Book Review – The Kids of God by Dave Appleby

The Kids of God [Dave Appleby] तक
The Kids of God by Dave Appleby
book cover

Genre: Fiction/Psychological Thriller
Pub Date: 2021
Length: 343 pages
Kindle Edition: £1.99/Paperback Edition: £8.99


What would you do if a man you hated appeared on your doorstep, fleeing from his would-be murderers, and tricked his way into your house? If you could be killed for sheltering him? This is Ed’s dilemma. Ed is not a hero. He is easily bullied and blackmailed. Living under a totalitarian regime, he has learned to survive using trickery and deceit. But how low will he stoop when the going gets really tough? This psychological thriller is about power and its abuses.

In a not to distant future, a self-made group calling themselves The Peacemakers, have control over the town. The town in question is never named. It doesn’t need to be. The citizens live in quiet fear. The enemy is the Drudjers – immigrants, refugees, ‘foreigners’ – others. Or are they?

This is a microcosm of our world, where people do whatever they can to survive in trying circumstances. There are decent people, there are bad people, and there are the morally ambiguous.

We follow Ed, a regular computer tech guy, as he is pushed to make a decision many have during wartime throughout history – do I save the stranger on the doorstep or leave him to the militia? Although, in Ed’s case, the decision is made for him – as it is in many situations that follow. Ed is a man whose wife has just recently left him, taking their two children with her. Ed has recently lost his job, after devoting himself to the company, whose system he helped develop. Ed is frightened, easily manipulated, used and cowed. The story is told in first person narrative, so we rely on Ed to be honest – and he is. His honesty – and his actions – will have you pitying him, initially. But for how long?

The Kids of God has a Kafkaesque quality, especially at the beginning. The staccato sentences that denote Ed’s thought pattern, fractured, frightened, work very well to convey a sense of fear and confusion. It isn’t utterly bizarre in the traditional Kafka sense, although we do take time to realise the world that is being portrayed. It isn’t totally illogical, except when a character makes decisions that are the sort of conclusions one might make under duress. But it is a nightmare world that Appleby has created, with the powerlessness of the protagonist and the crushing authority of The Peacemakers.

There are sections in Kids of God that are uncomfortable to read – be prepared – but read them you must. The events become pretty horrific. The treatment of secondary characters unforgivable. One’s initial opinions of Ed are challenged. We don’t have a lot of background about this protagonist, he doesn’t tell us why his wife left. We are in the here and now, and war makes cowards or heroes of us all.

I like that the story takes place in one town. The author has kept the lens focused close on the protagonist’s actions. There’s no grand landscape, or expansion elsewhere. We only know what is happening in Ed’s world, Ed’s town, right now. It successfully keeps us adhered to the moment, keeps us learning as Ed learns, experiencing as Ed experiences. This also makes for a slightly claustrophobic atmosphere, combining the domestic intimacy with the real and ever-present danger of being caught. The secondary character is a Peacemaker named Nikov, who initially comes across as a two-dimensional Nazi style Brown Shirt. We are meant to despise him because of what he represents, vigilante militia, and because Ed is frightened of them and Ed’s our hero. But the two dimensionality is a deliberate foil by the author, Nikov is an extremely complicated character who presents as a simple man following what he believes in. Ed and Nikov are neighbours in a street that has lost many of its residents and one comes increasingly to rely on the other, or does he?

This is a novel about how we treat people who are ‘not one of us’. How we view those from another country, or state or class. We presume, about ourselves, that we are decent individuals, but when things get hard, who are we looking out for, who do we care about – and who is to blame for the situations we find ourselves in?

This novel tackles, not only human behaviour towards foreigners, but through Ed, we can question what is going on inside our heads compared to what we present to the world, and reveals – horrifically, starkly – what actions erupt from people worn down by life and crushed by authority. This is, in places, a raw and uncompromising delve into impulses, and it comes with a Warning: it contains scenes of sex and violence.

Simultaneously engrossing and repulsive.

I did enjoy The Kids of God and give it

Book Review – Motherdarling by Dave Appleby

Motherdarling by [Dave Appleby]
Motherdarling by Dave Appleby

Genre: Fiction
Pub Date: 2020
Length: 369 pages
Kindle Edition: £0.99/Paperback Edition: £8.99

Motherdarling was a monster. Jack, her son, walked out the day he turned eighteen. He’s not been back. Now Motherdarling’s dead. Anne has to find the missing Will or Jack inherits half of the Estate. But when Anne starts to search, she finds a secret that endangers all her hopes.

Motherdarling is a slow burn. This isn’t a negative. I enjoy these kinds of narratives, as they allow one to become slowly absorbed into the author’s world. It is akin to settling into a hot bath, except in this story, someone has lit a fire under the tub, and one hardly notices as the water begins to heat up and boil!

There are a couple of grammatical errors which can be forgiven, such as missing quotation marks, and using first then third person in a single sentence – when Anne is speaking in one chapter, she says, “I look down at her hands” and “At last I shake the water from her hands”. This might be a very subtle way of mentioning her hands remind her of her mother’s, but I don’t believe so.

