Monkey Wars – book review


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Monkey Wars

by Richard Kurti


One of the perks of being a part-time teacher is that I get introduced to books that I would never pick up in a million years. Monkey Wars is one of those books. The school that I am presently working in is introducing this novel to their Y8s next week and the author will be visiting the school in January to run a workshop with the pupils and talk about the novel. And here is one of the downsides to being a part-time teacher. I won’t be there when he visits.

Back to the book. A super read and thoroughly engaging. If you are thinking Planet of the Apes – this is not the book for you. The Langur monkeys have driven the Rhesus monkeys out of the cemetery where they live. Driven out is maybe too mild, the Langur are brutal as they drive the Rhesus out. Mico, a young Langur monkey witnesses the violent murder of a lone Rhesus monkey and this leads him to start questioning who he should trust.

Papina, is a young Rhesus monkey, one of the troop that has been driven out of the cemetery. She and Mico meet and a relationship/bond forms. The beginning of the book alternates between Mico and Papina and explores their uneasy alliance. Papina’s stories of Langur attacks contrast sharply with the versions that the Langur leaders tell the Langur monkeys which adds to Mico’s confusion. Mico’s questioning, curious mind is the reason that Tyrell, one of the Langur deputies promotes him; he recognises Mico’s intelligence and realises that he needs to keep him close.

When Tyrell takes over the troop we see the rise of a tryant/dictator. This could be the story of any leader in recent history. Propaganda is used to control. Anyone questioning authority disappears.

I am not going to say any more about the plot but suffice to say that we see intelligence against brute force. Some of the events are gory and horrific but are readable for young minds. You are drawn to Mico and Papina, but other monkeys also have an effect upon you. Fig is an amazing character. As for the ending …. I will leave you to make up your mind. I am so glad that the school have decided to use this novel and I am so disappointed that I will not be able to hear the author discuss his work.

Mike Malone new novel


I have now finished and uploaded the 13th novel in the Mike Malone series to Amazon. I hope that No 13 is not going to prove unlucky. Read the first chapter below.

Have A Heart


He laid a hand across the pillow, shivering at its chill. His body had already been so ravaged by the pain of her leaving, he didn’t think that his suffering could get any worse. He was wrong. Waking up and finding a space where there had previously been warmth and love was devastating and the ache for her was excruciating. Why had she left? He had given her everything.

I never broke it off,” he whispered. “It’s not over.”


He couldn’t believe that it had been so easy to get into the house; a child could have picked the lock on the back door. Standing in the middle of the kitchen, he felt the silence holding its breath around him, waiting for him to make a move before deciding whether to shield him or reveal him.

It let him pass and the stairs whispered softly as he climbed them, allowing him safe passage. Finally, he arrived at her door and pushed it open. Her hair was caressing her cheek, hiding her beauty, but he resisted the temptation to sweep it behind her ears as he used to. It was enough to be in the same room as her again. Settling himself on the dressing table stool, he felt her gentle breaths wrap themselves around his shoulders. He was where he belonged. She might think that she didn’t need him but he would make her see that he was her salvation, her very life.


Tracey! Are you getting up or not? It’s seven o’clock!”

Tracey Dean pulled the duvet over her head and groaned. She hated Monday mornings, the start of another working week. Yes, she knew that she should be grateful that at least she had a job. Yes, she should be grateful that Matt Fairhead had thought of her, but honestly! Did she really want to sit in a stuffy office everyday taking bookings for taxis with only Matt’s boring, mousy little wife, Ellen, for company when she popped in to sort out the banking? But, she was stuck with it; there was very little else around at the moment and she needed the money. With hindsight, it had been a foolish thing to do, give up her decent building society job to go to Canada. Her parents had been dead against it, but as she had argued – if she didn’t do it while she was still relatively young, when would she do it? Added to that, she also needed to get away from a string of bad relationships. She kicked the duvet to the bottom of the bed and stretched out, catlike, and reached for Tom. Fingers and toes found nothing. Tracey opened her eyes and looked around. Where was he? She was certain that she had pulled him into bed with her when she had crawled in late last night after a couple of glasses of wine with Courtney. Well, maybe four or five glasses according to the pain above her eyes. Pulling herself up in bed, she realised that she was still wearing her charm bracelet. Frantically, she checked that all the charms were still there. How stupid of her not to take it off before she got into bed, they could easily have snagged on the duvet and been pulled off. She must have been drunk.

Her feet touched the carpet, its roughness scraping her into wakefulness. She still couldn’t find Tom; he hadn’t fallen out of bed during the night. Where was he? A breathless panic started to creep up on her and she shook herself. What on earth was she getting worked up about? He was a teddy bear, an old, well-loved teddy bear that her gran had given her when she had been born. Tom would be around somewhere, her Mum had probably stuffed him into a cupboard without thinking. She’d ask her when she got downstairs.

With a final sigh of regret that the weekend was now well and truly over, Tracey dragged herself off the bed and stumbled into the bathroom..

Pete Dean raised his head as his daughter entered the kitchen. “Morning, love. Tea’s made, your mum’s just seeing to the hens.”

Morning.” She kissed the top of her father’s head before grabbing a slice of toast off his plate.

You cheeky mare!” Pete laughed. “I suppose I’d better make some more.”

Yes, please.” Tracey poured herself a mug of tea and sat down watching Pete pop some more bread into the toaster. “Have you seen Tom?”

