The Yorkshire Witch: The Life and Trial of Mary Bateman by Summer Strevens

‘When Mary Bateman was born, she was of so little importance that the date of her birth went unrecorded. When it came to her final moments on the gallows however, thousands of spectators witnessed her execution upon York’s ‘New Drop’ on the morning of Monday 20th March 1809, some of whom, packed shoulder to shoulder in the crowd, were convinced to the very end that the Yorkshire Witch would save herself from death at the last moment by employing her supernatural powers to vanish into thin air as the noose tightened. Needless to say, she didn’t.’

Mary Bateman was no witch! More a petty thief and fraudster with a sociopathic personality. She was intelligent and used her reading and writing abilities (a rare attribute for women of this era) for unsavoury financial gains.

This was an interesting account of crime in the early 1800’s, as rarely were women seen to be of criminal mind, often simply being deemed ‘mad’ and locked away in an asylum.

Mary was charming and manipulative and had an inventive imagination, often making up non-existent characters, used purely to back up her dodgy dealings, to improve her chances of getting more money out of her victims.

She was labelled a witch because of her wicked ways, having some knowledge of herbs and remedies and offered her own kind of ‘healthcare’ to many unfortunate women. Poisonings were her main go-to MO all in the name of lining her own pockets.

I enjoyed how Strevens’ put this book together, it read well as a nonfiction and had enough creativity to keep me reading. I particularly liked how the time period was described, this added to my reading experience in a positive way. The centre of the book has glossy photos which always gets bonus points from me in a nonfiction read!

As I was coming to the end, I really enjoyed how macabre this era was. I won’t give too much away, but the following picture shows how Mary ended up! As a museum exhibit, of all things, how shocking!

I’d recommend to British history enthusiasts, particularly folk who have lived in and around Leeds and York. A lot of settings would be familiar to folk who dwell in these parts!

The Yorkshire Witch gets 4 stars from me!

I’d like to say thank you to those lovely folk at Pen & Sword Publishers, in particular Rosie, who kindly sent me my copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author

Born in London, Summer Strevens now lives and writes in Oxfordshire. Capitalising on a lifelong passion for historical research, as well as penning feature articles of regional historical interest, Summer’s published books include Haunted Yorkshire Dales, York Murder & Crime, The Birth of Chocolate City: Life in Georgian York, The A-Z of Curiosities of the Yorkshire Dales, Fashionably Fatal , Before They Were Fiction and The Yorkshire Witch: The Life and Trial of Mary Bateman.

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Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Read back in February 2017, I came across my Goodreads review of Shantaram and decided I liked it enough to post it on my blog. Two and a half years after finishing it, I was right, I’ll never forget this book.

A 4 star read, with many 5 star elements

I have so many thoughts whirling around my head about this book. I had to sleep on it before writing my review because, on finishing it yesterday I couldn’t write the jumble of emotions down in a way that could be understood!

I’m still struggling to piece together how I’m going to review this without writing what hundreds of other readers already have. And give it the justice it deserves for its brilliance. 

It educated me, it filled me with awe, it lifted me up and plonked me down in Bombay, with a ‘there you are, take this little lot on board’. Sometimes, it was just too much, too many characters, too much information, some of which I had little or no interest in. (Eg: I care nowt about weapons and war logistics, which, in parts, I had to skim read as this book was sooo long!) 

Had Shantaram been 200 pages shorter, I probably would of awarded it full marks, but it was long, way too long. Bits could of been 
omitted without any adverse effect on the storyline.

That said, Gregory David Roberts has written a masterpiece. I’ve experienced India in such a unique way, the beauty, the dark underworld, the passion of its people, and thankfully, all in the safety of pages of a book! 

I would probably of never chosen this to read, but I was recommended it by a friend, who then lent it to me and urged me to read it. I could see how passionate he was about this book, and I have my own book loves that fill me with ‘hey, you have to read this’ moments. So I simply couldn’t and wouldn’t refuse! 

I enjoy the challenge of a big fat book, and the challenge of reading about something I know little or nothing about. And above all, I love the satisfaction of having completed a book of such epic proportions. 

I’m rambling a bit now, so I’ll round this review up with one sentence:

Shantaram, I will never forget you.

Understanding and Treating Your Migraine by Paula Greenspan

Ironically, I started reading Understanding & Treating Your Migraine when I had a bit of a dull ache behind my right eye. I put it down to strenuously decorating my bathroom, looking up at the ceiling at a funny angle without my specs, and the two double vodka and diet cokes I had the night before.

Had I of already read this book, I would of been well aware that this was the beginning of a three day throb in my head that felt like an axe was chopping its way through my brain at twenty second intervals.