The story takes place over a week, beginning with the funeral of the titular Motherdarling. Each chapter is written from the point of view of the family members, Anne, Jack, Peter and Chris. Beginning with Anne, we discover a somewhat sad, and dowdy, middle-aged woman who is both grieving, and relieved at the loss of her mother. She is aghast to discover that her brother, Jack, who has been out of the country for 30 years, has turned up and fears he is after part of the potential inheritance.

Then the family is informed that there is no Will. They must find it. And so, the hunt begins. And as they search, they uncover more than they bargained for. The reader accompanies each of the players on this journey, and as we are party to their inner thoughts, we begin to learn more about their motives, their appetites, their desires. The author writes deftly, unfolding the character’s responses to the situation as it twists one way then the other. It sounds such a cliché, but like an onion, it has layers. And as these layers are drawn back, each reveals the flaws in their makeup, the same way all humans veer on our moral track depending on circumstance.

Appleby has written a family drama wrapped around a mystery. And though the pace is similar throughout, we do get a feel for each individual character via a varied style of writing – Chris, for example, Anne’s teenage son, thinks in a staccato way, his thoughts are sometimes scattered, he bounces from one topic to the next when not directly speaking to someone. Whereas his father, Peter, has longer, drawn-out sentences that reflect his slower thinking pattern.

Motherdarling is engrossing. It is horribly fascinating. Like watching (another cliché, I’m afraid) a car crash in slow motion. The question of nature versus nurture is at the core of the story, as well as what is family? There are two, apparent, side stories relating to Peter and Chris, that eventually find their place in the whole. I had wondered about them and the relevance, but the author does a beautiful job of weaving the threads together into a wonderful if disturbing tapestry of family, heritage, duty and deceit.

I’m giving Motherdarling

Beneath the Skin: Where Sleeps the Serpent?

Heads up to my readers. I have a new Steampunk adventure now available on Amazon! Only £2.24 (Kindle) or free with Kindle Unlimited!! This is the first book in a duology.

Publication date: 30th August 2020 Publisher: KDP, Sticks & Stones imprint

Beneath the Skin, Book One: Where Sleeps the Serpent?

Airship courier, Shakti O’Malley takes on one last job before heading home. It will be a job she deeply regrets. All she wants is a simple life, to go home to her mother in Kerala, but her employer convinces her to take on a final delivery. It’s paid for, sealed, and already in her cargo hold before she has agreed – couriers rarely know what is in the packages they are delivering.

On board the Emperor Ashoka, Shakti discovers a stowaway, defends her ship from pirates, and finds out what is in the box she is transporting. She is forced to confront the truth about her father’s death and of her own hidden nature. From the heat of Kerala to the cool of Paris, Shakti is drawn into international politics and espionage.

The year is 1878. France’s Empire has overtaken the British and has a strong alliance with India. But some English men have ideas to alter the balance of power.

Meanwhile, in Paris, a serial killer is on the loose.



The Emperor Ashoka sat on the waters of the River Seine. The dock swarmed with shoals of flying boats, mini dirigibles, fantastic arrow-shaped craft with water landing gear. Mooring masts on the Champ de Mars sprouted dirigibles like giant seed pods, docking towers ran cables that tethered a variety of craft. The Aerodrome du Seine was a floating docking station replete with everything the aeronaut could need; food supplies, engine parts, engineers even. It also provided a hotel service for those who were unable to live on board their vessels, or for tourists who had newly arrived. President Charbonnier even had his own personal zeppelin stationed in the aerodrome complex. Shakti, Anita, Kinza and Deepak gawked around in wonder at some of the sleek airships and the brilliant aerodrome from which a harsh spring sun glinted. Apart from Kinza, they had never been outside of India before. The princess had travelled throughout much of the Middle East with her tribe before joining the Ashoka, and was, therefore, less awed but just as delighted.

Kinza exclaimed loudly and excitedly, indicating the arrow shaped airship that looked at home on the water as much as in the air.

“Oh my goodness! What is he wearing?” she cried pointing at a strangely garbed man exiting a semi-submerged craft.

She continued gabbling enthusiastically, clutching and tugging at Torben’s sleeve now and then. The big man smiled patiently. Shakti and Anita linked arms and wandered along taking in the European scenery. Michel had headed straight into the city proper to purchase supplies, after reminding her that she needed to register their vessel before too long. She had watched the boy tag along behind the Frenchman, staring at leather-clad aeronauts and straining his neck to see to the top of the huge gleaming aerodrome. Shakti noted the new smell, so different from home – no warm spices, hot, dusty air, or lush green vegetation. There was a cool, crispness with an underlying hint of river water. Cigarette smoke and perfume and urine. Coal and engine oil.

“Let us get registered and give the ship an overhaul before we get carried away.” She said, “Remember, we’re not on holiday.”

“We are not working either,” her first mate reminded her, “So what exactly are we doing here?”

Shakti twisted her mouth sideways, thinking. “You know, I am not really sure. Tinka was definitely giving us a hint to get ourselves here. All I know is we are now on the run from the Indian authorities.”

