High Risk is a dark, raw and uncompromising tale of the human condition in extremis, drawing on the many lives of Ben Timberlake: as an archaeologist, special forces soldier, combat medic and drug addict.
Ben pursued the rush, and often the chase took him over the edge. Instead of asking why, he asked, why not? Blending confessional narrative, classic reportage and acerbic humour, this memoir takes a gonzo look at terrorists, junkies, soldiers and strippers through the tale of one extraordinary life.
Starting with Ben’s first near-death experience in a Nazi-themed bar in wartime Yugoslavia, High Risk is a whirlwind tour of everything from service in the SAS, combat in Iraq, encounters with a gambling-obsessed 9/11 hijacker and steroid-fuelled mercenaries, to veterans blissed out on MDMA, hook-ups in the world of extreme sex, and battling a heroin habit on a remote Scottish island.
Ben Timberlake’s undercover missions have concerned nuclear terrorism, the Far Right, and the trafficking of people, wildlife, looted antiquities and organs. He has written for the Financial Times, The Guardian and The Economist, and made Channel 4 and Discovery films on topics from Japanese mummies to prehistoric rock art.
Over the last year, I've been reading a lot to relax - when in the middle of a global pandemic, it's always nice to have a book that has a neat and tidy ending - allowing you to rest easy in the knowledge that somewhere, somehow, things do come to an end.
'High Risk' is not the thing to pick up if you're looking for something relaxing. It's high octane, and at times jaw-dropping. But it's also far more than it appears at first glance. Yes, it covers author Ben Timberlake going into some insane situations and escaping by the skin of his teeth, but it doesn't stint when it comes to exploring just what effect those situations can have on a person, and how they can be driven to seek more and more danger.
Timberlake is remarkably open - and his humour breaks up the tension wonderfully - there's a dry wryness which makes Timberlake both a charming author and a great narrator. At times it felt like listening to a slightly mad mate tell his stories down the pub - which at this point in time is something I had sorely missed!
With the humour and the action though, comes a raw honesty and a human emotion. Timberlake explores what has driven him to such extremes during his life - and from that comes a rather wonderful reflection on the human condition and how it can be shaped by external factors, and Timberlake also explores the nature of addiction in it's many forms.
Speaking personally, I come from a family with a history of addiction, so have always walked a tightrope personally, wanting to live life to the full but also conscious that doing so may result in unpleasant circumstances. Timberlake explores addiction and the effects they can have in minute and fascinating detail, and does so in an honest, open fashion.
I started this prepared to be overawed at Timberlake's bravery in the SAS, and I came away overawed by his bravery at being open, straight talking, and admitting his own flaws. Any book that can help people whilst also entertaining is worth it's weight in gold, meaning that 'High Risk' is very valuable indeed.
Many thanks to MidasPR for a copy of the Audio Book
‘The status of women is a global challenge; it touches every human being without exception. How is it possible that countries where women have achieved political, economic and social rights after exhausting struggles remain seemingly indifferent to the egregiousness of other nations where the status of women is still tragic? The time has come to help those left behind. The lack of interest stems from two important and connected factors: public opinion with regard to the status of women is not strong enough to force lawmakers to fight for their rights, at home or abroad; and there are not enough women in political and economic leadership roles to act as standard-bearers for the campaign of reform. These two factors are inextricably linked: one affects the other and vice versa…’
Already a bestseller in Italy, this translation has been extensively revised by the author to incorporate recent events that impinge on women’s rights and the struggle to achieve equality.
Paola Diana is an entrepreneur, author, activist and host of the YouTube show ‘Unleashed. The Game Changers’. She is the founder and CEO of a global recruitment company, leader in the household and secretarial staff sector and she is producing a documentary series based on social issues such as knife crime, domestic violence, racism and homelessness. As a successful female entrepreneur and women’s rights expert, Diana contributes regularly to TV and radio in the UK and Italy. In 2017, 2018 and 2019 she was named on the prestigious Spear’s 500 list.
