream media gave Corbyn a chance.  His party appeared in turmoil as a large proportion of Labour MPs had tried twice to unseat him as leader and the Labour Party was so far behind the Conservatives in the polls.  Consequently, May saw it as an opportunity to strengthen her position as Prime Minister and leader of her Party ahead of her negotiations to take Britain out of the European Union.  However, such was the success of the Corbyn campaign that, despite being unable to topple May’s premiership, their individual political standings within their own parties were reversed.

It was a remarkable turnaround in the positions of the two party leaders and it is a story that is extremely well told.  It is a narrative that the Conservatives will seek to put far behind them but for anyone interested in British politics it is an account that should be read.  The book is skilfully written and contains lots of facts and footnotes relating to broadcast and newspaper reporting at the time.  This is not surprising given the author’s background in journalism and in time it should serve as a useful reference for anyone wishing to look back and study what must surely be a significant event in Britain’s political history.

 

Keith Jahans

Published by Accent Press in
hardcover, paperback and as an ebook


Book Review – Book Cover Design Formula by Anita Nipane

June 23, 2018

I was invited to download a review pdf copy of this guide by the author and I was most certainly glad I did.  The book cover is usually the first feature to draw a potential reader’s attention.  It is therefore essential to make it as appealing as possible to the eye while at the same time capturing the essence of what the book is about.  It is one of the hardest ingredients of the book to get right.

Mainstream writers will probably employ a professional designer but for the self publisher this investment will mostly prove too expensive.  Some are lucky in that they may know of a student going through Art College who will produce an acceptable cover at a low fee, or even for free, for a chance to include it in their CV.  Others might know of a family member or friend who is willing to do this for them cheaply or again for free.  There are also cut price offers online from sites such as Fiverr.  But often the cover they produce will not be of good quality.  The alternative is to attempt to do it yourself which invariably leads to a mess.  But this book guides the do-it-your-self publisher through the process while pointing out the pitfalls of such an approach along the way.

I was fortunate to acquire the guide when I was about to launch my forthcoming novel, “Magic Bullets”.  I am most glad I did but only time and the comments I expect to receive from those who follow my work will allow me to reflect accurately whether I made the right choice.  However, I do know that the final cover choice was down to me and not the fault of this guide or its author.  I thoroughly recommend it for any writer even those who employ professional help as it will prove invaluable in choosing between the various designs such a professional might come up with.

Keith Jahans


Available on Amazon’s Kindle Store.

 


Book Review – Quota by Jack Bold

June 11, 2018

A frightening account of what could happen in a future society.

Jack Bold is the penname for the writing partnership of Brian Bold and Jackie Green.  The authors have put together an excellently crafted novel.  The characters are believable and, as in the case of all good narratives, drive the plot.  The story centres on the activities of one family living in an all too credible dystopian world where people have the length of their lifespan determined by the government.

The scientific basis for the increase in dementia as being due to consuming meat from cloned GM cattle was sketchy as was the case of these animals having a mild case of mad cow disease.  Dementia is a health problem in the developed world and it might have been better that the authors left it as that and not speculated on its cause.

Despite this minor point, I found the tale completely absorbing and my desire to discover how the central characters would fare kept me reading right to the end.

Keith Jahans

 

Quota is published by Amazon CreateSpace


Book Review – Worst-Case Scenario: a short story by Paul Falk

May 29, 2018

All life on earth is doomed to be destroyed by an approaching asteroid.  This is the scenario depicted by Paul Falk and described mostly in the first person by narrator, James Stone.  When the impending doom is announced by television media wholesale panic ensues and the frightening situation Stone finds himself in leads him to take desperate measures.

It is possible the story can be thought as an indictment of modern day gun carrying American society.  I don’t think the method used to switch to a different point of view at the end of the story worked.  But I did sympathise with the central character and my concern for his welfare, and those closest to him, kept me absorbed to the end.

Keith Jahans


Available at Amazon Kindle Store for $1.34 / £0.99


Book Review – Caged by Paul Falk

May 26, 2018

This is a novella written in the first person.  The story reads like an official report.  But this is okay as the protagonist, Jack Toback, is a government servant brought up through the ranks of a USA prison service.  He makes some small attempts at humour, which though few, fit into his personality.

He is put in charge of a revolutionary correctional facility run by robots and there is a great deal of description about their development and how they work.  Although the narrative is set in the future it is very relevant to the current time as the use of electronic technology and robots are becoming more integrated into our society.  The story left a number of issues unresolved.  This is not a unique or bad idea as it keeps the reader thinking about the various forces influencing the outcome of the automated prison experiment.

There is certainly potential here to expand the plot further and develop it into a novel or as a series of shorter stories.  The detailed style of writing may not be to everyone’s taste but it locked me in to turning the pages of my Kindle right to the end.  I can recommend it to any lover of dystopian fiction.

Keith Jahans

Caged is available on Amazon’s Kindle Store for $1.40 / £0.99