The first in a series, Clockwork Sherlock follows ex-soldier Captain Jo Barnes. The mysterious VR detective singles her out as his own Dr Watson, but he’s about to find out she’s no fawning sidekick.
When tech giant Robert Fairfield is found dead of a suspected drug overdose, fingers are pointed at the two women who stood most to gain from his death: his fiancée and leader of the New Ludds, Greta Blackstone, and Beth Fairchild, Robert’s ambitious daughter. But when Beth is found dead and the evidence shows she was killed before her father, the suspect is obvious. To everyone, that is, except Sherlock Holmes.
Using futuristic tech and good, old-fashioned sleuthing, Captain Barnes and the famed detective set out to find the killer
Author Ian W.Sainsbury has had a varied career - running away from University to join the circus, playing in a band providing accompaniment for monkeys riding on pigs. As you do...! His musical career continued from there, with Ian playing piano on cruise ships before spending over a decade singing in European piano bars. He has also run a choir or two! After five years as a stand-up comic, Ian turned to writing - and the success of 2016's 'The World Walker' has seen Ian able to focus his attentions on writing, whilst living in East Anglia with his wife, two children, and a flatulent dog.
This Audible original audio book is narrated by the fantastic actress Shvorne Marks - who has appeared on our screens in programmes such as Endeavour and Silent Witness, and has narrated a considerable number of high profile audio books, including the award-winning "Queenie" by Candice Carty-Williams.
So, I am a big fan of Sherlock Holmes. My Dad was (and still is), a big fan of Arthur Conan-Doyle, and prominent books of my childhood were the exceddingly large Sherlock Holmes collections we had sitting in our living room, as well as copies of other books like 'The Lost World', alongside rather stranger volumes focusing on Conan Doyle's interest in the Supernatural. With the UK TV Show 'Sherlock' and US tv show 'Elimentary', interest in Sherlock Holmes has surged over the last few years - and I was initially wary of 'Clockwork Sherlock' in case it was an excuse to jump on the back of a popular bandwagon.
However, 'Clockwork Sherlock' takes the world's most famous detective in a whole new direction - one that's wholly original, and yet familiar for those who love the original tales.
Jo Barnes serves as the 'Watson' here - and her relationship with 'Sherlock' serves as the backbone of this book - with the two working together to solve the central mystery, but building a partnership that, I hope, will be developed in further installments.
As this is a book featuring Sherlock Holmes, it would be nothing without a good mystery - and Robert Fairfield's death is a fascinating case that Barnes, Holmes, and the listener are invited to crack, working through a series of puzzles and seemingly impossible situations, to a rewarding resolution.
Sainsbury is an excellent writer, who carefully balances the tension of the overarcing plot, with descriptive writing that fully pulls the listener into the world of Captain Jo Barnes. This is hugely complimented by superb narration from Shvorne Marks, bringing the steely Jo Barnes to life, alongside the ever enigmatic detective Sherlock Holmes
Many thanks to Ben at MidasPr - I received a copy of this audiobook in exchange for my unbiased review.
10/10 Jared does not have friends.
Because friends are a function of feelings.
Therefore friends are just one more human obligation that Jared never has to worry about.
But Jared is worrying. Which is worrying. He’s also started watching old films. And inexplicably crying in them. And even his Feelings Wheel (given to him by Dr Glundenstein, who definitely is not a friend) cannot guide him through the emotional minefield he now finds himself in.
Soon his feelings will send him fleeing across the country, pursued by a man who wants to destroy him and driven by an illogical desire to share pathogens with the woman who bamboozles him the most.
And Jared cannot!
Because feelings will ruin your life, especially if you aren’t supposed to have them…
, as soSimon Stephenson is a Scottish writer based in Los Angeles. He previously worked as an NHS doctor, most recently in paediatrics in London. His first book, LET NOT THE WAVES OF THE SEA (John Murrays, 2011), was a memoir about the loss of his brother in the Indian ocean tsunami. It was serialised as ‘Book of the Week’ on BBC Radio 4 and won ‘Best First Book’ at the Scottish Book Awards.Simon moved to the US followed the success of his spec screenplayTo say that there has been hype about this book would be an understatement - It's always a positive sign when a film deal is signed in advance of the book being published - but when the film deal is with Edgar Wright - director of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Baby Driver, it's hard not to be too excited about reading it! So my hopes were certainly high when I began reading and, I am very glad to say - I was not disappointed.
