Sunday, 25 June 2017

Miss Perfect

Being a social worker was everything for Miss Madge Perfect.

She had devoted her entire life to using the social work system to improve the lot of others, but most especially children.

But now, she is look back at her life from Ireland and she recalls when, yes, social work really was her life.

However, that was before Dan, her ambitious deputy, entered inot a conspiracy to have her removed from her position within the County Council Social Work department.

The name they gave it was restructuring, but whatever name they gave it, it meant there was no place for Miss Perfect, someone who always put her clients first.

Oddball professor of sociology Mitchell is brought in by County Hall to "evaluate service delivery" in Madge's office and this make Mage decide on a spot of evaluation, herself, or rather reevaluation, of her outlook to work and also life.

Mitchell's tenure is enlivened when he caught fire, but then he is dogged by disgrace when a female student brings forward some allegations about his behaviour toward her.

Madge's life seems to continue as normal, until a child in her care goes missing and a body is discovered.

Will County Hall sacrifice her to save face? It seems likely, until help comes from a somewhat unlikely source, a bouncer, who works at the Golden Slipper massage parlour.

But Billy knows Miss Perfect from his time a a child client in his youth and he has some information that he believes will help her. But the information comes at a price. Is it a price she is willing to pay?

But perhaps there might be some really big changes for Madge and for certain other people, too?

It's a heartening book and it is certain that the author Bernard Hall knows probably more about County Council Social Work departments than he might like to admit, as he has the office politics and the machinations of County Hall down to a T!

I can heartily recommend this book, which is published by Matador at £7.99.

It is available for purchase here

The Cow Who Fell to Earth

One night a flock of sheep are doing what most flocks of sheep do at night, when, suddenly, they are interrupted by a star that lands CRASH!!!! right on top of the poor sheep!

The only thing is, it's not a star that has fallen from the night sky, it's a jet pack wearing little cow who is lost.

Unfortunately attempts at communicating with the cow are stymied by the fact that all the cow can say is "WOOO".

He is desperate to get home but this is going to be a tough job if nobody can understand anything he tries to tell them!

However, the sheep all rallied round the poor little fellow and they got him a blanket and, obviously they must have been British sheep, because they also brought him a cup of tea.

They asked him to tell them his story, which he did, but "Wooo, woo-woo, woo-woo" meant nothing to the sheep. Though they did decide that he needed a name and they gave him the name Dave.

Dave could see she had a problem at that point!

The sheep asked Bertha the cow for help, but she couldn't understand the little cow, either.

Kevin the cat, Pamela Pig and the farm dog Rufus were all consulted, but they all couldn't help.

But then the situation becomes a bit more complicated when some chickens managed to launch themselves into space using Dave's jet pack.

With the aid of a photograph of Dave and her family, the sheep realise they have to get Dave back home to the Moon.

But how will they do this without the aid of the jet pack?

Find out how when you read the book!

It's a fantastically silly book which should tickle the funny bone of almost all children and of a lot of adults, too, it's an ideal book to share with the little ones. It's written by Nadia Shireen who also executed the charming and vibrant illustrations, too.

It is published by Penguin Books and costs £6.99 and should be bought for every child in the land.

You can purchase it at

The Tin Heart Gold Mine

In her novel The Tin Heart Gold Mine, Ruth Hartley brings her readers as fast-paced story that relates the life of an artist in the city of London, and brings to life in vivid detail the landscape and politics of an African nation.

It draws for some of its inspiration the author's childhood which was spent in Zimbabwe. She later studied art in Cape Town and learnt politics in Natal.

In the 1960s she left South Africa, seeking asylum in London.

The protagonist of her novel is Lara who is an artist. She has two loves in her life, Tim, who is a journalist who seeks out the truth and Oscar who is an older businessman who is suave and the owner of a gold mine, the Tin Heart Gold Mine.

The novel opens in 1985 and sees Lara and her lover Oscar who are living in Chambesi, an area of wilderness, beauty and hidden danger.

But sometimes things just are not meant to be and when we next meet Lara it is 1997 and Oscar is just a memory and she is now married to Tim, the journalist.

But who is the father of Lara's son? Is it Tim? Or perhaps it might be Oscar?

The marriage is under strain because of Lara's previous love for Oscar.

Tim must leave London for an assignment in Africa, meanwhile a traumatised Lara decides upon a course of therapy in order to help her work through the various issues that face her.

But is everything what it seems? Tim feels that Oscar is a dangerous and untrustworthy man and he attempts to warn Lara of his suspicions.

But exactly how dangerous is Oscar? Is it possible that his secrets are far more dangerous than they suspect?

Could Lara be in danger from Oscar? Is Tim's life at risk?

The book is published by Matador at £9.99 and can be bought here

From Crawley to Carlisle a trawl around league two

Chris Upfield, who is a dedicated Portsmouth FC fan has decided to write a book which is a humour filled observation of the experiences of fellow fans of lower league football clubs.

Chris invites us to join him and his family and friends as they journey to  faraway places (Well, what passes for far away in Britain)  as they follow their beloved Pompey (Portsmouth FC) and the variable successes or otherwise of the team that Chris (on page one, mind!) cheerfully describes as "the team with the worst away record in the league. Even so, on this particular occasion hey'd managed to give poor old Cambridge a 6-2 drubbing. Away to Cambridge.

