Review — The 10 Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad by Sam Jordison

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sam Jordison has packed his non-fiction book The 10 Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad with mindboggling facts related to our past and present, which he displays in countdown lists from ten to one, with the worst offenders left to last. The author must have carried out a tremendous amount of research both in compiling lists from scratch and in sourcing existing ones.

I love it when a book teaches me loads of new stuff in an entertaining way. The author’s subjective comments are often hilarious, maybe some of them tongue-in-cheek, but who knows? He enjoys making passing jibes about Brexit and Trump, although for him he’s showing amazing restraint on the political front! I didn’t always agree with his choice of worst things. For instance, I happen to be a great fan of Game of Thrones (no. 9 in his list of worst TV programmes of all times) and adored the movie Dances with Wolves (no. 5 in the list of worst winners of the best picture Oscar).   

He has divided the book into ten main sections that, in turn, he divides into sub-sections. You may not find each one of equal interest but there’s something for everybody. I read the whole book from cover to cover, but struggled a bit with lists appertaining to sport. Also, I think there’s one too many lists dedicated to The Beatles, where just one would suffice. On the other hand, I’m quite tempted to check out “The Worst Duets in Pop History” on YouTube, especially as his footnote warns you against doing so. His list “The Ten Most Brutal Shakespearean Insults” has filled me with the desire to re-visit the bard’s works, following their past slaying by the school curriculum.    

For me, the two most fascinating main sections of the book were “Bad Nature”, which includes the deadliest insects and plants, scariest human parasites, and most venomous snakes; and “The Olden Days”, which includes punishments in ancient mythology, the craziest Roman Emperors, worst Popes, absurd popular scientific theories, and worst medical procedures.       

Ultimately, this book demonstrated what a miracle it is that the human race has survived for so long, despite… well, I’ll leave you to fill in the ellipsis by reading the book in its entirety. And when you reach the final sub-section “The Ten Most Likely Ways the Earth is Going to End”, you’ll be delighted to discover that humans could prevent five out of ten of them.

A highly recommended read.                 

Sam Jordison is a journalist for The Guardian and writes regular articles about books and publishing on their website . He’s the author of several bestselling books, including the Crap Towns series, Literary London (co-written by Eloise Millar) and Enemies of the People. He’s also the co-director of the award-winning publisher Galley Beggar Press.

The 10 Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad is available from all good bookshops in the UK, as well as from HiveWaterstones, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

January’s Guest Storyteller, William D. Holland

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William D. Holland is the author of five full-length novels, one non-fiction book about the craft of writing, and five novellas in the “Billy the Kid” chronicles.  He can be found hanging out on his website https://artistrywithwords.com/ when he isn’t tending to his urban farm in Olympia, Washington.

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Sarah says: I’m delighted to welcome as this month’s guest storyteller, one of my newer blogging friends, William (his WordPress username Billybuc). I really look forward to his weekly Tuesday posts that are always packed full of interesting and informative things.

Time to hand over to him now,  for a two-sentence hook, followed by an extract from his latest novel, Shadows Over A Hangman’s Noose…   

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HOOK 

Eli Baker has dreams, and Melanie Hooper has visited him in one, along with four other orphans who are also missing.

The search is on, and Eli Baker is the right man to delve into the case of the missing orphans; however, Eli soon finds that evil acts are not only performed by evil men, but by Evil itself.

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EXCERPT

“I’m no psychiatrist or psychologist.  I don’t know a damned thing about how the human mind works, why one abuse victim will become a counselor while another will become an abuser, why serial killers snap and feel a need to destroy innocence, or why one day a soccer dad buys an AR-15 and unloads a magazine in a crowded mall.  All I know is the aftermath stains us all forever, and the whys will visit us in our dreams until the day we draw our last breath.

The second case I had as an army investigator was a child abuse case, a little nine-year old girl in the hospital for a broken arm, doctors and nurses suspicious about bruises on her upper arms.  They made the phone call that dragged me out of bed at two a.m. on a muggy night near Fort Hood, Texas.  The girl, curly blond locks pasted to her forehead, her mother holding her good hand, her two sisters standing nearby, told me she fell down the stairs and she was so sorry she bothered everyone, and mom nodding and saying her daughter was just clumsy like her mommy, laughing with a little too much nervous energy to appease me.