This is an odd book - there's no way around that. Told completely from the perspective of Jared (a robot dentist), it's part road trip and part bildungsroman, and combines prose with film scripts that set the tale well for the reader. The author's work as a screen writer is in clear effect here, and his love for film shines through - working wonderfully well and serving as far more than a gimmick - in parts they evoke the passage of time or the changing of emotion far more clearly than standard prose may do.
Emotions are, of course, a big part of the plot - as Jared learns about the things he is feeling, and realises he may be far more than he first thought - aided hugely by Dr Glundenstein's feelings wheel.
The combination of "fish out of water" tale and innocent hero in Jared makes for a beautiful read - absolutely funny but also extremely moving in parts. Stephenson does not take the emotions and feelings of his characters lightly - they're treated with great sensitivity and depth. In fact, there are some parallels to Jared and to those on the autistic spectrum which, as someone who has worked in the special needs field, I found utterly fascinating - and yet I was also reminded of classic films like ET and Short Circuit in the company of Jared - it's a brilliant combination and one that is both a great piece of science fiction, and just a fantastic book full stop, that will take you on a tour of places, emotions, and understanding.
I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Midas PR for that, and I heartily recommend this read!
The Bericean army was in Malabrim for the ninth straight fighting season. Over the past 9 years, Zybaro, the leader of a small band of unknowns, had evolved from his days as a minor usurper of a tiny kingdom. Now, almost the entire country of Malabrim was under Zybaro’s control, and his army was large enough to easily challenge Bericea’s army. Still, Bericea continued its raids into Malabrim, hoping to stem Zybaro’s methodical progress and thwart his tyrannical methods of control. Zybaro had seized village after village, forcing anyone capable of joining his army and enslaving all who remained in deplorable working conditions to supply his troops.
The latest conflict with Zybaro had pushed General Darnon to a decision, one he had resisted making for over a year. Though he still held grave reservations about the Prophecies, he was willing to support the clerics who would attempt the summoning. The details of the ritual had recently been discovered in an ancient tome. The clerics were confident they could bring forth the Summoned Ones of Prophecy, those mysterious beings who would aid Bericea in its time of greatest need.
Darnon also had concerns about the location of the summoning. It would have to take place deeper into Malabrim than they had ventured in many years. And even if the ritual was effective, it would be a great challenge to get the Summoned Ones safely back to Bericea, along with the soldiers sent to protect them. However, Darnon felt that morale was so low, if they survived this battle, he owed his troops the hope the summoning ritual could bring.
Join the soldiers of Bericea and the Summoned Ones through a life-or-death struggle. The Summoned Ones are a college-aged group of friends from a small Kentucky town near the Daniel Boone National Forest who find themselves somehow brought to a chaotic world through magic. Their epic journey will push the Summoned Ones beyond the limits of their endurance. This unlikely group will discover many truths about themselves and experience another world beyond their imagination.
Darryl A. Woods grew up in rural Ohio, and has a huge amount of rural tales from his youth and adulthood that have compelled him into becoming a storyteller. A degree in Systems Analysis led to a day job designing databases, which, when combined with a side business transforming houses with his wife, and evenings and weekends spent woodworking in the family business with his father-in-law, have given Daryl a huge amount of varied experiences - and as a huge fan of writers such as Raymond Feist, Terry Brooks and Brian Jacques, fantasy seemed the natural place for Darryl to write this novel - although it skillfully blends many real world elements alongside the more fantastical.
I'm a huge fantasy fan too - I came to it fairly late, but absolutely love the way elements of myth and magic can be combined with stories of humanity and emotion in order to create compelling stories that genuinely transport the reader to another world. That is quite literally what happens in "The Summoned Ones", as a group of friends from rural America are transported into a lengthy conflict, far away from everything they have known before. "The Summoned Ones" contains many elements of fantasy I love - characters from 'our world' to serve as viewpoints for the reader, a clever system of magic that has clearly been thought out in great detail, and maps! I love a map, and Woods has clearly pictured his world in great detail - helping the reader see exactly what he is intending us to see, and pulling us into the world that be easier.
