Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty
Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles the turning of 15-year-old Dara McAnulty’s world. From spring and through a year in his home patch in Northern Ireland, Dara spent the seasons writing. These vivid, evocative and moving diary entries about his connection to wildlife and the way he sees the world are raw in their telling. “I was diagnosed with Asperger’s/autism aged five … By age seven I knew I was very different, I had got used to the isolation, my inability to break through into the world of talking about football or Minecraft was not tolerated. Then came the bullying. Nature became so much more than an escape; it became a life-support system.” Diary of a Young Naturalist portrays Dara’s intense connection to the natural world, and his perspective as a teenager juggling exams and friendships alongside a life of campaigning. “In writing this book,” Dara explains, “I have experienced challenges but also felt incredible joy, wonder, curiosity and excitement. In sharing this journey my hope is that people of all generations will not only understand autism a little more but also appreciate a child’s eye view on our delicate and changing biosphere.”
On that showery Saturday in Hyde Park in London back in September 2018 I was among thousands of those who love wildlife that gathered ahead of a Walk for Wildlife on that day there was many speakers but among them was a young man who captivated the crowd. I thought then this was a young man with a great future. Dara McAnulty has been passionate about wildlife since he was very young and today sees the release of his debut book The Diary of a Young Naturalist (Little Toller Books) which in a diary format looks at the 15-year-old’s year starting in Spring. Dara is the youngest recipient of the RSPB’s medal for services to conservation.
Like Dara, I became passionate about wildlife in my very young days and that love of nature has never left and through some difficult dark days it has been nature that I find helps and especially through these difficult times that we are living through.
Dara lives with his family in Northern Ireland and spend their time finding the beauty in nature through their times away from home. Nature after all is all around us. Whether it is a bird, butterfly or insect Dara will stop and wants to learn all about it. Dara is autistic and suffered the most horrific abuse from pupils at school. It is the love of his family that is his rock and is harbour during those difficult days. He also finds solace in his love of punk music.
When Dara discovered writing he poured his heart into writing thoughts on paper and when you are reading Dara’s words you very quickly become aware of just what a powerful and poetic voice Dara has. Dara wants to be heard about just what a dangerous place our wildlife is in. What struck me in Dara’s writing is just how lyrical he really is whether Dara is talking about his life or about his family or about the nature around him as he discovers through each season and through the anxiety of moving house and starting a new school, difficult for any of us but when you have autism this is multiplied on many levels. Trust me Dara will be heard and Diary of a Young Naturalist is his voice and this will inspire a new and young vibrant generation of wildlife lovers. There are many great voices in nature writing and you can now add Dara McAnulty to the list.
I cannot recommend Dara’s debut book highly enough and Diary of a Young Naturalist will appeal to readers of all ages.
*Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty will be the Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4 from Monday 25th May at 9.45am
Thank you to Gracie at Little Toller Books for the review copy of Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty.
Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty was published by Little Toller Books and was published on 25th May 2020 and is available to order through the publisher and also through your local independent bookshops.
The Game’s Gone by Simon Barnes
An Audible Exclusive.
No one would call David Rose – or ‘Rosie’ as he’s known to one and all – a star, but he’s good at his job and proud of his work as a sportswriter for a national newspaper. He’s used to seeing flashier talents come and go – both on the field, and in the competitive world of the press. Football comes first in the way he spends his working life, but he’s happy to pitch in whatever the sport – from Formula 1 to Test cricket in the West Indies, the Olympics to a heavyweight championship bout in Japan.
He’s used to the ups and downs of a journalist’s life and has learned to keep his own head safely down – until an especially venal boss pins his own misdemeanours on the entirely innocent Rose. Rosie’s revenge is slow but sweet, as he manoeuvres through a world where egos clash, money talks and you’re only as safe as your latest by-line.
Not since Richard Ford’s classic novel, The Sportswriter, has a novel caught the world of sports journalism so vividly and so well. A marvellous listen – funny, touching and compelling.