I coaxed an address out of the mother, drove to the off-post housing and found dad, a master sergeant, sleeping the sleep of the innocent.  He wasn’t too happy, me waking him up, and he was even less happy when I mentioned the bruises on his daughter’s arms, and he was downright pissed when I asked him if he had anything to do with those bruises.  He pulled his right arm back, fixing to turn out my lights with a massive punch, and I snap-kicked his kneecap.

That was ten years ago. The master sergeant is still in prison on three counts of child abuse, a history of beating his three kids in some confused attempt to quiet the demons only he could see and hear.

No, I’m no psychiatrist.  All I know is the stain never goes away, and rabid dogs need to be shot.”

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From “Shadows Over A Hangman’s Noose,” the third in the “Shadows” series, available in hard copy and Kindle at Amazon.

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

November’s Guest Storyteller, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

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Kansas City native Rochelle Wisoff-Fields is a woman of Jewish descent and the granddaughter of Eastern European immigrants. She has a close personal connection to Jewish history, which has been a recurring theme throughout much of her writing. Growing up, she was heavily influenced by the Sholom Aleichem stories, the basis for Fiddler on the Roof. Her novels Please Say Kaddish for Me, From Silt and Ashes and As One Must, One Can were born of her desire to share the darker side of these beloved tales—the history that can be difficult to view, much less embrace.

She is also the author and illustrator of This, That and Sometimes the Other, an eclectic anthology of short stories.

Before becoming an author, Rochelle attended the Kansas City Art Institute, where she studied painting and lithography. Her preferred media are pen and ink, pencil, and watercolor. Her artwork is featured on the covers of her books and within them as well. Her coffee table companion book to her trilogy which will feature character portraits, A Stone for the Journey, is due out in the spring 2017.

Rochelle maintains a blog called Addicted to Purple where she facilitates the internationally popular flash fiction challenge known as Friday Fictioneers. She and her husband, Jan, raised three sons and live in Belton, Missouri. When she takes a break from writing and illustrating, Rochelle enjoys swimming, reading and dancing.

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Sarah saysI’m delighted to welcome Rochelle to my blog as this month’s guest storyteller. I know her as a  person of great talent, both on the writing and artistic front, and have read her two published novels, both of which I’ve awarded 5 stars (links to my reviews below, plus links to the books on Amazon). She’s also known to me for her inexhaustible commitment to running Friday Fictioneers on a weekly basis, which I can only imagine is a huge but rewarding undertaking.

It’s now time to hand you over to Rochelle for a beautiful, tender, and haunting piece of storytelling…        

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DREAM GIRL

The splintered sign above the door hung by a single nail.  The red paint boasting “Miller’s Burger Barn” had faded to pink. With his handkerchief Neil brushed a layer of dust from the window and peeked inside. The counter where he used to chow down on grilled cheese sandwiches and grease-laden Suzy-Q fries was piled with trash. Broken chairs littered the chipped linoleum floor. Hard to believe this ramshackle building was once the hub of youthful activity.

He took a step back and stared at his mottled reflection. A spindly old man with thick-lensed glasses and stringy white hair returned his stare.  His rumpled suit and skewed bowtie wanted for attention. He shrugged. What difference did his appearance make now?

His mind backtracked to his senior year in high school. 1955. That’s when the Millers moved to town and opened the diner. Their curvaceous daughter Evalyne served up sodas and snacks three afternoons a week and all day Saturday.

Every muscled athlete in school hung out there to compete for the pretty blonde’s attention. Neil didn’t stand a chance. Myopic and thin as a barber pole, he was a straight ‘A’ student and captain of the debate team. What chick would want to be seen with a square like him?

He’d accepted his lot until one Saturday the object of his secret fantasy asked him for help with her geometry homework. After dinner on Sunday, his sweaty hands shook as he rang the Miller’s doorbell. Evalyne opened the door, displayed a plateful of chocolate chip cookies and flashed a timid grin. “I baked them myself.”

While geometry was not her strong suit, she excelled in chemistry and biology—a goddess with a brain. For the next five years they studied together, sharing complex equations, chemical formulas and dreams. Like brother and sister.

Music from inside the deserted building brought him back to the present. The Platters sang “Twilight Time.” Evie’s favorite. How could it be? It had to be in his addled, grief-stricken head.

He pushed open the door. The air smelled of hamburgers and onions. He blinked and rubbed his eyes. Balloons and streamers hung from the ceiling. It was June 1961 again. The day of their college graduation.

Hands on her hips, Evalyne tapped her saddle-shoed foot. “Neil, where have you been? I called your house three times. Your mom’s worried sick.”

“I…I went for a walk…to clear my head. I’ve been accepted to Harvard Law School.”

