In Degsy Hay: A Juvenile Redeemed, Brian Montgomery sets himself up as a modern day Horatio Alger or Charles Dickens, telling a tale of a hard-done-by young man who overcomes his humble beginnings to become something more.
Degsy Hay, born inside a UK prison to a heroin addict, inherits his mother’s chaotic life, as well as a mysterious diary with missing pages. At age 16, he’s released from McAlley-Stoke youth facility with no prospects. He spends a few months on the streets, during which he assembles a small entourage including a three-legged dog named Sadface, a girlfriend (and her young son) and several homeless tradespeople. Before long, though, he’s back in McAlley-Stoke, where, through a mix of violence and charisma, he quickly becomes the Gaffer, the big man in the youth correctional facility. He launches a reform campaign to encourage the young offenders to educate themselves during their incarceration and convinces (via a bloody riot complete with hostage-taking) the facility itself to treat its wards more humanely. All the while, a mystery around missing children and how they’re connected to the missing pages of his mum’s diary builds around him.
Montgomery gives his hero/narrator a distinct voice, rife with Cockney slang, locating him squarely in the rough and tumble housing estates of urban London, a lot of “nar’mean” this and “geezer” that. But for all his streetwise exterior, Degsy is a kind soul at heart and looks out for the people around him. It seems that everyone he meets has a lesson to teach him, even if they have to die a grisly death for him to learn it. The people closest to Degsy have a nasty habit of ending up dead, or filthy rich. Sometimes both.
For a book that tackles some extremely difficult topics like poverty, addiction, and child abuse, Degsy Hay can be a bit simplistic at times. It seems more concerned with showing how one extraordinary character overcomes these heinous hurdles with a plucky attitude and a few well-placed friends, and yet there’s an internal logic to it too. It’s Degsy himself who tells the story, and so why wouldn’t he place himself at the center and give himself all the credit?
On the surface, the story of a streetwise youth pulling one over on the world with nothing more than his wits, a few friends, and a three-legged dog should appeal to middle grade readers, but the very strong language and heavy theme of sexual abuse are better suited to older readers with a bit of maturity to process the trauma at the core of Degsy’s tale. More sophisticated readers, though, might find the very Dickensian style of storytelling a bit old fashioned. But then, we’re still reading Dickens, so why not? At any rate, the colourful language and Degsy’s unforgettable voice should keep them interested.
Pages: 180 | ASIN: B07K7VSQF8
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“While Kenyatta initiated corruption, and made it a pastime for well-placed government officials, Moi institutionalized it and made it routine within all ranks of society.”
Looters and Grabbers, 54 Years of Corruption and Plunder by the Elite by Joe Khamisi is a detailed account of the historical and contemporary corruption plaguing the African country of Kenya. It details corruption from the highest levels of government down to average citizens. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific theme of corruption spanning from 1963 to 2017 and encompassing four presidencies; Presidents Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki, and Uhuru Kenyatta.
I started this book thinking there would be some kind of a silver lining at the end, but there isn’t one. What you’ll find is a detailed account of the pervasive corruption that is literally everywhere in Kenya. Time and time again it’s shown how corruption is despised by all but is undertaken at every opportunity. It seems that anti-corruption is the political rallying call, but profit is always the underlying goal.
This is a historical book in that it does describe the rise of four of Kenya’s presidents, Kenya’s independence from Britain, and the development of Kenya’s modern government, but it does all of this with a focus on corruption; from it’s inception into it’s many manifestations in every part of Kenya’s government. One thing that I learned is how corruption in Kenya is not a local affair, but a global enterprise. European, Asian, and Western countries have had their turn profiting from corruption in Kenya.
One thing I did enjoy was how we get to see the country develop, through stories of corruption, into modern times. We go from President Kenyatta who is the first president when Kenya receives its independence from Britain, to president Uhuru who its noted as having a large Twitter following. At one point even mentioning Paul Manafort and his company helping the Kenyan President resuscitate his global image.
This is a good book for those interested in history, African culture, political science students, and most of all corruption. If you’re interested in learning how corruption is instituted, contributed to, and perpetuated, then this book is a master class in delivering specific examples.
What concerned me the most after reading account after account was that, as the author states, these are the corruption cases that we know about, and have been documented or reported on by the media. I’m sure there are plenty more that we don’t know about.
This book is exceptionally researched with a wealth of references. Joe Khamisi has done a fantastic job turning a list of corruption cases into a linear narrative that is compelling and thought provoking.