May You Live In Interesting Times – or – Let Us Not Forget

These are extraordinary times we are living in.

In fact, ‘Interesting times’. This expression is fairly well-known in England, and is often attributed to the Chinese, although there is no proof that it originated there. While appearing to be a blessing, it is in fact a curse. The expression is used ironically, with the inference that ‘uninteresting times’, of peace and tranquillity, are more life-enhancing than interesting ones.

It basically means that interesting times are not peaceful, they are times of war, uprising, change – or pandemic.

Last night, I stood on my doorstep, along with some neighbours, to applaud and show our appreciation for our country’s NHS staff (Clap for Carers) – who are doing an exemplary job under strained conditions. On social media, we see this ‘trend’ occurring across the world. We are all seeing just how vital our hospital staff are. It’s just a shame that it takes something like COVID-19 for those in government to truly appreciate this.

But around the world, there are other people who are still working through this. They provide us with products and services, and some, many, are invisible to the general public.

I wanted to take a moment to show appreciation for these people. Many of whom do very unpleasant work; sewage workers. There are people who are putting themselves at risk daily so that you and I can continue to live our lives as smoothly as possible.

Let us not forget the:

Shop workers – Supermarket employees are working very hard at personal risk – and always appreciate a thank you. While you’re hunkered down at home, supermarket employees continue to show up to work every day, putting themselves at risk as they come into contact with hundreds or thousands of people who may be asymptomatic.

Bin/Refuse Collectors – “The Covid-19 pandemic poses a serious and unique risk to the 6,000 Teamsters employed by Waste Management. Over the course of each workday, our members visit thousands of homes, businesses, schools and hospitals,”

Sewage Workers – Sanitary workers around the world are carrying out, potentially, life-threatening tasks, some without access to the most basic hygiene. In many parts of the world, they often descend into the sewers without gloves or any other protective gear for very little money or respect. The work is usually accompanied by a set of risks, some of them life-threatening.

Long Distance Lorry Drivers – “Truckers aren’t health care workers and we’re not anybody special. We just have to keep working because, what else are we going to do right now? And people need their toilet paper.”

Zoo-keepers and Animal Sanctuary Staff – ‘COVID-19 could infect great apes’. Those who care for animals must go to work, who else is going to feed and minister to them?

Emergency Services – It goes without saying that our Police, Firefighters, Ambulance, Paramedics etc are doing extraordinary work. Remember, not everyone is as willing to be as thoughtful as you and stay at home. Some will test the boundaries of authority for sure. People with nothing to do, people with no moral compass, people with learning difficulties who simply do not understand the situation.

Farmers – Your food does not come from Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, Lidl, etc. In the first instance, most of it comes from farms. The challenge is how long suppliers will carry on supplying the farmers with feed for the animals, with diesel and fertiliser. Without that supply, the farmers cannot provide you and me with our fruit, vegetables, meat, wheat for cereals and more.

If you work in one of the ‘industries’ I have mentioned above –

I thank you.

If you work in an industry I have not mentioned, that is keeping me supplied with goods –

I thank you.

If you are enabling me to live as normally as possible diring these difficult times –

I thank you.

It is not the billionaires who will get us through this. It is the low-paid, the put-upon, the invisible, those usually taken for granted, those who in normal circumstances we do not spare a thought for.

Let us not forget – it takes all sorts to keep a community, a country, a planet working daily.

Let us not forget – that there are people performing job roles that you and I have not even thought about, who are working very hard at this moment.

Let us not forget – to say ‘Thank you’, to these people, let them know we appreciate them.

The difference between an essay, a report and a story. In brief…

What’s the difference between an essay, a report and a story?

I see this question a lot from people in secondary school, Further Education colleges, and even University students! I’m talking about UK students, I believe elsewhere they teach the difference quite early on. When I was in school – back in the 1970s and 80s, the English teacher would set an essay writing task – what she meant was – write a story. So I never learnt until late adulthood what the difference is. I’m not an academic, so this is going to be basic…

A very brief run-through of the differences.

First off, they’re written in different styles. Essays and Reports tend to be written in a formal, academic style with attention to grammar and spelling. While a story is a sequence of real or, most commonly, fictional events told in any manner that the author chooses.

A report is a summary of an event and an essay explores a particular issue or subject. Both start with an introduction, body with discussions and/or analysis, and finally a conclusion. The main difference is purpose; an essay presents writer’s personal ideas and opinions, a report provides unbiased information.

Basic lexicon of related words –

Essay: describes, analyses, evaluates, combination of facts, statistics, personal opinions, descriptive, narrative, argumentative, persuasive, and expository.

Report: systematic, well organised, defines, analyses, provides information, sections, headings, and sub-headings.

Story: narrative, novel, short story, novella, plot, characters, genre specific, entertaining, aesthetic, creative, tale, chronicle, dramatic.

