The Things we Learn when we’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw

The Things We Learn When We're DeadThe Things We Learn When We’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m going to start this review by expressing how comfy this book was to read. Now, I know that sounds a bit odd. It has nothing to do with the beautifully poignant story. Nothing to do with how the depth of characters and their relatable personas that made me feel fully connected in every way possible. And nothing to do with the fact that there’s a hamster peeking out of a rocket on the front cover.

This paperback felt great to hold. The pages and cover were just so soft and squidgy! When open, the book stayed open on the page I was on, no risk of it flapping itself shut when put down briefly. The binding was malleable enough to not crack or crease at any time, which pleased me no end. I do love a book that retains its newness after it’s been devoured. So, thank you, Accent Press Ltd for making this book feel so damn good!

Now, where was I? Aah, yes, reviewing Charlie’s story after he was kind enough to send me a copy and write a sweet note inside too. In reply, the pleasure was ALL MINE, and I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!

Lorna Love is training to be a solicitor, getting through Uni by working at the local HappyMart and spending time with her friends and family. One evening, on the way home from a dinner party, she is knocked down by a car, and when she awakes, she appears to be in hospital. Except this place is not hospital, she is in fact, in Heaven. Or HVN, as God points out to her.

I’ll be honest, when I read the synopsis and skimmed through a few reviews on Goodreads, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. I usually don’t go for anything that has a hint of sci-fi or fantasy. ‘A subtle retelling of The Wizard of Oz with hints of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’. No, this wouldn’t be my cuppa tea, surely, but how wrong was I? Very, as it happens.

In fact, it turned out to be a 5 star read for Gods sake! Yes, God, with your hippy beads and unkempt hair and goatee.

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is a story of hindsight, acceptance, and how our choices impact not only our own lives, but also of those around us. A life lesson where one gets the opportunity to have a second chance, time to thoroughly think things through and see life through a different perspective. It all sounds very deep and meaningful, I know, but Charlie Laidlaw portrays the seriousness of life (and death) with light-hearted humour, wonderful characters and Star Wars.

What I liked about it the most was that Heaven was portrayed as a concept as well as a place of mystery and confusion, mirroring true life in so many ways. The fact that it was a complex spaceship with a severe hamster problem made it an entertaining read.

The narrative swaps between Lorna’s time on board HVN, to her life from child, to becoming a trainee Solicitor. In Heaven she gets the opportunity to ‘review’ her life, to understand different points of view, and to drink white wine and soda with a few famous faces. I enjoyed the narrative the most when Lorna was piecing her memories back together. All characters were so believable, coming from different walks of life, each with a unique quality that made them stand out clearly from each other. Her best friend Suzie was adorable. Slightly annoying, but adorable nonetheless.

I’m finding it really hard to write my review because this book is an all-round lovely thing that I can’t stop thinking about. It’s so cleverly written that I feel like I’m not doing it any justice by gushing about it and singing its praises. My advice would be just buy it and see for yourself just how brilliant it is.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Charlie Laidlaw for sending me a copy to read in exchange for an honest review.

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How my bookishness began..

Casting my mind back to the early eighties, I remember when ‘the book club’ people used to bring a pile of books into the foyer of my junior school.

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Now, I was never a spoilt child, I rarely had the latest trends, my parents mainly replying to my wants with a ‘I’ll make you one’, (a Care Bear cuddly toy – Mum), or, ‘you don’t need a climbing frame, here’s 20 yards of rope, I’ll tie it from the apple tree to next doors fence!’ (- Dad). So I generally just made do. One of my most vivid memories was the slide Dad knocked up in the shed, made from an old white MDF dressing table. It lasted probably ten minutes because the splinters in my ass kind of put me off playing on it!

But, when it came to books, thankfully, that was a completely different story! 😉 So, off home I’d skip with the order form flapping away in my hand, because that day, I knew my parents would say ‘it’s book club time is it? Here you are, have five big juicy pounds, choose whichever ones you’d like.’ Oh the joy!

I was like a kid in a sweety shop, I can tell you! Working out how many books I could order for my five pounds. Now, back in 1980, five quid was a HUGE sum of money for any kid, and the fact that I was getting something that wasn’t home made filled me with utter glee!

