Mass Starvation: The History And Future Of Famine by Alex de Waal

The Blurb On The Back:

The world almost conquered famine.  Until the 1980s, this scourge killed ten million people every decade, but by the early 2000s mass starvation had all but disappeared. Today, famines are resident, driven by war, blockade, hostility to humanitarian principles and a volatile global economy.

In Mass Starvation, world-renowned expert on humanitarian crisis and response Alex de Waal provides an authoritative history of modern famines: their causes, dimensions and why they ended.  He analyses starvation as a crime and breaks new ground in examining forced starvation as an instrument of genocide and war.  Refuting the enduring but erroneous view that attributes famine to overpopulation and natural disaster, he shows how political decision or political failing is an essential element in every famine, while the spread of democracy and human rights, and the ending of wars, were major factors in the near-ending of this devastating phenomenon.

Hard-hitting and deeply informed, Mass Starvation explains why man-made famine and the political decisions that could end it for good must once again become a top priority for the international community. 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

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The Dark Days Deceit by Alison Goodman

The Blurb On The Back:

Bath, December 1812.

Lady Helen Wrexhall is finalising the preparations for her wedding, but her focus is on the Dark Days Club.  Time is running out to find the vital answers needed to defeat their unknown foe, the Grand Deceiver.

Lady Helen and Lord Carlston are also struggling to control their new dyad bond, and their illicit feelings for one another. As Helen tries desperately to juggle the demands of her double life, an old enemy arrives in Bath, bringing death and deceit. 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

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Still Lives by Maria Hummel

The Blurb On The Back:

Kim Lord’s face looked back at me, disguised in paint and the features of a murdered woman.

Revered artist Kim Lord is about to unveil her most shocking show yet: Still Lives, a series of self-portraits in which she impersonates the female victims of America’s most famous homicides, from Nicole Brown Simpson to the Black Dahlia.

As celebrities and rich patrons pour into L.A.’s Rocque Museum for the opening night, the attendees wait eagerly for Kim’s arrival.  All except Maggie Richter, museum editor and ex-girlfriend of Greg Shaw Ferguson, Kim’s new boyfriend.  But Kim never shows up to her party and the crowd’s impatience slowly turns to unease.

When Greg is arrested on suspicion of murder, it seems that life is imitating art.  Has Kim suffered the same fate as the women in her paintings?  As Maggie is drawn into an investigation of her own, she uncovers dark and deadly truths that will change her life forever …

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

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White Girls by Hilton Als

The Blurb On The Back:

White Girls is about, among other things, blackness, queerness, movies, Brooklyn, Love (and the loss of love), AIDS, fashion, Basquiat, Capote, philosophy, porn, Louise Brooks and Michael Jackson. Freewheeling and dazzling, tender and true, it is one of the most highly acclaimed essay collections in years. 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

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2018 In Books And Onwards To 2019

2018 was an emotional rollercoaster for me.  I don’t use this blog to talk about my personal life (and no doubt it would bore the pants off people here if I did) but let’s just say that my one take-away from 2018 is that nothing is forever, never ever say never and take your chances where you find them.

So with that trite lifeism out of the way, I’ll get to the good stuff.

I set myself a target of 125 books to read in 2018 and I actually beat that with 127 (full list is here).  I wanted 20% of the books I read in 2018 to be non-fiction and in the end, I hit 34 in total (so that’s 26%).  I am seriously starting to get into non-fiction, especially politics and social policy and 6 of my books of the year are non-fiction so you can definitely expect to see more of it on my blog in 2019.

I was less successful in reading writers of colour (WOC).  I’d set myself a target of 20% of my list to be WOC but in the end only 16 of the books I read were by WOC (so that’s 12%).  I’m disappointed in myself about that but I did search out more WOC for my To Read Pile and I definitely want to make that 20% target this year.

Gender wise my list was evenly split again – 49% by women and 51% men.  It’s relatively easy to hit that as a target though because I read a lot of children’s and YA and it tends to be female author driven.