Woods is a skilful writer, and ensures that he combines world building with action well - the plot flows, and it's easy to keep turning the pages without noticing how the time passes. In terms of characterisation - there are a lot of characters for the reader to get to grips with initially, which could prove confusing, but Woods allows the reader to get to know them all well - although several I imagine are going to have significant developments in upcoming books in this series!
My one issue was in the fact that sometimes plot could slow down slightly when something specific was being explained to the reader - in some cases it felt like the reader could have learned about various aspects throughout the story, as opposed to multiple sections that feel like they're full of expository text. However, this is the first book in a series, and world building is necessary and expected, so it certainly didn't put me off - and will allow future volumes in this series to find their own pace away from the need to explain everything in detail.
All in all - this is a cracking read - a strong fantasy debut and one that combines a range of fantasy ideas to create a world that feels real and compelling to read about. I look forward to further books in the series, and thank both Darryl A. Woods and Emma Welton of Damppebbles for the copy.
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/31HTPbr
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2Z1mLsY
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-summoned-ones-darryl-
Published in paperback and digital formats by Bresford Ridge Publishing on 29 th February 2020
Twenty-seven bodies, vacuum-packed, buried in a woodland trench. Some have been there for years, some for just days.
When DI Brendan Foley recognises one of the Warrington 27, he knows this case is about to shake his world.
Detective Sergeant Iona Madison is a skilled boxer and a vital support for Foley. Theirs is a newly established police force, and loyalties are about to be tested to the extreme.
Pressure mounts as news of the mass grave is plastered over the news. Brendan knows they can’t crack this case alone, but he’s not letting a rival force take over.
Their investigations lead them into the murky underworlds of Manchester and Liverpool, where one more murder means little to drug-dealing gangs, desperate to control their power bases.
But as Madison steps into the ring for the fight of her life, the criminals come to them. It’s no coincidence that the corpses have been buried in Foley’s hometown. The question is, why?
Rob Parker lives in a village near Manchester, UK. A married father of three, Rob is also the author of the Ben Bracken books A Wanted Man, Morte Point, The Penny Black, Till Morning Is Nigh and the standalone post-Brexit country-noir Crook’s Hollow. He writes full time, as well as organising and attending various author events across the UK - while boxing regularly for charity.
One of my favourite things is a good, well crafted crime thriller - and despite the amount of them on the shelves of bookshops across the country, ones that truly grip whilst also building character and avoiding cliches are really rather hard to come by. So it was with great delight that I listened to the Audible book of Rob Parker's 'Far from the Tree' - a story that I found myself unable to press pause on, so wrapped up was I in the grim yet real world that Parker has created.
No good crime thriller is without a successful duo at the heart of it - and 'Far from the Tree' is no exception. Brendan Foley and Iona Madison work brilliantly together as foils for the listener, and whilst they do tick some of the crime cliches (troubled backgrounds, skeletons in closets etc.) it doesn't matter here, as the author brings these characters to life with such vivid work that the cliches instead become key aspects of both character and plot, and at no point feel unrealistic. These are real, working policemen who I could see on the job in the real world - and it is absolutely to Parker's credit that no suspension of belief is required at any point.
I won't go into the plot too much - as the twists are frequent, brilliant, and at times rather breathtaking. Suffice it to say, this is a dark, brooding read (as any book that starts with the discovery of 27 corpses is rather likely to be), and plunges the reader deep into the criminal underbelly of the North West, but the author has care to ensure that it is a balanced read also - the violence isn't of the gratuitous kind that often stalks books of this nature, and the deaths are handled with sensitivity and care - with the deceased being handled as people who had lives and backstories rather than just tools for plot development. I've seen this described as suitable for fans of both Ian Rankin and the tv show Line of Duty, and that's exactly how I would pitch it - the world and character building of Rankin combined with the breathtaking twists that Line of Duty is so known for.