See the same event in these three examples below:-

Story Extract

The Life and Crimes of Lockhart & Doppler: A Journal of Amusement, Adventure and Instruction

We came to a narrow tributary of the Amazon River, about eight feet across, dotted with floating islands, clumps of debris washed downhill with the rains. Raising our packs above our heads we waded. Something glided just beneath the surface; I halted so as not to draw its attention, Daniel squealed as it touched his thigh. Things gibbered above us in the overhanging branches, creaks and croaks resounded all about. We crossed three more tributaries before the end of day.
Exhausted and soaked in foul smelling swamp water. With the fauna of the forest reduced in our wake by; four stabbed snakes, a shot river dolphin, two blasted parrots, an incapacitated capybara, an assaulted alligator, numerous leeches burnt and a frog that popped when Daniel stepped on it, behind us, it was time to take it easy.
On (relatively) dry land, we made camp for the night. Whilst I cleaned my blades and blasters, Doppler did whatever one did to bright blue frogs to coax some venom from them, Daniel made
tea; and jolly good it was too,
You’ll make someone a lovely wife one day Daniel.” Says I with a wry smile.’


Essay version

Although not mentioned within the body of this particular extract, we can glean the narrator’s name from the title of the book. Lucy Lockhart, renowned treasure hunter, and her assistant, Theodora Doppler have arrived in the Amazonian jungle with cartographer, Daniel.

They cross a series of tributaries en route to their destination. Lockhart describes the area as being difficult terrain that the party need to wade through, with unknown things gliding beneath the surface of the water, small islands of earth, and animals in the surrounding environs. Daniel – whom Lockhart has previously described as ‘a lily-livered clerk’, is evidently extremely uncomfortable in this environment. The party have during their progress, killed or maimed a number of animals, including a river dolphin. Although this is a short section from a longer tale, one could surmise that this is not an unusual situation, for at least one of these characters, to be in. They are kitted out for travelling; otherwise, mention would be made of the inconvenience of attire in the circumstances. No-one in the party truly complains, or seems surprised by the ‘foreignness’ of the situation – the names suggest that these are all English characters.

One might argue that Lockhart has a blasé attitude to her comrades as well as the flora and fauna hereabouts. She does not speak of the beauty of her surroundings, only the death left in her wake. It could also be said that she has an Imperialistic indifference to animals and people. The party eventually find some dry-ish land to rest and recuperate on. The cartographer is once again the butt of Lockhart’s teasing, as he makes tea for the party.

In conclusion, one could surmise that the narrator; Lockhart, is if not enjoying the situation, relishing the discomfort of one companion; Daniel. We get the impression that she is unconcerned for the welfare of wildlife and this does not sit well with a modern audience. She is, however, determined, skilled with weapons, so capable of looking after herself and has a sense of humour.


Report version

A trio of adventurers are on some sort of quest in the Amazonian jungle. From this extract, we cannot determine what it is they seek, nor how long they have been here. We do know that they cross a number of tributaries on their journey, so the terrain is not easily navigable. We have no way of knowing how the characters are related, nor what their relationships are like. The main character; the narrator, refers to one by her surname; Doppler and the other by his first name, Daniel. This might suggest that the relationship between the two women is stronger than that with the male, as females rarely refer to themselves or each other by surname.


Though unnamed in this extract, Lucy Lockhart is the narrator, the protagonist of this adventure. She is clearly the leader of the party, as the other two characters follow her, and she is skilled in using various weapons – as evidenced by the killing and maiming of a number of creatures – some of which we might assume she has dispatched herself. At the end of the passage, the narrator is cleaning her blades. This tells us that she carries a number of knives, or swords, about her person. Her description of the animal slaughter – ‘stabbed’, ‘blasted’, ‘incapacitated’, ‘assaulted’, suggests a level of humour on her part at the demise of such creatures. The fact that she likes to tease Daniel, the cartographer, also gives us a small insight into her personality – which leads one to question the agreeableness of this character.

The Amazon

The party reach a tributary in the Amazon River – a tributary is a river or stream flowing into a larger river or lake. We know that it is eight feet wide and is ‘dotted with islands’. There has been a heavy rain at some point in the near past, as we are told that there is debris from uphill. The Amazon contains a wide variety of animals including capybara, parrots, alligators and snakes, among other things. There are also unseen creatures living in the trees, as evidenced by, ‘Things gibbered above us in the overhanging branches,’ Even though this is a tributary of the main river, we know that it is fairly deep, as the party must carry their belongings over their heads to prevent equipment from getting wet.


There is little mention of this character in the passage. What we can glean is that she is intrepid – otherwise she would not be on such a venture, and she is skilled in poisons. At the end of the passage, she is trying to extract poison from small frogs. From this, we might conclude that she A) knows about animal poisons, and B) has used poisons in the past. One might further conjecture that this tells us that Doppler is either a medic, a collector, or quite simply – a poisoner.


There is very little information about this character; however, we can speculate that he is not comfortable in this environment. He is probably frightened of the wildlife, ‘Daniel squealed as it touched his thigh.’ He also makes a good cup of tea; Lockhart comments on it, whilst simultaneously taking a sideways swipe at his manhood.

