#BlogTour #Extract Veronica’s Bird by Veronica Bird & Richard Newman #NewRelease #NonFiction @Authoright

Veronicas Bird Cover
Veronica’s Bird by Veronica Bird & Richard Newman
Veronica Bird was one of nine children living in a tiny house in Barnsley with a brutal coal miner for a father. Life was a despairing time in the 1950s, as Veronica sought desperately to keep away from his cruelty. Astonishingly, to her and her mother, she won a scholarship to Ackworth Boarding School where she began to shine above her class-mates. A champion in all sports, Veronica at last found some happiness until her brother-in-law came into her life. It was as if she had stepped from the frying pan into the re: he took over control of her life removing her from the school she adored, two terms before she was due to take her GCEs, so he could put her to work as a cheap option on his market stall. Abused for many years by these two men, Veronica eventually ran away and applied to the Prison Service, knowing it was the only safe place she could trust. This is the astonishing, and true story of Veronica Bird who rose to become a Governor of Armley prison. Given a ‘basket case’ in another prison, contrary to all expectations, she turned it around within a year, to become an example for others to match. During her life inside, her ‘bird’, she met many Home Secretaries, was honoured by the Queen and was asked to help improve conditions in Russian Prisons. A deeply poignant story of eventual triumph against a staggeringly high series of setbacks, her story is lled with humour and compassion for those inside.


This extract is taken from Veronica’s Bird during the time she was asked to join a team to help the Russian authorities try and solve the many issues in their prisons.
Veronica and her team have arrived in Ivanovo at the Women’s prison on the first day of their visit.
Now, read on:
The Governor then walked us into the grounds of the prison and I pointed with a finger at the low wall.
‘Governor, what about escapes-?
‘We do not have escapes in Russia, Mees Ver-on-ikah,’ he replied firmly. He indicated a thin wire which ran around the perimeter inside of the wall. He leaned down upon it. Within seconds, his entire staff erupted from their buildings as a siren went off. They were in full uniform with Kalashnikovs’ slung around their necks. The effect was somewhat spoiled by the fact the female staff were not entitled to free boots, so shoes had been purchased individually. As they paraded for us we were met with a long line of pink, green and blue shoes of sling-back, high heel and slip-on varieties. Their faces were also plastered with make-up, a strange mixture of feminism and butch reality. I asked the Governor, by now I was able to call him Sergei, the reason.
‘Sergei, why such an interest in make-up?’
‘They have nothing else to spend their money on Ver-on-ikah’
I noticed the women constantly checking the state of their make-up in tiny hand mirrors. There was a chasm between the rulebook and the reality of everyday commitment to the job. Our countries were so far apart it was hard to conjure up a single point where we could agree on even one action.
Back inside, we found the inmates living in huge dormitories, about one hundred and thirty per room in two-tier bunks, each with a locker, nothing else. It was spotlessly clean and very military in its way. Very cramped but neat. There was no-one in the room but that was conceivably because they were all in the workshops. Women could attend church if they wished and there was a facility offered to very stressed inmates called a relaxation course which, I was told, helped a great deal, but I was never able to pin down if this was just propaganda, or if such ideas had ever been put into practice. I say this now with wisdom, for it wasn’t long after this the interpreter said to me, ‘Do you believe everything you are told Ver-on-ikah?’ He did not embellish his comment, but he didn’t have to. He knew only too well an act was being put on for his British guests.
The dining room was awful. A large tureen was placed at the head of each table. Prisoners could help themselves with as much as they wanted which, today was potato soup with a helping of grease on the top. A piece of bread, the size of the palm of your hand was also available. When finished, anything left in the bowls was poured back into the tureen. No waste! This was the main meal of the day.
The women were not wearing uniforms. My first agreeable sight for they were allowed to wear their own clothes. Curiously, countering this avant garde idea, they had to wear a headscarf at all times. Failure to do so might mean a punishment of some form. As to other meals, I never did find out what they had for breakfast but assumed there might have been some processed peas available!
We moved on to the workshops, which were enormous, a factory no less, making uniforms for prison staff, the armed forces and the police for national distribution. They were beautifully made. All the various stages of making a suit were here from the cloth cutting machines, sewing, checkers and packers. This work must save the State a lot of money. I learned that other women were deployed in the kitchen and some had been detailed to grow fresh vegetables outside to supplement their diet and I could see flowers brightening the rows of cabbages. I never understood why the growing of vegetables in Britain for the Service was stopped for it seemed such a good idea. I would have thought prisoners would have welcomed any chance of being outside in the fresh air and sun. Gardening could reduce boredom, the ever-present fuse to the powder kegs of the more anxious and restless inmates.

