"DIE BACK" by Richard Hacker

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Thursday, February 7, 2019 In : Book Reviews 


Nicely written by a good quality, professional author, this fantasy is more a time-travelling actioner, which is exciting and engaging.  Richard Hacker has a good knowledge of history, and has done his research very well, but, gladly, doesn’t overplay it – the focus of this book is the formula, with its 3 acts, its heroes, love interest and a ruthless super-villain, who craves no less than total domination of the space-time continuum. 

The story is a good, interesting one; the ability o...


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"Gone to the Dogs" by Simon Gary

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Thursday, January 24, 2019 In : Book Reviews 



Very quickly when you start reading this book, the author’s affection for the era and its naivety come pouring through.  I didn’t know what to expect, realizing that the sitcom to which it refers - despite Simon Gary’s misleading foreword and blurb – is actually a fictional one, as are all the characters therein; though, clearly based on an element of reality and, by the looks of it, some industry experience on Gary’s part.  With its nods toward the “Carry On” movie style, and s...


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"READ TO SUCCEED" by Stan Skrabut

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Saturday, January 12, 2019 In : Book Reviews 



As somebody who reads prolifically in the course of my work, the title and tagline of Stan Skrabut’s “Read to Succeed” struck a particularly resounding chord with me, and I was very eager to find out more from what I assumed was a study into the nurturing power of reading as exercise for your brain; reinforcement of my own belief that reading increases ones wit, intellect, wisdom, logic and general capacity to improve one’s character.  This book does all that and more – it is incred...


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"Victoria's Voice: Our Daughter's Dying Wish To Share Her Diary And Save Lives From Drugs" by David and Jackie Siegel

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Monday, January 7, 2019 In : Book Reviews 



“Victoria’s Voice” is a tragic account of teenage depression and self-destruction, more tragic still because the tale is so common as to seem familiar, even though in reality the world Victoria occupied was probably a million miles from the majority of our own.  It seems very clear, right from the opening paragraphs, that Victoria was another sad victim of the American dream’s flipside, with all the artifice and superficiality that goes with that life of luxury; her death was one of m...


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"I HAVE DEMONS" BY CHRISTOPHER ADAM

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Thursday, December 27, 2018 In : Book Reviews 




Adam is an extremely articulate author, who is flawless with grammar and very easy to read; I absorbed the whole of this trio of tales in one sitting.

Set in both rural and urban Canada, the stories are short and relatable slice-of-life snippets, character-based, without any real sense of drama; the basis of the book seems to be a metaphorical one. Moreso, the tales have an unexpected air of bleakness about them - forlorn and almost foreboding. In the foreword, Adam hints at a common theme,...


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"THE DAY MY KISSES TASTED LIKE DISORDER" By Emmanuella Hristova

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Sunday, November 25, 2018 In : Book Reviews 



Through truly heartfelt, gut-wrenching poetry, Emmanuella tells the deeply personal story of the rise and fall of a relationship, against the backdrop of the devastating sadness of loss.  She is a lovely poet, who feels every word, not so much writing them as sobbing, then eventually roaring them onto the page.  Written like a journal, its entries in prose, you do find yourself suspecting this book is the direct publication of a genuine diary this author composed.  Whilst feeling somewhat voy...


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"WRITTEN BY BLOOD PART ONE: CONVICTION" by Dwayne Gill

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Thursday, November 22, 2018 In : Book Reviews 




I’m always a touch wary when reading a book, the title of which includes the words “part one”, having been left hanging on many occasions by infuriating and sometimes ridiculous cliffhangers.
  However, this is not one of those books, I’m pleased to say; I don’t think I’m spoiling it in any way by saying that “Conviction” is satisfyingly self-contained, whilst leaving a tantalising hint at the bigger picture of the series generally – as Marcene says: “A storm is coming”, ...

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"THE ROOM ABOVE" BY LAURA HERGANE

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Tuesday, October 30, 2018 In : Book Reviews 




Laura is a wonderful writer, in her own way; you can tell the use of language is of huge importance to her, and is more the point than any other aspect of her writing – she uses interesting prose for its own sake.  Laura is of Eastern European origin, and the English transcription of her work perhaps still needs some work.  Don’t get me wrong – clearly highly educated, she has a hugely proficient, eloquent vocabulary, and her grammar is of the highest standard; only, perhaps, her phrasi...