Chris' style is humorous and quirky. Within the first couple of pages he manages to find himself wondering what difficulties a Cambridge support with one tooth might have with the pronunciation of certain letters of the alphabet, how a toothless Spanish could ever get served when he was attempting to order a beer, or how a toothless German World War 2 officer could have ever convinced a POW that they had ways of making people talk.

He also wondered if the local taxi firm has been taken over by South-west Trains, after waiting for a taxi in the freezing cold for the best part of an hour.

His group had decided to splash out on a hospitality package for the match with twelve tables crammed into a room the size of an office, where everyone was entertained with a football quiz sheet consisting of ten questions.

There then followed a three course meal of mushroom soup with bread rolls (thought to be of the "bake in the oven" variety) eaten well before the 45 minute late soup, in order to stave off the temptation to resort to cannibalism, the soup was described as lacking in mushrooms and having "a tarmac sort of hue."

The main course was a steak and stilton pie (light on the stilton) with tinned peas and a bowl of vegetables believed to be frozen, which was totally inadequate for a table of 11 hungry adults.

The lemon dessert, however, was described as "passable."

Chris then turns his eye to the other VIP guests and notices former stars form previous footballing eras, then there was the report on the match with the surprising 6-2 result.

The rest of the book follows Chris and his party of family members and friends as they travel around the country from football club to football club, taking in cities such as Carlisle, Crawley, York, Oxford, Ipswich and the like.

The book is a good and amusing read for diehard football fans and those with only a passing interest in the "beautiful game." Especially for those who follow teams in the lower leagues.

It is published by Matador at £8.99 and is available for purchase here

Successful People Management

Successful People Management is a new book that takes the reader through the many years of managerial experience gathered by the late David Griffiths.

In fact he finished the book only a very short time before he died, so this book is a fitting memorial to him and his life's work.

In his book Griffiths focuses on the key aspects of the managerial process, studying and examining the basic principles that underpin all management practices.

He also takes pains to stress the absolute importance of good interpersonal relationships between managers, colleagues and staff.

It also offers a wealth of advice that is both practicable and also highly valuable on what not to do, how not to behave, plus advice on what to do and how the good manager should behave.

He believes that the skilled manager should be able to promote positive responses from both colleagues and business clients. And in this book he gives you the tools to ensure that this happens.

Amongst the wide range of topics covered are sales skills, the art of negotiating, undertaking appraisals and meetings.  

All topics are covered in a way that shows a depth of knowledge and understanding that adds much to the value of this important managerial work.

The book is subtitled "Life skills for managers" and amongst the key topis covered are body language, communication skills, team work, dealing with problematic staff members and much, much more, besides.

The book is illustrated with some amusing, but telling, cartoons by James Richardson, a freelance illustrator.

If you manage people, or if other people manage you, then you need to buy a copy of this book.

It is published by Matador at £9.99 and it will be £9.99 well spent, as it will be a worthwhile investment in your future.

You can buy copies here

Listening for Water and other stories

This is a collection of 19 short stories by author Sandra Wallman.

From the cordial, formal and ludicrous (the authors' words!) interaction between the female protagonist and the old man in the van (complete with his dirty long johns) in the first story, Hitchhiker to the paternalistic eye of Lord Russell as he watches over everyone from children to street people, to tourists, students and office workers,  as they are involved in the Square Dance.

The stories are all real. That is not to say that they are all guaranteed to be 100% genuine incidents, but that they all pass what editor and writer Richard Ingrams used to describe as the "smell test."

They all smell real, having been lovingly and carefully crafted by a master of the short story, Sandra Wallman.

However... however, there might be more than that to some of the stories as they are based upon genuine incidents and are inspired by the lives of people she knows. Names and some fine details have been changed to protect the innocent.

A randy. elderly man, the honouring of the death of a neighbour in France, the horrific moment in time captured forever in the minds of a group of people in San Francisco who witness the plunge of a girl from the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. (Reviewers' note: At least 1600 people have thrown themselves from the bridge, although the true figure is unknowable for several reasons.)

The stories are all perfectly formed, microcosms of life.

Sandra Wallman is Professor Emerita in Anthropology at University College in London, and her anthropological eye has been put to very good use with her first collection of short stories. Hopefully she will be writing more, soon.

It's published by Matador at £7.99 and can be purchased at


Hanuman is another in the brightly illustrated and well-written books in  the "Amma Tell Me" series written by Bhakti Mathur and illustrated by Maulshree Somani.

This is the first of a series of three books that tell the story of the character Hanuman, and the Hindu festival of Durga, introducing younger children to the Hindu religion,  yet doing so in a way that is not preachy and also fun.

Bhakti uses rhyming prose to tell the story of Hanuman, from his birth to his attempt to eat the sun (he mistook him for a juicy mango!) his attack by Indra and his miraculous recovery with divine power, strength and intelligence, when Indra repented of what he had done.

And how he forgot his powers until they would be called upon again.

The book helps youngsters to learn about characters from the Hindu religion, such as Anjana, Brahma, Indra, Shiva, Vaanars and Vayu.

It is a colourful, large format book published by Anjana Publishing and is available for purchase here