"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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"CHANGE OF CHAOS" By Jacinta Jade

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Monday, March 19, 2018 In : Book Reviews 


This book is a long, yet surprisingly easy to read first instalment, to what looks like a very promising YA saga. I have to admit, I gulped when I saw the word count – almost 150,000! – yet, those words flew by pretty quickly. Jacinta has a very appealing writing style, which draws you in and does not tax the brain a great deal; her characters seem likeable enough, and there are some promising elements. However, it is ultimately a tad disappointing, a fact probably compounded by its lengt...


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"MY WEIGHT LOSS JOURNEY..." By Andreas Michaelides

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





If you are expecting “My Weight Loss Journey...” to provide a fad diet to help you lose weight fast and easy, you will be disappointed. In fact, Andreas consciously chooses to dispel those two very words from your mindset, to his great credit. What this book actually is, right from the off, is more of a lesson than a ten-a-penny self-help guide. It is chocked full of good, honest advice; there are no tricks or agendas here - no lip service – just the hard truth: weight loss takes hard w...

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"MALTHUS REVISITED: THE CUP OF WRATH" By Lin Wilder

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Monday, February 19, 2018 In : Book Reviews 



The latest instalment in the Lindsey McCall series immediately feels as though you are still reading the same book.  Lin Wilder spends a good deal of time recapping “The Fragrance Shed By A Violet” and “A Price For Genius”, creating what can perhaps more accurately be considered a saga than a series.  Although the main plotlines do stand alone, as in this book, they seem of secondary importance to Lin than the subplots involving her favourite character ensemble, all of which find a ro...


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"SONGS TO NEW YORK" by Myrtle Brooks

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Friday, February 2, 2018 In : Book Reviews 




"Songs to New York” is a light-hearted and tender anthology of ten short stories, with overtly bountiful references to the author’s love affair with her home city – a quality which I, as a proud Londoner, relate to completely, and find more than a little endearing.

These sometimes mystical, sometimes fantastical, and always utterly charming tales are loaded with metaphors, commonly underpinned by two in particular: the city itself, as a breathing, living, warm and loving being, and the c...


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"MONOLAND: THE SHIMMERING MIST" by E.A. Minin

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Monday, January 22, 2018 In : Book Reviews 



I was delighted when Jevgenijs sent me this sequel to “Monoland: Into the Gray Horizon” – the second in the series – and have been anticipating its arrival for some time.  The first was one of the best, most imaginative books I have reviewed to date, and, in many ways, “The Shimmering Mist” is better.  It picks up at the very moment its predecessor ended, with Owen and Dizz facing imminent punishment by the justice system of their grey-scale afterlife Purgatory. 

More so than the...


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"TUMMY RUMBLE QUAKE" by Heather L. Beal

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Sunday, January 21, 2018 In : Book Reviews 




I had a few minutes to spare, so I picked up this short educational children’s book, and it brought a smile to my face.  The concept is advice for young children in the event of an earthquake, in a fun way that they can easily remember, without being frightened.  My favourite thing about “Tummy Rumble Quake” is the clever way Heather explains the scientific cause of an earthquake – like a jigsaw puzzle, in which sometimes the pieces argue for space; I thought this was a great analogy ...


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"ENDOHUMAN: LOVE vs. DUTY" BY NICK DREAM

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 In : Book Reviews 



“Endohuman Part One...” is a very strange book to review, in that it unexpectedly crosses genres in several respects. While this is ordinarily something I very much like to see, and the author deserves huge respect for constructing this imaginative story, I finished it with mixed feelings. 

The writing was very good, and I was enjoying the book a great deal, in spite of the fact that up to a point, pretty much half way, in fact, it seems your average YA fantasy, with all the usual elem...


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"THE LUCKY WINNER" By Tomi Farrell

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 In : Book Reviews 



This crime thriller is entertaining and engrossing right from the off, at least in the first half – midway it appears to change genre and audience entirely. What began as a clever young-adult mystery, with all the usual character and plot cliches, develops in the final third, into pure, glossy pulp-fiction thriller, with all the far-fetched character development and Hollywood gloss. It initially strikes as YA for the main reason that most of the lead characters do seem to ...


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"HAPPINESS IS JUST A PILL AWAY" by David Grad

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Wednesday, December 20, 2017 In : Book Reviews 




This hugely impressive book is a very cynical, bittersweet and, at times, funny attack on the drudgery of the 9-5 day-to-day, compounding the constant disappointment of underachievement, in a society based on fallacy, superficiality and promise. A book which is easy to relate to in its hopelessness, and the motivation (or lack thereof) of its unnamed protagonist (/antagonist?).

There are laughs – including some real belly ones - but “Happiness Is Just A Pill Away” is not comedy,...


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