Simon Barnes was the Chief Sports Writer for The Times until 2014, having worked for the paper for 30 years, during which he covered seven Olympic Games and six World Cup finals. He writes about sports and wildlife and is the author of over 20 books, including the best-selling How to be a Bad Birdwatcher.
Being more than just a sports fanatic I have always enjoyed Simon Barnes sports articles when he was a journalist for The Times. Now I enjoy Simon’s books on nature.
What we have here though is Simon for the former Sports Journo writing an exclusive audio book for Audible. The Game’s Gone by Simon Barnes takes us to the heart of being a sports journalist.
It is more than just competitive being one of the sportswriters for a leading national daily it can be cut throat at times. David Rose first love is football but he can more than hold his own if required when it comes to other major sporting event
‘Rosie’ tells the story of his boss who for who knows why has decided to blame David for something he is not guilty of and what he does to get his revenge. Revenge as they say is best enjoyed when it takes time to play out.
There are some in the industry with more than just big egos and that is the same for the sports editors. The pressure to deliver the perfect piece by sportswriters and to get the exclusive and how they go about protecting their pieces before it goes to press.
The Game’s Gone is narrated by Colin Mace who has narrated many audio books for Audible. This hits the mark at what it is like being a leading sportswriter by one of the best. Funny and engaging and is a really compelling listen.
9 hours 9 minutes.
Thank you to Amber Choudhary (Midas PR) for the review copy of The Game’s Gone (Audio Book) by Simon Barnes
The Game’s Gone (Audio Book) by Simon Barnes was published by Audible and was published on 23rd April 2020 and is available only through Audible.
*New subscribers to Audible get a free 30-day trial offer.
Following the Blog Tour
The Silent Treatment by Abbie Greaves
A lifetime of love. Six months of silence. One last chance.
Frank hasn’t spoken to his wife Maggie for six months.
For weeks they have lived under the same roof, slept in the same bed and eaten at the same table – all without words.
Maggie has plenty of ideas as to why her husband has gone quiet, but it will take another heartbreaking turn of events before Frank finally starts to unravel the secrets that have silenced him.
Is this where their story ends?
Or is it where it begins?
With characters that will capture your heart, THE SILENT TREATMENT celebrates the phenomenal power of love and the importance of leaving nothing unsaid.
My goodness what a book. What a story! The Silent Treatment (Century) is the tender and poignant debut novel by Abbie Greaves. Frank and his wife Margot have been married for forty years. It is the perfect love story, a couple so devoted to each other. But then something happened and Frank has stopped speaking and has not spoken a word for six months to his wife.
What has driven Frank to this point after forty years of marriage and to a woman he loves? How is Maggie coping with the silent treatment? The story moves between the past and the present and we see how they met and fell in love and so devoted to each other. Everybody has a breaking point and if you are being ignored for as long as Maggie has sooner or later something has to give.
It is only when Maggie is found on the kitchen floor with an empty packet of pills beside her that Frank suddenly realises the gravity of the situation and when she is placed into an induced coma Frank cannot leave her side. Now Frank pours his heart out to his wife while she lies in a coma and he begins to tell her his story of what made him withdraw from her. But is it too late for Frank? And if Maggie does recover will this mend her broken heart.
Abbie Greaves has created the perfect story of love and tragedy and her creation of two characters that will have you drawn into their lives and their story. Tender and so beautifully crafted. A story will not forget.
Thank you to Midas PR for the review copy of The Silent Patient by Abbie Greaves.
The Silent Patient by Abbie Greaves was published by Century and was released on 2nd April 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize Award Announcement 2020
Thursday evening 14th May 2020 saw the the prize giving evening for this years prize, but because of the Corvid 19 pandemic and the current lock down this years prize ceremony was held online with viewers tuning in from across the globe.
This years event was hosted by the award-winning actor and honorary fellow Michael Sheen.