So, I've always thought of myself as a feminist. I was bought up by strong, indepenent and outspoken women, and as such have never had an issue respecting the authority of women, or happily accepting the fact that they are equal to men in every way (and in some ways, superior)!
With this in mind, I wasn't sure what to expect from Paola Diana's book - in previous jobs I've served on Diversity Iniatives to ensure that the hiring of women is fair and equal, and worked on panels to combat inequalities. However, as is clearly pointed out in this well thought out book - I was clearly focusing on easy tasks, and not looking at the bigger picture or the bigger problems that women still face.
Diana explores these in detail, travelling around the world to explore the inequalities and injustices that women face. She doesn't hold back - for those who may have been ignoring just how unfair some countries are, they're explored here and will likely shock you.
This is a book intended to inspire and to provoke change, and it does exactly that for me - opening my eyes and spurring me on to make a difference. I think my only thought on something that this book could have done better, would be exploring the fact that gender has become less binary over the last few years - there are some interesting dialogues that definitely need to be addressed with that in mind - but I appreciate that they may have taken away slightly from the main drive of Diana's words. Maybe in the sequel! Powerful and inspiring, this is well worth a read.
Many thanks to MidasPR for the copy
Based on a lifetime living in and reporting on Germany and Central Europe, award-winning journalist and author Peter Millar tackles the fascinating and complex story of the people at the heart of our continent.
Focussing on nine cities (only six of which are in the Germany of today) he takes us on a zigzag ride back through time via the fall of the Berlin Wall through the horrors of two world wars, the patchwork states of the Middle Ages, to the splendour of Charlemagne and the fall of Rome, with side swipes at everything on the way, from Henry VIII to the Spanish Empire.
Peter recollects remarkable anecdotes from his time as a young journalist in Berlin from sneaking into the forbidden city of Kaliningrad, his expulsion from Germany after getting arrested on the streets of East Berlin during the demonstrations which accompanied Gorbachev's visit in 1989, being a target of the Stasi with 29 microphones hidden in the walls of his apartment and witnessing spectacular and transformative moments in history from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the end of the Soviet Union.
This book takes Peter – and the reader – from one side of the Germanic world to the other, from Königsberg on the Baltic (today’s Russian Kaliningrad), founded by the Teutonic Knights, to Strassburg on the banks of the Rhine (today’s French Strasbourg). We visit the restored great cities of Hamburg and Dresden, both all but eradicated by British and American bombers in World War II, to Berlin itself, the small northern city that became an imperial capital, and at the other extreme today’s capital of a small Alpine Republic, which for centuries was the German-speaking heart of Europe, while the Gates of Vienna were the last bulwark of Christendom.
The Germans and Europe includes mini portraits of German culture from sex and money to food and drink. Not just a book about Germany but about Europe as a whole and how we got where we are today, and where we might be tomorrow.
I've always found Germany, and Berlin in particular, to be fascinating. I'm descended from German Jewish refugees who came over to England prior to WWII, but, as you can imagine, they lost most of their family during the War, and as such saw little reason to visit their homeland at all. So it's a place I've always strived to find a connection too - and one I've often sought through history books and literature. Millar's personal tough ensures that this broad history has a personal touch to is - and his experience of life in Germany should ensure that this is a marvellously accurate read!
Peter Millar is an award-winning journalist, author and translator. Born in Co.Down. Ireland, Peter read French and Russian at Oxford, lived in Paris , then Brussels as a reporter for Reuters .In early 1981, at the age of 26, he was sent as correspondent to East Berlin, then to Moscow, where he lived three years, from the death of Brezhnev to the rise of Gorbachev. His career, including the Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph and European, took him to Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Bucharest and Belgrade, as well as throughout Germany.
Peter was named Foreign Correspondent of the Year in 1989 for his reporting on the dying stages of the Cold War, his account of which – 1989: The Berlin Wall, My Part in its Downfall( 2009, 2014) – was named ‘best read’ by The Economist.
