5 Recommended Non-Fiction Books
23 More Quotes about Writing
23 Quotes about Writing
My Favourite Authors: their best and worst
2017’s Most Anticipated Books
The Books I Read in 2016
The Books of 2016
7 Books for 7 Moods (Part 3)
Bizarre Books VI
My 5 Favourite Satires

5 Recommended Non-Fiction Books

In recent years, in addition to my writing (3 novels to date) I have read a lot of fiction. But of late I have been indulging in some non-fiction reading for a change. After all variety is the spice of life, or so they say. The following 5 works of non-fiction intrigued me due to their subject matter, and they did not disappoint. Perhaps one or two might interest you too. Click on the links to read my reviews.


Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones (2015)

Narrated by a skilled storyteller, Dreamland is a meticulously researched, multi-faceted work about addiction, entrepreneurship and the perils posed by unrestrained corporate greed.

My Review: This award winning account of America’s opiate epidemic asserts that its origins are two-fold — the pharmaceutical industry and Mexican importation. In 1996 Purdue Pharma introduced its new opiate-containing, prescription pain-reliever, OxyContin…(more)


King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild (1998)

King Leopold’s Ghost is a compelling and disturbing tale of corruption, greed and the injustices of colonialism, the echoes of which continue to resonate in the DR Congo to this day.

My Review: The Belgian King, Leopold II, had grown envious of his European neighbours’ portfolio of colonies, and longed for a colony that he could call his own. After much deliberation Leopold set his heart on a vast tract of land in central Africa. British explorer Henry Morton Stanley was…(more)


Stalin’s Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess by Andrew Lownie (2015)

Through fastidious research and extensive interviewing historian Lownie has created a compelling and revisionist account of the life of surely the most charismatic member of the ‘Cambridge Five’.

My Review: This biography of the notorious spy Guy Burgess recounts his life from birth through to premature death in Moscow, aged fifty-two in 1963. After spending his formative years at the naval college Dartmouth and Eton, Burgess attended Trinity College, Cambridge…(more)


The Voyeur’s Motel by Gay Talese (2016)

The Voyeur’s Motel is comprised of the confessions of Gerald Foos, a former Colorado motel owner and voyeur. It is a curious and compelling work, boasting a perceptive protagonist and an effective journalistic approach.

My Review: Foos’s lifelong obsession began in childhood, spying on his aunt through the window of her bedroom. It was his purchase in the 1960s of the Manor Park Motel in Aurora, Colorado that provided Foos with the perfect opportunity to indulge in his passion. Having constructed a viewing area…(more)


Nothing To Envy by Barbara Demick (2009)

Providing fascinating insights into North Korea, Nothing To Envy is an engrossing text that effortlessly captures the lives of its interviewed North Korean defector subjects. It is the best work of non fiction I have ever read.

My Review: Published in 2009, Nothing To Envy is a novelisation of interviews with various North Korean defectors, hailing from Chongjin, a bleak, northern industrial city, far from the country’s Potemkin village capital, Pyongyang. There is particular emphasis on the famine…(more)


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23 More Quotes about Writing

Here are 23 more quotes about writing, none of which have featured in my previous quote-dedicated blog posts. I hope these will amuse and inspire my fellow authors and readers.

It takes an awful lot of time to not write a book. — Douglas Adams

I wrote a few children’s books. Not on purpose. — Steven Wright

Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke. — F. Scott Fitzgerald

You can fix anything but a blank page. — Nora Roberts

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. — Cyril Connolly

I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.Blaise Pascal

The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. — Robert Cormier

The road to hell is paved with adverbs. — Stephen King

Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good. — Dr. Samuel Johnson

There’s not much to be said about the period except that most writers don’t reach it soon enough. — William Zinsser

No one is drawn to writing about being happy or feelings of joy. — Bret Easton Ellis

Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial “we.” — Mark Twain

A person who publishes a book appears willfully in the public eye with his pants down. — Edna St Vincent Millay

There is probably no hell for authors in the next world — they suffer so much from critics and publishers in this. — C. N. Bovee

If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor. — Edgar Rice Burroughs

My books are water; those of the great geniuses is wine. Everybody drinks water. — Mark Twain

The person who writes for fools is always sure of a large audience. — Arthur Schopenhauer

I have no taste for either poverty or honest labor, so writing is the only recourse left for me. — Hunter S. Thompson

Don’t classify me, read me. I’m a writer, not a genre. — Carlos Fuentes

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. — Jack London

A good book isn’t written, it’s rewritten. ― Phyllis A. Whitney

If writers were good businessmen, they’d have too much sense to be writers. — Irvin S. Cobb

Easy reading is damn hard writing. — Nathaniel Hawthorne


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23 Quotes about Writing

Here are 23 amusing and/or pertinent quotes about writing which might be of interest to my fellow authors and readers.