This year’s shortlist comprises three poetry collections, two novels and one short story collection:
- Surge – Jay Bernard (Chatto & Windus)
- Flèche – Mary Jean Chan (Faber & Faber)
- Inland – Téa Obreht (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
- If All the World and Love were Young – Stephen Sexton (Penguin Random House)
- On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong (Jonathan Cape, Vintage)
- Lot – Bryan Washington (Atlantic Books)
2020 Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize Shortlist
And it was announced that this years £30,000 Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize was awarded to:
Bryan Washington – Lot
In the city of Houston – a sprawling, diverse microcosm of America – the son of a black mother and a Latino father is coming of age. He’s working at his family’s restaurant, weathering his brother’s blows, resenting his older sister’s absence. And discovering he likes boys.
This boy and his family experience the tumult of living in the margins, the heartbreak of ghosts, and the braveries of the human heart. The stories of others living and thriving and dying across Houston’s myriad neighbourhoods are woven throughout to reveal a young woman’s affair detonating across an apartment complex, a rag-tag baseball team, a group of young hustlers, the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a local drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teen under his wing, and a reluctant chupacabra.
Bryan Washington’s brilliant, viscerally drawn world leaps off the page with energy, wit, and the infinite longing of people searching for home. With soulful insight into what makes a community, a family, and a life, Lot is about love in all its unsparing and unsteady forms.
Many congratulations to Bryan Washington and his collection of stories ‘Lot’ which was also one of Barack Obamas books of the year. Available to order through Amazon and Waterstones as well as your local independent bookshops.
For further inforamtion about the Dylan Thomas Prize and past winners:
Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize:
My thanks as always to everyone at Midas PR for this years invitation to take part in the Shortlist Blog Tour and also for the invitation to the Prize Ceremony.
My House is Falling Down by Mary Loudon
For Lucy, marriage to Mark provided an anchor after several years of drifting casually across countries, into jobs and out of relationships.
Now forty-two, her anchor is working loose. Bewildered by the demands of motherhood and dissatisfied by her work, she has also grown understandably resentful of her husband: Mark has serious difficulties of his own and whilst harsh self-reliance has kept him sane, it has alienated his wife.
When Lucy falls in love with Angus, a pianist in his sixties, her shock is extreme. Adamant that she will not deceive her husband, she instead asks his advice. Mark’s reaction, however, is startlingly unorthodox, leaving Lucy to steer an impossible course between duty and desire, adventure and security. As her marriage falters and Angus presses for commitment, she is forced to choose between family and self, with lifelong consequences for everyone.
Infused with her trademark precision, clarity and dark humour, Mary Loudon’s searing, highly-charged novel My House is Falling Down is a fearless exploration of what infidelity means when no one is lying, and how brutal honesty may yet prove the biggest taboo in our relationships.
I am delighted to share my review of My House is Falling Down by Mary Loudon that has just been released in paperback by Picador. I was lucky enough to have been sent a hard backed edition but thought I would hold off my review until publication of the paperback edition.
If you are a regular reader of my blog book reviews, you will know how much I look at how authors have created their characters for their novel and I have to say that Mary Loudon really has created some great protagonists for the reader to get to know.
The three main characters are Lucy and Mark who are married but their marriage is drifting on an open sea of life, Lucy is clearly unhappy with her husband whose mind is clearly elsewhere. It is not long before Lucy meets Angus who is about twenty years older than she is, and Lucy has fallen in love with him. Now we have playing out here the ultimate love triangle. Does Lucy carry on an affair behind her husband’s back or does she tell Mark and risk seeing her marriage collapse? Everything is at stake for Lucy and it is clear that Angus is pushing Lucy for something more than a part-time relationship. The chemistry between the two is bubbling away and Lucy is wanting something more than just the marriage she has.
It is time for Lucy to approach her husband about the relationship. But how does she do this? Mary Loudon writes so beautifully about relationships, at times this is a brutal portrayal of married love and also infidelity. This is a totally absorbing read and one especially when Mark surprises Lucy with his response. Now Lucy plays both the wife and lover, but how long can a love triangle go on for before something has to give with consequences that will ripple through her family for ever.