Peter’s books span both fiction and non-fiction including Stealing Thunder (1999) All Gone to Look for America (2009), The Shameful Suicide of Winston Churchill (2010), and Slow Train to Guantanamo (2013). He speaks, German, French, Russian and Spanish, as well as English.
It is the Saturday after the 2016 presidential election, and in a plush weekend house in Connecticut, a group of New Yorkers has gathered to recover from what they consider the greatest political catastrophe of their lives. Liberal and like-minded, the friends have come to the countryside in the hope of restoring the bubble in which they have grown used to living.
Moving through her days accompanied by a carefully curated salon, Eva Lindquist is a generous hostess with an obsession for decorating. Yet when, in her avidity to secure shelter for herself, she persuades her husband to buy a grand if dilapidated apartment in Venice, she unwittingly sets off the chain of events that will propel him to venture outside the bubble and embark on an unexpected love affair.
A slyly comic look at the shelter industry, Shelter in Place is a novel about house and home, furniture and rooms, safety and freedom and the insidious ways in which political upheaval can undermine even the most seemingly impregnable foundations.
A new novel from a favourite author is always a tonic - no matter how well things are going. Given the state of things at the moment then, a new novel from a favourite author is a lifeline - and Leavitt's latest does not disappoint.
Having loved Leavitt since 'The Lost Language of Cranes' gave my young self into a future where I may be able to live openly, I've read his work eagerly. Shelter in Place is many things - part state of the nation reflection on Trump's america, part comedy of errors, and part stage play - the witty repartee longing to be read out loud and bounced back and forth.
The cast of characters here are intelligent, clever, and not hugely likeable - but Leavitt writes them with irresistable humour. I chuckled throughout and laughed loudly at various points - and I think this is likely due a reread, as the dialogue is so quick I likely missed some of the subtler exchanges.
It's worth saying that this isn't necessarily a shallow read though - shallow characters leading shallow lives are examined in minute detail, with their situations in the changing America a reflection on the nation as a whole.
In a few years, it feels like this will be a perfect read to reflect on life in Trump's america - and I will most certainly be glad of a reread.
Many thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for the copy
Tineka Smith always knew that growing up Black in America meant certain restrictions. Don’t talk back to white people; expect to be stopped by the police; always be on your guard. So, when she moved to the UK – and fell in love with Alex Court, a white man – she wondered if things might be different.
When Alex proposed to Tineka, it was the easiest decision in the world. What he didn’t anticipate was the reaction – sometimes subtle, sometimes overt – from friends and strangers alike. Nor did he expect to have to think about Tineka’s race, and his own white privilege, every single day.
Tineka has always felt the burden of calling out and educating people, only now she has to teach her new husband at the same time - asking him to see, hear and think with a new perspective about the things he had never noticed before.
But what does this mean for Tineka and Alex’s relationship? With anecdotes, analysis and honest conversations, Mixed Up has the pair attempting to navigate their new and challenging world, confronting race and relationships in the 21st century head on.
I grew up woefully undereducated about race - in a small Northern English town, there was little diversity, so understanding the pressures, pains and daily aggressions that black people face, was not something that really crossed my mind until my early 20's, when I moved to London.
That interest in understanding the mindsets of people from different backgrounds has been with me since then, but over the last year i've been working on educating myself on this as much as possible - sparked by movements such as Black Lives Matter that have opened up my eyes to the injustices and unequalities that Black people face every day.
And as for the inequalities that women face every day? I'm a proud feminist and I consider myself very well educated on these issues from an equality stand point - but as a homosexual cisgendered white man, I'm aware that my privilege speaks volumes - I'm never going to fully understand these perspectives as they're not lived experiences for me, but I'm always highly interested to read more on this.
With that in mind, I was delighted to be asked to review 'Mixed Up - Confessions of an Interracial Couple' - a fantastic audio book from Audible, by Tineka Smith and Alex Court.
There's an openness and an intimacy to the writing and the reading - perhaps enhanced by the fact that these insights to a couple's struggles was being read directly into my ears.