The ‘book lady’ used to visit my school probably three times a year, and on every visit, I was one of the rare kids who ALWAYS had the full fiver to spend. My parents obviously knew just how important reading was, and dished out the maximum spend allowed, no questions asked, and no threats of ‘making me one’.

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So these exciting moments of my childhood have stayed with me. I can vividly remember receiving my little bundle of books, held together with two large elastic bands in a cross fashion. Even then, I was greedily sniffing the newness, rushing home to get stuck in to Roald Dahls’ The Twits and Revolting Rhymes.

As I got older, obviously I progressed to longer stories with less pictures. And then, one day on the book table at school, I discovered a series of books called ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’. Oh. My. God. 😮

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That was it for me, a book that you don’t read IN PAGE ORDER?!! What IS THIS?!! Well, all I can say is, I rarely left my bedroom! My Mum was like, ‘Lisa, it’s a glorious day, why don’t you go outside and play, get some fresh air?’ Um, I’m in the middle of a great adventure at the moment, so maybe later. Or not.

As I headed into Senior School, my tastes changed somewhat. Sat in an English class one morning, circa 1986, one of the lads in my class was discreetly reading, holding the book under the desk. He was absolutely engrossed. ‘What ya reading?’ I asked, with an air of (fake) disinterest. (I didn’t want him to think I was genuinely interested, that just wasn’t cool!) ‘Oh, you won’t like it, it’s gory and horrible’ he replied.

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I WANTED THAT BOOK. That very weekend, I visited my local library and borrowed A STACK OF HORROR from the adult section, and I was converted into a James Herbert fan overnight. Horror was now my bag.

That’s my story of my earliest feelings of book-love, and it’s stayed with me all my life, and I thought I’d share it with you 😀

What’s your earliest bookish recollection as a child? I’d love to hear your stories!

Inheritors of the Earth by Chris D Thomas

Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of ExtinctionInheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction by Chris D. Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 solid stars even though I have (temporarily) DNF’d @ 39%.

….the story of life on Earth is one of never-ending change…

Inheritors of the Earth will be moved to my ‘started but pick up again later’ shelf as I have the upmost respect for the unique way our ever-changing world is portrayed by ecologist, Chris D Thomas.

‘Wherever in the world you are reading this book, you would once have been surrounded by an impressive array of staggeringly large animals’.

Never have I read a statement so thought-provoking in a non-fiction book. It made me look out my window, imagining what I would see if I turned the clock back a few million years.

I’m always tuning in to TV documentaries about nature and this fantastic world we are all honoured to be part of. Inheritors of the Earth caught my eye on NetGalley. I thought that reading a documentary style book would feed my brain and satisfy my yearning to try and understand planet earth just that little bit more. I was fascinated by the fact that ‘nature is fighting back’.

Mankind has altered our planet over millions of years, but instead of exploring the negative impact, the author instead gives an account of how the flora and fauna has learned to adapt and thrive in this forever changing world.

Like a lot of non-fics that are bursting with facts, figures and fantastic photography, this one doesn’t disappoint. I will say, however, that e-ARC’s of this kind are not at their best, this would undoubtedly be a five star hardback. In the format of an e-book, which lacks flow (no fault of the author/editor) it is heavy-going for me. At just under half way, I was feeling bogged down with information overload.

Let me just say, this is absolutely without a doubt a truly brilliant and unique account of Earths past, present and future which deserves all the stars. Unfortunately, I am unable to finish it because my brain simply cannot take it!

I got as far as 39%, and I began to forget everything I’d read, apart from the wonderful detailed account of the hardy Sparrow. It’s all my own doing, the book is not to blame. As a ‘coffee-table’ book, this is perfection. If I owned this in all its hardback glory, over a (long!) period of time, I would read it all. Bite-sizing this would satisfy me more than a cover-to-cover approach.

I will be keeping this on my kindle, and will read occasionally, it deserves to be savoured because there is stacks to learn, just not all in one go.

I would highly recommend it to students that are studying environmental subjects, and those with a real in-depth passion for conservation. It’s not a light read, little ol’ me just hasn’t got space on my brain hard drive to store it all. I’d need much more RAM to be able to process it all satisfactorily.