We might conclude from this extract that the tale is not set in the present day. The narrator carries bladed weapons and at least one gun, which she refers to as ‘blades and blasters.’ This is not parlance from the 21st century, neither is ‘Says I…’ The narrator is clearly sexist from a contemporary reader’s point of view, otherwise she would not use the phrase “You’ll make someone a lovely wife one day Daniel.” In our 21st century society, there is little issue with stay-at-home husbands. In addition, the narrator’s attitude towards killing animals is not commendable, from a modern standpoint. We do not condone the careless destruction of wildlife to suit our own means, and none of the characters seems disconcerted at their demise.


I hope this has been of some use, to someone, somewhere.


Should you be at all interested – The Life and Crimes of Lockhart & Doppler: A Journal of Amusement, Adventure and Instruction is available on Amazon


Book Review: The Bastard Legion #1 by Gavin G. Smith

The Bastard Legion: Book 1

Genre: Sci-fi
Pub Date: 2017
Publisher: Gollancz
Length: 336 pages
Kindle Edition: £2.99


Four hundred years in the future, the most dangerous criminals are kept in suspended animation aboard prison ships and “rehabilitated” in a shared virtual reality environment. But Miska Corbin, a thief and hacker with a background in black ops, has stolen one of these ships, the Hangman’s Daughter, and made it her own. Controlled by explosive collars and trained in virtual reality by the electronic ghost of a dead marine sergeant, the thieves, gangsters, murderers, and worse are transformed into Miska’s own private indentured army: the Bastard Legion. Are the mercenaries just for fun and profit, or does Miska have a hidden purpose connected to her covert past?


This is book 1 in a trilogy, and the first novel, by Gavin Smith, that I have read. Will I be buying the rest? Read on…

But first, I want to tackle the ‘problem’ of men writing women. There has been much discussion across the media platforms about the, oft hilarious, but mostly irritating; to women, way that male writers portray female characters.

There seems to be some kind of gulf between male experience of how women behave and think, and what they lay down on the pages. Surely every single one of these men cannot be singletons, can they?

For as long as novels have existed, male authors have managed to write hilariously inaccurate descriptions of female characters. Indy100 –

There have been occasional landslides of Tweets when another male writer is ‘revealed’ to have little working knowledge of how women perceive themselves.

the latest author to scale the whole mountain of male writers who get carried away when describing women, particularly their breasts. The Guardian: ‘A nice set of curves if I do say so myself’: a Twitter lesson in how not to write women‘ –

And the responses range from friendly micky-taking to total outrage. ‘Why can’t men write women?’ Goes the cry. Who are these men writing for? Not me.

‘She was 40 but could have passed for a year younger with soft lipstick and some gentle mascara. Her dress clung to the curves of her bosom which was cupped by her bra that was under it, but over the breasts that were naked inside her clothes. She had a personality and eyes.” The Guardian: All cleavage and clunkiness – why can’t male authors write women? –

Enter (into my sphere of reading), Gavin G. Smith. As I write this, I cannot recall a single moment in The Bastard Legion where Smith portrayed his MC in derogatory terms – I think she looked in a mirror once, and ran her hands through her short hair once or twice– that’s it. So what does Miska Corbin look like? Smith hasn’t given us an abundance of description. We know she has ‘dirty blonde hair’ with shaved undercut, she’s short, and she has ‘elfin’ features. He mentions her breasts once, and that’s only because one of her ‘crew’ is staring at them when he thinks she isn’t looking, and because he is a young man, a prisoner in a previously all male environment and probably hasn’t seen a female for a long time – unlucky him that he got Miska!

For me, Miska Corbin is an example of a female MC successfully written by a male. You see, women and men feel the same things, we all get emotional, and men don’t always express anger, and conversely, not all women cry. I felt that Smith had written a human being. Of course there has to be some physical description, we, the readers want to see what the writer sees, and he uses an economy of description that allows us to visualise her very nicely, thank you, without being a complete and total douche-bag slavering over his own creation.

Corbin comes from a military family, she was a marine; as was her father and her sister, and so trained in all kinds of weaponry and combat techniques. She’s also a hacker, a good one. And finally, she has a slightly unstable personality which means that she may, or may not, decide to blow a person’s head off – literally!- depending on her mood and what occurred prior to the current encounter.

I like her. I want to be her. She is Ripley for a new generation, with a sense of humour; if a little warped, and takes no shit from anyone. She is a great tactician and even in the direst situations, is capable of keeping her cool. So what’s her weakness? you may ask. Her dad.

Gunnery Sergeant Jonathan Corbin is dead and Miska, his youngest daughter, is determined to find out how/why/who. But Corbin senior’s death hasn’t prevented him from being a prime player in the story. He is a huge influence on our MC, and in Book 1 her raison d’etre. Her relationship with her father might be deemed unhealthy, but Miska Corbin seems to have unhealthy relationships with everyone she encounters.