Veronica’s Bird – Copyright © Richard Newman 2018. Authors Veronica Bird and Richard Newman. Published by Clink Street Publications 23rd January 2018

About the authors:
After thirty-five years working for the Prison Service, Veronica Bird is now retired and living in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. She is still an active proponent of the justice system and continues to lecture across the country and is a supporter of Butler Trust, which acknowledges excellence within the prison system. A qualified architect and Swiss-trained hotelier, Richard Newman enjoyed a forty-year career designing and managing hotels worldwide before retiring in 2001. Since
then he has gone on to publish a number of novels: The Crown of Martyrdom, The Horse that Screamed, The Potato Eaters, The Green Hill, Brief Encounters and most recently The Sunday Times bestseller, A Nun’s Story. He is currently working on a new novel about retirement and an autobiography of his time in the Middle East. He lives happily with his wife in Wetherby, West Yorkshire where he enjoys being close to his family.

***Don’t miss the other blogs on the #BlogTour***


My #Review Jane Doe January by @emilycwinslow 5* @WmMorrowBooks #NonFiction by @annebonnybook

Jane Doe January by Emily Winslow
In the vein of Alice Sebold’s Lucky, comes a compelling, real-life crime mystery and gripping memoir of the cold case prosecution of a serial rapist, told by one of his victims.

On the morning of September 12, 2013, a fugitive task force arrested Arthur Fryar at his apartment in Brooklyn. His DNA, entered in the FBI’s criminal database after a drug conviction, had been matched to evidence from a rape in Pennsylvania years earlier. Over the next year, Fryar and his lawyer fought his extradition and prosecution for the rape—and another like it—which occurred in 1992. The victims—one from January of that year, the other from November—were kept anonymous in the media.
This is the story of Jane Doe January.

Emily Winslow was a young drama student at Carnegie Mellon University’s elite conservatory in Pittsburgh when a man brutally attacked and raped her in January 1992. While the police’s search for her rapist proved futile, Emily reclaimed her life. Over the course of the next two decades, she fell in love, married, had two children, and began writing mystery novels set in her new hometown of Cambridge, England. Then, in fall 2013, she received shocking news—the police had found her rapist.

This is her intimate memoir—the story of a woman’s traumatic past catching up with her, in a country far from home, surrounded by people who have no idea what she’s endured. Caught between past and present, and between two very different cultures, the inquisitive and restless crime novelist searches for clarity. Beginning her own investigation, she delves into Fryar’s family and past, reconnects with the detectives of her case, and works with prosecutors in the months leading to trial.

As she recounts her long-term quest for closure, Winslow offers a heartbreakingly honest look at a vicious crime—and offers invaluable insights into the mind and heart of a victim.

My review:

This is an incredibly powerful non-fiction book; which walks us through one woman’s journey in the aftermath of, a stranger rape. The narrative not only focuses on the immediate aftermath; but the longevity of the case spanning over 20 years.
It is at times a difficult read, but one I feel could provide a huge benefit to other victims of sexual violence.

The opening is in September 2013, when Emily finally gets the call she has been longing for. Her rapist has been apprehended. The New York fugitive force have been brought into the case, at the Pennsylvania police forces request.
They inform Emily, the suspect has been arrested for what he had done previously, to another victim, shortly after Emily’s attack!

What makes this novel unique, is that Emily in 2013 is now living in Cambridge, UK. Her attack took place in her college town of Pennsylvania. The case and trial, force Emily to navigate the American legal system, from England. She is often kept out of the loop, of information and you can hear her internal angst, that she may never get justice.

The timeline, jumps from past to present. It details the attack that took place on a college campus in 1992. Where a young Emily, is innocently doing her laundry on a quiet Sunday evening. The violence of the attack is fully explained. Although this may make for uncomfortable reading. I think it is imperative, to understand the full context of the book in its entirety.
When you read the pages of the attack and the aftermath at the hospital. You never one question yourself, was she drinking? What was she wearing on the night of the attack?
Which leads me to wonder, why these are such ‘crucial’ questions frequently at victim’s trials…..