“Terrific! I’ve been accepted to NYU’s med school. That’s not too far from Boston. Isn’t it exciting?  I’m going to be a doctor!”

“Of course! You were…are… I mean…will be a cardiologist. One of the nation’s best.”

Her aquamarine eyes glittered. “Neil, what’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Tears fogged his glasses. “Your…funeral. It was…today, Evie. We were married for fifty years. We have three sons, four grandkids and a great granddaughter.”

“It was just a dream and this silly thing is always crooked.”  She straightened his tie with both hands and pressed her lips against his. “Married? Us? Oh, darling, I thought you’d never ask.”

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Available in print and on Kindle

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 amazon.com & amazon.co.uk

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amazon.com & amazon.co.uk

Review: Please Say Kaddish For Me

Review: From Silt and Ashes

And not yet published but on its way, the last part of the trilogy! 

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

— October’s Guest Storyteller — J. S. Strange

j-s-strangewinter-smithJack Strange, or J. S. Strange, is a Welsh author who writes fiction. His début novel, Winter Smith: London’s Burning, is a zombie apocalypse novel and is available on Amazon. London’s Burning is the first in a zombie apocalypse series, but there are twists that make it different from your typical zombie story. Jack is twenty-one, and lives in Wales. He is currently working on the second instalment of Winter Smith.

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Sarah says: Welcome to my blog, Jack, and I can honestly say that you’re the youngest person to have guest-posted here. I’m in awe of you having already written and published your first novel; a most exciting read it is, too. When I was your age, I just wrote naff poetry that was meant to contain profound truths but was probably a load of twaddle. It’s wonderful that you have so much direction and ambition, plus a whole creative life ahead of you following a decent head-start. 

The story below is a write-up of a project Jack may be working on in the future  a collection of short stories following other people during the zombie apocalypse in London, at the same time as Winter is escaping. 

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I Take Thee

A wedding day is something special, especially a wedding taking part in the middle of London. My wife had arranged it, completely blowing our budget on a venue that was a step down from where Princess Diana had married Charles.

But I was excited. Five years with the beautiful girl and I was about to become her husband. It was all I wanted. My friends told me I was too young. We had met at twenty, now we were twenty-five, but when you know, you know.

The venue was magnificent. Tall arcs of grand stone, moulded by people whose talents were incomprehensible. Rows upon rows of pews lined behind me, and I was surprised that we had managed to fill out most of them. Everyone looked beautiful. It really was going to be a great day.

I turned to my best man besides me. A man who had been in my life since I was twelve years old. We didn’t like to talk about it, but we both loved each other greatly.

“You ready for this?” He asked me, a grin across his face. “It isn’t too late to turn back.”

I held up my middle finger at him, and we laughed.

The vicar stood before me adjusted his position, and I knew that we were about to start. I heard the heavy church doors open behind me, and the music began to play. I heard everybody standing, murmuring with excitement, getting ready for the main ceremony.

The bride walked down the aisle. She held her flower bouquet in her petite hands, a smile on her veiled face. When she came to stop next to the man she was about to marry, she seemed to be afraid of looking at him.

I turned to her. She was stunning. I knew this wasn’t a mistake. This was the girl I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with. Someone coughed behind me, and someone whispered something in response, but I didn’t care about that.

“We are gathered here today, to welcome…”

There was a cry behind us. At first, I thought it might be a baby. But it sounded manly. It sounded pained. The vicar looked over our heads, at the source of the sound, and visibly paled.

Then someone screamed. I turned and saw a man rising out of the crowds. It was an uncle of my soon to be wife’s. He wore a charcoal suit, and had gone a dark shade of purple. He opened his mouth and sunk his teeth into the woman in front of him, her beige dress soon stained with her own blood.

In seconds she was convulsing. Her skin tightened and cracked. Her eyes became bloodshot. She had changed before everyone’s eyes.

In that time, the uncle had bitten others. People were scattering, forgetting the wedding and prioritising their right for survival.

I took my wife’s hand and tried to pull her away, but she remained rooted to the spot. I looked at her, confused. She lifted part of her dress, revealing her leg. I gasped. She had been bitten.

“When?”

“When getting ready.” Was all she said.

Her skin was turning a nasty shade of purple. I wanted to vomit. I could hear people calling my name. I could hear them calling her name, too. I didn’t know what was happening, but the girl I loved had died before my eyes.

But she hadn’t fallen. She didn’t lie still in death. She stepped forwards, rather rigidly, and came for me.

