Monday, 23 October 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities - Paul Anthony Jones

I love quirky books so I am delighted to take part in the blog tour for The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities.  This book could not be named any better, it is a veritable Aladdin's Cave of lost words and fascinating historical events.  Not only is it written by an author local to me, it led to my discovery of his brilliant @HaggardHawks Twitter account for more wordy-frivolity.

I am sharing my review for the blog tour but also an excerpt so you can see how each day is set out.  To save quarrelling with myself over what word to share for the tour (there are so many that stand out), I am sharing the word of today: 23rd October.

A whole year's worth of linguistic curiosities, just waiting to be discovered.

Within these pages you might leap back in time, learn about linguistic trivia, follow a curious thread or wonder at the web of connections in the English language.

1 January quaaltagh (n.) the first person you meet on New Year's Day

1 April dorbellist (n.) a fool, a dull-witted dolt

12 May word-grubber (n.) someone who uses obscure or difficult words in everyday conversation

25 September theic (adj.) an excessive drinker of tea

24 December doniferous (adj.) carrying a gift

Paul Anthony Jones has unearthed a wealth of strange and forgotten words: illuminating some aspect of the day, or simply telling a cracking good yarn, each reveals a story. Written with a light touch that belies the depth of research it contains, this is both a fascinating compendium of etymology and a captivating historical miscellany. Dip into this beautiful book to be delighted and intrigued throughout the year.

What did I think?

When I first opened The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities, I thought it might feel like reading a dictionary or an encyclopedia but even though there is so much to take in, I just couldn't get enough of it.  I read it as if a month was a chapter, but I also found myself flicking forward each day to see what the word of the day was and what fascinating little-known historical event I could regale my family and friends with.  

It is a treasure trove of interesting words and historical information and how the author links history to the word of the day is nothing short of brilliant.  It's a word of the day, a history lesson, and a fascinating fact book that would be the PERFECT gift for that person who is so difficult to buy for.  I've always preferred real books to kindle, but I really do think you would benefit from a hardback edition of this book.  It's a book you will always have to hand, whether you refer to it every day or bring it out when friends come round.  

I can see my copy of The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities being a firm fixture in my bookcase.  Actually, it will probably be as much out of the bookcase as in it, as I can't foresee a day going by when I won't open this fascinating book.  In years to come I may have to rein in my bookish-OCD and see a dog-eared copy as a much loved, much handled book rather than a mistreated book.  There's sure to be a word for such a well-used book so I'd better keep my eye on Haggard Hawks!

The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities is an awe-inspiring collection of trivia and fascinating facts for linguists, history lovers or anyone who loves the unusual and peculiar.  Definitely one I recommend and this is one book I will not be lending to anyone as I couldn't bear not to have it close to hand.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

An excerpt from 23rd October:

thrimmel (n.)  to grudgingly repay a debt

Upon its independence in 1776, the United States was already in debt, and in 1789 that situation worsened when America assumed liability for $75 million of debts accumulated during the Revolutionary War. Concerted efforts brought that figure down to its lowest in history – $37,000 – by the mid 1830s, but spending on the military sent it spiralling back to the $1 bil- lion mark by the time of the Civil War. By the mid 1970s, debts had reached $500 billion, and on 23 October 1981, it was announced that the national debt of the United States had surpassed the $1 trillion mark for the very first time; half of that figure had been accumulated in just seven years. 

To repay a debt – and, specifically, to do so reluctantly – is to thrimble or thrumble, an English dialect word dating back to the mid sixteenth century. Thought to be derived from an earlier word, thrum, for a multitude or throng of people, on its earliest appearance in the language thrimble meant ‘to squeeze or press together’, like people standing in a dense crowd, or ‘to jostle’ or ‘to push your way through’. 

By the early seventeenth century, that meaning had broad- ened (perhaps with influence from the word thumb) to come to mean ‘to press or crush between the fingers’, and ultimately, ‘to toy or fiddle with something in your hands’. From there one last meaning developed in the late eighteenth century: according to the English Dialect Dictionary (Vol. VI, 1905), to thrimble is ‘to finger or handle anything as if reluctant to part with it’, and ultimately, ‘to dole or pay out money grudgingly or reluctantly’.