I would be remiss not to mention Warren Brown's excellent narration too - Warren Brown is best known for leading roles in shows such as 'Luther' and 'Strike Back', although he's firmly embedded in my head as the evil (and impaled) Andy Holt from Hollyoaks. He's excellent here - being from Warrington his accent is (unsurprisingly!) spot on, and whilst I already rated him as an excellent actor, he excels himself here - spending multiple hours with just one voice can be difficult if the narrator is poor, but Brown is an excellent guide to the dark and shadowy corners of the world that Rob Parker has skilfully created.
Many thanks to Amber at Midas PR for a copy of the Audio Book in exchange for an honest review
Against a backdrop of enigmatic nights scattered with spoken-word poetry in London, Venice, Accra and Paris, Ekuah tries to reconcile her personal journey with the love she struggles with for Dee Emeka, a gifted musician who is both passionate and aloof in his treatment of Ekuah.
After 18 months together, he disappears from her life, confirming her worst fears about the unstable foundation of their relationship. She attempts to graduate university whilst retreating into herself, searching for new validations and preoccupations from heartbreak.
Life marches on and Ekuah finds personal fulfilment in her poetry and community work. But when she must choose between her first love and the promise of a new, unexpected love, in the form of Jay Stanley, can she handle the vulnerability and forgiveness required?
Grappling with her examples of love, Ekuah must forge her own path. With an increasingly successful career, she finds herself travelling around the world. When her rise intersects with Dee's own fame, the two are pushed to reach a final resolution.
Author Maame Blue is a Ghanaian Londoner, podcaster, and author.
A previous life saw the author as a psychotherapist, but now manages projects for Not-for-Profits.
Splitting her time between Melbourne and London (currently in London) the author recently saw a lot of kangaroos. So there’s that.
Narrator Vivienne Acheampong is an actress and accomplished voice artist. Recent appearances have included The Other One, Holby City and Famalam.
Love is hard. Most of us would agree with that - having spent years suffering through endless awkward dates, or wasting time in a relationship you know isn't right but can't bring yourself to break out of. Thankfully these days, things are a lot less painful for me on that front - but they are for Ekuah - the protagonist of Bad Love.
Author Maame Blue writes skilfully - hooking you in as soon as the book is begun, and ensuring that the reader gets to know Ekua swiftly. She's real, flawed and rounded - a perfect companion to spend a few hours with, and one who is wholely believable, leading me to root for her to make the decisions that would be right for her, rather than the ones that would make for good plot twists!
For a book that has a relationship lacking trust and honesty at the centre, it's refreshing to see how honestly Maame Blue writes. There is a rawness and a bluntness to both the writing and to Ekua's character that works fantastically - and the author doesn't hold back when talking about the ups and downs of relationships. Dee and Jay also leap off the page - there is a very three dimensional feel to to 'Bad Love', I imagine due to quite how realistic the characters feel.
Added to that - Ekuah's travels allow the reader or listener to embark on a trip to some wonderful places around the world in her company - which at this point in time is particularly welcome!
I listened to this book on Audible, and was highly impressed by the narration from Vivienne Acheampong too - she fits the voice of Ekuah perfectly for me - and there are wonderful facets in her voice of hope, weariness, and excitement as the story progresses. In addition, she makes Ekuah truly feel like someone who you might know or meet in the street - author and narrator combined have created something truly special that is well worth whiling a few hours away with!
Many thanks to Amber at MidasPR for the opportunity to review this.
No food. No water. Out of ammo. Safety is south. But between there and here is 150 miles of barren desert – freezing at night, boiling in the day – populated solely by Ernst Rommel’s fearsome and deadly Afrika Corps.
What would you do?
Give up? Or get on with it?
For the seven SAS supermen in Damien Lewis’s explosive new audio exclusive, the answer was simple: Escape. Evade. Survive. From the mountains of Italy, to the deserts of Africa, these heroes epitomise the bravery, esprit de corps and daring do of Britain’s finest elite fighting force.
Author Damien Lewis has written over a dozen books, topping best seller lists worldwide. His book Zero Six Bravo was a No.1 Best Seller, and another book, War Dog is being developed as a movie.
Narration is performed by Leighton Pugh - a graduate of both Queens College Oxford and LAMDA, Pugh has a vast number of stage and radio credits alongside his significant experience as an audiobook narrator.
More often than not, I listen to audio books to relax. I tend to go towards non-fiction and enjoy things that can accompany me on a quiet walk. So if, like me most of the time, you're looking for gently paced biographies, then maybe this isn't the audio book for you.