'Mixed Up' discusses the true life relationship of Tineka and Alex, and there are multiple layers to unpick and discuss here - from Tineka's experiences as a black woman in America contrasting with Alex's experiences as a white man in Britain, the judgements and microagressions that Tineka faces as both a black person and as a woman, and the journey of understanding that both, with a highlight on Alex, experience over the course of their relationships.
It's a listen that's eye opening, emotional, and necessary - there's been a huge amount written about the experiences that different races and genders experience, but it's rare to see those experiences highlighted in such an emotive and personal fashion - Tineka Smith and Alex Court deliver these with style, skill, and serious amounts of substance.
I received a copy of this audio book in exchange for an honest review - many thanks to Audible
Born in Dublin in 1942, Anthony Clare was the best-known psychiatrist of his generation. His BBC Radio 4 show, In the Psychiatrist’s Chair, which ran from 1982 to 2001, brought him international fame and changed the nature of broadcast interviews forever. Famous interviewees included Stephen Fry, Anthony Hopkins, Spike Milligan, Maya Angelou and Jimmy Savile, each of whom yielded to Clare’s inimitable gentle yet probing style.
Clare made unique contributions to the demystification and practice of psychiatry, most notably through his classic book Psychiatry in Dissent (1976). This book, the first, official biography of this much-loved figure, examines the man behind these achievements: the debater and the doctor, the writer and the broadcaster, the public figure and the family man. Using extensive public and family records, and new interviews with family, friends and colleagues, the authors ask: Who was Anthony Clare, really? Was there just one Anthony Clare, or many? What drove him? And what is to be learned from his life, his career, and his unique, sometimes controversial legacy to our understanding of the mind? Published on the anniversary of Anthony Clare’s death on 28th October 2007, this is the remarkable story of a remarkable person.
Brendan Kelly is a Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin, Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry and author of Hearing Voices: The History of Psychiatry in Ireland (IAP, 2019). He has written for press such as the New Yorker, TIME Magazine, the Economist, Newsweek, Observer, Financial Times, Guardian, Irish Times, Irish Independent, Irish Examiner and Sunday Times and has appeared on RTÉ Radio 1, BBC Radio 4, Newstalk and Today FM.
Muiris Houston is a medical writer and health strategist, a specialist in occupational medicine, Adjunct Professor of Narrative Medicine at Trinity College Dublin, and writer-in-residence at Evidence Synthesis Ireland, at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He is a columnist with the Medical Independent and The Irish Times. Muiris is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and the University of Sydney. He is an honorary fellow of the faculty of pathology of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland.
If you were listening to Radio 4, or watching the BBC in the '80s and the 90's, there's a good chance you would have come across Anthony Clare. A psychiatrist, he was best known for bringing his medical understanding to the public - educating them through programmes such as QED and All in the Mind, and examining well known figures through a psychiatrist's lens, in his radio and television series 'In the Psychiatrist's Chair'
I'm a huge Radio 4 fan, but due to my age rather missed the heyday of Anthony Clare - at the time of 'In the Psychiatrist's Chair' ending I was only 13, so was still rather more into Radio 1 than 4 at that point.
However, many a dull day job as an adult had me discovering the huge amount of old programmes that BBC Radio made available on their website, in conjunction with repeat broadcasts on Radio 4 extra, and my dad's collection of Radio 4 tapes.
Anthony Clare's gentle unpicking of well known figures was quite the revelation when I first listened to it - and I was rather struck by, compared to more modern interviewers, how little he speaks - his skill as a Psychiatrist allowing his guests to open up about their backgrounds and lives, with only occasional prods and queries from Clare.
Now, despite Clare's considerable renown in the later part of the 20th Century, not much has been written about the man himself - until now.
Professor of Psychiatry Brendan Kelly and Medical writer Muiris Houston, have come together to write this indepth look into the life of Clare - and it's a read that turns out to be as entertaining as it is a tribute to a brilliant mind.