About the author:

PAUL ANTHONY JONES is something of a linguistic phenomenon. He runs @HaggardHawks Twitter feed, blog and YouTube channel, revealing daily word facts to 39,000 engaged followers. His books include Word Drops (2015) and The Accidental Dictionary (2016). His etymological contributions appear regularly, from the Guardian to the Telegraph, Buzzfeed to Huffington Post and BBC Radio 4.

He lives in Newcastle Upon Tyne and is available for all types of word-nerdery.  

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Friday, 20 October 2017

The Coven (Beatrice Scarlet book 2) - Graham Masterton

They say the girls were witches. But Beatrice Scarlet, the apothecary's daughter, is sure they were innocent victims...

London, 1758:

Beatrice Scarlet, the apothecary's daughter, has found a position at St Mary Magdalene's Refuge for fallen women. She enjoys the work and soon forms a close bond with her charges.

The refuge is supported by a wealthy tobacco merchant, who regularly offers the girls steady work to aid their rehabilitation. But when seven girls sent to his factory disappear, Beatrice is uneasy.

Their would-be benefactor claims they were a coven of witches, beholden only to Satan and his demonic misdeeds. But Beatrice is convinced something much darker than witchcraft is at play...

What did I think?

I had read the first Beatrice Scarlet book, Scarlet Widow, and rather enjoyed it so I didn't hesitate to accept a copy of the sequel, The Coven.  It sounded dark and scary but it turned out to be dark in a way I didn't expect and didn't enjoy, so I found myself getting more and more disappointed as I read on.  I almost didn't finish it, but for the fact that I wanted to find out what had happened to one of the characters.

After her son, Noah, is abducted by Indians, Beatrice leaves America and returns to London.  I'm not a mother, but really?  I can't imagine any mother would leave her son behind, the last link she has to her dead husband, when there is even the smallest chance he could return to look for her.  Anyway, Beatrice heads to London and she ends up living and working at a home that rehabilitates prostitutes.  Their benefactor picks the best looking ladies to go to work at his tobacco factory but when Beatrice enquires after those she befriended, they have disappeared and been branded as witches after leaving a gutted goat and a bloody pentagram.  Like Miss Marple, Beatrice smells a rat and begins an investigation into their disappearance.  As more girls disappear, Beatrice is drawn into the seedy underbelly of London which puts her at more risk than she can ever have imagined.

Scarlet Widow perhaps gave a little hint as to which direction the series was going in as there was quite a graphic sexual assault described.  At least I thought it was graphic until I read The Coven.  I'm not a prude by any means but the actions described in this book made me cringe in disgust and I felt quite uncomfortable at times.  Unfortunately, it has put me off reading any further books in the series.

The Coven is a sequel I was quite looking forward to but sadly I was very disappointed.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Thursday, 19 October 2017

BLOG BLITZ: Her Dark Retreat - J.A. Baker

The coastguard’s residence Chamber Cottage, which sits high up on the North Yorkshire cliffs, overlooking The North Sea, holds many dark secrets.

Alec and Peggy are struggling to overcome their marital problems. Both damaged by issues from their childhoods, they are trying to get on with their lives. But this is hard for them to do when they both believe they are being watched. As a result, Peggy, who has terrible scars on her face, becomes more agoraphobic.

To make matters worse, Peggy discovers her estranged mother is stalking both she and Alec, claiming she has a dark secret that is putting Peggy in danger.

What caused the scars on Peggy’s face? Is Alec really the monster Peggy’s mother believes him to be? And what secrets does Chamber Cottage hold?

What did I think?

This is one of those books that I find very difficult to review; it's a case of the less said the better for fear of revealing any spoilers but, believe me, this is a book that you really must read.  If you haven't read Undercurrent, J.A. Baker's debut, you don't want to miss that one either.  Although both Undercurrent and Her Dark Retreat are standalone novels, I don't want you to miss out on discovering some outstanding fiction.

The blurb tells us that Chamber Cottage holds many dark secrets, and doesn't it just!  Peggy and Alec live in the remote coastguard's cottage on the edge of a cliff where they struggle with their inner demons as well as their marital issues.  Peggy's face is badly scarred, leaving her with very low confidence and no desire to leave the house.  Her husband, Alec, tries and fails to encourage Peggy to socialise and he struggles to remain faithful to their marriage.  Is their marriage the only thing that is dying in their house?

