Book Review – 17th Century Tottenville History Comes Alive by Angie Mangino

October 12, 2019

This short account seems to be aimed primarily at the people who inhabit this part of Staten Island in the USA, but I found it a fascinating read which means that it has a much wider reach.  My knowledge of the history of this area is sketchy at best as it barely touches on the accounts of British colonial history I was taught in English schools.  I am therefore grateful to this book for extending my knowledge in this area.  It is obviously well researched as is evident from the extensive bibliography.

Some facts were repeated more often than was needed and a little more detail, some photographs and perhaps a map would strengthen the writing.  But that said I was very impressed by the writer’s style.  The book looks like it was first composed as a blog and the author has indicated that there are more books/blogs to follow.  But it has more potential than that and I suspect that if the author wrote another book as a more in depth study (Check out my review of Tim Hannigan’s Brief History of Indonesia) then I for one would buy it.

Keith Jahans

Available on Amazon as an Ebook


Book Review – Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary by Anita Anand

September 23, 2019

I heard about this book from the author when I visited the Bath Literary Festival in March 2015 and listened to her speak.  I was so intrigued by the subject of her talk that I bought a copy.  Once I started reading I was fascinated by Sophia and her story.  I meant to loan it to my 90 year old mother, who was a fan of Ms Anand’s and her presentation of ‘Any Answers’ on BBC radio, as I felt she would enjoy it.  But it is a long book and I knew with the other reading and writing projects on the go it would take me some time to finish it so I bought another copy especially for mum.  Sadly she never got round to reading it and passed away earlier this year aged 94.  Now I have at last finished reading the book and found it a very enjoyable read.

The author has obviously put a great deal of time and effort into researching her subject.  It traces the ancestry of Sofia, from her father Maharajah Duleep Singh through her life with her siblings in the court of Queen Victoria, her activities as a suffragette, her support for the freedoms sought by the peoples of her native India and two world wars.  She was a rebel for her time and ran foul of the British establishment, particularly during the period she was an active suffragette when she challenged them to imprison her for her protests but were too frightened to do so.  Because of this the details of her life were buried by the authorities.  But because of this book they have now been uncovered.  This makes the writing of Sofia’s story a remarkable achievement of which the author can be proud.

It is an extremely worthwhile read and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in the political struggles endured by women in the twentieth century.

Keith Jahans

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
in hard cover, paperback and as an ebook and audiobook.


Writing Reviews

June 5, 2019

I read a great deal and fit my reading around the time I devote to writing and promoting my own books.  I review books I have read on my own blog at http://wordpress.peatmore.com.  Most of the books I now read are written by lesser known writers.  As a writer myself, I know a positive review can give a boost to someone’s confidence and even help promote their work.  Most of those I read are talented at what they do and deserve a wider audience.

Writing is a lonely business so the mere fact that it is obvious that your work has been read and somebody has taken the trouble to write about it is a reward in itself.  But a bad review may have the reverse effect in which case the writer must be philosophical about it.  The fact that not everybody is going to like your work is a fact everyone working in creative art is aware of so a few poor reviews amongst many should be expected.  Most authors even those who have become quite famous have had their work rejected at some point, myself included, when trying to follow the traditional path to publication.  Rejection is part of the job.

Many of the books I have reviewed have been written by people I have met and some have been by those I consider as friends.  The question then arises about how objective I should be and the short answer is that I should be objective as possible.  After all, I am reviewing the work not the person who wrote it.  I find that most of what I read turns out to be extremely enjoyable, some not so, so the extent of my enjoyment is reflected in my review.  But if I think that a piece of writing is particularly bad, instead of writing about it, I will point out my concerns privately and don’t publish the review.  This may be considered to be a copout but I know how soul destroying completely negative criticism can be.

I think now is the time for me to share with you the worst review I have received and have pasted it below.

“Utter Disappointment”

Wasted time and money on this crappy short “book”. I wish I paid more attention to the description

This is pretty damming but I assure you that I have received many more excellent reviews – honest.  But you can judge for yourself by checking out my books on my website at www.peatmore.com.

Keith Jahans

 

Previously posted as Guest Blog for Jagged Edge Reviews on 23 May 2018
at http://klearsreviews.blogspot.com/2018/05/guest-post-keith-jahans.html?m=0


Book Review – The Girl Who Knew Da Vinci by Belle Ami

May 29, 2019

This is a well crafted thriller with a supernatural theme.