As some of you may or may not know, I’m at that age where I’m getting more and more aches, pains, strains, cracks and generally struggling to get up from kneeling down without bracing myself to do it.

My headaches over the last 3 or 4 years have been getting worse. I’ve tried to solve the problem, thinking perhaps it was down to my slightly unhealthy lifestyle, so I ditched the caffeine, red wine and chocolate for a while.

I’m pleased to say it made very little difference, apart from my waistline improved somewhat. I missed those three delights and was just a miserable, slightly slimmer version of me, so they are all back on the menu. As are the size 12-14’s.

Thinking it could be my eyesight, I spent a fortune at Boots opticians, ok, granted, I’ve always wanted Ray-Bans and decided to splash out, all in the name of stopping my aching head, but alas, the headaches still came. But at least I looked a bit cooler now, even if I was still in agony every few months.

The author, Paula Greenspan is a migraine sufferer herself. Along with input from many other poor souls who suffer buckets from these debilitating symptoms, I actually feel like I can start to improve the way in which I cope with them. After all, there is no cure, it’s just a case of educating myself and understanding those tell tale signs. This is all down to the reassurance, simple advice and knowing I’m not alone in my struggle after reading this book.

It also includes a whole host of experts giving sound advice on the subject, some things obvious, some not so much. It also has pointers about how to keep a Migraine diary and actually learn from it. There’s also a brilliant chapter covering Migraine and hormones and some very useful links to further help.

I’ve taken so much from this book, because, like many of us do, I’ve googled signs and symptoms and there’s so much out there, it’s hard to distinguish the sensible to the darn right ridiculous. (One person vowed that placing a blue clothes peg on her third eye was the ultimate cure. Failing that, anything a mid-dark blue colour would do. And no, I didn’t try it, I just took more ibuprofen and went back to bed!)

A surprisingly high proportion of people suffer from migraines and loose days due to not being able to function because of the intense pain and discomfort caused. Dizziness, feelings of detachment, cottonwool head and one of my regular favourites, the underfoot dropping jolt sensation.

I’m trying to make this as entertaining and funny as I can, but for those of us who get this horrible ailment I’d highly recommend getting this book! I cannot believe how much better it has made me feel.

Sometimes I thought I was having a stroke, the pain in my head was so severe, but after reading this, I’m far more positive about how I’m going to get through my next episode. I think that is due to the reassurance and knowing that other people experience similar symptoms, and I’m not loosing my head after all.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the author for writing this book, to Pen & Sword Publishers for sending me a copy to review, and also to the fellow sufferers who shared their experiences. I feel a whole lot better and not so alone now.

The Carer by Deborah Moggach


James, a once eminent professor, needs full time help. So Phoebe and Robert, his distracted middle-aged offspring, employ Mandy, a veritable treasure who seems happy to relieve them of their responsibilities. 

‘Our marriage was one long conversation that was only interrupted by her death’.

The Carer connected with me on a very personal level. A story I initially thought to be predictable, turned out to be a very powerful and surprising book, with numerous unexpected twists. 

I continually nodded my head throughout reading, raising my eyebrows on numerous occasions and thinking gosh, I totally get this. 

This is a cracking read, and it’s reinforced the fact that as you get older, life just gets more and more complicated. Fortunately, we do become wiser, so dealing with complex matters of the heart can be taken with a pinch or ten of salt. 

I think readers of a certain age would take a lot from this, particularly if they have/had elderly parents and middle aged siblings. 

I haven’t read anything before by Deborah Moggach, and unbeknown to me, she wrote The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and have added the book to my shelf. Her writing style is simple, yet magical. She designs her stories in a way that hooks gently. 

A solid 5 star read. It was faultless. 

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster – Mini Review

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“You must never feel badly about making mistakes,” explained Reason quietly, “as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.” 

Milo must rescue The Princesses’ Rhyme and Reason, so off he goes through the Phantom Tollbooth in his car that ‘goes without saying’.

A wonderful pun-tastic story for any Wordsmith. The storyline has hints of The Wizard of Oz mixed with the superb wit and intelligent humour of Roald Dahl. 

I probably got a lot more enjoyment from this than a child would! My Mum would have LOVED this book because she used to come up with some absolutely classic ‘play on words’. 

I’ve got her to thank for teaching me to love and appreciate the written word. This book reminded me of conversations I’ve had with her, and that’s priceless 💕 

I borrowed this fab little nugget from my local library.

ONE STAR – A short story by The Behrg

Well, I’ve been DESPERATE for an excuse to have my say about the dreaded ‘One Star Reviews’ that get the online book communities knickers in a right old twist, and nows my chance!