I moved out of the way, so she took the next best thing: my best man.

He screamed as he was bitten. I was pulled away from the altar by my dad. Blood stained the stone floor, the decorations falling off walls as people ran by.

The vicar stood where he had stood when he had been about to marry us. My sister was biting into him. He was mid prayer.

I ran up the aisle at the end of the church, joining guests that had been invited. I recognised the odd cousin, an aunty from my childhood.

We burst out of the church, and my world fell apart. The wedding cars were left open, a body on the grass nearby. The photographer was in the middle of turning, into whatever the hell these things were. London was burning all around. It seemed the end had finally come.

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Winter Smith: London’s Burning is available at amazon.co.uk and amazon.com

To receive updates about the Winter Smith Series, you might like to check out J. S. Strange’s Website and his Goodreads Author Page or follow him on Twitter

My review of Winter Smith: London’s Burning

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

July’s Guest Storyteller, Allie Potts

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I’m delighted to welcome as my guest storyteller this month, fellow blogger and author Allie Potts.

When not finding ways to squeeze in 72 hours into a 24 day or chasing after children determined to turn her hair gray before its time, Allie enjoys stories of all kinds. Her favorites are usually accompanied with a glass of wine or cup of coffee in hand.

Allie is a self-professed science geek and book nerd. Today, she’s going to share a companion story to her novel, The Fair & Foul (Project Gene Assist Book One), which, as the title suggests, is science fiction of the cyberpunk/genetic engineering variety.

The following scene takes place a few weeks after Dr. Juliane Faris and three others have taken part in an experimental procedure granting unprecedented knowledge and cellular control over their bodies, but this same procedure could also very well cost them everything.

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SYSTEM TIMEOUT

Error code 598: The stream is not a tiny stream. Chad snorted, Duh, as he bypassed the message and accessed screens of data. Music selected purely at random blasted through a pair of wireless bone conduction headphones. So in the zone, he hadn’t noticed Dr. Juliane Faris enter the lab until she was standing in front of him. She was always stunning, but when angry she could kill with her looks as easily as her temper. Chad cringed as he buried the thought deep down. His girlfriend, Nadia had a way of picking up what he was thinking and he definitely didn’t want to risk her picking up that particular observation. Although it wasn’t as if she had anything to worry about. Juliane may be his boss, but Nadia was his everything.

Juliane raised one manicured eyebrow. Chad waited. She tapped her ear with one finger. He cocked his head in confusion. As the meaning behind her gesture bloomed across his awareness, he pulled the headphones down. He felt his cheeks blaze, sure the color of his face now matched the color of his hair. “Sorry Dr. Faris.”

She sighed and shook her head. “I still don’t understand why you have so little faith in what we are doing here. If you’d only get the upgrade like the rest of us, you wouldn’t need all these extra . . .” she pointed at the headphones now draped around the base of his neck “. . . antiques.”

“What if something went wrong?”

“During the procedure?” Juliane paused, likely thinking about her own procedure. She, her research partner, Dr. Alan Dronigh, and the company’s acting CEO, Mr. Louis Evans, had all decided to act as guinea pigs one night. Chad fought to keep his hand from shaking. Even the thought of such a spur of the moment activity made him sick to his stomach. “I keep telling you, Betty and I recalculated the dosages. You’ve been pre-screened. The risk is negligible.”

“What about after?”

“After?” Juliane repeated. “It’s been weeks since our upgrade and I’ve never felt better.” Her lips tightened as her brow knit in thought. She’s thinking about Mr. Evans again. Chad’s muscles clenched as he glanced at her face, praying that his expression betrayed none of the pity he felt for his boss. Juliane suffered pity like a cat suffered being drenched in water. An accidental splash too much, and you risked getting your eyes clawed out.

“You aren’t reading the gossip pages again? I thought I’d made my opinion of that garbage perfectly clear.” At first Chad was relieved at the change of subject, but then he looked over to where her gaze fell. He’d left his reader out and he could only guess what headlines would be featured on the front page. He searched her expression for any indication she’d seen more than the magazine’s logo and found nothing but her usual steel determination.

He ran to the desk and scooped up his reader only to stuff it into his backpack with his notebooks and personal belongings. The corner of one of her lips turned up. “Well, if you are in a running mood, would you mind running to get a cup of coffee for me?”

Chad grinned as he bobbed his head and raced out of the room thankful to avoid more questions that were better off without answers.

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Fair & Foul (Project Gene Assist Book One) is available to buy at Amazon

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 
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