I’d like to thank the author, Chris D Thomas and the publisher, Perseus Books for the opportunity to read this, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I’m not giving up on it, what I did read was faultless, I shall continue at some point in the future.

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Ronaldo : The Reindeer Flying Academy by Maxine Sylvester

Ronaldo: The Reindeer Flying AcademyRonaldo: The Reindeer Flying Academy by Maxine Sylvester
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well that made such a change! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Ronaldo and his flying school antics.

This is the first children’s book I’ve reviewed. The author, Maxine Sylvester, was kind enough to send me this e-book. I only wish I could of read it out loud to a group of children. I love to see their reactions and faces light up when I do the voices and sound effects! (Takes me back to when I was a nursery school assistant and story time was the highlight of my day!)

The story was a fun read, following young Ronaldo and his reindeer friends and family on the first part of his journey to achieve his dream, to be one of Santas reindeer on the most important night of the year~ Christmas Eve.

With lots of life lessons scattered throughout the story and some very funny illustrations adding to its appeal, this is a perfect alternative to traditional festive bedtime stories.

Children would be able to relate to Ronaldo’s hopes, dreams and also fears. It teaches the reader that it’s important in life to have faith in yourself, focus, appreciate the love and support of those close to you, and, above all, don’t take life too seriously. It feels good to have a bit of fun, and it feels great to be a success!

Overall, a smashing kids book that is suitable for adults to read to their children, or for readers of about 7+ to read themselves. My only gripe is I had black and white illustrations in the e-book, and I’d of loved to see them in full colour. I’m guessing a physical book would be a far more enjoyable read. Long live proper children’s books with full technicolour! 😉

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Tess and Tattoos by H. A. Leuschel (Story #1 from the Manipulated Lives compilation)

Tess and TattoosTess and Tattoos by H.A. Leuschel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read Tess and Tattoos in H A Leuschel’s compilation Manipulated Lives. It was the first short story out of the five, and although they were all great stories, this was definitely my favourite. I always enjoy reading about older characters. There’s something very heartwarming and poignant about the older generation, they seem to have a way with words, looking at the world through older and wiser eyes.

The author absolutely nailed it with the main protagonist in this story. Tess, an octogenarian is spending her final years living in a care home, the highlight of the day is when her carer, Sandra, does her rounds and the two women bond and form a touching friendship which is the basis of the story.

This novella is divided into short chapters with clear paragraph spacing which is something I always appreciate in a book.

On starting this, I was given very clear visuals of the scene the author created, vividly placing the characters in a setting that was easy to picture in my minds eye. The character personas were portrayed with precision and simplicity, I connected with them instantly, particularly Tess.

This story has mystery, feel good factor, and a touch of sadness. I was pleasantly surprised by the conclusion, I had an inkling as to where it was going, but the writing was stylised in such a way that it kept me hooked, drip feeding little details at perfectly timed moments.

H A Leuschel has a knack, she gently builds insight into the human psyche in story form, adding feeling and creativity which creates powerful stuff. In Manipulated Lives, Tess and Tattoos was the one novella that stood out the most, and it deserves an individual review in its own right. The other four are also exceptional, so I’d go read them all, they won’t disappoint!

A well deserved 5 star rating from me! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

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Manipulated Lives by H. A. Leuschel

Manipulated LivesManipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5 Stories 5 Stars

This is the first collection of novellas that I’ve read in all my years of book-worming. I’ve always preferred to read one longer story, to acclimatise myself to the writing style and characters. Taking the time to find that pull you get when immersed into an authors world. The connection, that moment when you know that you’re hooked. It’s something that can’t be rushed, I love the savouring feeling of meeting a new set of characters, and being a fly on the wall, whatever the scene or situation. This is my reasoning for always choosing one book, one story. It’s why I have never opted for a collection of short stories, I felt that their length wouldn’t give me the time I need to get settled in.

Manipulated Lives by H A Leuschel has completely overhauled that thought process! I think I may have been missing out all this time because I never gave novella compilations a chance. This collection is outstanding, it is going to be a very hard act to follow indeed.