I’ll start by saying, I do love it when my opinion of a book is unpopular. I also seem to get a lot of pleasure bashing out reviews for books I didn’t like, or thought were pretty crappy.

I’ve got to that age where I enjoy having a good moan, things annoy me more these days, (peri-menopausal 😬) and I’ll quite happily verbally fight my corner. (Don’t get me started on litter droppers, unruly children and bad parenting).

So, Behrgs’ book, what can I say? Firstly, I had to read it twice because it was one of those books. It was also very short, only 17 pages. But, OH MY DAYS, what a clever bloke you are Mr Behrg!

I’m not going to give anything away on the synopsis, you can get the lowdown over on Goodreads. What I will say though is this;

If you’re a book blogger, reviewer, dark horror fan who doesn’t get too triggered by stuff, ‘ave a gander at this one.

To say this is a unique story is an UNDERSTATEMENT. I’ve never read anything like it. It is the most relevant read a book blogger will ever come across. I’ll tell you that now. It was a clever, thought provoking head mash which I awarded four stars.

When I finished it, I had to have a very large gin. And then I had to have another very large gin after the first large gin. Honestly. Thank god for gin.

I’m now going to take this opportunity to share some of my reviews of books that I thought were pretty awful. I had a BLAST scribbling down at frenzied rate what I thought of them.

Two deserved two stars (at a push) and the other was, yep, a ONE STAR THIS BOOK IS CRUD I SHALL *USE IT PURELY TO PROP UP MY WONKY SIDE TABLE AND SNORT AT THE SATISFACTION I GOT WRITING THE REVIEW FOR THE LITTLE BASTARD. (*I didn’t actually do this with it because, for starters it was an ARC ebook, so in effect, I’d of have to of used my kindle. And I also do not have a wonky side table, soooo, yeah, anyway).

I do love a bit of feedback about my low star reviews on Goodreads. Some positive, and those joyous negative ones too. Those in particular do fill me with glee.

Click on the pictures to see my (scathing?!) blog posts.

Murder at the Mill by M B Shaw ⭐️⭐️

Goodreads comments:

-“This made me laugh out loud….”

-“I agree with you about this book. I will not read another one by this author.”

-“Hilarious.”

Doll House by John Hunt ⭐️⭐️

Goodreads comments:

-“Ouch!”

-“…I’m waiting to see what you write, maybe you can get it done better.” (Snarky remark, love it 😆)

Psycho Analysis by V R Stone ⭐️

No readers comments on this one, but maybe I’ll get some now I’ve highlighted how much I disliked this book.

So I’ve turned The Behrgs’ review into a post pretty much all about me and my reading preferences. This absolutely was supposed to happen and I’m not sorry in any way. Here’s a bit more about him, I know I’m intrigued by it all, aren’t you?!

This is how the author sees himself:

‘So who (or what) exactly is “The Behrg?”

While “Behrg” is a childhood nickname and the name by which my parents, siblings, and closest friends call me, it’s also my creative identity and the moniker through which my written works can be found. It’s a way for me to share an intimate part of who I am rather than just hiding behind a pen name.

So embrace the parts of you that are different and unique, that no one else can replicate, and share them with the world. Even if it means your first name becomes “The.”

Stay weird. Embrace the strange. And remember you can only find the light after wading through the dark.’

I’ll finish by saying that I’m excited to read more from this author. I’m a big fan of horror, not usually short stories, but I’ve subscribed to The Behrg and have received three more FREE shorts which I look forward to reading. He has an unusual voice in horror, and it’s definitely caught my attention.

*Thank you to the author for providing me with a free copy of this short story.*

Find out more about The Behrg here:

https://www.thebehrg.com/

 

 

 

 

 

The Curse of the School Rabbit by Judith Kerr

The Curse of the School Rabbit by Judith Kerr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This had me smiling away all the way through, who could resist a naughty bunny story?!

Lovely storyline and characters, with a simple, yet intriguing plot perfect for bedtime. More so if there’s a cuddly rabbit sharing the bed, I could see myself animating with gusto to this little gem!

There used to be a menagerie of stuffed toys sharing my daughter’s bed years ago and she would of loved this between the ages of 3-9 ish.

Certainly a super book for early readers too, complete with really cool little pencil drawings, the facial expressions of the characters were delightful.

I wouldn’t expect any less from Judith Kerr, she wrote with simplicity, humour and love.

5 solid stars from me, my grandchildren (if and when I get them!) are going to share this one with me, I absolutely loved it! But then, I am a big kid at heart I suppose.

View all my reviews