Emily begins her recovery by setting herself mental challenges and rules. She allows herself to be ‘a mess’ for a year only. Seek support in the daytime only and keep a diary of her thoughts. Each victim must deal with the aftermath of their attack individually, and this is also addressed in the book. After getting a sense of who Emily is as a person and her views. I felt she made the decisions based on what was best for her, at that time.
But I often wanted to reach through the book, to offer her my friendship, a hug and some solidarity as a fellow woman.

The book also details the legal aspects of the case, such as the statute of limitations. This doesn’t exist in the UK and therefore I found this intriguing reading. Whilst I respect the legal points of the statute of limitations, it does not consider the advances made in science and in-particular DNA evidence. This is a great shame of the US. Not only that, but the ‘back-log’ of rape kits that haven’t been ran through the new CODIS system.
How many rapists roam American streets freely?

“I don’t want to have to say that he ruined my life. I don’t want to consider my life ruined” – Emily

The book goes on to detail the cops involved in the case, both past and present. The legal team and the obstacles they face in securing a conviction. The book also recounts Emily’s desperate search for information about her rapist. I don’t know if this is her attempts to understand why the attack took place. Her inner need; to gain back some control over the situation now developing in 2013. She often references forgiveness and punishment within her narrative. Meanwhile, her rapist is determined to dominate and control the investigation and legal process, right up to trial!

“I know that some people hate the term ‘victim’ and prefer to be called a ‘survivor’ instead, but I don’t mind the word. He did hurt me. I was a victim of that. It bothers me to euphemize it” – Emily

I felt privileged to be able to read Emily’s story. Fortunate that she lets us, the reader, into her emotional journey. There is a specific part where she uses the aftermath of the ordeal; as a metaphoric comparison to carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide doesn’t harm you, by itself, it merely takes the space of the oxygen. This is both profound and insightful to the emotional/psychological impact that rape, has on its victims.

Emily comes across as someone you can relate to. Almost like someone you knew growing up. Which makes the narrative and pain she goes through harder to digest. But I think this book could be a huge benefit to other victims. It may help them validate their feelings and pain. There are paragraphs designed as advice to fellow victims. There is a ‘in conversation’ part with author Sophie Hannah. Reading group questions and information relating to behind the book and the backlog of rape kits. The author has covered, as many aspects as possible to offer help and support to others and for that she deserves huge credit.
A non-fiction title that will stay with me for a very long time! 5*

Emily Winslow
Authors links:
Website: http://emilywinslow.com/
Twitter: @emilycwinslow

#Review #AJihadiForLove by Mohamed El Bachiri #Memoir #NonFiction @HoZ_Books

A Jihadi For Love by Mohamed El Bachiri with David Van Reybrouck

Mohamed El-Bachiri is a Muslim. He lost his wife Loubna in the Brussels bombing of March 2016 – a young woman murdered by a fanatical jihadist. Mohamed was left to bring up their three sons on his own.

Instead of hating or collapsing into grief, he put together a short book of reflections on love, loss and the ways in which we can live together despite differences of religion and ideology.

It is a plea for tolerance and compassion, a rejection of fanaticism, and it is a heartbreaking book. Mohamed El-Bachiri shows how an argument for treating each other with kindness and respect can survive even the most brutal atrocity.

For him, Islam should be a struggle for love, and the struggle for love should involve us all.

My review:

If I could quote this beautiful, moving and inspirational non-fiction memoir once, I could quote it a hundred times! The writer has clearly written about a personal tragedy, with exceptional honesty and in doing so, has produced a memoir that is thought-provoking and emotive. The synopsis details the tragedy that has left Mohamed as a single father to three boys aged just 10, 8, 3yrs old. This memoir details before the event and the writer’s recovery in the aftermath.

“By writing about love, I came closer to your shining face”

The memoir opens with the writer giving the real meaning of the term Jihadi. I was already aware of this due to reading Qasim Rashid’s non-fiction books, in which he speaks of the ‘jihadi of the pen’. But I think it is important for readers and it serves to clarify the title of the memoir. Mohamed talks of his upbringing in Belgium, being Belgian by birth right. He talks of his parent’s immigration into the country. He speaks French and knows limited Arabic. He states he is Muslim by birth, then by conviction. Mohamed comes across as a modern Muslim man, dealing with an incredible loss.

“Just consider me a dead man. A dead man giving a lesson in life”

He talks of Islam with love and details how it defines him as a man. He talks the reader through the moral values such as: uprightness, friendliness, sense of honour and keeping one’s word. He talks about attending a Catholic primary school and recalls the first time he ever was on the receiving end of racial abuse. I really admired this author, I considered his memoir to be brave, inspirational and emotionally intelligent.