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The Green Line Divide: Romance, Travel and Turmoils, written by Z. Vally, is about Alexis Theodorou, a 24-year-old woman from Britain. Alexis is visiting the dreamy location of Cyprus to attend college. Her charming and witty persona mixed with her good looks helps her to live in the new country, and soon she finds work as a housekeeper- even if that occasionally comes with its own set of troubles. Soon, after a few mishaps with work, she meets a handsome Swede by the name of Sven where she begins a whirlwind romance. But this romance soon comes with its own turmoils, and Alexis soon learns that the biggest obstacles in life are often the ones within ourselves. Will she be able to overcome her inner battles to marry the man of her dreams?
The Green Line Divide: Romance, Travel and Turmoils is a romance novel guaranteed to warm your heart and put a smile on your face. Filled with quirky nuances, questionable intentions and breathtaking moments, this story will be your perfect summer fling.
The romance between Sven and Alexis is slow to start; however, it gives the story time to build on Alexis, her personality and the exciting characters within her work and personal life. I loved the character Molly and her carefree spirit. Her ability to hitchhike and find fun was impressive and I could easily imagine her as the perfect friend to travel overseas with.
The language is beautiful, and the magical landscapes are easily envisioned with the rich description of the sights and sounds. At times the novel goes into depth about the history of the city, adding to the vivid imagery. You can feel the sun on your face, taste the delightful food prepared and smell the salty tang of the crisp blue sea. It is easy to get caught up in your thoughts as you imagine a holiday where you can experience such serenity and beauty. At times the story was a little slow, but this was overturned through comedic moments and important lessons learned by the characters.
The Green Line Divide: Romance, Travel and Turmoils also gives the reader a taste of life as a student abroad, as they battle the ups and downs of college, finding work and meeting new faces. There are also the barriers that come with being overseas; from not understanding parts of the language or being questioned by the law for seemingly innocent activities. The characters struggle to find suitable work and come across problems such as dodgy roommates, unsavoury bosses and misleading men.
Many readers will be able to relate to the sorts of lessons that Alexis experiences. From learning to stand up for yourself and being able to leave a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, to making foreign friends in new countries, The Green Line Divide: Romance, Travel and Turmoils will be relatable to all those who have travelled or lived in a new destination or country. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a light and romantic novel, set in a dreamy holiday destination.
Pages: 195 | ASIN: B00SF5I61M
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I Spy with My Little Eye analyses and discusses our changing behaviours as a society. Why was this an important book for you to write?
This book was important for me to write for three different reasons. First, on a personal level, researching and writing this book has helped me think through a number of concerns that have been in the back of my mind for a while about the direction in which our society is heading. As a result of this process, I’m more convinced than ever that I, as a parent, need to make active choices that go against some of today’s societal trends if I’m to provide my children with a sensible worldview and a solid starting point in life.
Second, I find it worrying that there isn’t greater debate about the values and norms underpinning our society. I think we need to acknowledge and perhaps rethink many of our behaviours if we wish to solve some of the symptoms of ill-health that are plaguing our societies, such as stress and anxiety, financial indebtedness and shallow aspirations. It’s difficult to change course if we don’t know where we’re heading. Acknowledging the problems is therefore a good start. I raise a lot of issues for discussion in this book and it’s my hope that it will be used for spurring debates in schools, book clubs and other places.
Finally, as I see it, questions around morality have too often been outsourced to, and monopolized by, organized religion. What I want to show by using the seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues is that being religious is not a precondition for being concerned about, and engaging in discussions around, morality.
This book uses a combination of statistics, quotes and recent topics to illustrate various points. I thought the research was outstanding. What was one thing that surprised you while you were researching this book?
On the whole, the data I used in the various chapters supported the hunches I already had about the issues I raise. In that sense I wasn’t particularly surprised by what the data showed. That said, I was still horrified to have my suspicions confirmed, especially when it came to statistics concerning children, such as the large amount of time they, on average, spend in front of screens, and the little time they spend outdoors.
This book looks at some of the problems affecting Britain s society today. Is there a problem that is unique to Britain? What is a problem that is shares with the world?
Although I’m drawing on material mainly from the British context, the issues I’m discussing are applicable to many more countries than the UK. I would argue that much of what I write about are trends found across the Western world. For example, in the first chapter titled Pride I discuss how today’s ‘celebritisation’ – the increased celebration of celebrities – affects the aspirations of young people towards careers that come with fame and glamour. This trend is far from unique to Britain. Seeing, for example, that the reality TV series Keeping Up with the Kardashians is apparently aired in 167 countries, I would say this issue is rather widespread.
Also, the role of the West as a predominant exporter of popular culture and information means that the norms and values we experience today in Britain may well be the norms and values experienced across the developing world in the years to come, if they aren’t already.
