Monthly Archives: May 2018

The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story – Christie Watson

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The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story by Christie Watson

I have an admission to make. When I started to write this review for The Language of Kindness by Christie Watson I really struggled to put the words on paper. Whatever I write it will not do justice to a memoir about nursing. This book had me crying. Yes, there were also times when it made me smile and made me laugh. One thing it really did do as if I needed to was to really appreciate the profession that is nursing and the dedication that nurses put into their daily roles.

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There are personal stories of patients contained within the book that many will be moved by. Watson has one problem when she starts her training to be a nurse and that is the sight of blood. It makes her want to faint. This is something she will have to overcome. Mistakes are made along the journey to become a nurse. She manages to overcome the hurdles in training and starts to make her mark in the intensive-care wards for children and then to progress further.

There are many stories that Watson tells and throughout the book it is her quiet and gentle prose that makes this memoir really shine. Watson also rages about what is happening with the NHS of today. When we think of nurses we think of them dispensing medical care and medicines to make us better, but reading this will give you a much greater understanding. It is more than that, it is about talking and being with those who need medical care. From just assisting a patient and helping them do the basics to singing to a new born baby who sadly then sadly dies. This is pure emotion. I have nothing but admiration and pride for the nurses who work so tirelessly in our NHS. So many stories that I could share here but that would detract from the incredible memoir. Nursing is an undervalued profession but many like me believe they are all angels.

Christie Watson also wrote a novel Tiny Sunbirds Far Away that won the 2011 Costa First Novel Award. Following this Watson left nursing after two decades and decided to become a full-time writer.

What I have written here about The Language of Kindness will never do it justice. This is a book that deserves all the accolades. Lyrical and moving this is a book that I highly recommend.

 

336 Pages.

Thank you Sophie Lambert at Conville & Walsh or the review copy of The Language of Kindness by Christie Watson.

The Language of Kindness by Christie Watson is published by Chatto & Windus and was published on 3rd May 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear by Lev Parikian

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Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear by Lev Parikian

Men and birds, (the feathered type). What is it about why we become keen birders. I don’t just mean feeding our garden birds but actually going birding and trying to find birds in their natural habitat. Oh it does not end there, then we have lists and hi-tech bins and scopes that cost thousands not to mention cameras and then there is the lists. The birds you have seen in a calendar year. Lists for garden and your local patch and then you go chasing those very special rare birds that arrive on our shores during the Spring and Autumn. Welcome to the world of an avid birder. Yes, I have been there. Seen it and got the t-shirt. I want to introduce you to Lev Parikian. Lev is a very notable conductor and a birdwatcher. In Lev’s new book Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear (Unbound) he takes us through his story of when he was young he loved going birding and seeing new birds (or not as it transpires) and then he stopped only when he was fifty did his loves of birding return. This is his story of a year of birds, family, music and a look back through his younger days.

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My library is stuffed full of bird books and stories of that writers birding year, some are really good and entertaining and some just do not cut it at all with me for a number of reasons. But Lev Parikian’s book is just that most wonderful read it is a riot of laughs and nostalgia. Starting in January 2016 this is his story of a lapsed birdwatcher aiming to see 200 birds in a year, that is REALLY seeing 200 birds in a year not ones he thinks he is seeing. Yes, Lev I have been there too.

 

When Lev was twelve-years-old he loved birds and birdwatching but like any keen young birder there is that urge to think you have seen a bird that in the cold light of day was not the bird you thought it was. Claiming to see a bird when actually you did not. But then after a few years and growing up the birding stopped and other things in life took over, like his love of music which in life became much more than an interest. Then of course there is cricket and girls.

There is something uniquely different about the way Lev has gone about writing about his birding year. His absolute pleasure at discovering his love of the outdoors and his love of seeing and finding birds again really shines through. But there is still that target of wanting to see 200 birds in a full calendar year. Does Lev actually achieve his target?

Sometimes seeing something really very special is something that should be shared with someone close to you. You will experience that in this glorious read. Together with Lev we travel the length and breadth of this beautiful country seeking birds in their own natural habitat. From woods to estuary and the lowlands to the highlands and a barrel of laughs along the way.