When we meet her, she has turned pirate. She has stolen a maximum security prison barge – think of those great 19th century hulks in the Thames, then imagine it four hundred, or so, years in the future, and in space, with weapons, now you got it. There are six-thousand prisoners on board, from car thieves to gang leaders, rapists and murderers, some so dangerous that they are kept in some sort of suspended animation. How does one small female maintain control over this motley crew? Explosive collars! How frackin’ cool is that?! Smith sticks our heroine (is she though? Really?) in this high-risk situation, but needs a way to force all those men to do her bidding. Threat of instant death is a great inducement to do as one’s told. And if one’s head pops off, well then, one less mouth to feed. With the aid of her fathers hologram, mechanoid guards and VR environments, Miska begins to train her own personal army.

I find it a really interesting premise – take a bunch of violent criminals and make them into a formidable fighting force. There is potential danger from the men she now lives on board with, there is threat from the Corporation that hires her to do a dirty clean-up job, and from the unknown killer, or killers, of her father. Miska Corbin is a walking magnet for endangerment. You’re never sure who might turn on whom, how far will a bunch of mercenaries go to ensure their own heads remain firmly fixed to their necks?!

It is action packed. And I mean, all the time, action, (maybe a little too much?) even the moments when she is netrunning with her enhanced abilities. This area of the story I found less easy to follow – but I have the same problem playing Cyberpunk TTRPG. She meets a human shaped virus, has her skin flayed by gritty sand, and when Smith writes, ‘she dropped a number of heavily occulted hacks,’ I couldn’t honestly swear that I totally understood what that means.

I’ve read reviews of books that compare them to TV shows or films. I’m not sure I like this habit. Some reviews of The Bastard Legion claim it was like Suicide Squad or Killjoys crossed with The Expanse. I hated Suicide Squad, thought it was poorly written, clichéd, weak. Loved the other two. The Bastard Legion is the first ‘military in space’ story I have ever read; I’d not heard of this sub genre before. It is not poorly written, clichéd or weak. Smith’s writing is strong, it has the feel of a chunky, persistent force, prodding and driving you forwards. The prisoners aren’t just faceless men, they are nuanced; some more than others, not all bad – sort of, and in a couple of instances come across as more sane and less violent than Miska.

It’s a pretty unique idea; stealing a prison and all the prisoners in it, and turning them into a well-oiled fighting machine, and I think that’s getting harder in sci-fi writing as technology in our world continues to advance, the writers have to up their game. Smith has a great premise and compelling main character; even though she ought to be locked up herself, who has some complicated relationships going on. Not just with her dead father – she and her sister really don’t get on, why does she give more slack to the prisoner Torricone? And what’s with the angelic, technologically enhanced Ultra?

There’s a lot going for The Bastard Legion – the mercenaries as well as the book – and I will definitely be purchasing # 2.

I’m giving The Bastard Legion

4 stars

Frugal Living: DIY Your Life

Apparently, frugal living is a huge thing, yes it is my friends, all that wartime spirit of Make-Do-And-Mend is back with a vengeance. On Pinterest you can discover lovely little pictures of attractive little books by people who have written on thrifty living, and links to bloggers who write on their favourite subject and more.

Image result for make do and mend

There’s information about how you can make money including such ‘gems’ as crafting your own candles or wreaths and selling them at an open-air fayre in summer. There are ideas for ‘up-cycling’ old furniture. Then there are the suggestions for making accessories from other things. TV and radio shows giving hints and tips for so-called ‘small gardens’.

But hold on there a moment. You know what my problem with all this is? It isn’t really frugal living. It’s a trend that seems to be perpetuated by, either, white middle-class folk or those on a not too bad income in the first place.

I look at the photos and the finished products, read the process for making said items and discover that 9 times out of 10, something had to be purchased beforehand to disassemble and reassemble into it’s new ‘frugally inspired’ form. (Not to mention, some of the so-called arts and crafts are shit)

Many sites, blogs and books are directed at American readers. Now I have to say this before I charge ahead – Americans are extremely appreciative of home-made stuff, whether it’s food, clothing or crafts. They are mad about collecting coupons, and therefore get some great bargains. My friend went to live there about 15 years ago, and one of the first things she did was join a glass crafting class – for free! She made me little Christmas tree ornaments! What I gather from watching American TV shows and my one visit, is that Americans love to go to craft fairs or markets – what is a Pottery Barn?! buy local produce, support small local town events – not so the Brits.

We are suspicious, cynical and reserved – generally speaking. “What, she made it? Couldn’t she just go and buy one, it’d look much nicer?!” Suspicious. “Oh really? That’s a lovely idea!”(Whilst catching the eye of another person who accidentally found themselves at a craft fayre) Cynical. “Maybe next time.” Reserved.

Also, we simply do not have the weather in the UK for any of those day long, outdoor, hippy-inspired, retro craft fairs. As soon as your table is up, it pisses down.

When I look for something to help with my frugal life, picture me sitting with my arms crossed, looking like Ron Swanson not being amused by a cheap, untalented clown. I’m going to present a suggestion list for real frugal living. I’m talking about an income of £15,000 p.a(or less) – that’s 19,547.93 United States Dollars my American friends – for a family of 3.

Rules for frugal living in the UK – from someone who lives it


2. Get a plot on an allotment. If you work at it, you can grow enough crops to supply your family with fruit and veg from spring to Christmas.

