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review 2018-06-17 11:07
An ultra-noir novel for lovers of beautiful writing and dark subjects that probe the human psyche
Return to Hiroshima - Bob van Laerhoven

Thanks to the author for providing me a paperback copy of the book that I freely chose to review.

I read and reviewed Baudelaire’s Revenge some time ago and I was fascinated and intrigued by it, so I did not think twice when the author told me he had published a new novel. Van Laerhoven’s work has won awards, been translated into several languages, and he has a unique voice that stays with the reader long after finishing the book. I don’t mean the stories and the plots of his books are not interesting (they are fascinating), but the way he writes about the historical period his stories are set in, and the characters he follows and analyses are distinct and unforgettable. His words are, at once, poetic and harsh, and they perfectly convey both, the utmost beauty and the extremes of cruelty and dejection that can be found in human beings.

When I reread my previous review, while I was preparing to write this one, I realised that much of what I had written there (apart from the specifics about the plot and the characters) applied also to this book. The author once more writes historical fiction, although this time it is closer to our era. The main action takes place in Japan in 1995, although, as the title might make us suspect, the story also goes back to 1945 (and even before) and towards the end of the book we have scenes set in that period, with all that involves.

The story is mostly narrated in the third person from the points of view of a variety of characters, a police inspector (who has to investigate the murder of a baby, a strange attack at a bank with a large number of casualties, and a bizarre assault on a tourist), a female photographer, a young man and a young woman members of a strange sect, a strange man/God/demon (who is more talked about than actually talking, although we get access to his memories at some point). There are also fragments narrated by a woman, who is in hiding when we first meet her, and whose identity and mental state will keep readers on tenterhooks.

Apart from the mystery elements and from the bizarre events, which at first seem disconnected but eventually end up by linking all the characters, I noticed some common themes. Families, family relationships, and in particular relationships between fathers and sons and daughters, take centre stage. The inspector’s search for his father and how that affects his life, the young woman’s relationship with her father, at the heart of the whole plot, the photographer’s relationship with her father, another famous photographer, and her attempts at finding her own identity as an artist… While some characters seem totally amoral (perhaps because they believe they are beyond usual morality), others are trying to deal with their guilt for things that they did or did not do. Some of the characters might feel too alien for readers to empathise with, but others experience emotions and feelings fully recognisable, and we feel sad for some of them at the end, but relieved for others. The claustrophobic and pressured atmosphere running against the background of the atomic bomb and its aftermath are perfectly rendered and help give the story an added layer of tension and depth.

This is a book of extremes and not an easy read. Although the language used is lyrical and breath-taking at times, there are harsh scenes and cruel behaviours described in detail (rape, drug use, torture, violence), so I would not recommend it to people who prefer to avoid such kinds of reading. I’ve seen it described as horror, and although it does not easily fit in that genre, in some ways it is far more unsettling and scarier than run-of-the-mill horror. This novel probes the depths of the human psyche and its darkest recesses, and you’ll follow the author there at your own peril.

I wanted to share some samples I highlighted that should not provide any spoilers for those thinking about reading it:

Books protected me from reality. I remember them as a choir of pale shapes, sometimes hysterical, other times comforting, vividly prophetic, or disquieting, like a piano being played in the dark. I’ve always been convinced that stories influence the mind: they haunt regions of the brain where reason has lost its way.

This one I find particularly relevant to this book (and I think most writers would know perfectly well what it’s getting at):

“Writers are like God. They love their characters, but take pleasure in the suffering they put them through. They torment themselves through the puppets they create and in the midst of the torment they discover a sort of rage, the rage you need to create. There’s a lot of sadomasochism in the universe and literature has its own fair share.”

Here, one of the characters talks about how she feels when she is depressed:

Her malady gave her the impression that the buildings and the people she saw were nothing more than pixels of energy bundled together by an insane artist who could shift around the worlds inside him like pieces of chess.

This ‘ultra-noir’ novel, as the blurb aptly describes it, is an extraordinary read, but is not a book for somebody looking for a typical genre thriller with slightly twisted characters. This is far darker than most of the thrillers I’ve read. But don’t let that put you off. As I said in my previous review of another one of the author’s novels, ‘if you’re looking for a complex and challenging historical novel and don´t shrink from dark subjects, this is a pretty unique book.’

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review 2018-05-13 19:21
Naked Britain - Amelia Allen

A year ago, I learned about this book in a radio interview the author, an established fashion photographer, had given BBC Radio London. As someone who once tried the "naturist lifestyle" many years ago in the West Indies, I was curious to read, see, and learn about Amelia Allen's take on the naturist world in the UK. 

