Book Review: Toys by James Patterson

ToysToys by James Patterson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The unrelenting pace of the first person narrative of this story, plus the incentive to finish it and return the book to the second-hand stand of the hotel rather than add to my baggage weight, meant that I read the 448 pages in a little over a day.

Hays Baker literally runs at four times the speed of Usain Bolt, who is only human after all. You’ll understand that little joke when you’ve read the first few paragraphs.

There are lots of twists and turns, right up until the last page. It is skillfully written, employing a tactic that was told to me by novelist Sue Moorcroft: leave each chapter with a cliff-hanger. It worked for me. I had to read on.

It’s a good story, and uniquely creative as far as I know. Perhaps somebody will contradict me on that one. I don’t really care as I enjoyed it and I wouldn’t hesitate to highly recommend it.

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The Positive Shop

Last Saturday, I hired a car from Kefalos and did a bit of touring with my wife, Joy.

After a brief, three hour, stop at Kardemena to catch up with a couple of Joy’s friends who were staying there, we made our way up to the lofty village of Zia. The place is packed with souvenir shops and restaurants. We enjoyed some very tasty homemade lemonade with mint at the lower of the two Sunset Tavernas. Both are owned by the same family.

As we climbed further towards the top of the village, I was delighted to come across The Positive Shop. It wasn’t open, so I don’t know what I would have found inside, but it brought immediate thoughts of several of my inspirational friends from both the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and the Annual Bloggers Bash. You all know who you are. Thanks for your inspirations and I hope that you enjoy the views.



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Dinner in Kefalos

On vacation in Kefalos on the island of Kos, there was always a struggle to decide where to eat and what to eat. One evening, I was sitting in Maria’s Bar, listening to the usual conversations. I used the time to write te following, which some might consider to be poetry. I know that my attempts at poetry are pathetic, but it amused me at the time and I hope that it manages to raise a few chuckles amongst my blog followers.


Dinner in Kefalos

Wherever we go, there’s always a groan.

Then there’s a moan,

Followed by yet another groan.

Has the spinach pie got cheese in it?

Cheese in the spinach pie?



I won’t like that then.

Do the prwns in the prawn cocktail need peeling?

Yes. They are very fresh.

Oh! I won’t like that then.

How about trying our pasta?

I’ve had carbonara the last two nights,

So I don’t want that!

How about spaghetti?



It wasn’t much good last night.

But that was in a different restaurant.

Try it here.

No! I won’t like that!

Groan, Moan. Groan.

I might like English steak, but….

… it’s got an egg on top.

Well, order it without the egg.

No! I wouldn’t like that!

Perhaps I’ll have cheese pie for starters.


That’s like spinach pie without the spinach!

Yeah! I’ll have that!

Then I’ll have English steak without the egg.

May I have English steak without the egg,

But with extra mushrooms and onions?


Great! I’m going to have spinach pie followed by sea bream.

That’s decided then.

Just promis not to moan or groan.

Our dinners were served.

Mine was excellent.

How was yours?

There was too much cheese in the cheese pie,

And he never asked me how I wanted my steak cooked.

Was it cooked well?

Yes. It was well done, but that’s not the point!

Moan. Groan. Moan.

And I’m not sure that there were extra mushrooms!

Moan. Groan. Moan.

Mine was delicious.

Especially as it was washed down with half a carafe of house red.

No moan, groan, moan from me!

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Watching – advanced notification

At the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this year, Liz Hurst presented a short course entitled Writing Intimate Scenes. In Part Two of the course, she challenged participants with a ten-minute exercise to write a short piece about a woman who was aware that she was being observed by a not-very-secret spy camera in her own home. She determined to give the observer the show of his life. To add to the challenge, Liz added that no clothes were to be removed during the scene.

Those who dared were asked to step up to the microphone and read their attempts out to their fellow students.

I have tidied up my response to her exercise and I intend to publish it here on my blog in the next 24 hours. If you want to read it, you will need a password. This is set to protect the innocent. Please use my Contacts page or send me an email if you would like the password.

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Night Soldiers (Night Soldiers, #1)Night Soldiers by Alan Furst

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is underpinned by amazingly detailed research from which everybody can learn something. The awful European events of the nid-thirties to the mid-forties form a strong background for the main story. The geography across which the hero’s life meanders is meticulously described, especially the Danube.

Baulgarian [Nikko] Khristo Stoianev is recruited into the NKVD and is the star student during his training in Russia. He is sent to help the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, but soon finds himself in danger of becoming a victim of one of Stalin’s purges, and flees to France.

There are so many characters and locations in this book that it becomes very complex and difficult to follow. In my opinion, the story could have benefitted from being split into a trilogy of self-contained, but connected, stories.

Although there were many gripping action-packed periods, and lots of intrigue and deception, I found myself trudging wearily through much of this book. It is very difficult to put my finger on what made Night Soldiers so laborious, as there is so much in it which should keep my interest, but that is just the way that the book took me.

I am happy to have read Night Soldiers, but it has served to promote other books up my to-read list ahead of my next Alan Furst.

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Follow the new Mystical Circles Blog Tour 1-9 September 2017

This promises to be an interesting tour. I’m coming along for the ride!

SC Skillman Author

Mystical Circles will be released by Luminarie both as a paperback and as an ebook with a new cover design on 5 September. To celebrate, I’m doing a Blog Tour Blog tour ad as at 26 August 2017which will see me stop off at nine blogs, each with a unique guest post.

Do take a look at each blog post if you have time – there will be other opportunities to read them here on my blog later if you miss them on the tour!

Over the course of the 9 stops on this tour, I write on the following subjects:

Sacha Black

A guide for authors – how to survive the siren voices of the internet

Jenny in Neverland

Genre – what is it exactly?

Rosie Amber

On the art and inexact science of a good ending to a novel

Books From Dusk till Dawn

Psychology, spirituality and family relationships – a volatile mix

Sue Vincent

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