However, if you want to be gripped by fascinating, thrilling and genuinely pulse racing stories of real-life escape, perseverence and survival, then this is a listen I cannot recommend enough.
Seven stories of SAS servicemen in WWII - all true, all heart-poundingly exciting, and all of an equal quality - there are no stories that are worth skipping here.
A lot of writing about military manouvres can be dry - focusing solely on the action but avoiding any elements of detail or worldl building. Author Damien Lewis doesn't skimp here - and this aspect combined with Leighton Pugh's stirring narration ensures that the listener is well and truly by the side of these brave men at every step of the action.
Pugh has a slightly old fashioned sound to his voice, and it works fantastically well for these tales - reminding me of classic films like "Where Eagles Dare" and giving a real sense of authenticity to the WWII setting.
Those who served in WWII are increasingly few among us now - and I think it is vitally important that writers are still bringing their stories to vivid life to ensure that our generations and those following us never forget the sacrifices these people made and the bravery they had in order to turn the tide of war.
SAS Great Escapes is both a brilliant tribute and a stirring listen - just make sure to listen at a time when you're able to pause everything and continue listening, as none of these stories are at all easy to pause!
Many thanks to Midaspr and Audible for the copy of this fantastic audio book.
No one would call David Rose - or ‘Rosie’ as he’s known to one and all - a star, but he’s good at his job and proud of his work as a sportswriter for a national newspaper. He’s used to seeing flashier talents come and go - both on the field, and in the competitive world of the press. Football comes first in the way he spends his working life, but he’s happy to pitch in whatever the sport - from Formula 1 to Test cricket in the West Indies, the Olympics to a heavyweight championship bout in Japan.
He’s used to the ups and downs of a journalist’s life and has learned to keep his own head safely down - until an especially venal boss pins his own misdemeanours on the entirely innocent Rose. Rosie’s revenge is slow but sweet, as he manoeuvres through a world where egos clash, money talks and you’re only as safe as your latest by-line
Author Simon Barnes was the chief Sports Writer for The Times until 2014, with a number of journalistic awards encompassing a career spent writing about both sports and nature. Writing his first book in 1986, Barnes has written over 20 since, with "The Game's Gone" an Audible exclusive, brilliantly narrated by actor Colin Mace, who, judging by his Twitter feed, is an apt choice due to his passion for sport.
I'll be honest and admit to a little apprehension when I began listening to this, as I'm not the biggest sports fan - I enjoy Rugby, love the Tour de France and get briefly into Wimbledon every year, but I'm certainly not a commited sports fan, and my only real knowledge of sports commentary and journalism comes from watching Grandstand or Match of the Day with my father on the Saturdays of my childhood.
In truth though, "The Game's Gone" isn't necessarily a book about sport. Yes, sport plays a big part, but what's clever is how sport is weaved through the plot - not only the games, but the emotions and passions that lie at the heart of every game out there.
Rosie is a compelling character for the listener, and narrator Colin Mace conveys him well, making this a relaxing read that's told with a friendly intimacy by a character whose side it's impossible not to be on, and whilst his story is certainly not plain sailing, the warm humour Simon Barnes infuses his story with ensures that the reader isn't on edge for too long.
Barnes cleverly uses his experience to create characters who are layered and interesting - he's not interested in using characters that are stereotypes or who are instantly likeable, but instead he builds them to feel real and relatable - and it takes a while to warm to some of them - including the narrator! This worked well for me, and combined with what felt like very real reflection on sporting events, made for a listen that truly bought the world of sports journalism to life for me. In essence, it reminded me of the humanity and warmth at the core of sports that Nick Hornby wrote about in Fever Pitch, combined with a gripping plot about the cutthroat world of journalism - a Count of Monte Cristo but with balls and pens instead of swords and pistols.
A vastly enjoyable listen that took me on an immersive and exciting dive into the world of sports journalism, "The Game's Gone" is available exclusively from Audible.
Many thanks to Amber at Midas PR for the review copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for "The Game's Gone" - I received the review copy in exchange for an honest review.
