Saturday, 23 February 2019

Guest Review: How to be a Footballer By Peter Crouch


In case you missed last weekend's guest post, I announced that I am changing my regular history/sport/travel guest review spot from a Sunday to a Saturday since I now review films on a Sunday. Sport for you this week!

You become a footballer because you love football. And then you are a footballer, and you’re suddenly in the strangest, most baffling world of all. A world where one team-mate comes to training in a bright red suit with matching top-hat, cane and glasses, without any actual glass in them, and another has so many sports cars they forget they have left a Porsche at the train station. Even when their surname is incorporated in the registration plate.
So walk with me into the dressing-room, to find out which players refuse to touch a football before a game, to discover why a load of millionaires never have any shower-gel, and to hear what Cristiano Ronaldo says when he looks at himself in the mirror.
We will go into post-match interviews, make fools of ourselves on social media and try to ensure that we never again pay £250 for a haircut that should have cost a tenner. We’ll be coached and cajoled by Harry Redknapp, upset Rafa Benitez and be soothed by the sound of an accordion played by Sven-Goran Eriksson’s assistant Tord Grip. There will be some very bad music and some very bad decisions.
I am Peter Crouch. This is How To Be A Footballer. Shall we?



Review: Peter Crouch is a professional footballer who has played for a number of clubs and has represented England on 42 occasions, during which he scored 22 goals for his country. Now approaching the end of his playing career, this book is his collective advice to aspiring footballers based on his personal experience. As such, this book does not follow the usual chronological route of an autobiography but, instead, comprises chapters covering such topics as dressing-room etiquette, players' cars, interviews (apparently "over the moon" has reached its "end of the day") and goal celebrations (including the famous Robot).

Although not strictly an autobiography, most of the advice is based on hard lessons learned during the author's early years as a professional footballer, such as earning the disapproval of Roy Keane regarding a choice of car.

In the prologue to the book, Peter Crouch invites the reader to accompany him into the dressing-room, to loiter at the back post of the opposition's penalty area ready for an incoming cross, or to a post-match interview, stating that it will be fun and like nothing that will have been read before. I can confirm that this is the case. The book is full of very amusing anecdotes and the author's sense of humour, together with his love of the beautiful game, lights up every page. So, if you want to know which player came to training wearing a bright red suit with a top hat, cane and glasses with no lenses; which player's pre-match meal always comprised a croissant, a hot chocolate, a can of cola and a packet of crisps; or some of the antics that players get up to in the team hotel during tournaments, then this is the book for you.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Friday, 22 February 2019

Review: Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America Edited by Ibi Zoboi

Whether it’s New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds writing about #blackboyjoy or Newbery Honor-winning author Renee Watson talking about black girls at camp in Portland, or emerging author Jay Coles’s story about two cowboys kissing in the south—Black Enough is an essential collection full of captivating coming-of-age stories about what it’s like to be young and black in America.


Review: I absolutely loved this anthology of short stories and I really do feel like there is something for everyone hear. Each of these stories is so different from the last whilst still sharing that same thread of being young and black in America. You can read one story that might have a character who is black and struggling with grief then another about a character who is black and struggling with their privilege. Then there might be a story focusing on a character who lives in the 'wrong side of town followed by another who is black and struggling to come out to their family, this book really does have something everyone can identify with. 

I had read some of these authors' work before and a lot of the others were new to me, this is the great thing about a short story collection, I now have authors I want to pick up and others I want to explore more deeply. I think out of the whole collection, there were only two stories I really didn't get on with and that's not because they were awful, its just because they didn't click with me. I read this with someone else and we agreed on one of the stories I disliked, but the other they liked. This is yet another reason why short story collections are wonderful, they're short so it's not long before you're reading the next story you really love!

My favourite in this collection was probably Jason Reynolds story or Ibi Zoboi's. I really feel like Jason Reynolds captured something in his story that I have recognised in many young people I have worked with, they are discussing and dreaming about their perfect sandwich and then the ending is not something you;re expecting. Ibi Zoboi deals with a close knit religious community and what it feels like to be outside this community. This has strong links with feminism and also has links with the TV show Friends and so I loved this. The last story does feel a little like the beginnings of another book, however and I desperately want to read more, it has stuck with me long after finishing!

I definitely recommend picking up Black Enough. I really enjoyed reading this collection and I really feel I could identify with several of the characters in the stories. I really do think there is something for everyone here. 

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Review: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Set amid the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program.
Before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as ‘Human Computers’, calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts, these ‘colored computers’ used pencil and paper to write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.
Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the women’s rights movement, Hidden Figures interweaves a rich history of mankind’s greatest adventure with the intimate stories of five courageous women whose work forever changed the world.