Aspirations for 2019 reading wise is to keep with the thrillers and crime novels as I am still working on one in real life and they help me to think about structure, plot and character.  I’m looking at reading 20% of books by WOC and 50/50 male/female.

Because this remains a personal review blog, I’m not going to be scheduling posts and I’m not going to focus on any particular genre or market.  I do appreciate everyone who stops by the blog and many thanks to those of you who have liked my posts or left a comment.

I’ve set out below my favourite books of 2018 (in no particular order):


In Pursuit Of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer’s by Joseph Jebelli – this is a fascinating if at times awful and depressing read about Alzheimer’s and how we’re working towards a treatment for it.

Refuge: Transforming A Broken Refugee System by Alexander Betts and Paul Collier – given how often we see refugees dominating the news cycle, this is a timely and compassionate book about how the refugee system works, the political compromises that have contributed to the crises and looks at a potential way of reforming the international system.

The Gender Games by Juno Dawson – this is a fascinating and thought-provoking book that’s part memoir and part sharp critique on society’s roles on gender and which is hilariously funny and sharply observed.

The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Changes The Way We Think, Live And Die by Keith Payne – is an eye-opening must-read about the social psychology of poverty and income and how it impacts on inequality and discrimination and frankly, if Barack Obama has it down as one of his books of the year, then really who am I to argue?



A Spoonful Of Murder by Robin Stevens – the Wells and Wong mystery series just gets better and better with this book seeing the detective duo head for Hong Kong when Hazel’s grandfather dies and Daisy discovering that, for once, she’s not the most important person in town …

The Legend Of Kevin by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre – just really tickled me.  It’s a lovely, simple story of the friendship between a young boy and a flying horse but there’s some great humour, the illustrations are fabulous and the sea monkeys are really very naughty indeed.

What Is Race? Who Are Racists? Why Does Skin Colour Matter? And Other Big Questions by Claire Heuchan & Nikesh Shukla – confronts questions of racism, difference and racists straight on in an easy-to-understand way that doesn’t talk down to the reader and doesn’t avoid hard questions while adding personal experiences that help build empathy and understanding.



London Rules by Mick Herron – I am a massive fan of the SLOUGH HOUSE SERIES anyway and this latest instalment is another hilarious and sharply plotted affair about MI5’s embarrassments and how they are each trying to deal with the fallout from the previous book.

The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton – is a brilliantly plotted mash-up of QUANTUM LEAP, GROUNDHOG DAY and Golden Age Detective fiction that kept me thinking long after I finished it.



The 57 Bus: A True Story Of Two Teenagers And The Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater – is an astounding non-fiction book about a real-life crime that looks at both victim and perpetrator with huge empathy and respect.

My To Read Pile for 2019 stands at a horrifying 570 (for reference, I started 2018 with 416).  I am going to cut down what I add to it during this year because I need to get it under control – I’m already almost out of shelf space and am reduced to piling them up around the house.  Anyway, full list is behind the cut for those interested and if there’s anything you specifically recommend then let me know and I’ll move it up the list.

Thank you again for reading and best wishes to you all for 2019.

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Master List of Books Read in 2018

