Monthly Archives: January 2017


10:04by Ben Lerner

I have come to the conclusion that the more effusive the critical accolades, the less likely I am to enjoy a book. Obviously, this is a sweeping statement that I can refute myself almost immediately, but I am now becoming a lot more sceptical of the praise heaped on some books by established literary critics.

Ben Lerner’s “10:04” is one such book. 

From the claims included on the book’s cover, I was expecting something on the very of inspirational. What I actually got was a well written but confusing ramble through the life and thoughts of a poet trying to become an author. It feels, and probably is, more than a little autobiographical, with Ben himself taking the leading role.

I was distracted more than once by the need to reach for a dictionary as he tries to astound the reader with his wonderful Lexicography skills! Now, I am not afraid to admit my own failings on the front, but be reminded of it so frequently, along with references to what are to me obscure poets and philosophers, made the effort of ploughing my way through the book’s 240 pages a little tedious. 

The way the story meanders through the narrator’s trials and tribulations left me a little confused at times. At no point in the book did I feel in any way connected with the erstwhile author or his life. There was one small section I found witty and engaging, but rather than life the book, it acted as a reminder of just how uninspiring the rest of it was.

So, whilst I don’t say that the critics who claimed it to be the book of the year or extremely funny were wrong, for me it is proof of just how differently each of can interpret a book. The meanderings of the plot and the rambling nature of the narrator’s thought processes left me nonplussed and disappointed. Not for me Ben, sorry.

The Herring Seller’s Apprentice (Elsie and Ethelred Mystery #1)

by L C Tyler

The Herring Seller's Apprentice

Sometimes, when browsing the shelves of a bookshop, a title leaps out and demands attention. This may seem a rather random way of selecting a book, but it has worked for me so many times that I am not going to give up on it just yet. “The Herring Seller’s Apprentice” is one of those titles that could go either of two ways: it was either going to be a deeply worthy piece of literature about the east coast fishing industry, or not. In this case, it is very much the latter.

The ‘herring seller’ referred to in the title is not a young man from Grimsby, but a crime writer called Ethelred Tressider. The phrase was coined by his ex-wife, Geraldine, due to the number of red herrings he puts into his Sergeant Fairfax series. 

His apprentice is a chocoholic, literature hating agent Elsie Thirkettle.

In what is a very amusing and well-written crime story, Ethelred and Elsie become amateur sleuths as they piece together the events leading up to the disappearance of Geraldine. And it seems that there is no shortage of suspects.

Geraldine was a force of nature and, as it turns out, a dab hand in the red herring market. As Ethelred and Elsie begin to unravel Geraldine’s mixed up personal and professional lives, Elsie begins to suspect that there is more to the mystery than meets the eye and that Ethelred knows more than he is letting on.

The Herring Seller’s Apprentice is a wonderfully amusing story. The main characters of Ethelred and Elsie are wonderfully portrayed, each telling their version of events in believable and very different styles. I felt drawn to the characters and their separate voices. This is the first book for some time that has left me chuckling out loud. 

An excellent debut novel.