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.W. Somerset Maugham

Write what you know. That should leave you with a lot of free time.Howard Nemerov

I hate writing, I love having written. Dorothy Parker

The scariest moment is always just before you start.Stephen King

The first draft of anything is shit.Ernest Hemingway

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.Douglas Adams

Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.Christopher Hitchens

A bad review may spoil your breakfast, but you shouldn’t allow it to spoil your lunch.Kingsley Amis

I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better.A. J. Liebling

Poetic license is not a license to scribe recklessly.C. Kennedy

A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it. ― Mark Twain

A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.Richard Bach

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.Stephen King

Don’t get it right – get it WRITTEN! Lee Child

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn’t expecting it.H.G. Wells

Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.Jules Renard

In the end, you have to just sit down, shut up, and write.Natalie Goldberg

Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.Neil Gaiman

The pen is mightier than the sword and considerably easier to write with.Marty Feldman

I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.Peter De Vries

Easy writing makes hard reading.Ernest Hemingway

As for the adjective, when in doubt leave it out.Mark Twain

I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.Steve Martin

There will be a second instalment soon.


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My Favourite Authors: their best and worst

I have my favourite authors, but that is not to say that I like all of their books. This week’s post is dedicated to what in my humble opinion is the following 4 authors’ best and worst books. Click on the links to read my reviews:


Vladimir Nabokov(April 22nd, 1899 – July 2nd, 1977)

Admittedly I have only read a couple of books penned by the Russian-American author and entomologist.

My favourite: Lolita

The protagonist, Humbert Humbert, is an intellectual with an all-consuming craving for young girls, or nymphets as he refers to them. After his wife leaves him for another man, Humbert Humbert becomes a live-in tutor…(more)

My least favourite: Pnin

Despite having lived in America for many years, conservative and eccentric Russian professor Timofei Pnin has never fully grasped the subtleties of the English language…(more)


Chuck Palahniuk(Born: February 21st, 1962)  

I have read many of this iconic transgressive fiction author’s works. Whilst I remain an avid fan, the quality of his books varies markedly in my opinion.

My favourite: Fight Club

The protagonist, who remains nameless, is an insomniac leading a bland corporate existence, investigating accidents for a car company, whose only concern is profit…(more)

My least favourite: Doomed

Doomed is the sequel to Damned and part two of a proposed Dante inspired trilogy.  It sees the return of Damned’s protagonist – the plucky, post-life, plump, periphrastic, pubescent progeny of celebrity parents…(more)


Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn(December 11th, 1918 – August 3rd, 2008)

This controversial Russian author is one of my favourite writers. However…

My favourite: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Ivan Denisovich Shukhov is a former POW serving a 10 year term in a Gulag on the Kazakh steppe for being a spy. He is innocent. The book chronicles a single day of his existence…(more)

My least favourite: August 1914

Set in the years leading up to The Revolution, this monumental book is Solzhenitsyn’s interpretation of a turbulent period in his country’s history, beginning with the outbreak of World War I…(more)


Bret Easton Ellis (Born: March 7th, 1964)

Easton Ellis achieved cult status for his outstanding works of transgressive fiction. In this reader’s opinion his later books are not as good as his early efforts.

My favourite: American Psycho

American Psycho is a highly controversial novel that brought its young author Bret Easton Ellis instant fame.  The book is written from the perspective of a young Wall Street financier, Patrick Bateman…(more)

My least favourite: Lunar Park

Lunar Park is a mock memoir that begins with a parodic account of Bret Easton Ellis’s early fame. The young New York resident’s existence consists of endless parties, casual relationships, spiralling drug use...(more)



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2017’s Most Anticipated Books

My first blog post of the New Year is dedicated to some of the most anticipated books of 2017. I hope this will be of interest to my fellow authors and readers. Here are 9 of 2017’s most anticipated books (fiction only). Click on the book titles to find out more.


Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

Award-winning author and feminist Gay’s latest offering is a short story collection exploring American women’s experiences. It was released on January 3rd.

Genre: Feminism


Little Heaven by Nick Cutter

Due for release on January 10th, Little Heaven is a horror novel whose themes include redemption. It is set in New Mexico.

Genre: Horror


Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

When a country becomes embroiled in a civil war, a young couple escape through a portal into an uncertain future.

Genre: Political Fiction


Selection Day by Aravind Adiga

2008 Man Booker winner Adiga’s new novel is about two Indian, cricket-playing brothers. Social issues affecting the country are explored.

Genre: Literary Fiction


The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill

Set between the world wars, the story follows two orphans, one a piano virtuoso, the other a comic and dancer. Their dream is to open a circus.

Genre: Contemporary


4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

The book is about a boy, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, who goes on to live four parallel and very different lives.

Genre: Contemporary


Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Iconic Japanese author Murakami’s latest effort is a humorous short story collection about men who live on their own.

Genre: Magical Realism


A Separation by Katie Kitamura

This aptly named novel sees a young woman separate from her cheating husband. What follows is considerable reflection on her part.

Genre: Literary Fiction


Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

In the author of The Girl on the Train latest effort two dead females are discovered at the bottom of a mysterious river.

Genre: Psychological/Suspense



The Books I Read in 2016

As is my custom at year end, I am dedicating this post to the books I read this year. In 2016 I read 19 books. One reason for my less than prodigious reading output is that I was busy with my own writing efforts (3 novels to date). I will be revealing more about my works in progress in due course.

Here are the 19 books that I read in 2016. They are presented in the order in which I read them. Click on the links to read my reviews.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877) — Though slow moving and ponderous, this evocative text rarely feels turgid.

Danger by Association by Heather Burnside (2016) —  A fast-paced and compelling crime fiction novel (3rd in trilogy).

Personal by Lee Child (2014) — An engrossing first person thriller, complete with a complex conspiracy and colourful cast of characters.

The Rebel’s Sketchbook by Rupert Dreyfus (2015) — A mostly entertaining collection of 13 first person satirical short stories.

Concrete Island by J. G. Ballard (2001) — Rife with similes, this is an allegorical story about isolation. This reader struggled on occasion with the analytical, awkward prose.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932) — A cautionary and contemplative tale that utilises erudite social commentary to explore mankind’s inherent nature.

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (1962) — A convoluted and rather confusing alternative history dystopia.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953) — There is much to ponder in this Sci Fi classic, which employs an efficient prose style.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927) — For this reader the reading experience was akin to travailing through sinking mud.

Make Me by Lee Child (2015) — A stimulating thriller whose themes include the Deep Web.

Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard (2001) — This authentic and atmospheric American-based collection of short stories boasts a strong array of characters, lean prose and abrupt finales.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980) — An iconic humour book this may be, but in this reader’s opinion it is onerous and repetitive.

August 1914 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1971) — This is a presumptuous history novel with a didactic tone that leaves its ever-controversial creator open to accusations of hubris.

The Voyeur’s Motel by Gay Talese (2016) — The confessions of motel owner and voyeur Gerald Foos make for compelling reading.

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726) — This humorous and vulgar satirical work becomes increasingly tedious and turgid.

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (1842) — A dense and rather monotonous satirical work.

Nothing To Envy by Barbara Demick (2009) — This reader has read numerous books about North Korea — the good, the bad and the ugly. This is the best.

Not Just a Boy by Jonathan Hill (2016) — An authentic and atmospheric coming-of-age novella.

The Visitor by Lee Child (2000) — A third person thriller novel boasting a sinister subject matter, an ever-intriguing protagonist and a far-fetched finale.

Happy New Year


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The Books of 2016

As another year draws to a close let us look back at the books that made waves in 2016, and at those predicted to be popular this festive period.

Amazon’s Best-Selling Book of 2016 — Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2, Special Rehearsal Edition Script by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany

This, the eighth story in the Harry Potter series, is the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play premiered in London’s West End in July.


Best-Selling Memoir of 2016 — When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This No.1 New York Times Bestseller is the memoir of a 36-year-old neurosurgeon, who was poised to complete his decade’s worth of training when he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.