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"LEGENDS OF PERSIA" BY JENNIFER MACAIRE

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Wednesday, October 24, 2018 In : Book Reviews 




I was quite critical of the first instalment of the Alexander series, so did try to read Jennifer’s review copy of the first sequel with an open mind.  She is something of an oxymoron, in that she is an extremely talented author, with a fantastic writing style and an undeniable knowledge of not only her subject, but her craft, yet her choice of storyline and genre is at best a little immature, and at worst somewhat offensive.

As a semi-fictional account of the life of Alexander the Great a...


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"MERMAIDS ARE REAL: THE MYSTIQ PRONG" by BO WU

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Friday, October 12, 2018 In : Book Reviews 




This vivid and colourfully descriptive book goes straight into full-scale fantastical with very little warning.  Telling the tale of Benji, a thirteen-year-old boy who finds out he is, in fact, a mermaid/man, it seems two-parts children’s book to one-part grown-up.  Personally, I feel it is much better in its mature moments, because the story, once it starts to form, is a pretty good one – and an important one at that.

Wu is clearly passionate about the life in our oceans, and the messag...


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"MASTERMINDS INCORPORATED: AN APPOINTMENT WITH FEAR" BY CHAD LEE ERWAY

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Monday, September 17, 2018 In : Book Reviews 




Wow!  The 5-star books just keep on coming!

This is a great book for kids and adults alike.  This fun horror-adventure was the perfect use of my time, and just the right amount of it, too; I couldn’t put it down, and read the whole thing in one sitting.  You can tell immediately an author who has fun with his work, and Chad clearly does that.  Entertaining and creative, with some genuinely quite scary moments, this is a book I would recommend very highly to middle-school kids and young-at-he...


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"THE DOG THIEF AND OTHER STORIES" BY JILL KEARNEY

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Wednesday, September 5, 2018 In : Book Reviews 




Jill is a wonderful author, articulate and engaging, with a prose which is so calming as to be almost hypnotic.  Her slow-burning short tales and novella are not actioners, nor even particularly dramatic, but they are engrossing and charming.  With a strong element of emotional morality and an even stronger one of melancholy, all feature a prominent animal welfare message.  Jill’s writing is gritty and real, with no attempts at any kind of sensationalism.  They are also, at times, infuriati...


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"THE REVOLUTIONARY YOUTH" BY JOHN SIMPSON

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Thursday, August 30, 2018 In : Book Reviews 



In some ways paradoxically, this is an excellent book, not very well presented, by a fantastic author.  The first-person mock autobiographical prose in this work of fiction is so authentic that it must be either genuine biography, or incredibly well-researched by John Simpson.  He deserves a huge amount of credit for creating a real gritty slice-of-life tale, so vivid you feel that you are there living it with the anti-hero, Tommy.  There is no issue with the language, but rather the editing ...


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"WINNING WITH DATA: CRM AND ANALYTICS FOR THE BUSINESS OF SPORTS"

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Friday, August 24, 2018 In : Book Reviews 

This is an incredibly relevant book which, although primarily based in the sports business, can certainly be applied to most industries in the modern, data-driven world.  In fact, for large parts, the sports aspect feels notably incidental; “Winning with Data…” is, in fact, much more than this: a must-have business guide, written by what is clearly a top professional in her field.  Fiona has a pedigree of the business side of sports; she is clearly highly connected, and I was left in li...


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"FATHER DIVINE'S BIKES" BY STEVE BASSETT

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Sunday, August 19, 2018 In : Book Reviews 



“Father Divine’s Bikes” is a fantastically written and utterly enthralling book by a very talented author.  It is at its best when a slice-of-life cultural expose, and for the most part this is what it is.  Set in wartime 1940s New Jersey, it portrays a melting pot of immigrant culture, with all the racial segregation, paranoia and employment resentment which comes with that.  The racial language is raw and offensive – there is certainly no whitewashed rewriting of history here, and t...


