Review: The Quiet People, by Paul Cleave


Cameron and Lisa Murdoch are successful New Zealand crime writers, happily married and topping bestseller lists worldwide. They have been on the promotional circuit for years, joking that no one knows how to get away with crime like they do. After all, they write about it for a living.

So when their challenging seven-year-old son Zach disappears, the police and the public naturally wonder if they have finally decided to prove what they have been saying all this time… Are they trying to show how they can commit the perfect crime?

Multi-award winning bestseller Paul Cleave returns with an electrifying and chilling thriller about family, public outrage and what a person might be capable of under pressure, that will keep you guessing until the final page…

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Pen & Sword Pile Reviews

I’ve got four for you this evening; I’ve been saving them up. Pen & Sword send me a lot of books, ones I’ve agreed to review, but you know how it is, my eyes are bigger than my belly when it comes to books, so I generally have to read a few at a time then review them all in groups. Sometimes there’s even a theme.

Today there is a theme. Daily life in various historical periods. I’ve just finished reading ‘How to survive in Ancient Egypt’, which I had been waiting on to do this set of reviews.

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TBR Pile Review: Fearing the Black Body – The Racial Origins of Fatphobia, by Sabrina Strings

Book Cover
Format: 283 pages, Paperback
Published: May 7, 2019 by New York University Press
ISBN: 9781479886753 (ISBN10: 1479886750)


In her first book, sociologist Strings (sociology, Univ. of California, Irvine) explores the historical development of prothin, antifat ideologies deployed in support of Western, patriarchal white supremacy. Beginning in the aesthetic ideals circulated by Renaissance thinkers and artists and bringing her narrative up into the 1990s, Strings charts how white Europeans and Anglo-Americans developed ideals of race and beauty that both explicitly and figuratively juxtaposed slim, desirable white women against corpulent, seemingly monstrous black women.

The work is divided into three sections. The two chapters in the first part consider how Renaissance white women and women of colour were depicted as plump and feminine, separated by class, yet belonging to the same gender. The second part of the work charts the rise of modern racial ideologies that yoked feminine beauty to Protestant, Anglo-Saxon whiteness. Later chapters and the epilogue consider how Americans normalized the “scientific management” of white women’s bodies for the purpose of racial uplift, a project that continued to situate black women as the embodied Other.

My Review

I’ve been reading this book on and off over the last few months as other commitments permitted; I found it fascinating and always picked up some new information every time I went back to it. I finished it last night with a feeling of disappointment that it wasn’t longer, but also interested in reading more by the author and on the topic.

BMI is, as I have said many times, bullshit, made-up and irrational. That it is still used by the medical profession is a travesty. Historical attitudes to fatness have varied with time and place, but scientific evidence does not support the vilification of fat people. In fact, Ancel Keys, who essentially invented the BMI and pushed for it to replace actuarial tables for insurance and medical purposes, admitted he found fat people ugly and assumed they were unhealthy. You cannot tell anything about a person’s health from a ratio of height to weight, or their appearance.

This book covers Europe and the U.S., because the author is USian, and the U.S. wouldn’t exist without European colonisation, so it covers the period from the Renaissance to the last years of the twentieth century. Five hundred years and three continents it a lot of space and time to cover.

When European’s started Othering people to justify slavery, weight was one of the things they chose to stigmatise. It coincided with Protestant disgust with bodies, with anything that might be fun, and later with changing ideas about ‘polite’ behaviour. By accusing African people of being lazy, gluttonous and dishonest, they could link that to intellect and justify colonisation and enslavement. And of course, to keep Europeans on top of the heap, the same rules had to be applied to Europeans, especially middle and upper class women.

Later still, eugenics came into play and whole new fields of scientific racism and sexism opened up for those white men determined to hold their places at the top of society. In the U.S. one of the ways they did this was to racialise Jewish, Irish, Southern (particularly Italian) and Eastern Europeans as the different groups migrated to the Americas across the 18th and 19th centuries and into the 20th century. They used the same lazy propaganda that earlier European ‘scientists’ had used to racialise and other Africans and then the indigenous populations of the Americas and Australia.

Body size and shape was used as a stick to beat people with. A ‘too thin’ rich white woman was a danger to the nation (whichever nation it was), a ‘too fat’ rich white woman, equally so, at different times. A fat black or African woman – signs of laziness and greediness – moral incontinence and hypersexuality. Because reasons.

Racist shitbags don’t actually have logical reasons, they take their beliefs and make up pseudoscience to support it. Fat hate is the same. It doesn’t matter how much evidence you have to show that ‘normal weight’ doesn’t exist, and that weight variation is just a normal part of human diversity (like the levels of melanin in the skin), they’ll still scream that fat kills.