  1. How To Hang A Witch by Adriana Mather.
  2. In Pursuit Of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer’s by Joseph Jebelli.
  3. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black.
  4. Satellite by Nick Lake.
  5. The City Of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty.
  6. East Of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman.
  7. The Woman In The Window by A. J. Finn.
  8. Seventeen by Hideo Yokoyama.
  9. Now We Are Dead by Stuart MacBride.
  10. Why Democracies Need Science by Harry Collins & Robert Evans.
  11. Bioinformation by Bronwyn Parry and Beth Greenhough.
  12. Blackbird by N. D. Gomes.
  13. Nancy Parker’s Chilling Conclusions by Julia Lee.
  14. There Was A Country: A Personal History Of Biafra by Chinua Achebe.
  15. Star Wars The Last Jedi: Cobalt Squadron by Elizabeth Wein.
  16. Summary Justice by John Fairfax.
  17. A Spoonful Of Murder by Robin Stevens.
  18. Hackerspaces: Making The Maker Movement by Sarah R. Davies.
  19. Landscape With Invisible Hand by M. T. Anderson.
  20. Can The Euro Be Saved? by Malcolm Sawyer.
  21. London Rules by Mick Herron.
  22. The M&A Formula by Peter Zink Secher and Ian Horley.
  23. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Hounds And Hauntings by Janine Beacham.
  24. The Art of Doing Business Across Cultures by Craig Storti.
  25. The Playstation Dreamworld by Alfie Bown.
  26. The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs.
  27. What You Don’t Know by Joann Chaney.
  28. Amelia Fang And The Unicorn Lords by Laura Ellen Anderson.
  29. Horace & Harriet Take On The Town by Clare Elsom.
  30. Do We Need Economic Inequality? by Danny Dorling.
  31. Basic Income And How We Can Make It Happen by Guy Standing.
  32. What Everyone Needs To Know About Tax by James Hannam.
  33. Scythe by Neal Shusterman.
  34. Society Of Fear by Heinz Bude.
  35. The Ascendancy Of Finance by Joseph Vogl.
  36. Flying Tips For Flightless Birds by Kelly McCaughrain.
  37. Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes.
  38. Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah.
  39. The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty.
  40. The Confession by Jo Spain.
  41. Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings.
  42. The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis.
  43. Syriza In Power by Costas Douzinas.
  44. The Exact Opposite Of Okay by Laura Steven.
  45. Refuge: Transforming A Broken Refugee System by Alexander Betts and Paul Collier.
  46. This Book Will (Help You) Change The World by Sue Turton.
  47. White Rabbit Red Wolf by Tom Pollock.
  48. Rory Branagan: Detective by Andrew Clover and Ralph Lazar.
  49. Purple Hearts by Michael Grant.
  50. The Wonder Of Us by Kim Culbertson.
  51. Can We Solve The Migration Crisis? by Jacqueline Bhabha.
  52. The Colour Of The Sun by David Almond.
  53. The Gender Games by Juno Dawson.
  54. Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter.
  55. The New Scramble For Africa by Pádraig Carmody.
  56. Little Miss Lucky Is Getting Married by Roger Hargreaves, Sarah Daykin, Lizzie Daykin and Liz Bankes.
  57. Small Money, Big Impact: Fighting Poverty With Microfinance by Peter Fanconi and Patrick Scheurle.
  58. Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala.
  59. Star Of The North by D. B. John.
  60. To The Edge Of The World by Julia Green.
  61. The List by Mick Herron.
  62. One Clear Ice-Cold January Morning At The Beginning Of The Twenty-First Century by Roland Schimmerlpfennig.
  63. A New Politics From The Left by Hilary Wainwright.
  64. The Golden Child by Wendy James.
  65. Natboff! One Million Years Of Stupidity by Andy Stanton.
  66. Come And Find Me by Sarah Hilary.
  67. Directorate S: The CIA And America’s Secret Wars In Afghanistan And Pakistan, 2001 – 2016 by Steve Coll.
  68. Night Of The Party by Tracey Mathias.
  69. The Woman In The Mirror by Rebecca James.
  70. The Power Of Yes by Abbie Headon.
  71. The Case For A Maximum Wage by Sam Pizzigati.
  72. This Is What Happened by Mick Herron.
  73. Will Big Business Destroy Our Planet? by Peter Dauvergne.
  74. The Joneses & The Pirateers: Search For The Phantom Lady by S. L. Westgate.
  75. Lean Six Sigma For Leaders by Martin Brenig-Jones and Jo Dowdall.
  76. Run, Riot by Nikesh Shukla.
  77. The Real Politics Of The Horn Of Africa by Alex de Waal.
  78. One Way by S. J. Morden.
  79. All Systems Red by Martha Wells.
  80. Embassy Of The Dead by Will Mabbitt.
  81. Taylor & Rose Secret Agents: Peril In Paris by Katherine Woodfine.
  82. Do Central Banks Serve The People? By Peter Dietsch, François Claveau and Clément Fontan.
  83. The Shock Doctrine Of The Left by Graham Jones.
  84. Wrong Way Home by Isabelle Grey.
  85. Sweet Pea by C. J. Skuse.
  86. In Bloom by C. J. Skuse.
  87. Age Of Assassins by R J Barker.
  88. Bad Blood by E. O. Chirovici.
  89. The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams.
  90. Happyville High: Geek Tragedy by Tom McLaughlin.
  91. A Treachery Of Spies by Manda Scott.
  92. The 57 Bus: A True Story Of Two Teenagers And The Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater.
  93. The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Changes The Way We Think, Live And Die by Keith Payne.
  94. Phantom by Leo Hunt.
  95. A Double Life by Flynn Berry.
  96. The Court Of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark.
  97. Under The Pendulum Sun by Jeanette Ng.
  98. The Hunger by Alma Katsu.
  99. The Goose Road by Rowena House.
  100. The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French.
  101. The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.
  102. Solomon Creed by Simon Toyne.
  103. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith.
  104. The Quaker by Liam McIlvanney.
  105. All The Hidden Truths by Claire Askew.
  106. The Traitors: A True Story Of Blood, Betrayal And Deceit by Josh Ireland.
  107. The Boy Who Saw by Simon Toyne.
  108. Firefly by Henry Porter.
  109. Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough.
  110. Blood Cruise by Mats Strandberg.
  111. The Chaos Of Now by Erin Lange.
  112. The Anomaly by Michael Rutger.
  113. Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman.
  114. Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson.
  115. The Drop by Mick Herron.
  116. The Hope That Kills by Ed James.
  117. Blackwater by James Henry.
  118. The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka.
  119. She’s Not There by Tamsin Grey.
  120. When Conflict Resolution Fails by Oliver Ramsbotham.
  121. In Our Mad And Furious City by Guy Gunaratne.
  122. The Legend Of Kevin by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre.
  123. Yellowhammer by James Henry.
  124. Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon.
  125. Trans Global: Transgender Then, Now And Around The World by Honor Head.
  126. What Is Race? Who Are Racists? Why Does Skin Colour Matter? And Other Big Questions by Claire Heuchan & Nikesh Shukla.
  127. Winnie-The-Pooh Gloom & Doom For Pessimists by A. A. Milne.