The five stories are very different. But they all have one common denominator, a manipulator. These characters are cleverly calculated, likeable and hateable in equal measures, and yet, fascinatingly brilliant. You’ll find yourself relating to them, whether you’ve been on the receiving end of manipulation, or if you are a manipulator yourself.

The author had the ability to grab my attention within a paragraph or two. This goes for every single story. That pull I mentioned above was instant. This collection could be written as five full length books, the characters were absolutely fascinating, I’d like to know more about each and every one of them.

Manipulators come from all walks of life, and without sounding too sinister, Ms Leuschel has manipulated me into changing my opinion on short reads!! Luckily, this kind of bookish manipulation is very welcome, but once you read these stories, I’m sure you’ll agree that being manipulated is extremely distressing. If you even realise that it is happening to you of course.


Tess and Tattoos

Tess, an Octogenarian, who is haunted by her past.


The Spell

Sophie, a young, successful woman, who gets totally sucked in by the life of a small boy and his father.


Runaway Girl

Holly, a teenager who falls for the school heart throb.


The Narcissist

A manipulators POV, trying to fathom out his life and his current situation.


My Perfect Child

Lisa, and her unconditional love for her son.

With punchy titles, and well written characters this collection was a superb read. There is dark and disturbing undertones of how twisted and truly evil humans can be, making for a fascinating character study that I cannot fault.

After each story when I closed the book, I caught sight of the cover, and it dawned on me just how fitting it was. A simple picture capturing a young woman obscuring her face with the back of her hand. As I went from story to story, it became apparent that this reaction spoke volumes.

This is a collection of stories that will stay with me for quite some time. It was relatable and thought provoking, and I’d like to say a HUGE thank you to the author for sending me a copy to read and review.

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Welcome 💜📚💜

So, if you’ve just stopped by as you’ve arrived here from my Tweet, nice to see you! And I thank you for taking the time to read this far. 😉

My blog isn’t very old, and I am still trying to understand a LOT of basic stuff. I’m too busy bloody reading or scrolling on Goodreads/NetGalley 😱 I do not need any more ARC’s. OK? I have plenty. Plenty.

Anyway, I digress, generally my blog is for my Goodreads reviews, but as I get more confident, I’ll post stuff…ummmm, bookish stuff mainly. And maybe the odd nice photo, owl-related probably.😉

OK, well, that is all. And follow me. If you want. Up to you. No pressure.🙅

The Witchfinders Sister by Beth Underdown

The Witchfinder's SisterThe Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars rounded up to 5

Every time I read a historical fiction book, I’m reminded just how fascinating English history is, and that I absolutely bloody love this genre!

Beth Underdown has done a superb job of writing her debut novel based on true events surrounding the fear and intrigue of Witchcraft in seventeenth century England. The story is based on the life of the 1640s Witchfinder Matthew Hopkins, with the main protagonist being his sister, Alice.

The authors writing style created such feelings of helplessness and pity. The scenes were full to the brim of atmosphere, I could smell the filth, hear the whispers of townsfolk, visualise the clothing and wretched children playing in the gutters.

It all sounds so deeply depressing, but, believe me, it was far from it. To say I was gripped by the story would be a lie. It took me just over a week to read it, which is quite a time for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed every single aspect of this book. I think it took me so long because I was savouring each chapter, hanging on to every beautifully written paragraph, and wallowing in the thought of reading another installment. A great book doesn’t necessarily need to be devoured in one sitting.

The Witchfinder’s Sister has everything to pull the reader into the dark and terrifying times women had to endure during this period. Suspicion was rife and the threat of torture, and ultimately, death if you so much as grew any kind of herb on your windowsill filled many a woman with dread. Seems to me that male chauvinism was as rife as dysentery, and God help you dear if you have any thoughts or beliefs of your own!

I’m bound to give this kind of novel the five star treatment, I just can’t help myself, I can’t resist historical fiction, and when Witchcraft is the subject matter, and the writing is this good, I’m sold.

Oh, and before I forget, this has major cover~love from me. I’d like to own a physical copy of this just to touch and appreciate that artwork. Stunning.

I’d like to thank the publisher, Penguin Random House UK, the author, Beth Underdown and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review.

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