A body is found bricked into the walls of a house - from the state of the hands, it's clear he was buried alive, that he had tried to claw his way out before he died. The victim is quickly linked to a missing person's case and DS Adam Tyler is called.
As the sole representative of the Cold Case Review Unit, Tyler understands he's been placed there to keep him out of the way following an 'incident'. So when the case falls in his lap, he grabs the opportunity to fix his stagnating career.
But then he discovers he has a connection to the case that hopelessly compromises him, and he makes the snap decision not to tell his superiors. With such a brutal and sadistic murder to unpick, Tyler must move carefully to find out the truth without destroying the case or himself.
Meanwhile, someone in the city knows exactly what happened to the body. Someone who is watching Adam closely. Someone with an unhealthy obsession with fire...
Author Russ Thomas was born in Essex, raised in Berkshire and now lives in Sheffield. After various 'proper' jobs (including pot-washer, optician's receptionist and storage salesman) he discovered the joy of bookselling, where he could talk to people about books all day. Firewatching is his first novel.
I'm in the fortunate position to be able to read a few books a week - and my pile to be read is so large, and so teetering, that I feel guilty about truly indulging in a book. Firewatching is one in which I found myself rationing the book out - desperate to reach the conclusion but also eager to eke out every last drop of enjoyment and mystery.
I've struggled with crime books in the past - I've been a huge fan of Ian Rankin since I was a teenager, but it's quite an oversaturated market and it can be hard to know where to start when wanting to find a new Detective or Investigator to latch onto. But in Firewatching I think Russ Thomas has created the most compelling lead since Will Dean's Tuva Moodyson appeared a few years ago, and Firewatching is one of the most compelling stories I've read in some time.
Lead DS Adam Tyler is compelling, troubled, but utterly believable, and whilst it's sad to say that this is still surprising, it's nice to see a gay character appear in a crime novel who isn't a sterotype, but a layered, three-dimensional human being. Yes, he's incredibly hot, and yes, he hooks up with men, but he's utterly believable, and easy to relate to. As a lead he's compelling - and I found myself increasingly worried for his welfare as the book continued. And, as a gay man, it was really bloody nice to read a crime novel with a gay officer as the lead, whose sexuality is part of his life, but isn't necessarily the sole characteristic that defines him, as I find can often be the case in fiction.
man who In fact my only issue with Tyler is that at one point another described him as "a prettier Jake Gyllenhall", which I (through extensive research) have deemed an utterly impossible statement - if Jake Gyllenhaal could be any prettier we might as well all give up and start wearing paper bags over our heads, as the pinnacle of beauty in mankind would have been reached...
That insignificant grumble aside, Firewatching is tightly plotted, and threads a number of fascinating plots together to the extent that each twist is genuinely surprising, and leads up to a conclusion that left me rather breathless. Characters are likeable and well-rounded, with Thomas avoiding stereotypes whether positive or negative in drawing his characters - cuddly old ladies are shaped into something far more complex, gruff senior policemen turn out to have slightly more to them, and Tyler's a thoroughly fascinating man who I can't wait to read more about. Do check Firewatching out - it comes highly recommended.
Despite everything being pretty terrifying outside, we're in a pretty golden age when it comes to conversations about sexuality and gender. Growing up in the 90's and early noughties, finding books I could relate to as a gay kid was really bloody hard. Prior to online shopping being much of a thing, I didn't dare ask in bookshops for books that had gay themes - so I was left with occasional glances at a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover (which, heterosexual sex scenes aside, is really quite dull) to fulfill initial curiosity - and it was only through chance that I discovered Patrick Gale, who was the first author whose works I truly fell in love with, and who allowed me to discover a positive life for those of alternative sexualities, outside of the small town in which I grew up.
Thankfully, with the rise in popularity of Young Adult fiction today, there is a huge amount of material out there which allows young people to explore and discover different sexualities and gender identities - and I can't think of a better example than Heartstopper by Alice Oseman.
Back in 2016 (4 years ago, when we could do things like see friends and go to the pub. Ah...), Alice Oseman began writing Heartstopper as a web comic. Skip forward to 2018, and Heartstopper began becoming available in Graphic Novel form - with volume 3 released earlier this year.