Winnie-The-Pooh Gloom & Doom For Pessimists by A. A. Milne

The Blurb On The Back:

’Good morning, Eeyore,’ shouted Piglet.

‘Good morning, Little Piglet,’ said Eeyore.

‘If it is a good a good morning,’ he said.

‘Which I doubt,’ said he.

‘Not that it matters,’ he said.

This gently-humorous collection of A. A. Milne’s most melancholy moanings will bring a smile to the face of even the grumpiest Eeyore. 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

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What Is Race? Who Are Racists? Why Does Skin Colour Matter? And Other Big Questions by Claire Heuchan & Nikesh Shukla

The Blurb On The Back:

Why is it important to talk about race?

How does it feel to experience racism?

Why does skin colour matter?

Talking about race is often discouraged, but in this book we’re aiming to bring everyone into the conversation.  We explore the history of race and society and discuss how racist attitudes come into being.  We look at belonging and identity, the damaging effects of stereotyping and the benefits of positive representation.  We talk about why its important to identify and challenge racist behaviour, wherever it exists.

Together with contributions from a range of writers of colour, including Inua Ellams, Derek Owusu, Nadine Aisha Jassat, Asim Chaudhry, Wei Ming Kam, Chitra Ramaswamy and Becky Olaniyi, we talk about our experiences relating to race and racism and discuss why skin colour matters.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

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Trans Global: Transgender Then, Now And Around The World by Honor Head

The Blurb On The Back:

TRANS GLOBAL explores the fascinating long history of transgender around the world. This book uncovers the cultures and people of the past and present who have embraced, challenged or quietly subverted society’s expectations about gender. Find out:

– which cultures accepted a non-binary lifestyle for centuries before ‘transgender’ became a label;

– who fights for the acceptance of the trans community;

– what it is like for young trans people just starting out on their journey. 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

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