Have a good look at the cover to get an idea of the setting: this remote house on the edge of a cliff, but even without the cover photo the description of the cottage and its surroundings are sublime.  It sounds so craggy and desolate that I could almost taste the salt on my lips and feel the wind whipping my hair.  I certainly wouldn't want to stand too close to the edge with the angry North Sea crashing against the cliff face.  It may be an isolated cottage but Maude, a distant neighbour, can see the comings and goings at the cottage and one day sees more than she bargained for.  The only problem is, Maude is suffering from dementia and nobody believes a word she says.

Each chapter is told from many different viewpoints: Peggy and Alec, Peggy's estranged mother Audrey, neighbour Maude, Maude's daughter Brenda, and Rachel who is searching for her missing sister, Sheryl.  At the end of a few chapters there's the intriguing voice of somebody clinging on to the last breaths of life - is it Sheryl? Where is she and who put her there?  For a reasonably short book (at 305 pages) there is a lot going on but with the dedicated chapters, it never gets confusing.  Whilst Peggy and Alec are the main characters (and both creeped me out), it was Maude's chapters that evoked the most emotion in me.  J.A. Baker's description of the mist descending in Maude's mind had me choking back tears.

Her Dark Retreat is another excellent edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller from J.A. Baker.  I thought I had worked it all out at one point, and I may have been right in some aspects, but there were still plenty of those wide-eyed gaspy moments to keep my pulse racing right up to the very last page.  

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

J.A.BAKER was born and brought up in the North East of England and has had a love of language for as long as she can remember.

After gaining an MA in Education & Applied Linguistics with the Open University, she found herself with spare time and embarked on doing something she always wanted to do – write a novel.

She has a love of local history and genealogy and enjoys reading many genres of books but is an addict of psychological thrillers.

In December 2016 she was signed by Bloodhound Books who published Undercurrent. J.A. 
Her second novel, Her Dark Retreat was published in October 2017. J. A. Baker's third book, The Other Mother is due out on 5th December 2017.

She has four grown-up children and a grandchild and lives in a village near Darlington with her husband and madcap dog.

You find out more about J.A.Baker by visiting her website at

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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Nightblind (Dark Iceland #2) - Ragnar Jónasson

The peace of a close-knit Icelandic community is shattered by the murder of a policeman - shot at point-blank range in the dead of night in a deserted house. With a killer on the loose and the dark Arctic waters closing in, it falls to Ari Thor to piece together a puzzle that involves tangled local politics, a compromised new mayor and a psychiatric ward in Reykjavik where someone is being held against their will...

What did I think?

I have to say that I love the Dark Iceland series, the only problem is that each instalment is too darn short.  I really ought to read slower to make the experience last longer but my eyes seem to have other ideas as they scoot across the page greedily devouring every single line.  

We are reminded again that nothing ever happens in the sleepy arctic town of Siglufjörðor, until someone is shot.  We meet back up with our favourite fictional Icelander, Ari Thór, who has finally talked his girlfriend, Kristín, into moving to Siglufjörðor where they live with their young son, Stefnir.  Ari Thór is off work with flu so his new police inspector, Herjólfur, is covering his shift.  Herjólfur is called out to an abandoned house frequented by drug dealers where he is shot at point blank range, leaving Ari Thór to wonder whether he was the intended target.

With Herjólfur clinging on to life, but unlikely to regain consciousness, Ari Thór's old boss, Tómas, returns to help with the investigation.  In between the investigation there are tantalising snippets from a diary that had me completely riveted with questions pouring out of my brain like an avalanche.  Whose diary is it?  Is it past?  Is it present?  Can I read any faster to find out?

Nightblind is another stupendous instalment from Ragnar Jónasson.  As ever, the landscape feels like a main character itself, as the words on the page magically transform into a landscape painting in my head.  I have to applaud the translation of Quentin Bates in addition to the talented writing of Ragnar Jónasson; absolutely nothing is lost in translation, but everything is gained as the ingenious words paint such a vivid picture.