There are those who read My House is Falling Down who will relate to the theme of this novel and those that will question and judge through the storyline. My hope is now this is out in paperback it will be read more widely as this deserves to be read for its pure honest look at marriage and infidelity. Highly Recommended.
*Photo of Mary Laudon was taken by James Strachan. Professional photographer.
My House is Falling Down by Mary Loudon and was published by Picador. Paperback was on 30th April 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
During the pandemic lockdown many independent bookshops are offering free deliver. Please support your local independent bookshops during these difficult times. Check with your local bookshop for delivery details.
House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth Century Jewish Family by Hadley Freeman (audio Book) Narrated by Hadley Freeman
House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth Century Jewish Family by Hadley Freeman (audio Book) Narrated by Hadley Freeman
After her grandmother died, Hadley Freeman travelled to her apartment to try and make sense of a woman she’d never really known. Sala Glass was a European expat in America – defiantly clinging to her French influences, famously reserved, fashionable to the end – yet to Hadley much of her life remained a mystery. Sala’s experience of surviving one of the most tumultuous periods in modern history was never spoken about.
When Hadley found a shoebox filled with her grandmother’s treasured belongings, it started a decade-long quest to find out their haunting significance and to dig deep into the extraordinary lives of Sala and her three brothers. The search takes Hadley from Picasso’s archives in Paris to a secret room in a farmhouse in Auvergne to Long Island and to Auschwitz.
By piecing together letters, photos and an unpublished memoir, Hadley brings to life the full story of the Glass siblings for the first time: Alex’s past as a fashion couturier and friend of Dior and Chagall, trusting and brave Jacques, a fierce patriot for his adopted country and the brilliant Henri who hid in occupied France – each of them made extraordinary bids for survival during the Second World War. And alongside her great-uncles’ extraordinary acts of courage in Vichy France, Hadley discovers her grandmother’s equally heroic but more private form of female self-sacrifice.
A moving memoir following the Glass siblings throughout the course of the 20th century as they each make their own bid for survival, House of Glass explores assimilation, identity and home – issues that are deeply relevant today.
As we are all in the pandemic lockdown I have been reading a lot more that I normally would do if that is at all possible. But I decided to also to listen to a few audio books and recommend these as part of my reviews. One book I wanted to read was House of Glass by Hadley Freeman and I decided that this was to be my first lockdown audio book review.
House of Glass is narrated by the author Hadley Freeman and she tells of the time when after her grandmother died she was looking through her closet when she discovered a dusty shoebox tucked out of the way. The contents of this shoebox would take Hadley away from what she was planning and onto a journey of discovery. Inside the dusty shoebox were photos and documents from a time passed, it was as if a quest was being given to Hadley to piece together the secrets of the past and this is exactly what she set about and this was now going to form the best part of a decade to piece together the contents of this dusty shoebox.
Hadley Freeman is so eloquent in the way she brings the family story together as well as playing detective in piecing together the family secrets of the early 20th Century that tells of a Jewish family in Poland through the horrors of what was to follow and follows the brothers from Poland to France and the years of poverty. Freeman tells the story of the three sons and a daughter who born into a poor family decided after WWI to move from Poland to France and settled into one of the poor districts of Paris. A change of name from the family name of ‘Glas’ to ‘Glass’ As the years passed the three brothers found their calling.
Despite changing their name they were of course still Jewish and as WWII started they realised the danger they faced as the Nazi’s marched across Europe they lived in fear as they were not going to be protected by the French government. As the war approached it was decided that the brother’s sister Sala was to be sent to America for safety if Sala had stayed in Paris the chance of being caught and sent to one of concentration camps to real. Now the brother’s faced the reality of trying to survive in an environment of anti-Semitic brutality and murder.
Hadley’s grandmother Sala entered an unhappy marriage were she had two sons. We learn of Sala’s love of Paris and how she missed her family dearly. Listening to Hadley Freeman tell the story of her families past is nothing short of a remarkable story of human endurance and sheer bravery and the wanting to survive. It is also a testament of the authors painstaking research. This is her families story in her own words and one I felt privileged to hear. On the audible narration there is an interview with Hadley Freeman were she talks about the themes of her book House of Glass as well as some of the extraordinary events.I cannot recommend House of Glass highly enough.