Review: I listened to this book on audio, having been recommended the audiobook. I think because of the amount of names and figures to keep track of this was definitely the best decision. I did this book the other way round from my usual which is to read the book before seeing the film but I will definitely be making some comparisons to the film. I really don't think I was spoiled for the book by having watched the movie because the movie focuses in on three particular women and one NASA mission in general whereas the book is much broader. 

I think that if you enjoyed the film you will definitely enjoy the book because it covers black female mathematicians at NASA by following various women in their day to day work and personal lives. We get to hear about one mother, her work at NASA and then her helping her son build a soap box car and win his race. We also get to see multiple generations of women go through this work place and the changes that they found compared to the women who had gone before them. 

It was also very interesting because not only does it focus on more women than the film and multiple generations of women, it also relates their workplace to the outside culture a lot more. We get to hear about what is going on in states other than Virginia at the time each of theses women is working at NASA. We also get to see more than one space mission and the work that went into it. I like the fact that we get to see reactions to the Apollo 1 fire and the missions that followed that and also the way the women themselves reacted to John Glenn and his successful mission. 

I really enjoyed this and would definitely recommend the audiobook. I would also compare this one to Code Girls and to some extent the various books that have been released recently such as goodnight stories for rebel girls and girl squads. I think if you are looking for a new non-fiction read, this one should definitely be on your radar!

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US


Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Guest Review: A Girl’s Best Friend by Jules Wake

Welcome to your new cottage in the country - complete with grumpy vet, village gossip and a very muddy dog . . .
City girl Ella wants to take refuge in the country, lick her wounds and work out what she's going to do with the rest of her life. She certainly doesn't want to have a four-legged house guest or anything to do with village life. Unfortunately, the inhabitants of Wilsgrave have other ideas.
Settling in to her godmother's house for a few months of R&R, Ella finds herself the reluctant babysitter of a badly behaved Labrador - and her plans of staying mainly indoors scuppered. But as she's forced into wellies and into the village's way of doing things, Ella meets people who make her think again about what she really wants out of life and love, starting with her new furry best friend . . .





Review: This is just the second book by this author that I have read, and having just finished it I wonder why I have not read more of her work. The story grabbed my attention right from the outset and kept me reading right to the end. 

At the start of the book, we see artist Ella moving into her godmother’s country cottage while she tries to take stock of her life. She is ‘taking a break’ from her long time boyfriend, Patrick, and their hectic London existence. However, her plan to immerse herself in her illustrating work and not venture outside the cottage are scuppered by the arrival into her life of one lively and very very cute black labrador, foisted on her by her mother. Ella had no idea that looking after Tess was part of the deal. The other thing that Ella had not foreseen was the extent to which she was expected to take part in village activities. Through her furry friend, Ella soon gets to know other inhabitants of the village, including dog-lover Bets and rather gorgeous, if grumpy, vet, Devon. As she begins to settle into this very different way of life, Ella takes a fresh look at her life in London and her relationship with Patrick, wondering if all was as marvellous as she thought.

This is definitely an ideal story for dog lovers. Although the main thrust of the tale concerns Ella, labrador Tess and her doggy friends are always present in the midst of the action. Even though both Ella and handsome vet Devon are at difficult points in their lives, with serious decisions to make, there is quite a bit of humour in the story, often connected with the dogs. The villagers too are a source of entertainment as they enrol Ella into all sorts of activities in the absence of her godmother, obviously a pivotal character in the village. I loved the sound of the village, with its strong sense of community and likeable, if sometimes strange, inhabitants. I took a great dislike to Ella’s mother, though, definitely a silly lady. As I say, this book will surely appeal to dog lovers, but not only them; it is a well written and wonderfully entertaining story in which you can quickly find yourself immersed and transported to the countryside.


To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Blog Tour: Extract From Coming Home to Holly Close Farm by Julie Houston


I am very excited to be part of the blog tour today for Coming home to Holly Close Farm by Julie Houston. The books was released in the UK on 5th February and you can click here to order your copy if you enjoy the extract below! Don't forget to visit the other stops on the tour for more exclusive content and reviews!

Here's what it's all about:

Charlie Maddison loves being an architect in London, but when she finds out her boyfriend, Dominic, is actually married, she runs back to the beautiful countryside of Westenbury and her parents.

Charlie’s sister Daisy, a landscape gardener, is also back home in desperate need of company and some fun. Their great-grandmother, Madge – now in her early nineties - reveals she has a house, Holly Close Farm, mysteriously abandoned over sixty years ago, and persuades the girls to project manage its renovation.

As work gets underway, the sisters start uncovering their family’s history, and the dark secrets that are hidden at the Farm.

 A heart-breaking tale of wartime romance, jealousy and betrayal slowly emerges, but with a moral at its end: true love can withstand any obstacle, and, before long, Charlie dares to believe in love again too…


Here's that extract you've been waiting for...