I was slightly confused as to which order I should read the books as the UK series order differs from the original.  When I've read them all, I'll decide if it really matters but at the moment I just want to read them all in whatever order I can.  I can only presume that the order will matter in the development of Ari Thór and Kristín's relationship as in NightblindAri Thór seems completely oblivious to Kristín's feelings.  I think their relationship is as cold as the temperature outside in Siglufjörðor but time will tell whether they can survive the cold, dark winter.

Nightblind is so good I have two copies of it: one a treasured signed first edition, that I handle with kid gloves, and a kindle copy to which I added copious effusive notes.  Bring on book 3, Blackout.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through The Looking-Glass - Lewis Carroll

This selection of Carroll's works includes Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, both containing the famous illustrations by Sir John Tenniel. No greater books for children have ever been written. The simple language, dreamlike atmosphere, and fantastical characters are as appealing to young readers today as ever they were.

Meanwhile, however, these apparently simple stories have become recognised as adult masterpieces, and extraordinary experiments, years ahead of their time, in Modernism and Surrealism. Through wordplay, parody and logical and philosophical puzzles, Carroll engenders a variety of sub-texts, teasing, ominous or melancholy. For all the surface playfulness there is meaning everywhere. The author reveals himself in glimpses.

What did I think?

Alice in Wonderland is one of my favourite books from my youth; it is both timeless and ageless and well worth a read every now and again to escape into Wonderland.  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is an exceptional story full of wackiness and crazy characters.  I'm not as keen on the sequel, Through the Looking-Glass; it's good but it's not great and I'll explain why I think that in a moment.

`Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice

Everyone knows the story of Alice in Wonderland and I'm always fascinated by Alice's trust in eating and drinking strange things that make her grow or shrink.  Although Alice meets strange characters, likewise the strange characters don't know who or what Alice is, as evidenced by the caterpillar smoking his hookah and blowing smoke rings whilst asking Alice: 'Whooooo are youuuuu?'  I don't want to know what he's smoking!  There is so much to love in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as we tiptoe through Alice's dream with her: the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, the Cheshire Cat - all our favourites are here.

`it’s always tea-time'

This is where I struggle with Through the Looking-Glass as my favourite characters from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland only have cameo roles, those who do make a reappearance that is.  I still think it's quite ingenious as it's based around a game of chess with the characters forming the chess pieces, but it doesn't capture my interest as much as its prequel.  Perhaps if I was a chess fan I would enjoy it more, but it's always been a game that bores me which is why Looking-Glass tries and fails to hold my attention for more than one or two chapters at a time.

`and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice `without pictures or conversation?’

If you're going to read Alice, you really must choose a book with the original Tenniel illustrations.  They capture the essence of Wonderland so perfectly and readers have known and loved theses illustrations since Alice in Wonderland was first published in 1865.

`but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.’

For it's age, this is a story that will never get old and you're never too old to read it.

`Off with their heads!’

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Monday, 16 October 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Angel - Katerina Diamond

I'm a little behind in my DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles series, something that I plan to rectify as soon as possible, but I wouldn't have missed The Angel blog tour for the world.  I absolutely loved Katerina Diamond's debut, The Teacher, so I'm keen to get back on track with the series.  Alas, so many books so little time...

For my stop on the blog tour, I have an extract for you today and I'm sure it'll whet your appetite enough to head over to Amazon to pick up a copy for yourself.


When a burned body is found in a disused signal box, suspicion falls on lonely teenager Gabriel Webb. There’s no doubt he was at the scene of the crime, but does he really deserve what awaits him in prison?

DS Imogen Grey is certain there’s more to the case than meets the eye. But while she struggles to convince those around her of the truth, her partner DS Adrian Miles is distracted by his own demons.

When a brutal double murder is reported, their investigation is stopped in its tracks. Is the body in the box even who they thought it was? The duo realise Gabriel might have been locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. But with enemies watching Gabriel’s every move, they may be too late.

Miles and Grey are back in the thrilling new novel from bestselling author Katerina Diamond, perfect for fans of Karin Slaughter and M.J. Arlidge.

EXTRACT from The Angel

‘Where’s Jason?’ Barratt asked.

‘I don’t know.’ Gabriel answered. 

‘You don’t know? When was the last time you saw him?’ Hyde barked at him, just inches away from Gabriel’s face. Gabriel was taller and it felt strange having this smaller man shouting at him. He hated having to ignore it, to take the anger. It went against everything he was. He wasn’t violent, but he was proud. Although he had no reason to be proud anymore.