Heartstopper is the tale of Charlie and Nick - two boys at the same school. They've never met, until the two are forced to sit together in class - and, from there, romance grows... Over the three volumes that are out so far, you watch the boys grow together, meet their friends, families and teachers, and genuinely feel part of their lives. It's rare that I become quite so invested in fictional characters, but there's something very real about Charlie and Nick that sucks you in, and I can't deny that I feel a real sense of connection with this tale of gay love at school - I was in the closet for most of my time at school but certainly felt the pangs of adolescent love.
Whilst some of you may roll your eyes at the fact that this is another love story about two cisgendered white guys - the accompanying cast are varied, diverse, and fully fleshed out, with a whole range of subplots that are massively entertaining, but also completely relevant to what young people are, I believe, going through today - although I should point out that it's going on for 15 years since I was in school!
These books are gorgeous - beautifully drawn and it's clear that creator Alice Oseman has a huge amount of love for these characters - they first appeared in her novel Solitaire. which I've not read but is very much top of my pile! I'm excited and cautious about Charlie and Nick's future - I know wherever they go, they'll be dealt with huge amounts of care, but also huge amounts of truth - so I have a distinct feeling it's not going to be plain sailing for them...
Check out Heartstopper on Alice Oseman's website to see where you can read it, and where you can grab a copy, and enjoy. I certainly did.
It's a tricky time for everyone at the moment - and as a book fan it's hard to ignore quite how much Covid-19 has thrown the publishing world into disarray - publishing dates are being postponed, many independent bookshops have closed completely during this time, and a lot of people, myself included, struggled to concentrate on reading in this time of immense change and uncertainty. But, things are going to continue as they are for quite some time, and now my mental state has just about adjusted to our "new normal", I wanted to take a look at a book that came out on the 19th of March - so pretty much as all of this kicked off. It's a brilliant read that deserves to be shared - so let me tell you a little bit about it.
Celebrity, with its neon glow and selfie pout, appears hypermodern. But the famous and infamous have been thrilling, titillating, and outraging us for much longer than we might realise. Whether it was the scandalous Lord Byron, whose poetry sent female fans into an erotic frenzy, or the cheetah-owning, coffin-sleeping, one-legged French actress Sarah Bernhardt, who launched a violent feud with her former best friend - the list of stars whose careers burned bright, long before the Age of Television, is extensive and thrillingly varied.
Greg Jenner is a historian, broadcaster, author, and an Honorary Research Associate at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he does occasional teaching. I've been listening to Greg Jenner for a while now, as his BBC Comedy podcast "You're Dead to Me" has proved hugely eye-opening and exciting both for history buffs like me, and for friends who perhaps haven't been so keen on history in the past. The podcast allows anyone to discover fascinating facts about historical figures - but the way it's set up means that those who maybe got put off history after a bored teacher repeated dates to them ad infinitum, will hopefully have a new interest sparked by the compelling way in which the tales are told.
Telling people's stories in a compelling fashion is clearly something that Jenner excels at - and in Dead Famous he's able to combine an overarcing study of the way celebrity has grown and changed over the centuries, with intimate glimpses into the lives of those who have been raised up and celebrated for a huge variety of reasons - both good and bad.
Jenner is the historical consultant to the brilliant Horrible Histories tv show, and it's clear that he has a telent for comedy as well as history, with witty asides peppered throughout the book. It works well - this is clearly a hugely well researched piece of work, but the warmth and humour ensures that it doesn't read like a dry textbook - it has a clear focus, and the compellingly human lives that Jenner resurrects on these pages ensure that it's a page turner - he skillfully weaves fascinating facts throughout every single page, leaving me with a long sheet of people I'm keen to do more research on.
Books that combine history with humour can, in my experience, occasionally err on the side of cruelty - poking fun at the figures they reference in order to entertain readers. That certainly isn't the case here - Jenner allows fact to speak for itself with little room for harsh judgements - and that ensures that Dead Famous is a compelling piece of social history that educates just as much as it entertains - it's one of the best history books I've read in some time.
If it sounds like your cup of tea, - grab a copy where you can, and check out "You're Dead to Me" whereever you get your podcasts. The author has also just started a history podcast called Homeschool History that aims to get children interested in history during this rather difficult time - if you're in the UK it should be available on the BBC Sounds App.