I think it would be a worth-while exercise to organize cross-cultural debates around the issues I raise in this book. For example, it would be interesting to set up panel debates at universities for students from different countries to discuss commonalities and differences in how they perceive values and norms playing out in their respective societies.
I understand that you currently live in London, but you’ve also lived in various other countries. How has this affected you as a citizen?
I was born and raised in the Northern Swedish countryside and I have moved many times as an adult, both within countries and across countries and continents. For over a decade now I’ve called England my home; starting off in London, moving out to the Essex commuter belt, and more recently setting up shop in rural Devon.
These moves have naturally altered the mirrors in which I see myself in relation to other people and cultures. Each time these contextual mirrors have changed I have had to step out of autopilot mode and take stock. In that sense, I think the many moves have made me wiser and more understanding as a person. They have also added a comparative perspective to my societal observations. For example, I think I have a better grasp of American politics because I’ve lived in both Montana and Washington D.C. And, I think I understand European geopolitics better because I’ve called Sweden, France, Spain and the UK my home.
On the other hand, I would probably have exercised a louder societal and political voice if I had stayed in my home country. Being an immigrant comes with a natural wish to blend in, and to be accepted. Especially after Brexit, I have sadly found myself adding things like ‘my husband is British’ or ‘I’ve been in England for many years’ when I meet new people simply to justify my existence in this country. I must also admit that I’ve had a fear when writing this book that people will think ‘who are you to come here and judge us?’ I sincerely hope the book won’t evoke such feelings.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
In my next book I highlight the Western world’s evaporated trust in politics, business, and international institutions and argue that we need to tackle this lack of trust through greater focus on integrity and honesty in public life. I shed light on a number of the mechanisms believed to induce integrity through interesting (and hopefully amusing) cases from around the world, including whether Donald Trump’s fibbing can be stopped by naming and shaming, and if FIFA’s culture of corruption is finally an issue of the past. My intention with the book is to re-package academic research into an approachable format and let interesting cases bring the theories to life.
The book is only in its research phase so it won’t be ready for publishing for quite a while still.
Which direction is our society heading in? Does it provide a good enough nurturing ground for the next generation to flourish? Is it time we took a good look at our values and behaviour and changed course? Dr Linnea Mills offers a frank discussion about the prevailing norms and values in today’s Britain, interpreted through the seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues. She tackles head-on topics as diverse as celebrity culture, work-life balance, immigration politics and economic divisions. This is a book for anyone with a keen interest in society, philosophy and politics. Get inspired and join the debate.
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I Spy With My Little Eye: A journey through the moral landscape of Britain, written by Linnea Mills, is a novel written in an attempt to understand the morals, norms and values held by Britain’s current society. It is based around the seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues and uses these ideas as metaphors for the current issues present in society. There is a combination of statistics, quotes and recent topics to illustrate the consequences of economic divides, celebrity status, money, power and greed. It will leave you wondering- what is your interpretation of wealth, happiness and success?
I Spy With My Little Eye is a masterpiece that analyses and discusses our changing behaviours as a society. Prepare to reconsider your personal views and be confronted with statistics and studies that prove just how much of our lives are shaped by media, “celebrities” and power.
It challenges the norms held by today’s social standards and instead encourages the reader to consider whether the behaviour we partake in is a reflection of our true intentions and beliefs or are we just following the crowd mentality. It also pushes you to contemplate whether your behaviours actually contribute to any form of personal or societal gain. At times I felt as though I could see the world in a new light, especially reading alarming studies about what children aspire to be or the implications of the celebrity phenomenon on our culture and identity.
Even though the chapter titles are based around Christian values, the author stresses that this is not a religious book and instead uses these sins and virtues to simply reference problems in Britain’s society- with a cheeky nod to our internal moral compasses. At what point does wealth become an addiction as opposed to a simple goal? And is it moulded by society or what truly makes you happy?
One of my favourite chapters was one that discussed Envy. With social media being such an integral part of most people’s lives, it was interesting to see the comparative statistics of happiness between those who continued to use the social media platforms or compared to those who gave them up. It also discusses trolls, consequences of online abuse and the implementations of social media on politics.
I was impressed at the depth of knowledge presented in the book as well as the sourced quotes and studies. The staggering statistics are mind-boggling and emphasise the manipulation of greed in positions of power. Linnea Mills also uses current events and trends to strengthen her arguments further and increase the validity of her ideas.
I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone! It a perfect balance of social issues, philosophy and facts, combined to create a piece of literature that challenges your belief on what makes you innately happy.