‘So, what happened to your career as waitress in the sky?’ I hugged my younger sister before flopping down onto her bed and, closing my eyes, tried to shut out the awful events of the day.
‘Cunnilingus finished me off.’
‘Sorry?’ I opened one eye and squinted at Daisy. ‘I can’t take you seriously with that purple stuff on your hair and white stuff above your lips.’
‘I’ve no money to get my hair done at the hairdresser so I’m touching up the roots myself – I borrowed Vivienne’s toothbrush to do the job: she’s the only one without an electric one round here – and for some reason I seem to be sprouting a moustache suddenly, so I’m bleaching that as well. I blame all the fumes I’ve had to breathe in while walking up and down that damned cabin.’
I looked at Daisy doubtfully. ‘Fumes give you a moustache? Never heard that one before. You’re just getting old. By the time you’re thirty you’ll probably have a beard that’ll give Rip Van Winkle a run for his money.’
‘Shit, do you think so?’ Daisy felt her chin before scrutinising her face in the mirror. ‘My eyebrows are sprouting as well. Raphael said to me the other week, “Eets like being in bed wiz Denees Healey.”’
I tutted. ‘Cheeky sod. You should have asked the little frog how he knew what being in bed wiz Denees Healey was like.’
We both cackled at that and I felt a bit better that Daisy was having a few problems on the man front too. No matter how much you might adore your sister, you don’t want her to be one up on you, especially when she’s two years younger than you.
‘You do know you can’t call the French Frogs any more,’ Daisy tutted in turn. ‘I thought you’d have learned that, living in London. Totally and utterly not PC. Anyway, the little frog’s on the way out, I reckon, especially as I’ll no longer be meeting up with him at Charles De Gaulle: Terminal 2D. He’ll have to concentrate on handling baggage rather than me in future.’ Daisy lay down on the bed beside me, shoving me up towards the wall as she did so. ‘Blimey, it’s jolly hard work keeping your face tilted upwards so this vile-smelling stuff doesn’t slide down into your mouth.’
‘And the cunnilingus?’ I closed my eyes again and snuggled under Daisy’s duvet. It felt warm and safe and I wanted to hide there for ever, shutting out the events of the past few hours.
Daisy laughed. ‘It was so boring up there in the sky that, once we’d served the drinks, food, duty free and slapped down the wandering drunks and gropers, we’d come up with ways to entertain ourselves.’
‘Couldn’t you just strap yourself in and have a snooze?’
Daisy tutted. ‘Having a kip thirty-five thousand feet up is hardly professional.’
‘And indulging in a mile-high sex act is? So, you entertained yourselves with a bit of covert oral sex? With whom? Not the pilot, I hope?’
Daisy laughed. ‘Don’t be ridiculous. Have you seen the size of a cockpit on a charter plane to Malaga?’
‘It wasn’t the cock pit I was imagining.’ I opened one eye and raised its eyebrow in her direction.
Daisy laughed again. ‘If living in London has given you such a vivid imagination, it’s probably time you came back north. Anyway, in order to overcome the total monotony of trailing up and down the aisle, we set ourselves little tasks. The task for the day was for a crew member to get the word cunnilingus into a sentence over the public-address system.’
‘Right.’ I yawned. It all sounded terribly juvenile. ‘As in, please be aware that cunnilingus, like smoking, is not permitted in the aircraft toilet?’
‘Do you want to hear how clever I was, or not?’
‘Sorry, go on.’
‘So, over the speaker I said, “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. The seat belt sign is still illuminated so please ensure you’re strapped in. There does appear to be some turbulence, which may give a bit of a bumpy ride. It could be there for a while as it appears to be the sort that kinda lingers…’


About the author


Julie Houston is the author of THE ONE SAVING GRACE, GOODNESS, GRACE AND ME and LOOKING FOR LUCY, a Kindle top 100 general bestseller and a Kindle #1 bestseller. She is married, with two teenage children and a mad cockerpoo and, like her heroine, lives in a West Yorkshire village. She is also a teacher and a magistrate.

Follow Julie:

Twitter: @juliehouston2

Facebook: @JulieHoustonauthor

Buy links:
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2Ul2evq

Follow Aria
Twitter: @aria_fiction
Facebook: @ariafiction
Instagram: @ariafiction


Saturday, 16 February 2019

Guest Review: The Railway Adventures By Vicki Pipe and Geoff Marshall

I am changing my regular history/sport/travel guest review spot from a Sunday to a Saturday since I now review films on a Sunday. I've got two lined up for you as a special treat since I haven't been able to squeeze any in for a while AND this one includes a link to the documentary that accompanies the book!

The railways are one of our finest engineering legacies - a web of routes connecting people to each other and to a vast network of world-class attractions. It is also the best route to enjoying the landscape of Great Britain.