Audio book length: 10 Hours, 14 Minutes. (Audible)
Audible has a free 30 day trial period and £7.99 a month after the trial period ends.
House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth Century Jewish Family by Hadley Freeman (audio Book) Narrated by Hadley Freeman was published by Fourth Estate and was published on 5th March 2020 and is available as an audio book via Audible and also as a hardback book through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
I Am Dust by Louise Beech
A haunted theatre
A murdered actress
Three cursed teenagers
A secret that devastates them all…
The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…
Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?
Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?
Is the role of Esme Black cursed? Could witchcraft be at the heart of the tragedy? And are dark deeds from Chloe’s past about to catch up with her?
Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.
And Chloe has been watching…
One of my favourite authors returns with her fifth novel. I Am Dust (Orenda Books) by Louise Beech confirms just what an exceptional writer she really is. I just would not know what genre to put Louise in as she is such a versatile writer.
I loved Louise’s last novel Call Me Star Girl and I did wonder how she was better this. I need not have worried. I Am Dust is set in and around The Dean Wilson Theatre which is believed to be haunted. As with Louise Beech’s previous novels she builds characters superbly. We meet Chloe over two timelines the first in 2005 when she was playing in the local school production of Macbeth. But all is not well with Chloe and we fast forward to 2019 and The Dean Wilson Theatre is about to put on a musical performance of Dust twenty years after it was last played at the theatre. But back then the lead actress who was playing Esme Black was found dead in her dressing room, it was murder. Now a murder in a theatre always makes a good read and this is no exception.
Chloe is now working at the theatre as an usher, The Dean Wilson Theatre has seen better days with audience attendances dropping alarmingly. Now Dust is back! But for Chloe she is not coping as she has blackouts and is self-harming and trying hard to forget her younger years. But she is about to play a significant role but not on stage.
Was Morgan Miller murdered? Is she still haunting the theatre and waiting for her killer to return? There are new actors and actresses playing in the new production of dust but the real drama is about to play out away from the stage.
Sometimes the drama of life can lurk in the shadows of our lives and as someone once said “All the world’s a stage”. Louise Beech can create a story and as a reader you are instantly drawn not only to the storyline but the characters are so real. Chloe’s story is just heart-breaking. Haunting and emotional I Am Dust is just exceptional.
Thank you to Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books) for the review copy of I Am Dust by Louise Beech.
I Am Dust by Louise Beech was published by Orenda Books and was published on 16th April 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop. During the current lockdown most independent bookshops are offering free delivery. Check your local bookshops for delivery options.
Black River by Will Dean
Tuva s been living clean in southern Sweden for four months when she receives horrifying news. Her best friend Tammy Yamnim has gone missing.
Racing back to Gavrik at the height of Midsommar, Tuva fears for Tammy s life. Who has taken her, and why? And who is sabotaging the small-town search efforts?
Surrounded by dark pine forest, the sinister residents of Snake River are suspicious of outsiders. Unfortunately, they also hold all the answers. On the shortest night of the year, Tuva must fight to save her friend. The only question is who will be there to save Tuva?
Following on from Dark Pines and Red Snow, Will Dean is back with Black River (Point Blank) which was published last month. Tuva Moodyson is back and I have to say I have missed her. This is a series I would happily recommend to anyone.
Just when you though Tuva had left Gavric for good! Tuva has had her problems and was living a life free from the poison that was ruining her life but now she is back in Gavric and she is on a mission to find her close friend Tammy and she is in trouble. A tip off phone call and it is feared Tammy may have been kidnapped.
