Life on Other Planets by Matt Cook

It’s 1997 and Ben Carters Great Aunt Pearl has just died. Ben arrives with his Dad, Victor, and various Aunts and Uncles meet at the dilapidated old house in order to get cracking with the sorting out and organising of the funeral. Nothing unusual about that, where there’s life, there’s death. Where there’s families, there’s stress. Goes hand in hand.

However, no one can seem to find Aunt Pearls Will, which is a tad problematic. Patience is tested, the families true colours begin to emerge and relationships take a bit of a toxic turn. And then there’s the discovery of something called the ‘Church of The Holy Heavens’ which causes no end of questions and suspicions. Things begin to get as messy as the stale old house itself.

At first glance the title and cover hints that the story is going to be somewhat ‘out there’. Other planets, things that are not of this world, the suggestion of alternative life and beyond.

But the story within couldn’t be more grounded to planet earth and the people on it if it tried. I found myself becoming quickly absorbed and at one with the trials and tribulations of the Carter family.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 47 years of being on planet earth, it’s that humans can be pretty crap when it comes to familial stress. Moving house, new jobs, new schools, relationships, babies, doing the monthly ‘big shop’, health, money, death. It all plays a part in what we all become as we age and slide into that older generation category. (I’m not quite there, yet…!)

As we age, the more knowledgeable we become, yes? Well, actually, having just spent 266 pages with fourteen year old Ben and seeing his family unit through his young eyes has triggered a bit of a rethink actually.

Matt Cooks writing gave me a bit of a zap when I started reading. I knew from a very early point that this was going to be a thoughtful, relatable story, with nuggets of dark humour dropped in throughout.

So, this zap, let me explain. On starting a book, sometimes you read a paragraph, or one sentence in the first few chapters and you already know that you’ve got yourself some quality writing. That’s exciting. That’s the zap.

‘The refrigerator was a riot of mould and malfunction; ancient foodstuffs of unknowable content glistened and furred and hatched plans.’

I mean, who’d think to link crusty-labelled jars of the unknown with dodgy best before dates in the back of a cupboard with the ‘hatching of plans’? Matt did, and it made me laugh far too hard, I completely got it. I’ve rummaged through a similar cupboard or two myself!

That’s how Matt writes. His humour has a slightly dark, yet soft, spiritual side. He has a real understanding of the human psyche, which shines throughout the book. This is particularly prominent with his characters. He must of cast his mind back to his fourteen year old self numerous times.

Matt has created a heartfelt story that is full of life, even though the plot is predominantly about death. Humans are simply being human. Teenagers loitering on the sidelines, often invisible, yet brimming with ideas and carefully trying to work out their own lives. Adults in the thick of it, unknowingly (and probably knowingly) cocking things up.

Many of us have been there, lived it, seen it.

But have we properly seen it?

Fact: Matt has.

I think he’s a bit of a ‘people watcher’. He sees things from a different angle, this helped in creating his characters, the descriptions and situations.

‘I tried again to speak, to clear things up, but my voice was a chewy substance that fell straight out of my mouth on to the floor’.

Matt has a way with words, his story telling has a flow that is so immersive. Before I knew it I had read well over half the book, I’d only picked it up for a chapter or two. A sure sign of a great book is when you’re lost in those pages and don’t realise you have been until you stop, and jump back out into real life.

I would highly recommend Life on Other Planets to everyone. It’s the kind of book which would appeal to adults, teenagers, or a senior human being. It’s got an abundance of emotion, and what stood out most of all was it’s readability. It’s so readable, you don’t even feel yourself getting sucked in. I felt like I was hiding in a cupboard in Pearls hallway, earwigging and spying on the family.

So as you’ve probably gathered, I absolutely loved it and I’m looking forward to seeing what else Matt has up his sleeve. Marvellous stuff!

Thank you Matt for sending me a gifted copy, it’s found it’s comfy slot on my forever shelf.

YA MUM by Ben Tallon

YA MUM and other stories from the backstreets of Britain

A strange little yellow book full of strange scenarios that every single one of us can relate to in some way.

