Limehouse Through Five Centuries

Andrea Gibbons

This is quite a wonderful and curious little history of Limehouse written by J.G. Birch, rector of St Anne’s Limehouse (one of my favourite Hawksmoor churches), in 1935. It is written part for the love of curious fact and part to takes issue with how Limehouse has been described by others — Burke’s descriptions in Limehouse Nights, or Walter Besant’s ‘sweeping assertion concerning the whole riverside population of East London: “thieves all–to a man.”‘ I just finished Besant’s East End, and it is indeed infuriating.

Scan 10

This on the other hand, while no definite history by any stretch, is still full of details (perhaps too many details of great men and their exploits) and tantalising glimpses to be followed up perhaps. Like this one:

In 1697 there were some stormy times on the Limehouse quaysides, and news was brought to the Admiralty that “the mob in Limehouse intended to…

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[Review] Kipling & Trix by Mary Hamer


Title: Kipling & Trix
Author:  Mary Hamer
Publisher: Aurora Metro Publications Ltd.
Date of Publication: 31 October 2013
Number of Pages: 346

Rating: 2.5 stars

Disclaimer: Copy provided free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: As young children, Rudyard Kipling and his sister ‘Trix’ flourished in the brilliant warmth and colour of India. Their happiness ended abruptly when they were sent back to England to live with a strict and god-fearing foster family.

Both siblings became writers, although one lived in the shadow of the other’s extraordinary success. The name Rudyard Kipling is known to millions, but what became of his talented younger sister? She was careful to hide her secret life even from those closest to her. [Goodreads]

Review: Kipling & Trix started well. I could visualise the family setting and the movements across continents to India. The children being returned to England to save them from outbreaks of fever was also gripping to read. The flow continued up until the foster father, Captain Pryse Agar Holloway, died – at which point, the novel became hard work. It is extraordinary that a person, written as a minor character, was doing all the work of holding the narrative together.

From about 25% onwards, I felt I was reading a fleshed out Wikipedia entry. Having read the relevant Wikipedia pages, I feel no more attraction to read them than the rest of the book. “Ruddy” is obnoxious and Trix is dull and tedious. Descriptions I should not be able to apply to them. This novel feels, to me, like a biography with fictional elements interlaced within. I believe this book would have worked better as a biography but this could be some of Hamer’s previous stylistic endeavours appearing. I don’t know what it is but something just doesn’t work.

Overall, this work was bitterly disappointing.

Tone, Intent, Message: what a publisher email might mean



the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning. The two main areas are logical semantics, concerned with matters such as sense and reference and presupposition and implication, and lexical semantics, concerned with the analysis of word meanings and relations between them.

I have been very careful, deliberately, in writing this post, to not divulge where any of the emails quoted have come from. This post is a semiotic evaluation of phraseology within impersonal communications and should only be read as such.

Those of us who use NetGalley, to receive digital copies of new books, are familiar with the generic, form email either granting or denying access to a title. For example;

Dear reader,

Thank you for your interest in reviewing a book from XYZ. Once approved we kindly ask that you:

  •         Wait to publish your review with no more than ten days before publication date.
  •         Send us the review via NetGalley or by email to
  •         Let us know if for any reason you are unable to post a review.

Or alternately;

Dear Reader,

Thank you for your request for one of ABC’s ARCs. We are afraid that, in this instance, your request has been declined. You have most likely been declined for one or more of the following reasons:

You are not based in the UK and Ireland – ABC is based in the UK and so we only send out to people who work in our territories. If you are outside of the UK and Ireland we would suggest sending your request to the publisher from your area.

Your blog does not have the required reach to qualify for a copy – Your blog or publication doesn’t seem to have that many readers / followers. We are very sorry to reject you in this instance and we wish you the best of luck in future requests.

Your profile is too sparse on details – We can’t find out why you’ve requested a free copy. Read these tips on how to update your profile, and please remember to give the name of the blog, publication, bookshop or library that you work for (preferably with a link).

Thank you very much for thinking of us,

Both of these replies are perfectly fine. The emails are polite, to the point and use no emotive language.

Occasionally, a publisher tries to personalise their emails and this is rather nice. It makes you feel they really do want to receive your feedback. Some of the approval emails I’ve had make me consider jumping the book to the head of the line.

Sadly, some of these personalised responses are still form emails and they give an alternate reaction. A reaction that makes you want to drop the book to the bottom of your “to be read” list over and over and over again.