Strings is a professional, and writes like one, unlike me; I’m just blunt and don’t mind swearing if I think it’s appropriate. I’ve seen other reviews that claim the writing is dry; I disagree. I found it clear and precise, although I would have been interested in more analysis and references from African and African American sources, but I doubt they were available given the systemic erasure and silencing of Black people in the last five hundred years.

The structure of the book puts the different strands of evidence into context and builds on Strings’ argument in a structured and organised way. Strings draws on popular and scientific literature, art and cultural movements to explore the topic and build her arguments. This is not ‘popular history but rewards careful reading and consideration.

Children’s Picture Book Review: Bessie Bibbs’ Ginormous Fibs, by Chris Jones


Bessie Bibbs’ just can’t help but tell fibs. And whilst her intentions are good, they keep getting her into trouble … with very messy consequences! 

Author Website:

My Review

Thanks to Chris and Claire for my copy of this book and to the Love Books team for organising this blog tour.

What did I like?

The story is simple but effective. The rhyme works well and it is funny. The monsters are really quite cute and they have individual characteristics that make them stand out. While the authors state at the beginning that the book is for reading to children, I think it’s just right for beginner readers needing something to practice with.

What didn’t I like?

Nothing. I enjoyed it all.

What do I think of the illustrations?

I really liked the illustrations, they’re fun and the muted colour palette is perfect. The colour pop of the ice cream at the end is perfect.

Would I read other books by the author?

Yes, and then send them on to my cousin for his children who are at about the right age to enjoy them, 3 – 5 years old.

TBR Review: The Creak On The Stairs, by Eva Bjorg AEgisdottir

I enjoy an Icelandic Noir, Scandi Noir in general, and books from Orenda Books especially. The team have excellent taste and employ brilliant translators. I also collect first editions, usually of sci fi and fantasy from Goldsboro Books, but this was a special case – a new author from Orenda! I was intrigued buy the blurb and ordered it to support the author and publisher. I am so pleased I did.

I bought it when it first came out and started reading it but other books and work took precedent, so I put it down. Then I got the second book, which I was ever more intrigued by. I reviewed it for the blog tour, and have the same special edition. I read that quickly and promised myself I would read the first book. And today I have.

I don’t regret spending several hours today reading, it’s been rather relaxing reading a book because I want to rather than because I need to for blog tours or work. I had time to really get into it.

It was a tense read, as Elma navigates both her complex relationship with her family and her new colleagues in Akranes CID. Then an unknown woman is found dead on the beach by the lighthouse. It takes a lot of digging to find out who she is and how she ended up in the sea by Akranes. The investigation drags up 30-year-old secrets, crimes against children, and an unexpected killer.

I was so engrossed I was late for a coffee date with a friend I haven’t seen in six months. and then once I got back I settled down with a mug of hot chocolate to finish reading the second half of the book. It was gripping. I really needed to know who did what, but also found Elma a fascinating and complex character. Her willingness to sidestep her boss when she identifies his unwillingness to upset and important family. Elma doesn’t care, her years away from Akranes have broken any connections she might have had, had she stayed. Her mother’s gossip is actually helpful.

I found the ending a bit frustrating, because the killer is caught but the instigators escape punishment. I know things continue in ‘Girls Who Lie’, but if I’d read this one first I’d have been a bit unhappy.

I recommend getting both, blocking out your weekend and settling in with snacks, coffee/tea/hot chocolate and possibly a commode, because you will not want to be disturbed.

Audiobook Review: The Custard Corpses, by M.J. Porter

The Custard Corpses, a delicious 1940s mystery.

Birmingham, England, 1943.

While the whine of the air raid sirens might no longer be rousing him from bed every night, a two-decade-old unsolved murder case will ensure that Chief Inspector Mason of Erdington Police Station is about to suffer more sleepless nights.

Young Robert McFarlane’s body was found outside the local church hall on 30th September 1923. But, his cause of death was drowning, and he’d been missing for three days before his body was found. No one was ever arrested for the crime. No answers could ever be given to the grieving family. The unsolved case has haunted Mason ever since.

But, the chance discovery of another victim, with worrying parallels, sets Mason, and his constable, O’Rourke, on a journey that will take them back over twenty-five years, the chance to finally solve the case, while all around them the uncertainty of war continues, impossible to ignore.


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Children’s Book Review: Blanka, by D.M.Mullen


BLANKA VON FROCK When you want more but you have all you need, it’s Blanka von Frock, whose tale you should read. She bullies her sisters in their frozen windmill, and her greedy demands give the village a chill: “I want what I want and I want it today, so listen up sisters and do as I say” D.M. Mullan’s Curious Tales D.M. Mullan’s Curious Tales is a series of peculiar modern fables from author D.M. Mullan and illustrator Kirsteen Harris-Jones. With a classic rhyming style and wonderfully quirky illustrations, each book centres around a unique little individual and tells their story all whilst being part of a wider, interconnected, world.

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