It is midsummer, there may not be the ice and snow of a long dark Swedish winter but the Summer’s hold their own problems and the insects are just one! Tammy’s life is in danger and Tuva must risk her own to save her friend. It is the small town of Snake River is close and they are wary of anyone from outside. It is tense and the town holds some very unusual characters. The sisters who carve Trolls are just two. And they are not very forthcoming in wanting to help. But then when another woman goes missing people realise something is very wrong. Snake River is not just a name given to the town.
I have always had a sense of claustrophobia reading Will Dean’s series and that may be just something to do with the towns folk. Jeepers I would stay off the streets or move out if I was there as Gavric gives me the creeps. But saying that Black River is just brilliant. It was always going to be, I had never had any doubts. A mind blowing blockbuster of a read. Will Dean creates his characters and weaves a storyline that you the reader gets pulled into. I dare you put this one down.
Being back in Gavric brings back all those memories that Tuva escaped from to start a new life in Malmo as a reporter. But now something sinister is gown down and Tuva must use all her skill and keep her wits about her because saving her friend may put her own life at risk.
Another big hit for Will Dean, Black River is packed full of suspense enough to keep you awake at night. Highly Recommended.
Thank you to Point Blank Books for the review copy of Black River by Will Dean.
Black River by Will Dean was published by Pont Blank Books and was published on 12th March 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop. During the current lock-down many bookshops are still offering delivery with some independent bookshops offering free delivery. Please during these difficult times order through your local independent bookshop.
Rhubarb Rhubarb: A Correspondence between a hopeless gardener and a hopeful cook by Mary Jane Patterson and Jo Thompson
Rhubarb Rhubarb: A Correspondence between a hopeless gardener and a hopeful cook by Mary Jane Patterson and Jo Thompson
Rhubarb Rhubarb collects the witty, wide-ranging correspondence between Leiths-trained cook Mary Jane Paterson and award-winning gardener Jo Thompson. Two good friends who found themselves in a perfect world of cupcakes and centrepieces, they decided to demystify their own skills for one another: the results are sometimes self-deprecating, often funny, and always enlightening.
Jo would find herself one day panicking about what to cook for Easter lunch: a couple of emails with Mary Jane and the fear subsided, and sure enough, a delicious meal appeared on the table. Meanwhile, Jo helped Mary Jane combat her irrational fear of planting bulbs by showing how straightforward the process can be.
The book is full of sane, practical advice for the general reader: it provides uncomplicated, seasonal recipes that people can make in the midst of their busy lives, just as the gardening tips are interesting, quick and helpful for beginners. Mary Jane shares secrets and knowledge gathered over a lifetime of providing fabulous food for friends and family, while Jo’s expertise in beautiful planting enables the reader to have a go at simple schemes with delightful results.
During these lock-down days I have been lucky to have been surrounded by so many books to read and review. One book that arrived just recently was Rhubarb Rhubarb: A Correspondence between a hopeless gardener and a hopeful cook (Unbound) by Mary Jane Patterson and Jo Thompson and it is just was warm and friendly book that is just perfect in these difficult days. I read Rhubarb Rhubarb in one sitting.
Mary Jane Patterson and Jo Thompson
Mary Jane Patterson is a Leiths-trained cook while Jo Thompson is a leading garden designer who has won gold medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Both are good friends and would swop emails. I think I would fall into the category of the hopeless let alone hopeful cook as I am a qualified gardener.
The book is so friendly and packed full of really good practical advice and many great recipes some of which I am now tempted to try. Throughout the book there are many photographs both garden and kitchen related with beautiful illustrations by Laura Jazwinski. For the gardener Jo Thompson offers many good ideas while Mary Jane Patterson supplies many good mouth-watering recipes to try.
The correspondence between the two is special as there is warmth there as well as dry humour. This is an ideal gift for anyone who loves gardening or cooking.
Thank you to Unbound and to Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of Rhubarb Rhubarb by Mary Jane Patterson and Jo Thompson
Rhubarb Rhubarb by Mary Jane Patterson and Jo Thompson was published by Unbound and was published on 2nd April 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop many of which are still offering mail order while bookshops remain closed. Many are offering free delivery.
Follow the Rhubarb Rhubarb Blog Tour