The narrative describes the hunt for a hidden painting by Leonardo da Vinci.  It spans countries and time zones and follows the fortunes of the main protagonists, art historian Angela Renatus and art detective Alex Caine.

Angela has several hallucinations, the first of which sends her spinning across time to when Da Vinci first created the painting.  Alex also experiences hallucinations, but these are clearly linked to Angela’s and are not so intense.  Angela’s part of the story opens at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, where she was working for the director, Albert Scordato who has been abusing her and becomes the central villain of the narrative.  Scordato has been secretly videoing her, witnesses the hallucinations and realises she may be a link to finding the missing painting which being by Da Vinci is worth a fortune.

The hallucinations are also witnessed by Alex, who falls in love with Angela and persuades her to leave the Getty and come with him to Italy to unravel the mystery behind her hallucinations.  Scordato follows, recruiting henchmen along the way, with the intention of ceasing the painting and doing the protagonists harm.

The author gets the feel of the different time zones in story right.  The dialogue used by the characters in the past times may not be strictly accurate, but this does not matter as it describes how they must have reacted and felt at the time the actions take place.  Belle Ami has obviously done a great deal of research about Da Vinci and the Renaissance.  She seems to know the period well.  The love she has for the art of this time clearly comes across in the book and made me want to revisit what I already knew about Da Vinci and the time in which he lived.  I am not so sure that the description of events in Florence during World War II ring as true.  But I will need to research that period myself to be sure of its accuracy.

The hallucinations and the time shifts they cause are expertly described.  The love scenes between Angela and Alex are also very well written.  The love they have for each other and food make the story extremely sensuous.  The character of Angela is well portrayed and believable.  She comes across as impoverished and downtrodden.  Alex, on the other hand, seems too good to be true.  He is a rich ex-military hero with a liking for fast cars and is an expert in the use of small arms.  Sordato appears to be almost a cliché of a James Bond villain.  There is nothing wrong with that as I love the James Bond books and films, but I would have liked a bit more originality here.

But despite these minor critisems I enjoyed the story and the originality behind the plot kept me reading right until the end.

Keith Jahans


Available as a paperback, ebook and audiobook


Book Review – Babe Driven by Lizzie Chantree

May 14, 2019

This book is technically flawed in that the narrative constantly jumps point of view so that I had to re-read some passages twice in order to understand which character was describing the piece I was reading.  But having said that the story worked well and I really enjoyed reading it.

There was a great deal of description on what the characters were wearing, but this was never boring as it was evident that they were obsessed with appearance.  The characters themselves were well described and showed that the author had a good understanding about those she wrote and what motivated them.  The central narrative centred around Harriet (or Harry as she was mostly referred to) and her chauffeur driving company employing attractive female drivers.  Most of the story centred on her and a group of friends who were holidaying in an attractive villa next door to one rented by a famous pop group.

The interaction between the sexy males surrounding the pop group and the gorgeous Harry and her girlfriends was well described.  There were several twists in the story which kept me reading to the end.

Keith Jahans

Published by Nielsen and available
as a paperback and ebook


Short Story Review – A Matter of nurture by August von Orth

January 13, 2019

This is the first single short story I have reviewed as I normally critique complete short story collections.  The story is part of a collection from different authors featured in the Canadian Science Fiction magazine, “Neo-opsis”.  It is an intriguing tale set in a dystopian world.  On reading the first few lines I struggled with point-of-view but as I read on it soon became clear on whose view point the story was written.  This may have been deliberate as the assassin protagonist was clearly mixed up about who she really was.

It took me a couple of readings to determine what was happening in the narrative but this did not matter as the story was brief and it became clear that the protagonist was a victim of mind control.  It made me think and I do not mind that as I like story’s that make me think.  I understand that it is only available in the pages of the magazine so check it out as I am sure sci-fi fans will not be disappointed.

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press

Published in Canada


Book Review – Bridge of Sighs: A Short Story of the Bubonic Plague by Laura Morelli

December 28, 2018

This is a brief story but within its pages the author has captured the essence of Venice and the Bubonic Plague.  It is told through the eyes of a ten year old boy.  The author has done a great deal of research about the plague and I can tell from her biography and her writing she knows the city of Venice well.

During this time the plague was carried by black rats.  The boy refers to his pet as a mouse and I suspect that it is indeed how he views the animal he cares for.  Short stories are an ideal way to while away brief moments of time and if they make you think a little so much the better.  This example is a little gem and well worth the read.

Keith Jahans

Available in the Amazon Kindle Store in mobi (kindle) format


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