For Allen, "[s]hooting 'Naked Britain' was a study in mindfulness for me. I photographed this book fully naked, because I wanted to completely immerse myself in the world of naturism and understand how this way of life feels." Allen met with many of the people - of various ages and backgrounds - who practice naturism at a naturist club about 20 miles from London. The photographs - all in B&W - are of the highest quality. and show people engaged in conversation over cards, cycling, swimming, doing calisthenics, walking in the woods, playing tennis, gardening, playing billiards, sitting poolside, and standing on the shore. There is a pure and simple honesty in this book about living and being at peace with one's nakedness among one's fellow human beings similarly free of clothing. 

Two of the more memorable insights Allen said she got from the time she spent among naturists are the following --- 'Naturism changes how you feel about our body and yourself, it changes your perspective on what the body is.' AND - 'People are just people; it's liberating to just be yourself.'

"NAKED BRITAIN" is a book I would recommend to anyone who is interested in learning more about naturism and values quality photography

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text 2018-05-10 04:15
Pregnancy Photography Berkshire: 4 Tips In Finding The Most Reliable Professional Out There




   For a lot of expecting mothers, maternity is certainly a critical period - a time when they're most beautiful while bearing a new life inside their tummies. In case you happen to be one of these individuals, bear in mind that you would just be pregnant several times. Therefore, it is vital that you make each moment unforgettable and document it if you can. Thankfully, immortalising such amazing moments has become easy with the aid of people who specialises in pregnancy photography Berkshire.

   If you're currently searching for a skilled photographer for your pregnancy photo shoot, then you have visited the ideal spot. Here, you'd understand several pointers to be able to get the proper specialist to hire. They are the following:

1. Ask for recommendations from people you know

Among the easiest ways to get prospects on the talented photographers within your place is to ask suggestions from your family or colleagues. For certain, there are several of them who worked with such professionals in the past.
When obtaining guidelines from people you are friends with, do not only concentrate on remembering the names of photographers. Furthermore, you must talk to them regarding their professional experiences. By doing so, it will be easier for you to discover who among them is the most dependable pregnancy photography Berkshire located professional.

2. Familiarise yourself with the photographers through the Internet

Once you have your record of highly-suggested photographers, it is time to know these people better. In order to do this, you'd need a great deal of patience and of course, the Internet. You should perform various preliminary research to find out more about their capabilities and expertise in the industry. Every detail about them can be viewed on the websites of the photographers.
Also, you need to evaluate the training experience and the photography style of the pregnancy photography Berkshire professionals you’re interested in hiring. They have to ensure your safety throughout the photo shoot and offer you excellent and unique photos at the same time.

3. Examine the types of maternity photo sessions and their prices

An outstanding photographer understands that each client has unique preferences and requirements. As a result, this professional will surely have a vast array of offerings to fit every need there is. For instance, they might have maternity photo shoots which last from 45 minutes up to 2 hours. Each of these deals has various inclusions, and usually the lengthiest period includes changes of clothes, choice of location, a makeover and much more. Through assessing each of the offers on offer, you can identify the most suitable one for you.

4. Examine the prices available

Last but not least, understand that obtaining stunning maternity images doesn’t have to cost you too much money. It is true that you'd come across lots of photographers who demand high prices, but individuals who provide relatively-priced services are just as plenty. What you must accomplish is get the most reliable one among them so you can enjoy excellent services without using up all of your resources.
At first, finding a pregnancy photography Berkshire based expert who’s quite trustworthy can be a little tough. But if you will stick to the recommendations discussed in this article, you can certainly make this task much simpler.

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review 2018-05-06 03:14
Wiping Out (Snow-Crossed Lovers Book 2) - Carrie Quest

This is book #2, in the Snow-Crossed Lovers series.  This book can be read as a standalone novel.  For reader understanding, and to avoid spoilers, I recommend reading this great series in order.


Adam has been avoiding people and places since his injury.  He has been avoiding his girl, and his best friend too.  The adjustment to not being able to compete is nearly killing him.  How do you explain that to those who love you?


Piper has her life mapped out.  Only problem is she wants Adam in it.  No other man has made her feel more alive.  The future is within reach now that Adam is home.  


This story was so beautiful and sexy!  I love these characters and have been rooting for them since the first book in this amazing series.  The fire that burns with both of them in the room nearly burns everyone around.  I love how the author handled the sensitive subject of the brain injury.  I give this story a 4/5 Kitty's Paws UP!



***This copy was given in exchange for an honest review only.

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