Pages: 145 | ASIN: B077PLR3FK
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Point of Return by Lloyd Tosoff is an action thriller set in Great Britain. The story centers on a struggling, naive accountant Ian MacLeod and his entanglement with a murder conspiracy concocted by the Glaswegian underworld. He doesn’t become involved by choice because it is his friends who choose to mess with the Glasgow mob and their violent ways. He left the city, but after becoming an accountant, being in a loveless marriage, and losing his job, he ends up going back. He meets an old friend and a stranger when he arrives, and the mystery and conflict begin to envelop him as he realizes he has to fight for his life or lose it.
This novel is part of a “double novel” series, but Point of Return stands on its own as a snappy thriller that follows Ian Fleming’s Bond series. The first chapter begins with MacLeod still in Glasgow and his decision to leave the city, and then we jump eleven years into the future to when the real action starts, and the story picks up from there.
In many ways, Tosoff follows the regular beats for the unsuspecting hero to be swept up into a conspiracy and for a thriller, this trope is not a particularly unusual one. The real grit of Tosoff is how he chooses to have MacLeod deal with his past and personal connection to Glasgow instead. A victim of abuse at the hands of a violent stepfather, his inner demons come through in small bits and shapes his character. The reader is gradually introduced to these pieces of MacLeod’s past, and for the reader, it helps invest more of themselves in the narrative and our precarious hero.
The atmosphere and pacing do wonders for this book, which is critical for a thriller and Tosoff manages all of these elements quite well. The few times that the novel does become predictable it’s uniquely colored by MacLeod’s past struggles and how he faces them. I hope that his past conflicts come to a better resolution in the sequel, Vanquished, which takes place immediately following this novel, because I can’t wait to see what happens.
This novel is a perfect fit for fans of crime and spy thrillers, and fans of Ian Fleming may find a welcome new home among Tosoff’s pages.
Pages: 560 | ASIN: 1505533090
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In Apollo’s Raven we follow a Celtic princess Catrin and her star-crossed Roman lover Marcellus on opposing sides of a fierce battle. What was your inspiration for the setup to this exciting series?
Since childhood, I’ve been an avid reader of mythology and legends that portrayed females as goddesses, warriors, and cunning sorceresses. I’ve always been drawn to bigger than life epic heroes and heroines who steered the destiny of their people. In my travels to London, I was struck by the statue of Boudica and her daughters riding in a chariot near the Thames River. I discovered that she was a celebrated warrior queen who united the Britons in a revolt against the Romans, almost throwing them out of Britannia in 61 AD. As I did more research, I became intrigued that Celtic women were considered as equals in this war-like society. The Roman historian Dio Cassius describes Boudica as having the mystical powers of a Druid. Other Roman historians wrote of Celtic women’s ferocity as they fought alongside their husbands.
The heroine Catrin is based on historical and legendary accounts of Celtic warrior queens such as Boudica in Britannia where women were held in higher esteem and could serve as warriors and rulers. The storyline of star-crossed lovers in Apollo’s Raven series is inspired by the legacy of Cleopatra and Mark Antony but with a Celtic twist. Archaeological evidence and sparse historical accounts suggest that Rome heavily influenced the politics of southeast Britannia prior to Claudius’s invasion in 43 AD—a political situation similar to Cleopatra’s Egyptian kingdom. I was also drawn to the tragedy of Mark Antony and his son, Iullus Antonius, whose downfalls were associated with powerful women. Their infamy cast a shadow on Marcellus, the great-grandson of Mark Antony, which will be further explored in the Apollo’s Raven series.
Your story is able to portray ancient Roman life in a believable yet entertaining way. What kind of research did you do to make sure you got everything right?
I did extensive research on the Roman life by reading books, journal articles, and blog posts by historians and archaeologists. Of particular interest are the written accounts by Julius Caesar which he sent to the Roman Senate as propaganda to support his military expeditions in Gaul and Britannia. I’ve also explored several Roman archaeological sites in Britain and France where scenes from the Apollo’s Raven series take place. Locations include Dover, Bath, Fishbourne Roman Palace, Colchester and Hadrian’s Wall in England, and Lyon in France.
As I researched Roman historical events and culture, I also tried to understand their mindsight. In Rome, the male head, the paterfamilias, had complete control over his family—wife, children, and slaves. If they disobeyed him, he had the power of life and death over them. Women were held in higher esteem in Celtic societies which is in sharp contrast with the paternalistic, empire-building Romans.
Catrin is a princess, yet she is not fragile. She’s tough and trains to be as strong as her sister. What themes did you want to capture while creating Catrin’s character?