3. Keep an eye out for skips. Yes I mean those ugly, yellow dumpsters outside of people’s homes where they pile what they don’t want – you might find something you can really renovate and utilise.

4. Don’t buy expensive paint when redecorating – buy cheap and add test pot colours to alter the shade. Additionally, you might find that your walls just need a wash with sugar soap.

5. Use the Freecycle Network. Give stuff and get stuff for free!

6. Charity shops – use them. Stop whining that you don’t want to wear jeans someone else has worn. You drink water someone else has already drunk and peed out again. Over and over. Besides, all charity shops wash or steam their clothes.

7. Learn DIY. At least one person in every household should be able to drive a nail into wood or a screw into the wall. Preferably both.

8. Always make a list when you go shopping, and stick to it. Lookout for offers – and do not get fooled by promotional campaigns; Buy One Get One Free does not always work out cheaper; read the cost per weight on the shelf price. Stop buying ready meals and pre-processed food. Fresh is best for your purse and your family’s health.

9. Get over the idea of always having new things and make stuff for friends and family for special occasions. Accept hand-made items from friends and family.


I think that should do it.

Related image
The Master – Ron Swanson in his workshop.

“Oh yes, I’m the great Procrastinator.”

I was going to write about how English words mean something else in other languages – like ‘kiss’ in Swedish means ‘pee’. But I went and did some laundry instead.

Then, I was going to write about the current political climate re- America and Syria. But I went and had a cigarette instead.

I thought about writing about how words in the English language have changed their meaning – did you know ‘nice’ originally meant the opposite of today’s meaning. But I ended up reading and replying to e-mails.

You see, I’m a procrastinator, of the first order!

It isn’t that I don’t have an idea, I have plenty of ideas, I write little notes everywhere, my dining room is an homage to Post-It notes and notebooks. I will wander about the house looking for something to do, or I spend an hour (or two or three!) on the Playstation. or suddenly, there is a huge amount of laundry to be done! I have always been like this; seemingly directionless, a self-accused lazy person.

However, I have since realized that this is not the negative non-activity I first believed it to be. I watched a TED talk given by Tim Urban, in which he explains, with amusing visuals, what a dire procrastinator he was/is;

and recognised many elements within myself. I also discovered that I belong to a, pretty awesome, group of individuals who are cast as procrastinators.

Victor Hugo – French writer Victor Hugo was apparently familiar with the muse of procrastination; preferring to do any and everything rather than focusing on his work. So how, I hear you ask, did he get busy again?  Well apparently, he would strip naked, have his servant take away his clothes and lock him in his study until he resumed work! Well, at least he wasn’t distracted by doing the laundry!


“It may look to the untrained eye [like]I’m sitting on my arse all day” (I Spy, PULP)


Saint Augustine – Who’d have thunk it! A saint! (I feel so much holier than thou now) Apparently, Augustine was dreadful at getting things done and could relapse into bouts of distraction at the drop of a hat.  He struggled to maintain his pious status all of the time and often relapsed into sin. His desire for sex often led him astray and over the years he forgot his holy path on more than one occasion. I know how he feels!!


“Dum de dum, people watching, so I’ll pretend to write..tum te tum…”


Leonardo Da Vinci –  Da Vinci completed some of the most famous works of art ever to have been created, but it turns out that he was not very focused.  Mona Lisa took 16 years to complete! Da Vinci was so renowned for his procrastination that one benefactor had to threaten him with bankruptcy to get him to finish a commissioned piece.Many of Da Vinci’s works remain unfinished.


You think you grow a beard like this without procrastinating?!


Margaret Atwood – Margaret Atwood apparently suffers from serious bouts of procrastination. She has had 14 novels, 9 short stories and 16 poetry books published, but, according to the author herself, her success is down to allowing herself to procrastinate for a few hours in the morning, and by the time she sits down to work mid-afternoon, she is finally able to focus.


The evil genius that is the procrastinator, mwah-ha-ha!


Douglas Adams –  was as legendary for his procrastination as he was for his one-liners. “I love deadlines,” he once quipped. “I like the whooshing sound they make when they go by.” According to his friend, Steve Meretzky, “Douglas has raised procrastination to an art form. Hitchhikers Guide would never have gotten done if I hadn’t gone over to England and virtually camped out on his doorstep.” Adams struggled mightily with the writing of his final novel, The Salmon of Doubt, and would soak for hours in a bathtub instead of getting on with it. He had been working on it for ten years and still hadn’t completed a first draft when he died of a heart attack in 2001. The fragments were published posthumously, but they are far from forming a coherent novel.


42? Whatever!


The Dalai Lama – A great spiritual leader who travels the world teaching about compassion as the source of happiness in life. But before Dalai-hood, he was a student who found it hard to get motivated. “Only in the face of a difficult challenge or an urgent deadline would I study and work without laziness,”. And now?  “You must not procrastinate,” he now teaches. “Rather you should make preparations so that even if you die tonight, you would have no regrets.”