Ya Mum is short vignette style stories that give a sense of art and deeper thought to everyday occurrences that are always seen but often ignored. 

From dumped shopping trolleys to a lonesome shoe. Social distancing in Morrisons to an unpleasant discovery in a pub toilet. 

Armed with the perils of hangovers and dubiously stained mattresses, author Ben Tallon sees our world a little differently. He sees beyond the basics, he turns the arse-end of British life into something story-worthy. 

I see this book as a ‘loo book’ or stocking filler. A book that you find yourself reading out of morbid curiosity, nodding in agreement and surprise at just how relevant it is. 

It’s a strange little yellow book, and I recommend it for shits and giggles. It offers a perspective of this crappy world with its crappy people that’s nothing quite like yours.

About the author:

Ben Tallon is a writer, illustrator and host of Arrest All Mimics podcast. He grew up laughing at farts in Keighley, West Yorkshire and is fascinated by the dirty underbelly of British culture.

Thank you to author Ben Tallon for sending me a signed copy.

Here is the news…

A Two Ronnies-esque play on book titles Blogpost. Here’s some of my favourite Indie Publishers combined with some books that are on my shelves in a special bookish ‘News Flash’. With a final shout out to a fabulous online book shop.

Good morning/afternoon/evening. Here is the news 🤓 🤓

Photo courtesy of The Guardian Newspaper. Obviously.

Today’s top stories:

News just in! There’s been a report from a couple of local ladies about a sighting of something unusual in their back garden.

Our reporter has just informed us that they said they’ve spotted what appears to be a BLUE MOOSE wandering around, eating their carrots. They said ‘WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE and usually it’s a BUNNY that steals our produce. We don’t know what to think during these strange times anymore.’

Our next story is focusing on the ridiculous amount of books that Lisa from OwlBeSatReading has accumulated over the last few months.

When interviewed she said ‘I don’t know how it gets like this. There seems to be an INFLUX of great authors at the moment, I end up in some kind of book LABYRINTH, struggling to find a way out! I often blame OTHERS but I know for certain I just get the HORNS for new books.’

Next an exclusive story, perhaps to take with a pinch of SALT. The theory behind ‘second breakfasts’.

Although small in stature, we spoke to a group of men (?) about their lives and how it evolves around mealtimes.

One, who wishes to remain anonymous said, ‘you can simply call me Mr HOBBIT, as I don’t want to bring unnecessary attention to us all as we’re on a secret journey at the moment. But I will say there’s never a time when we’re not FAMISHED. You could say we’re bounders really, but we’re certainly not UNBOUND!’

When questioned further, he said ‘we’re going there and back again, that’s all I’m willing to disclose at this stage’.

More on that story later.

Our next bulletin has had a few locals very perplexed. A new housing estate has recently been built and some have experienced a lot of ‘strange goings on’. Here’s EMMA, who lives opposite WUTHERING HEIGHTS to tell our reporter more.

‘I was pegging out my washing early one morning when I caught something in the corner of my eye. I’m no fan of ancient religions, big or SMALL GODS for that matter, but I am convinced I saw A MODERN FAMILY getting into their car and one of their kids was wearing A HEAD OF ZEUS!’

Our reporter asked to look from where she saw this bizarre occurrence and pointed over to her SANDSTONE patio, saying ‘my washing line is strung between those TWO TOWERS, so it’s a good viewpoint. I’ve set up CCTV because I think I’m going mad’.

We’ll keep you updated as the story unfolds.

And finally, as we bring today’s report to a close, bringing you a MYRIAD of bookish oddities, I’d like to end with this lovely story.

Our final article is a heartwarming story about a pile of books found by a chap who’s had an unlikely escape from who knows where. He goes by the name Uriah. URIAH HEEP.

He was in the park walking his dog last Tuesday when he stumbled across a stack of books all wrapped up in a lovely red bow! Uriah tells us more.