It is my hope that modern women can draw on the rich traditions of the ancient Celtic civilization where females owned property and could become rulers and Druids. These women fought, hunted, rode horses and used weapons, just like the men, to protect their homeland.
Deeper themes that will be explored in the Apollo’s Raven series as Catrin matures and faces new challenges on her journey of becoming a warrior queen are as follows:
- Coming of Age
- Power to change destiny
- Sacrifice and love
- Corruption of power
- Quest for redemption
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am in the process of finishing Book 2: Empire’s Anvil, which should be available by the summer of 2018. The epic tale continues when King Amren accuses Catrin of treason for abetting her Roman lover, Marcellus. She must prove her loyalty to her father and people by forsaking all men and defending her kingdom even to death. Forged as a fierce warrior, she begins a quest to redeem herself and to break the curse that foretells her father’s kingdom will be destroyed. Yet, when she is reunites with Marcellus, she must face her greatest challenger that could destroy her life, freedom, and humanity.
The world is in turmoil. Celtic kings hand-picked by Rome to rule are fighting each other for power. King Amren’s former queen, a powerful Druid, has cast a curse that foretells Blood Wolf and the Raven will rise and destroy him.
King Amren reveals to his daughter, Princess Catrin, the grim prophesy that his former queen pronounced at her execution for treason to him.
The gods demand the scales be balanced for the life you take. If you deny my soul’s journey to the Otherworld by beheading me, I curse you to do the same as mine. I prophesize your future queen will beget a daughter who will rise as a Raven and join your son, Blood Wolf, and a mighty empire to overtake your kingdom and to execute my curse.
Catrin is trained as a warrior and discovers she is the Raven and must find a way to block the curse of the evil former queen. Torn between her forbidden love for her father’s enemy–Marcellus, the great-grandson of Mark Antony–and her loyalty to her people, she must summon the magic of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that awaits her.
Will Catrin overcome and eradicate the ancient curse? Will she be able to embrace her forbidden love with Marcellus? Will she cease the war between Blood Wolf and King Amren? Will she save Ancient Britannia?
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Basically Frightened is a story about one man’s travels, trials and tribulations in a post-apocalyptic Britain. Finally venturing out to break his cycle of hermitage, the narrator searches to find a group to join in the fight against the end of humanity. He finds group after gang after collective after family. When he finally discovers an eclectic community that takes him in and allows him to stay, he tries to fit into the environment. Sometimes, one can try too hard to fit in and the main character finds this out in spades.
Basic Frightened is a delightful story about one of the most depressing topics: The End of the World. The Narrator has a wit about him throughout the entire story that is both engaging and endearing. The entire time reading this book and the terms ‘Keep a stiff upper lip’ and ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ kept coming to mind like a gentle yet firm reminder. The characters that the protagonist can be a bit stereotypical and the story itself follows a well-trod path, but neither of those should keep this book from a wide spread audience.
The Narrator, ‘Buckaroo Bonzai’ as he likes to call himself because he never reveals his name, has similarities to other heroes of the wasteland that was once civilization: Strong sense of right and wrong, unique skill-set to help benefit those around him and the courage to do what’s right. Whereas the other ‘nameless’ or legendary characters, ‘Buck’ stands out due to the genuine and compassionate personality he exudes. Throughout the entirety of the book, ‘Buck’ allows the audience to peak not only into the corners of his own mind but why the world is the way it is. And none of it feels forced or rushed. The narrator combines stories from his own life and bits of trivia from everyday life (ranging from movies, hence the chosen name, to celebrity gossip) and allows the reader to step immediately into the current situation. This is a mark of a talented writer.
The author, Vasily Pugh, has a way of weaving a story together without being overly dry (and one could say British) or being overly sappy either. He allows the story to be dramatic and deep and then has a scene where the characters are talking about a modern day chamber pot. The dialog feels natural and the references that give the reader a mental landmark to guide themselves show a well-designed thought process. Other stories and media that deal with this subject matter tend to be gloomy (for good reason of course) and deal with the human aspect of apocalypses. Mr. Pugh has done the latter with being able to bring a fresh new look on the former. The content, while a bit done before, is still a fresh take on a subject that has been prevalent as of late.
In summary, Basically Frightened is truly ‘another slice of Post-apocalyptia’ but one in the same vein of the devilishly too short lived television series ‘Pushing Daises’. A look at a dark subject matter (murder and death/the end of the world) and showing it in an incredibly bright and almost fanciful manner.
This book should and will be a best seller one day. Or at the very least, the fantastic first step in a great literary career.
Pages: 219 | ASIN: B01KYKNQAG
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