I received an email such as this yesterday;

Dear Reader,

We make our upcoming titles available on NetGalley as a service to booksellers, librarians, professional book reviewers, and others in the trade. If you are simply an avid reader, we are happy to allow you access to a title but in return we ask two things…


1. easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty.
2. plain, basic, or uncomplicated in form, nature, or design; without much decoration or ornamentation.
3. humble and unpretentious
4. artless; unsophisticated

I am willing to concede my reaction to this email might be overly dramatic but the phrase I have highlighted is emotive. It is a challenge, a taunt directed at probably many more readers than just me and it isn’t acceptable. “If you are simply an avid reader…” is derides and implies that someone who is a voracious reader is not good enough to receive their title.

The publisher has sent this email in the hope that the person who will read the book is someone who will garner them sales, or have experience in the field etc. and provide them with good reviews on a variety of platforms. I am not so naive as to think this isn’t what every publisher hopes for but it is an understanding which could be left unsaid.

The publisher, perhaps unwittingly, is making the assumption that the only people who will want to read the title are those associated with the industry, who understand the science, will be able to engage with the text and create conversations. While I do not work in the area this book is written for, I do have a background in the subject. Part of my university career focused solidly on the topics addressed in this book. I know the publisher has no way of knowing this. Therefore, thanks – here is a copy or sorry, we haven’t approved you at this time, are the only two options to use.

I want to make it clear that I am enormously grateful to the publishers who approve my requests and I want to make it clear that I feel no ill-will towards a publisher who doesn’t approve a request. This is the nature of the beast. I will always be thankful for the publishers who took a risk on me when I first joined NetGalley and to the publishers who continue to approve me for titles even though, for my own sanity, I should stop requesting.

I have been very careful, deliberately, in writing this post, to not divulge where any of the emails quoted have come from. This post is a semiotic evaluation of phraseology within impersonal communications and should only be read as such.

*A figure of speech wherein a taunting expression is softened by a jest; an insult veiled in grace.

Pleasantville by Attica Locke

My first experience of reading Attica Locke was The Cutting Season and from the first sentence to the last word, I was hooked. There are few writers, these days, whom I check up on for hints of new works but Locke is one of them. It is, therefore, redundant to point out how excited I was to discover Pleasantville had been published. Tomorrow, when I make my weekly excursion to the library, I will try and obtain a copy of Black Water Rising and reserve Pleasantville and immerse myself in Locke’s world.

Attica Locke

You can read The Guardian’s review here.

On Reading the Tough Stuff

Book Guy Reviews

There are two reasons we read: to entertain, and to educate. I understand the generalization, but most, if not all motivations behind reading can adequately be loped into one category or the other.

Let me just say that reading for pleasure is my bread and butter. I do it everyday. I love Dan Brown, and Harry Potter. I read Stephen King, not for its artistic merit or intellectual weight, but for its gruesome plot lines and staggeringly detailed worlds. It’s bloody and explosive and awesome, and I love it. I’ll say the same for Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and the smattering of other best-sellers I consume. They’re wonderful pieces of escapism, but just that–nothing more.

72_1By the same token, reading for inspiration and enlightenment is equally important in our quest for knowledge. We should try to read the histories, biographies, essays, and fictions of the thoughtful and profound, in attempt to intersperse escapism with…

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[Review] Tiny Ladies written by Adam Klein


Title: Tiny Ladies
Author: Adam Klein
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media
Date of Publication: 19 August 2014
Number of Pages: 215

Rating: 4 stars

Disclaimer: Copy provided free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Summary: “Carrie hasn’t always made the best decisions in her life. But her affair with Victor, one of her clients when she worked as a caseworker in San Francisco, had disastrous results. Years later, handling cases in the midst of the frozen winters of the Mid-West, Carrie is assigned Hannah as a client. Carrie recognises in her a kindred spirit also trying to escape a troubled past.” Both Carrie and Hannah know what it is to be surrounded by violence. They know the mental scars can last longer than any physical mark. As they try to work through their respective traumas, Carrie becomes increasingly aware that her past has, literally, come back to haunt her. Could that shadowy figure she’s seen be Victor, returning to claim her, and drag her back to her old life of addiction and crime? Or has he come back for revenge? (Goodreads)

Review: Tiny Ladies is an uncomfortable and uncompromising read,which follows the life of Carrie and includes the histories of her parents, ex lovers and friends. Klein is unforgiving in his prose and his swift changes in chronology. His style is deliberately disorientating thanks to this constantly changing perspective. Unlike some novels where this is horrifically hard to follow and irritating, in Tiny Ladies it swallows you whole and you keep up with the storytelling because to do otherwise isn’t an option. In this way, Klein introduces readers to the very nature of addiction. As the story progresses you realise that even if you wanted to stop, put the book down and seek out something less threatening, there is little chance of this occurring. You realise the addiction forming for the characters, the words, the need to know more and have more in greater quantities. Klein shows you what your own addictions are, your twitches, your secrets and it is unsettling and exposing.

Tiny Ladies isn’t a light hearted romp, full of pleasure. It is brutal but heartening and rewarding.