“You may criticise the Koran, but as poetry it is without an equal”

“Wisdom begins with curiosity”

“The Future? It starts with history”

He talks of meeting his wife for the first time and how he fell instantly in love. Loubna was also Muslim, although she wore no headscarf and took a progressive outlook towards Islam. Their relationship struck me as one based on love and respect, even from a young age! I felt I could relate to their marriage, despite the cultural differences to my own.

“Her face radiatd so much love, so much goodness………..Loubna”

“Loubna, in fact is speaking through everything I say here”

Mohamed talks more in-depth about his faith and the area of Belgium he lives in, Molenbeek. An area which has sadly been home to radicalised Muslims. But he describes the community with such love and is determined to separate his community from those whom seek to harm others.

“If you think taking innocent lives and creating traumas is a form of justice, even of god’s justice, then you and I don’t belong to the same religion”

“Beyond everything that divides us and separates us, all inhabitants of this earth are bound together black people, white people, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and atheists”

Mohamed talks about his connection to humanity, claiming he is a human first and a Muslim second. As an atheist, I do not conform to any religious standard. But that doesn’t mean I don’t admire religious practices. Having friends of various faiths has granted me the opportunity to ask freely many questions. This I personally consider a gift.

“You can lose your culture, your faith, your country, but you don’t lose your humanity”

He talks about the separation of religion and state; of which I completely agree. It is rare to want to meet an author and tell them you whole-heartedly agree with every word they have written; with this author I do! 5*

“I am a jihadi for love. Don’t ask me to hate, I would rather die”

*I Couldn’t find out much about the author, himself. So I have added some links that reference the book. The memoir is short at only 96 pages. But I highly recommend it!

Article from the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jul/29/mohamed-el-bachiri-brussels-jihad-love-suicide-attack-wife-killed-islam

YouTube Video of the authors speech (with subtitles): https://youtu.be/OW28KPPOiok


My picks of the Kindle Monthly deals April!

Every month there is a huge variety of Kindle Ebook’s that go on offer. These are my picks of books I have read and loved. Also what I treated myself to this month.


fall of giants KFthe black echo MCMy name is leon KDW

Bella Poldark WGthe apprentice TGThe poet MC

The American Boy ATBloodstream LV

In no particular order:

Fall Of Giants by Ken Follett (Century Trilogy #1)
The Black Echo by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #1)
My Name Is Leon by Kit De Waal
Bella Poldark by Winston Graham (Poldark series #12)
The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen (Rizzoli & Isles #2)
The Poet by Michael Connelly (Jack Mcevoy #1) – Terrifying reading, so very good!
The American Boy by Andrew Taylor
Bloodstream by Luca Veste (DI Murphy & DI Rossi #3)

My buys this month:

The orphans Take PJInspector Chopra VKspotlight

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff
The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan (baby Ganesh agency #1)
Betrayal- The Crisis In The Catholic Church – Spotlight by The Investigative Globe (non-fiction)

Pam Jenoff has been on my wish list for quite some time, as I am a huge fan of the WW2 genre in fiction and non-fiction. I have been aware of the baby Ganesh agency series also, my daughter was desperate to read them due to her obsession with Indian culture. Spotlight, I watched the movie quite some time ago and found it very emotionally moving. I also bought it for my brother as he began studying journalism at University this September.

A variety of picks, hopefully something for everyone!

My Reviews of Author Qasim Rashid’s Non-fiction books. The Wrong Kind Of Muslim and Talk To Me.

Qasim Rashid is an author of three non-fiction books which detail key issues in todays society. Whether UK, USA or Europe. These issues of race, religion and persecution are visible in our daily lives. One day I grew sick and tired of my only option being to blindly follow what the media or peoples opinions told me! I wanted to learn about Islam and the religious persecution Muslims face in not only the west but within Muslim countries.

I decided what better to do than ask a Muslim, except I live on a tiny channel island with few Muslims and unfortunately no local Mosque. So I looked to books (as always!), I think I actually googled “talk to a Muslim” up popped Qasim Rashid. This is now quite sometime ago. However with my new-ish blog I wanted to feature all the authors who made it to my favourite books of 2016 list. I signed up to Qasim’s Facebook & Twitter feed and he regularly keeps people up to date on events, news, changing polices relevant to the message of his books. Qasim is often a spokesperson for his community on American news channels. Through engaging in conversations on social media on Qasim’s page I now have a new wealth of new friends from Ghana to Pakistan to Germany to Indonesia and not forgetting Muhammed from London!