Many of us go to know the 'public' Anthony Clare, but this book truly goes behind the curtain to explore the life of the private Anthony Clare, and, in what is rather a rare case for a biography of a public figure, finds a kind, loving, joyous man who loved his family first and foremost and his work second. Colleauges, friends and family speak lovingly of an extremely talented man who died far too soon - and the excellent writing and research of Kelly and Houston serves as a tribute to a brilliant man who brought his psychiatry skills to the people in order to help as many as possible.
I recieved a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review - many thanks to the publishers and to Bei Guo at Midas PR.
In this Audible Original audiobook, Emma J. Bell tackles the ultimate question: why go through life merely surviving, when you could be thriving?
Drawing on the insights of 50 inspiring people who have suffered a wide range of trauma but are thriving nonetheless, Emma J. Bell has extracted nine enlightening secrets from their experiences. You’ll listen as they talk about how they found renewed purpose in life; how they learned to forgive rather than hold on to resentment; and how they developed practices to create calm and live authentically. Whether you want to apply their life changing lessons to your relationships, your work or the way you deal with setbacks or challenging past experiences, each story offers something different and inspiring for you to draw on.
Traditionally I've avoided books that I thought looked a bit 'self-helpy' - I think my inner repressed brit balks at the thought of asking anyone (even a book!) for help, and it's this same inner sabuteur that prevented me from dealing with my mental health until my early 30's.
Had I known that a book like '9 Secrets to Thriving' existed though, I may have thought very differently...
Yes - this is a book that shows the readers they can thrive, grow, and persevere, and the advice is clever, wise, and not remotely patronising - there's a practicality and an understanding that not everybody is going to be willing, or able, to make some of the change suggested here.
What makes this book so brilliantly well though, are the real life stories that are threaded throughout - shocking, thought provoking true tales that allow the reade to empathise, but also gave me a wonderful sense of perspective.
As a former lawyer and judge, author and narrator Bell has clearly seen more than her fair share of the world, and of the many issues that people in it face, and overcome. As such, her prose and narration is wise - but also friendly and kind - there is no judgement here, but understanding and advice.
I finished this audio book feeling both emotional and empowered, and I'll be returning to it in the future!
Many thanks to MidasPR for the copy.
FIVE friends go to a cabin.
FOUR of them are hiding secrets.
THREE years of history bind them.
TWO are doomed from the start.
ONE person wants to end this.
NO ONE IS SAFE.
For five friends, this was supposed to be one last getaway before going their separate ways--a chance to say goodbye to each other, and to the game they've been playing for the past three years. But they're all dealing with their own demons, and they're all hiding secrets.
Finn doesn't trust anyone since he was attacked a few months ago. Popular girl Liva saw it happen and did nothing to stop it. Maddy was in an accident that destroyed her sports career. Carter is drowning under the weight of his family's expectations. Ever wants to keep the game going for as long as they can, at all costs.
When the lines between game and reality start to blend with deadly consequences, it's a race against time before it's game over--forever.
Are you ready to play?
Three things I love - Role Playing Games, Good Books, and Minority Representation.
Three things I got in huge amounts from 'Even if we Break'!
A group of five old friends head to a house in the woods - five friends who, over the years, have grown apart and increasingly resentful of each other. This is a last hurrah - a chance to return to their younger days and to spend what is likely a last weekend together before they move on to very seperate lives.
Until they start dying...
To say that this is a tense read would be a collosal understatement - I was on the edge of my seat throughout, and finished the book in an evening. There is a truthfulness to the book that feels quite unsettling - the main monsters here are human emotions, rather than the supernatural.
Special credit should be given to how diverse the cast of characters are - the characters are naturally diverse and don't feel forced - and it's a refreshing change from the bunch of white, cisgendered, able bodied straight folks you normally get as the cast in YA Thrillers. What's especially important is that the author utilises characters who just happen to identify as non-binary, or are disabled etc.- they are by far not defined by that characteristic, and are written as real, complex people.
Fascinating, thrilling, and thought-provoking - 'Even if We Break' is my thriller of the fall!