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"THE ROAD TO ALEXANDER" BY JENNIFER MACAIRE

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Tuesday, August 14, 2018 In : Book Reviews 


“The Road to Alexander” is one of the strangest books I have ever been asked to review, in that it is possibly the most contrary.  Ordinarily, I love books which cross genres, if done well, and this book certainly does that.  It doesn’t take itself too seriously – at least, surely it can’t – and seems, for the most part, to have its tongue buried very firmly in its cheek. 

The premise is an interesting one: a time-travelling journalist from the future returns to the 4th century ...


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"47 HOURS: THE COUP THAT SHOOK THE AMERICAS" BY CLINCHANDHILL

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Friday, August 10, 2018 In : Book Reviews 



Without doubt, Clinchandhill is an excellent writer and “47 Hours…” is a work of immense quality, right from the very first line.  The author’s grasp and narration of political history and Latin American political culture is insightful and/or incredibly well researched, and you suspect that this book was a long time in the creation – the outcome was definitely worth the investment.  I am left in little doubt that Clinchandhill has had first-hand experience of the country in which th...


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"MY GROANS POUR OUT LIKE WATER" by Frances Bloom

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Tuesday, July 31, 2018 In : Book Reviews 



Poetry is a unique expression of art, and the perfect medium for bereavement therapy, in the respect that the author can pour random words of helplessness and despair onto the page without order, as chaotic in prose as it is in their mind.  “My Groans Pour Out Like Water” is actually a hugely appropriate title for this book, the “groans” in reference being Frances’s groans of pain and misery. 

Although there is something more than a little voyeuristic about reading this extremely ...


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"FEAST OF SAPPHIRES" BY MATT NAGIN

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Friday, July 27, 2018 In : Book Reviews 

A prolific collection of poetry by a hugely creative author.  These poems, although short, are very bittersweet, and they yell “quality”, from beginning to end.  I do enjoy reviewing poetry from time to time, and it is fair to say that this collection is of my favourites to date – I liked it a lot. 

There is an underlying theme – not in terms of the subject matter, but in general overall mood and context: there is anger, cynicism and despair in this work.  Be prepared, the writing i...


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"THE WAREHOUSE TOUR" BY K.A. CUMMINS

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Sunday, July 1, 2018 In : Book Reviews 




You know immediately within the first couple of paragraphs that this is standard cliched horror – or at least you think you do.  By the next paragraphs, it is also clearly obvious that it is classic YA or even teen fare, with the usual stereotypes of the popular girl and the high-school jock – basically all the things many horror fans like to see.  But this is where the similarities abruptly end. 

The first half of this book is atmospheric and gripping, with a nail-biting sense of menac...


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"SPARROWHAWK ON THE HORIZON" BY A. SCHOLTE

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 In : Book Reviews 



The moment you begin reading “Sparrowhawk on the Horizon”, you know immediately it is an undeniable work of quality.  Scholte is an articulate, educated and highly professional author, who evidently spent ten years researching and creating this book; her diligence shows. 

Her informative semi-factual account of the birth of the Americas Cup is a homage to the time – a period of innovative ship-building, in the years following the Industrial Revolution – and provides a deep insight i...


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"LIONS, LEOPARDS AND STORMS... OH MY!" BY HEATHER L. BEAL

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Tuesday, June 5, 2018 In : Book Reviews 




This is the second I have read of Heather’s lovely, heartfelt educational books for early-grade kids, after “Tummy Rumble Quake”, and it is part of the same weather-related safety series (which also includes “Elephant Wind”).  Very similar in vein, I did feel that this book was in some ways more accomplished, yet simultaneously lacked the quality of content of the first.  It features the same group of friends and, as before, the same beautifully colourful illustrations, which are fu...


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"AQUILA: CAN SILVANUS ESCAPE THAT GOD?" BY VINCE ROCKSTON

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Friday, June 1, 2018 In : Book Reviews 



I’ll be honest, “Aquila…” is far from the action adventure I was expecting, and I would strongly advise that to fully enjoy this book, the reader needs to understand what it is about.  In this respect, I would say that the blurb is a touch misleading - there is no action element, and in some ways a huge aspect of historical non-fiction.  I won’t say I was disappointed, because as soon as it become clear what Rockston’s tale is (about midway), I developed a whole new respect for it...