‘In the cell. Before dinner.’

‘We’re going to need a little more information than that,’ Hyde pushed.

‘When I woke up I went to dinner, he wasn’t there when I left or when I came back.’

‘Is that true?’ Barratt stepped in, clearly playing good cop to Hyde’s aggression.

‘I swear.’

‘Lockdown!’ Hyde shouted, his voice reverberating through the wing. The prisoners groaned and moved back into their cells. From what Gabriel could tell, this seemed like something that happened quite often.

Hyde left the room and Barratt seemed to be waiting until he was out of earshot before he spoke to Gabriel again.

‘If you had nothing to do with this I suggest you keep your nose out of it,’ Barratt whispered.
‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean Jason upset the wrong people and those people are not going to get caught.’
‘Why are you telling me this?’

‘Because you’re new. We see a lot of the same faces in here over and over again. I’ve never seen you before so I guess that means maybe you aren’t such a bad guy. Keep your nose clean and your time in here will go a lot faster.’

‘Keep my nose clean how?’

‘Just don’t get mixed up with the wrong people. Keep yourself to yourself. Use your nous.’  


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Sunday, 15 October 2017

BLOG TOUR: Anything You Do Say - Gillian McAllister

Gone Girl meets Sliding Doors in this edge-of-your-seat thriller
Joanna is an avoider. So far she has spent her adult life hiding bank statements and changing career aspirations weekly.
But then one night Joanna hears footsteps on the way home. Is she being followed? She is sure it's him; the man from the bar who wouldn't leave her alone. Hearing the steps speed up Joanna turns and pushes with all of her might, sending her pursuer tumbling down the steps and lying motionless on the floor.
Now Joanna has to do the thing she hates most - make a decision. Fight or flight? Truth or lie? Right or wrong?

What did I think?

Oh wow!  What Gillian McAllister has created here is nothing short of exceptional - two novels in one in only her second book!  I'm sure many an established author would shy away from such a challenge with the others wishing they had written it.

If I had to describe Joanna in one word it would be 'imaginative', so when she hears footsteps behind her after a night out she thinks it is the man she spurned in the bar.  As the footsteps get closer, Joanna reaches out and pushes her would-be attacker down the steps she is about to descend.  His momentum propels him forward at speed and he lies bent and broken at the bottom of the steps.  In that split second, Joanna must decide whether to run or call for help.  In a rare treat for readers, Gillian McAllister shows us the journey down both paths that Joanna will follow if she reveals or conceals her crime.

I thought it might get confusing with alternate 'reveal' and 'conceal' chapters but it really doesn't.  In conceal, Joanna is eaten up with guilt and her lie snowballs out of control and threatens to crush her under its weight like the boulder chasing Indiana Jones through the tunnel.  Even when Joanna reveals her crime she still can't help getting tangled up in a web of lies and her whole defence revolves around the one thing she is lying about: how long she hesitated before raising the alarm.

I do firmly believe that we have particular paths we are destined to follow in our lives.  Even though sometimes there may be a fork in the road or roadworks causing a diversion, we ultimately get back on the path we should be on.  Joanna's journey is just like this as whichever path she follows, reveal and conceal will merge together at the end but will leave very different casualties in their wake.

Anything You Do Say is such a thought-provoking and hugely entertaining book.  At her fork in the road, I felt Joanna's fear and truly believed that she was afraid for her life so I can completely understand why she lashed out like she did.  It's easy to say that you would rush to help an injured person, but would you be in such a rush if you thought that person meant to do you harm and may still be a danger to you?  It's hard to say how you would react in such circumstances; with that spike of adrenaline and a thudding heartbeat in your ears, what would you do?  This is the question that I'm sure every single reader of Anything You Do Say will ponder for many days, weeks, months and even years after reading this outstanding novel.

Oh you've upped the ante now, Gillian McAllister!  I'm not sure how you plan to follow this but I can't wait to find out.  You had me hooked with Everything But The Truth but Anything You Do Say is so extraordinary that it completely blew me away.  This book is going to be a HUGE success so make sure you pick up a copy and see what everyone is raving about.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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