Haven’t seen him. It’s a nice morning, he’s probably decided to go out to let his fur down.” Pete laughed at his own joke and picked up an envelope which he threw onto the table. “This was on the doormat, though, this morning. Got yourself another admirer, love?”

As if.”

Tracey picked up the envelope and examined it. Who could be writing to her? The envelope had been typed and there was no stamp; it had been delivered by hand. Using her fingernail, she ripped it opened and pulled out a single sheet.

Wow! That’s lovely.” In her hand was a delicately drawn picture of a teddy bear. She looked at it more closely. It was Tom. Someone had drawn a picture of Tom, she’d recognise that raggedy ear anywhere.

That’s very nice.” Pete was looking over her shoulder at the drawing. “Who drew it?”

I’ve absolutely no idea,” she said quickly, “there’s no signature. Why on earth would someone have drawn Tom?”

The scream from the yard stopped Tracey Dean from saying any more. Before Pete Dean could move, his wife burst through the door.

Pete! Phone the police.”

What is it, love?” Pete Dean had already noted the lack of colour in his wife’s cheeks.

Someone has…” Shirley Dean noticed her daughter staring at her and froze.

Someone has what, love?” Pete was at his wife’s side, leading her to a chair.

The chicken house, Pete. Go to the chicken house and phone Mr Malone.”

The Taxidermist’s Daughter – book review


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The Taxidermist’s Daughter

by Kate Mosse


An enjoyable read, but not one to absolutely blow me away.

The story is set in a Sussex village in 1912 and features Connie Gifford, the taxidermist’s daughter. Connie has no memories of her childhood after a terrible accident left her with amnesia. Her father is a bankrupt taxidermist who refuses to talk of the past. Dark secrets are everywhere.

When a tragic death occurs, Connie find that flashes of memory are trying to break through the darkness. Then people start disappearing…

The story, for me, after a visually stunning opening, was a bit slow to start but the pace picked up very well. Sadly, though, before the end, I had worked out who and why, although the ending was well worked and the final chapter was a surprise – I hadn’t seen that one coming at all.

The ‘good’ characters are likeable, especially Davey – he was my favourite. The descriptions of taxidermy are wonderfully graphic and there is the delightful gothic mix of asylums, madness, anonymous letters and storms.

Can’t say I loved it, but I did like it – a lot

Twirling adventures


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So, another Saturday and another attempt to use my spiraliser. I chose to use butternut squash again and this time a sort of bolognese sauce. I use quorn mince as my husband is a vegetarian. So – ingredients:

carrot, celery, chopped tomatoes, onion , quorn mince, garlic, mixed herbs and – two squares of 70% Lindt chocolate.

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The chocolate gave the mince much richer, deeper flavour.

As for the butternut squash noodles – this time I boiled them and my husband was happier – not as crunchy as last week. Personally, I felt that by boiling the noodles, they lost some of their integrity. Next time, I’ll try baking them again but I will spread them out thinner on a baking tray so that they bake more evenly than last time. I’ll let you know.

The Kind Worth Killing – book review


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The Kind Worth Killing

by Peter Swanson


This is my kind of thriller. Multi voices with so many twists that I got dizzy.

The story starts in an airport. Two people, a man and a woman, meet in the bar while waiting for their plane and they share a drink. Stories get told and the man tells the woman that his wife is having an affair and he wants to kill her. The woman tell him that she will help him.

That’s all you’re getting. The narrative is closely written and as I said before, alternating chapters allow the characters to tell their own story – and their past stories. They are not characters that you can sympathise with to any great extent, but, boy, do they keep you hooked. Just when you think you know what is going to happen, the rug gets pulled from your feet and you end up in a muddled heap. As for the ending!!!!!

If you like books like ‘Gone Girl’. Give this a try. A super read that will keep you guessing.

Addicted to tea … bread


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A while ago I posted that I had made some bread using lemon and ginger tea. I have now become somewhat addicted to using fruit teas to make bread. I have added sultanas to the lemon and ginger bread. I had added white chocolate to strawberry and raspberry bread. I have added dried cranberries to blood orange and cranberry bread and today I added glace cherries to cherry and cinnamon bread – see pic below.

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All the teas that I am using are Twinings and I am on the lookout for more flavours. Bread has never been so exciting.

Spiralling out of control


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Having finally decided to join the crowds and purchase a spiralizer, I thought would share my first experience.

My spiralizer is the Apollo Spiralizer and I found it very easy to work and, more importantly, to clean. I hate gadgets which take longer to wash than to use.


My chosen vegetable of choice was the humble butternut squash. I used the top of the squash, not the bit with the seeds. I must admit, it did take me a few minutes to work out ‘how’ to actually use the spiralizer, but once I got the hang of it – wow! As you can see, I made loads of noodles.

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My sauce of choice was a vegetarian option – roasted broccoli, passata, onion and carrot, all flavoured with garlic and mixed herbs. See final version.

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So the verdict. Not too bad, I would say 4/5, my husband’s opinion, 3/5. He found the noodles too crunchy and that is something that I will have to investigate. Trawling through the internet, the common method of cooking butternut squash noodles is to bake them. I did and they were crunchy. Maybe I needed to spread them out so that there is a thinner layer. Maybe there were just too many. I think I might try boiling them like spaghetti next time, unless anyone has any advice to give me.

For a first attempt, I was pleased and I can see a noodle shaped future spiralling ahead of me.


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