Best-Selling Children’s Book of 2016 – Diary of a Wimpy Kid # 11: Double Down by Jeff Kinney

Kinney keeps churning out bestsellers. He was also the author of 2015’s bestselling children’s book. 2016’s effort sees protagonist Greg Heffley’s mom stopping him playing video games because she thinks they are turning his brain to mush. Sound familiar?


History Book of 2016 — Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard

This is the latest book in the multimillion-selling Killing series. In the Autumn of 1944, World War II was nearly over in Europe but escalating in the Pacific. Across the globe in Los Alamos, New Mexico, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer was preparing to test an atomic bomb…


Best Debut Goodreads Author 2016 – Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1) by Alwyn Hamilton

The winner of 2016’s prestigious Best Debut Goodreads Author award was Rebel of the Sands. It is set in an imaginary desert nation where mythical beasts still roam in remote areas.


Before we move on to the books that are predicted to make it big this Christmas I have an announcement to make. This Christmas period I am giving away a FREE copy of my satirical black comedy, Necropolis, to everyone who signs up to my mailing list. Further information at bottom of post.

And now for the Christmas books.


Christmas-Themed Release of 2016 — Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson

For years bestselling author Jeanette Winterson has written a new tale every Christmas time. This compilation consists of 12 of her best.


Please note that the following titles are UK specific, and probably won’t prove to be that popular in other areas of the World. Here are 3 books that are predicted to be bestsellers this Christmas period:


Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook by Jamie Oliver

It claims to be brimming with recipes for all the classics you need for the big day and beyond. What makes this book so tempting is not only the delicious food ideas it no doubt contains, but that Jamie Oliver’s beaming countenance is not on the front cover.


Five on Brexit Island (Enid Blyton for Grown Ups) by Bruno Vincent

It is the night of the referendum and the Five have retired to Kirrin Island to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, fed up with the rancour of public debate. Warning: To be avoided by those stilling feeling sore about the UK’s exit.


Hello, Is This Planet Earth?: My View from the International Space Station by Tim Peake

As kids love space there seems little doubt that this will prove to be a popular stocking filler. As for me, if I wake up on Christmas Day to be greeted by Peake’s annoying face, peeking out at me from my stocking, I will not be held responsible for any violent outburst.


Happy Christmas

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7 Books for 7 Moods (Part 3)

This week sees the third instalment in my series of posts devoted to books for different moods. Here are more 7 books for 7 more moods/states of mind. Click on the links to read my reviews.
Feel like a break from the traditional novel format?

Rant by Chuck Palahniuk 

Rant is the oral history of Buster ‘Rant’ Casey, recounted by an array of people, including his relations, friends, enemies and lovers. It adroitly challenges our own traditions by demonstrating how we contort our recollection of events in accordance with our desires and beliefs. Click here to read my review.

My Opinion: Thought-provoking but convoluted.


If you are in the mood to read something with a psychological theme and haven’t read it already you might like:

Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar is about protagonist Esther’s year in the ‘bell jar’, a period in which the boundaries between the real and the imagined become blurred. This humorous and disturbing semi-autobiographical novel provides an insight into an emotionally disturbed mind. Click here to read my review.

 My Opinion: Very good


Are you in the mood to be challenged? Then look no further than:

August 1914 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Set in the years leading up to The Russian Revolution, August 1914 is an eight hundred plus page history novel that blends fact and fiction. Its dense prose, excruciating detail and challenging vicarious approach will deter many. Click here to read my review.

My Opinion: A challenging and presumptuous text with a didactic tone.


Want to read a classic by an author you have not read before? Well perhaps you have read it already, but if not might I suggest:

The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth

The story follows three generations of the Trottas, a Slovenian family living on the periphery of the empire. Widely regarded as one of the greatest novels of the twentieth-century, this wistful and enchanting book is in essence a meditation on the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Click here to read my review.

My Opinion: The best ‘classic’ I have read.


In the mood to read something poignant, but haven’t got much time then look no further than:

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Steinbeck’s novella is about a destitute Mexican pearl diver who finds an incredibly rare and valuable pearl. The author employs a simple yet captivating prose to explore the darker side of human nature, and to illustrate how riches can be illusory. Click here to read my review.
My Opinion:  Poignant
Feel like swapping reality for a dystopia? If so how about:

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Books are banned in this dystopian world, where firemen are employed to burn them. Fahrenheit 451 is a satirical work whose motif is a warning about the threat posed by state censorship. It could be argued to be prescient in its prediction of our increasing obsession with mass media. Click here to read my review.