Qasim is a fascinating man himself, he is an American Lawyer working for an organisation that specialises in women’s rights. He has proven time and time again that he is intelligent, honest and fair. But don’t take my word for it, read his books and follow his pages! *Qasim has agreed to a Q&A on my blog, however his work schedule is crazy busy! So as soon as he gets chance, I will post 🙂

wrong kind of muslim cover

The Wrong Kind Of Muslim: An Untold Story Of Persecution & Perseverance by Qasim Rashid 5* Genius

The Synopsis:

The Wrong Kind of Muslim is a call to unite those of all faiths and of no faith in the struggle for universal freedom of conscience. Since 9/11, terrorists in Pakistan have killed over 40,000—and counting. Often risking his own life, Qasim Rashid journeys into the heart of that terrorism to unearth the untold story of those silenced by Taliban suicide bombings, secret police torture, and state sponsored religious persecution. Rashid exposes the horrifying truth about growing radicalism in Pakistan and its impact on Western security. But most importantly, Rashid uncovers the inspiring untold story of millions fighting back—and winning.

My Review:

“We try to win hearts” – This book WILL win your heart

I bought this book to gain some insight into the Muslim faith & educate myself on the issues that affect the different sects of Islam. We can no longer rely on the media for educational facts, as they pursue their own agendas, irrespectively of the damage this causes. So evidently books like this become a great source of insight. I am a non-Muslim, so my knowledge of Islam is pretty limited and prior to reading this book, my knowledge of the Ahmadi community was non-existent. This book is so much more than an insight into the Ahmadi faith, Qasim champions the rights of ALL faiths and is quite honest & frank about the failings in Pakistan and the oppression and danger this poses to its own society. The book is written intelligently and with reference to the facts that can easily be verified. Qasim has crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s, which is exclusively important in non-fiction & more so under the current unfortunate climate of islamophobia. I would recommend this book to anyone hoping to gain some knowledge, because I started like that and ended up swept away with the chapters. The book contains chapters that make for difficult reading but above all, the message of hope & freedom of expression flows off every page.

On chapter 19 Qasim quotes the Ahmadi leader Mirza Nasir Ahmad in saying “we try to win hearts”. Well with this book Qasim definitely won mine. I have made a promise to myself to share this book with as many people I can, to pass on the message and read more books like it. I have already purchased another of Qasim’s books and I anticipate that in the future, his name will be held with huge praise & admiration of a great Muslim who paved the way for peace. 5*
(written 16th April 2016)
The Wong Kind Of Muslim is currently only £2.39 on Kindle Ebook .

talk to me cover

Talk To Me: Changing The Narrative On Race, Religion and Education by Qasim Rashid 5*

The synopsis:

Talk To Me: Changing the Narrative on Race, Religion, & Education is a non-fiction memoir on how the power of dialogue can overcome racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and violence. It is the real life story of how ordinary Americans are rising above the forces that seek to drive us apart, and instead finding paths to peace and understanding. Talk To Me gives these powerful stories of struggle from race and faith minorities the platform they deserve, and demonstrates that our differences are not a source of discord and division—they’re a source of strength and recognition.

Step out of your comfort zone and take the time to Talk To Me.

My Review:

The message is one of simplicity “love for all, hatred for none”.

This is an educational book that I would like to see in school or educational settings. Qasim breaks down many barriers with his fantastic writing and deep understanding of race, religions and cultures. I have followed Qasim’s fb page for some time and have also read his other novel the wrong kind of Muslim. Qasim is a true spokesperson for humanity. This is not a book by a Muslim for Muslims. this is a book for people from all walks of life. Each chapter carry’s a different message, sometimes written by contributors. some are incredibly moving & heart breaking. In particular, a chapter near the end details the prejudice Qasim faced himself at a book fair. simply trying to get his message out, he is insulted & vilified but he responds in true Qasim ahmadi style with “love for all hatred for none” 5*
(written 31st July 2016)
*Talk To Me is available at just £2.07 on Kindle Ebook store.

Qasim Rashid’s Contact details:

Web: http://www.qasimrashid.com/

Twitter: @MuslimIQ

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/qasim.rashid.3