Within these pages Vicki Pipe and Geoff Marshall from All the Stations (YouTube transport experts and survivors of a crowd-funded trip to visit all the stations in the UK) help you discover the hidden stories that lie behind branch lines, as well as meeting the people who fix the engines and put the trains to bed. 

Embark on unknown routes, disembark at unfamiliar stations, explore new places and get to know the communities who keep small stations and remote lines alive.






Review: In 2017, the two authors undertook a project to visit all the then 2,563 stations on the national railway network in Great Britain. Starting in Penzance, they completed their epic railway adventure 15 weeks later in Wick. This project was entitled "All The Stations" and, as they travelled, they posted updates on various social media platforms (pun intended) and shared videos of their experiences on YouTube. A feature length documentary of their challenge is now available on YouTube. This book gives a taster of some of the highlights of their trip, and Vicki and Geoff hope that it will serve as an inspiration for readers to undertake their own railway adventure.

The various chapters in the book cover such topics as some of the places visited; interesting facts about the stations; how the railway network is operated and maintained; some of the fascinating people they encountered; and the various different trains on which they travelled (of the 60 different classes of train that run on the network, they travelled on all bar one). I was pleased to see that my local station of Knaresborough gets an honourable mention. The final chapter gives suggestions for readers to undertake their own railway adventure by providing five different routes. Each route can be undertaken in one day, but the authors encourage people to get out and explore the different stations and surrounding areas, extending the trips over several days.

However, far from being a book just for rail enthusiasts, and Vicki and Geoff go to great pains to point out that they are not trainspotters, this is a book that provides a fascinating snapshot of the communities and people that have been shaped by the railways, and will continue to do so as the network evolves. I enjoyed watching the videos posted during their adventure, which are characterised by the couple's infectious enthusiasm. I was pleased to see that this same enthusiasm for the subject is replicated in this book, which is very well illustrated with photographs taken during the trip. So, if you want to know how to rate stations on a quaint scale, or to find out why Vicki is so enthusiastic about Pacer trains (I suppose somebody has to be), then this is the book for you.


To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US!


Friday, 15 February 2019

Review: Words We Don't Say by K.J. Reilly

Joel Higgins has 901 unsent text messages saved on his phone.


Ever since the thing that happened, there are certain people he hasn't been able to talk to in person. Sure, he shows up at school, does his mandatory volunteer hours at the soup kitchen, and spends pretty much every moment thinking about Eli, the most amazing girl in the world. But that doesn't mean he's keeping it together, or even that he has any friends.

So instead of hanging out with people in real life, he drafts text messages. But he never presses send.
As dismal as sophomore year was for Joel, he doesn't see how junior year will be any better. For starters, Eli doesn't know how he feels about her, his best friend Andy's gone, and he basically bombed the SATs. But as Joel spends more time at the soup kitchen with Eli and Benj, the new kid whose mouth seems to be unconnected to his brain, he forms bonds with the people they serve there-including a veteran they call Rooster-and begins to understand that the world is bigger than his own pain.

In this dazzling, hilarious, and heartbreaking debut, Joel grapples with the aftermath of a tragic loss as he tries to make sense of the problems he's sees all around him with the help of banned books, Winnie-the-Pooh, a field of asparagus, and many pairs of socks.


Review: I thought this was such a cool concept for a novel and just a bit of a concept for life really. I was totally drawn in by the fact that Joel puts all the things he can't say out loud for various reasons into these unsent texts on his phone. We might do the same thing through unsent letters or emails, texts are quicker and right there in your hand though, i think it's a great idea!

Of course there are deeper meanings to the fact that Joel has these unsent messages. I liked him as a character because he is SUCH and over thinker and so I could totally relate to him. I like the fact that he thinks about the people that he sees at the soup kitchen where he volunteers and he and his friends seem to think that this is normal-how open-minded! The other characters in this book are really interesting as well and definitely three dimensional enough that you could imagine them being there in real life. I could definitely picture Joel's family, his younger brother and his mother. And then Eli was a very interesting character as well. I definitely think there is more going on in her life and indeed her head than meets the eye so I would love to see something from her in the future, perhaps a sequel. 

I really like the fact that this novels covers things going on in real kids' lives. The fact that there is pressure to volunteer but maybe you just want to give your time anyway. The fact that kids are expected to go through grief and then just bounce back because they have tests and exams coming up and they need to get on with their college applications. This doesn't always work that way and I like that more and more books (like this one) are acknowledging that. This book also covers the fact that Veterans, specifically those with PTSD aren't given the emotional support that they should when they finish their service, again they're expected to just bounce back and slot into normal every day life again. 

Although this is a short book it packs a punch. Not every moment of it is cheerful and happy escapism but it is very real and it speaks to the reader honestly. There are definitely care warnings for grief and PTSD but other than that I definitely recommend it. 

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US