My Opinion: Good


If you are in the mood for something semi-autobiographical. Then why not try:

Junky by William S. Burroughs

Semi-autobiographical in nature, Junky is a record of drug abuse that in addition to heroin includes a plethora of other substances. The book’s detached journalistic approach is in stark contrast to the rambling, stream of consciousness style found in some of Burroughs’s later works. Click here to read my review.

My Opinion: Excellent


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Bizarre Books VI

This week sees the sixth and final instalment of my bizarre books series. As with previous instalments I have added pithy/fictitious comments below each.

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And now for the 11 bizarre books:

Dancing with Cats


A sure way to attract the attention of the men in white coats.


Hog Manure Management


If you like hogs and manure this is the book for you. If not you might want to consider a different title.


What About Christian Rock?

What about it? No, do not press play.

25 Placenta Recipes

Finally! I have been growing so tired of plain boiled placentas.

People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead


Otherwise known as ghosts.


When Will Jesus Bring The Pork Chops?


Don’t hold your breath. Jesus was Jewish, and Jews do not generally eat pork chops, or bring pork chops for that matter.


Cards As Weapons


Using cards as throwing stars can be very useful when you are poised to lose money on a card game.


Semenology: The Semen Bartender’s Handbook


Let this book be a warning to all those who treat bartenders badly.


Mommy, Why is There a Server in the House?server

Mommy: ‘Since daddy left I have been feeling very lonely, and…’


Is It a Sin to Eat a Chocolate Bar? 

No, not if it is an organic, gluten-free, fair trade, sustainable farming WholeFoods chocolate bar.

Round Ireland with a fridge


Author: ‘If I knew it was going to be this difficult, I would have brought a suitcase instead.’


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My 5 Favourite Satires

As followers of this blog know I am an avid fan of satire. My second novel, Necropolis, is a satirical black comedy about a psychopath who works for the burials and cemeteries department in his local council. If you haven’t done so already sign up to my newsletter to claim your FREE copy. In addition to my writing efforts, I have read numerous books that could be described as satirical. This week’s post is dedicated to my 5 favourites to date. Some of these books also fit into other genres.

Satire definition: the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly…

Here are 5 satirical novels. They are presented in the order in which they were published:


Candide by Voltaire (1759)


Candide is an eighteenth-century satirical classic that derides optimism, the prevailing philosophical ideology during The Enlightenment. Voltaire adroitly sought to dispel the belief that all is for the best when it is not.

My Review: Brought up in the household of a German baron, cheerful protagonist Candide has been instilled with the philosophy of Leibniz, notably – That all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds…(more)


Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

Brave New World

Brave New World utilises erudite social commentary to explore mankind’s inherent nature. Huxley’s portentous vision has proven to be prescient in its prediction of a science-controlled, consumer culture.

My Review: Brave New World is set in a society where everything is controlled. The parentless, manufactured, free-loving population are dependent on a state-endorsed hallucinogenic, happiness drug called Soma…(more)


Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)

Fahrenheit 451

There is much to ponder in this satirical book whose motif is a warning about the threat posed by state censorship. Bradbury’s seminal work predicts our increasing obsession with mass media.

My Review: Books are banned in this dystopian world, where firemen are employed to burn them. Guy Montag is a fireman, who lives an unfulfilling existence with Mildred, his sedentary, parlour-consuming wife: parlours being an…(more)


American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (1991)

American Psycho

American Psycho is a satire of the yuppies culture of the 1980s that caused outrage when it was published due to its explicit violent and sexual content. It went on to become a cult classic.

My Review: American Psycho is a highly controversial novel that brought its young author Bret Easton Ellis instant fame.  The book is written from the perspective of a young Wall Street financier, Patrick Bateman…(more)


Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (1996)


Chuck Palahniuk’s seminal work is a multifaceted satire that parodies the notion of masculinity, consumer culture, films, television, self-help philosophies, men’s movements and more besides.

My Review: The protagonist, who remains nameless, is an insomniac leading a bland corporate existence, investigating accidents for a car company, whose only concern is profit. Unable to find meaning in a faceless consumerist…(more)


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