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"THE ROVING MIND: A MODERN APPROACH TO COGNITIVE ENHANCEMENT" by Anthony Simola

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Saturday, May 26, 2018 In : Book Reviews 

There are two aspects to this fantastic book by Anthony Simola, however, neither of them are really what I was expecting.  When I think of cognitive enhancement, I imagine a range of behavioural and decision-making techniques, such as CBT, and while Simola does touch on methods to enhance one’s own cognitive skills via pure psychology, it is a brief excursion from the real theme of this book, which is enhancing intelligence by artificial means, such as medication and advanced technology.  I...


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"GOD: CHALLENGES FROM PHILOSOPHY AND SCIENCE" By Lynne Renoir

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Wednesday, May 16, 2018 In : Book Reviews 





If you are expecting an entertaining theological debate, or easy-reading brain-fodder, this is not the book for you.  What it appears, in fact (at least, the first half), is the publication of Dr. Renoir’s dissertation - a completely academic book, which would serve as a very useful study tool, rather than bedtime reading.  While she is an incredibly well-educated and highly eloquent author, the majority of readers will probably not be equipped to read and absorb such an academic style of w...

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"NO ONE LISTENS" By Lady Byrd

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Sunday, April 8, 2018 In : Book Reviews 

I enjoy books of poetry, and I enjoyed this intense and personal collection from Lady Byrd. With a theme of love and a need to be heard, “No-One Listens” is clearly a very profound therapy for the perhaps troubled author, and suggests an underlying trauma. It does feel a tad voyeuristic, as though we are privy to Lady Byrd’s heart and mind, as well as her private demons.

She expresses herself frankly and creatively. With its self-contained assortment of fonts and formats, this collecti...


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"JUST ANOTHER GIRL'S STORY: A MEMOIR ON FINDING REDEMPTION" By Laura Eckert

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Friday, April 6, 2018 In : Book Reviews 


People write books for a variety of reasons – sometimes they have a lesson to teach, or a message to share, sometimes it is to make money, and sometimes for their own therapy. In Laura’s case, you get the distinct impression throughout that therapy is her reason; however, as you start to reach the final chapters of “Just Another Girl’s Story...” , you come to realize that the “redemption” to which she refers in the title, she is assuming from spreading her pro-life mess...


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"THE NIGHT ALPHABET" By David Donachie

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Sunday, April 1, 2018 In : Book Reviews 





My second 5-star review in a week!

I love short stories, and I was delighted to be sent “The Night Alphabet”, which is a collection of wonderfully compact coffee-break tales, each based (albeit tenuously) on a theme beginning with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. They are truly enthralling, grabbing you straight away with the heartbreaking story of an angel living amongst us, which has a very current socio-moral message.

David Donachie is an incredibly creative writer, weaving hi...

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"GOODBYE BUTTERFLIES: THE 5-DAY STAGE-FRIGHT SOLUTION" By Dr. David Lee Fish

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Monday, March 26, 2018 In : Book Reviews 


This is a very interesting and surprisingly entertaining self-help book, by an articulate and highly qualified author. Dr. Fish is not, as you might think from reading this book, a psychology professional, but, instead, a music industry one. Still, if reading this book assured me of one thing, it is that he more than possesses the credentials to write it. The book is touted as a “stage-fright solution”, and it certainly does offer this, but I feel a more appropriate title for this book w...

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"FISH FARM" By Walt Sautter

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Wednesday, March 21, 2018 In : Book Reviews 



This is a great little novella, gripping and entertaining, which I managed to read in one short evening.  “Fish Farm” is a wonderful cautionary thriller, written in an otherwise entertaining voice, with some really good setpieces – a well-told vigilante tale (and who doesn’t love one of those?) in the mould of “Death Wish” and “Harry Brown”.  The characters are interesting, with intriguing back-stories, and the story is simple yet enticing, with a great ending which I didn’t...


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