Dalai Lama

Ha ha ha ha! You fools who work non-stop!


The Dalai Lama! I know! (he went and ruined it at the end when he talked about making preparations though.)

So, if you feel the guilt of the procrastinator, fear not, you’re we’re in good company. So forward procrastinators of the world! Let us hold our heads high, unfurl the banner without sigil and sound the horn and feel proud of what we are! We are (not quite) mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore – 1st Meeting of The Procrastinators – meet at the park next Friday at 7 pm – if you can be bothered – or maybe you have some laundry to do? We could postpone it until next month…


Dashie XP procrastinates good style – 







N.B: there is swearing in the above video, so if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing…well, what can I say?!


P.S: I will be starting a series of interviews in the coming weeks; keep a lookout! And if there are any creative types out there who wish to be included, just drop me a line. Ta ta for now.





The Ever-Expanding Arse, OR, Don’t Read This If…

By ‘Ever-Expanding Arse’, I do not mean the straw-headed, venomous, bigot who currently resides in the White House (Though you feel free to apply this if you want).

I mean MY arse (Yes, in the UK, we call our backsides arse, not ass, as the American way. An ass is a kind of donkey to us). As a writer, I spend a lot of time, and I mean A LOT, sitting on my arse. Sitting for long periods is not good for us, apparently, humans were not designed to sit around all day, with our bodies bent at angles, drinking tea (or coffee, or gin) and eating carbohydrates like there is no tomorrow.

You see, in my head I look like this…



But in reality, I’m more like this…



So this morning, I decided to take up my routine that I have neglected for about a year; and went for a brisk walk in the local park. By brisk walk, I actually mean a pain-inducing hotness in my right knee. I have put on quite a bit of weight since taking up this writing malarkey. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not huge, or obese, but things do wobble, even when I’m stationary. Writers take note – Sitting for long periods only expands the buttocks, not the mind. A walk in the outdoors, fresh air, mobilisation of the limbs, can assist with brain function – go on, try it and see.

Which brings me onto my ‘OR’. Don’t Read This If… you like dogs!

In the park, especially in the mornings, there are always LOTS of dog walkers and their fluffy companions. I like dogs, I do. I would like to own one, but, I am not, I repeat NOT, prepared to pick up its crap; and neither, it seems, are many dog owners. There was so much dog crap lying around, you could have made a poo monument to dog walkers.

So, there I was, minding my own business, when I see two small dogs on the path ahead. Their owner or owners were chatting in a faecal enveloped aura many metres away. One of the dogs was a poodle (If there is one breed of dog I do dislike, it is the poodle), it stared at me, it tried to stare me down, really; but I was having none of it, besides I was wearing my sunglasses. When I refused to pet or even acknowledge it, the creature began trotting alongside and barking at me – its tail was not wagging readers! I put my hands in my pockets for fear it would take a woolly leap and snap them off. I strode past the owner with a ‘look’ on my face, she apologised, I know she did this because even though I had earphones in and The Kinks were filling my ears, I saw her mouth form the word ‘sorry’. Firm in my smug belief that she was an idiot, I continued without acknowledgement.

Then I remembered what a friend said to me, many moons ago, about poodles. “Have you ever noticed,” he said, “How the space between the front paws and the back paws are just the right size to fit your foot?” Visions of sparsely-furred poodles flying through goalposts came to mind. It brought a smile to my face. I continued on my limping, burning, wobbling way.

The moral of the story folks is; writers should take daily exercise and…no, it isn’t. There is no moral, I’m just a writer with an ever-expanding arse who can’t bear poodles, or Chihuahuas, or terriers.


Now there’s a pooch worth having






Indexing by

Early Spring Clean…

…or, How I Made a Mess Of Redesigning My Blog !



I decided to give my blog a new look; apparently that’s what you’re meant to do every once in a while. I read about ‘designing my brand’, ‘speaking to my readers’, and so forth. To be honest, I didn’t get most of it, if you’ve been following me a while, you will know I am a terrible technophobe, I find it excruciating.

Last night, I decided to have a look, just a look mind, of other layouts available. Somehow, I clicked on one and couldn’t undo the change! Such an idiot!

Then I ‘lost’ sections of text/pages, only to discover they had been shoved into a little drop-down menu at the top – no sir, I didn’t like that.

Short circuit in businessman head

This morning, I have been working my way through the Themes to see if I could find my original one, I thought I had, but it was only pretending to be, the layout was different. So eventually, I bit the bullet and took on board some of what I had read – at this point I have to tell you, regardless of whether I read or hear about ‘how to…’ do something IT related, it will NOT stay in my mind.

I have fumbled my way through theme after theme, wondering where on earth some of the stuff goes when the layout changes. Some of it just isn’t there anymore! WTF!?

So, it has taken me three hours to get this, what you see today – and I still cannot find the headings I had set up on previous layout!!!! I just did a quick preview -no, no, no, that’s not what I wanted! You stupid machine! Stop putting things in a little menu! Why does there have to be choice?! Why can’t I just write books? Why am I so hopeless at this!

I don’t have time to make alterations…