Many thanks to MidasPR for the copy
Alan Noland discovers his father's memoirs and learns the truth about the violent man he despised. In this unsparing family history, Alan distils his father's life in the Dutch East Indies into one furious utterance. He reads about his work as an interpreter during the war with Japan, his life as an assassin, and his ruthless murders of fellow Indonesians. He fled to the Netherlands to escape being executed as a traitor, and there he met Alan's mother. As he reads his father's story, Alan begins to understand how war transformed his Father into the monster he knew.
Author Alfred Birney was born in 1951, and his works span both fiction and non-fiction, often featuring his family's Dutch-Indies history in a central role. For The Interpreter from Java, he has been awared the Libris Literature Prize, the Netherlands' premier literary award, and the Henriette Roland Holst Prize. He lives in the Netherlands.
A read that is as personal as it is brutal, The Interpreter from Java is an open and no-holds barred account of the relationship between father and son, and of the lasting damage that the cruelty of war can inflict on not just a man, but on entire generations of his family.
For a book this personal, it's remarkable that Birney chooses to be as balanced as possible, allowing the reader full insight into what made the father the man he became. These sections, set in the WWII during the conflict between the Dutch Indies and the Japanese Army, are hugely educational (I'm shamefully under-educated about this section of WWII), and massively raw and vivid - drawing the reader not just into the words, but into the brutal, bloody and cruel conflict that Alan's father found himself in. Reading the toll these hideous situations take on a man - pushing him to and beyond the verge of sanity and into a man who commits as much cruelty as those he encounters, is a hard read - but ultimately a fulfilling one, and Birney is clearly keen to paint a full picture of the father - warts and all.
The translation by David Doherty is excellent, although I found the style took a little getting used to - it moves around in terms of formats and voices initially, which, whilst initially a little startling, actually worked well overall - this is an immersive read that delivers the reader to uncomfortable truths with an admirable honesty. Highly recommended - many thanks to Amber at MidasPR for the copy.
Afro-Brazilian filmmaker Ren is recovering from a romantic betrayal. Kayla is a Black British artist and journalist keen to make her mark. Thrown together during a string of interviews in New York for Ren's latest film, they’re struck by an irresistible attraction. The two surrender to one night of searing honesty and passion, which leaves them with more questions than answers about the future.
With secrets lurking between them, letting their romance continue could upend the separate lives Ren and Kayla have so carefully built. But can they really risk losing their miraculous connection?
Born in Camberwell, author Sareeta Domingo spent her formative years in Bahrain. An editor for Harper Collins by day, and a writer by night, Sareeta has oreviously had various erotic short stories and an erotic novella published, and her first full length novel, 'The Nearness of You' was published in 2016.
So - a romance novel. Not something I would necessarily seek out, but then I feel that categories can be rather limiting for books - the "Chick Lit" field, for example, leads people to ignore the deep and often moving work that authors like Marian Keyes create in that genre.
Romance is one where I would, perhaps, have assumed that the majority of books would be swooning 'mills and boon' type romances that involved a lot of bodice ripping and copious amounts of straight sex which, as a gay man, I rather got bored of reading about after a while.
However, I'm well aware of how much an ass I am for relying on assumptions, and I'm hugely glad that I was asked to review a book rather out of my comfort zone, as 'If I Don't Have You' is thrilling, contemporary, and hugely memorable - mostly due to the authors fantastic writing, but also due to excellent narration from Jakobi Diem and Jessye Romeo - bringing the characters to vivid life, and allowing the listener a compelling narrative that alows them to view the perspective of both Ren and Kayla as their relationship grows and changes.
No romance would be complete without some stumbling blocks, and there are plenty here - but not the cliches one might expect from a romcom, but instead ones that feel remarkably real and grounded.
As for my worries about being a bit bored with another straight romance? Absolutely not. This pair is hot, sexy, and hugely readable, and there's no element of "virtous woman overpowered by body-ripping brute" - kayla is fiery, independent, and very much in charge of her sexuality, which is wonderful to read.
Compelling, Sexy, and Contemporary, If I Don't Have You is available now from Audible. I received a copy from Midaspr in exchange for an honest review.