‘I remember seeing a postcard in the local post office from a bloke called Bert who’d sadly mislaid some books and he’d be keen on getting them back. Apparently they were for his friend Rose. They may of been for ROSEMARY’S BABY as she’d recently had a wee nipper. Anyway, I’m so happy I could be the bearer of good tidings, I took great pleasure in returning BERTS BOOKS’.

So that brings us to the end of today’s news. Thank you for joining us.

It’s a goodnight from me and a goodnight from him. GOODNIGHT.

My Simple Life Situations [spelt out in five book covers]

Afternoon everyone, today I bring to you certain situations I’ve found myself in told in the medium of book covers.

King Crow by Michael Stewart

This perfectly represents me when I’ve just put fresh bird food out into the garden and that damn squirrel rocks up and nicks the lot. I hate that little bastard sometimes and wish I were a Crow with a baseball bat.

Pure by Rose Cartwright

Sometimes I just sit on the bed and stare. Sometimes I sit there debating whether I can be bothered to paint my toenails. But mostly I sit there thinking ‘is 7pm too early to climb in and snuggle up?’

Car Park Life by Gareth E Rees

Back in the day when I worked on the High Street I’d be waiting for the bus in the pouring rain with 400 other poor sods, who were desperate to stay dry and get home. Usually someone would piss me off by jamming themselves into an already full bus stop. I miss those days like a hole in the head.

She – Clown and Other Stories by Hannah Vincent

I feel like being pretty today, let’s do a proper makeover. Can I do winged eyeliner at 46 and a half? Can I hell. Usually looks even worse than this to be honest.

The Book Collector by Alice Thompson

I definitely did blow out that Yankee candle before I came out didn’t I? Didn’t I???? Me with my thoughts of uncertainty.

So there you have it, I’m a bit of a book weirdo. But you probably knew that already! Thanks for dropping by and have a great day

Acronyms #2 – Or, translation to English of my previous post.

So I’ve been getting so many questions asking me what on earth I was waffling on about on yesterday’s post Acronyms – Or WTF does that stand for?

(I haven’t at all, in fact one person has shown a bit of intrigue, mainly trying to fathom out what I had for dinner. You know who you are. EVA, from Novel Deelights!! 😂)

So, just to milk it within an inch of its life, here’s the translation you’ve all been desperately waiting for.

I’ve read LORD OF THE RINGS, WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE, THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, PAPERBACKS FROM HELL and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.

I thoroughly enjoyed THE DA VINCI CODE, ANGELS AND DEMONS and THE LOST SYMBOL by DAN BROWN. But I’ve not got around to reading ORIGIN yet, his latest one.

I haven’t read, and I don’t think I would read A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES or TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE. They’re not really my genre choice, which would explain why I didn’t have the foggiest!

I listen to ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN AS PRINCE, ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA, GUNS AND ROSES, IRON MAIDEN, and FLEETWOOD MAC, but wasn’t overly keen on NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK back in the day.

For dinner tonight I’m making PORK CHOPS and HAGGIS with POTATOES and MIXED VEGETABLES. And don’t forget the all important PEPPER SAUCE. My mans Scottish, so HAGGIS is a regular meal staple in my house.

Whilst creating my culinary masterpiece I shall be sipping a VODKA AND DIET COKE, (I actually had 4. Oops 😬) but I’m also a bit partial to the odd GIN AND TONIC. My all time favourite tipple has got to be RED WINE though.

TO ALL THE WINE I’VE DRUNK BEFORE,

This GRAPHICS INTERCHANGE FORMAT is for you.

As a teenager I fell in love and sent letters to my hearts desire SEALED WITH A LOVING KISS 💋💋✉️💋💋

Intrigued, interested or just darn right annoyed by my acronyms and would like to know WHAT THE FUCK I’m on about?

Comment below and I’ll let you know what things stand for. Or don’t bother. DO I LOOK LIKE I GIVE A FUCK?

Until next time,

TALK TO YOU LATER

HAPPY ACRONYM-FREE WEEKEND EVERYONE!!