What shines through for me is the love Lev has for his family and his music and that he has found the real beauty in nature again. It is a gift for each of us to enjoy and treasure. I just loved Why Birds Suddenly Disappear and it now takes pride of place along with the very best nature books in my library. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

272 Pages.

Thank you to Lev Parikian and Unbound for the review copy of Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear.

Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear is published by Unbound and was published on 17th May 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

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The Gradual Disappearance of Jane Ashland – Nicolai Houm (Translated by Anna Paterson)

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The Gradual Disappearance of Jane Ashland – Nicolai Houm (Translated by Anna Paterson)

 

The story starts with a woman (Jane Ashland) waking up in a tent in the Norwegian mountains. Outside a storm is battering the bleak landscape and Jane believes she is about to die. The Gradual Disappearance of Jane Ashland by Nicolai Houm (translated by Anna Paterson) is a gripping and compelling story of a woman who flies to Norway to see relatives. But how did Jane Ashland get to be here and alone.

 

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Jane has now found herself alone in a bleak landscape in a tent with no food or water, she has no idea of where she is or how she got here. This is a powerful story that is under 200 pages that I found very difficult to leave. A story that just grabbed hold of my senses and refused to let go until I have finished the last page.

I love a story about leading central character and is just them and here is the perfect example. Told in flashbacks through her life. It turns out that Jane is a wounded soul, damaged by drink and prescription drugs. Yet there is the part of a flashback that Jane was studying literature and her relationships while she was in the States. Over time she tried to reach out to her relatives in Norway, but you always fear there are storm cloud just on the horizon in Janes life and then they hit. Like the mountainous landscape Jane has found herself in, this is a rugged and raw novel. It is bleak and chilling.

What I found through this novel is how incredible Nicolai Houm just little by little feed the reader with details of Jane’s life leaving you with a sense on always wondering about Jane. Reading this I found was like a drug, addictive and once in you wanted more and more. This is stunning piece of writing with complex threads. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 192 Pages.

Thank you to Pushkin Press for the review copy of The Gradual Disappearance of Jane Ashland.

The Gradual Disappearance of Jane Ashland is published by Pushkin Press and was published on 26th April 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

The Launch of On Courage by The Sebastopol Project. Wednesday 16th May 2018.

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The Launch of On Courage by The Sebastopol Project. Wednesday 16th May 2018.

Wednesday 16th May saw a very special day for the launch of On Courage that contains 28 stories of brave and inspirational men and women who in the course of their duties gave so much. These are their stories as introduced by 28 Personalities stories of heroism and bravery.

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Earlier in the day Her Majesty the Queen received a delegation of VC and GC holders and also representatives of the group’s behind the book and a copy of On Courage: Stories of Victoria Cross and George Cross Holders was presented to Her Majesty the Queen.

Later that evening at the National Army Museum, Chelsea the official launch of On Courage took place with representatives of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association and the Sebastopol Project and also some of the personalities who have contributed to the book by introducing some of the stories.

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Anthony Crean of the Sebastopol Project get the launch evening underway.

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Becca Maciejewska, The VC and GC Association

The opening speeches from Anthony Crean (The Sebastopol Project), Becca Maciejewska (The VC and GC Association) gave the invited audience details of how the project started and also talks by James Eadie (The Sebastopol Project) and Major Peter Norton GC (The VC and GC Association) talked about Combat Stress and how the proceeds of the sales of On Courage will go to help those who have served this country will receive the help they deserve.

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James Eadie – The Sebastopol Project

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Major Peter Norton GC, The VC and GC Association

Without doubt one of the most inspirational talks was by the multi Olympic gold medal winner Dame Katherine Grainger who spoke passionately about her involvement in On Courage as talked about Martin Eric Dunbar-Naismith VC and also about real heroes that are those who have given so much personal sacrifice. This was an incredibly moving and heartfelt speech.

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That night I was humbled at times lost for words at being surrounded by men and women whose own stories of incredible bravery while serving this country.

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Dr Spencer Jones, Tom Bromley, Paul Garlington and David Saul.

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The Sebastopol Project and Sergeant Johnson Gideon Beharry VC

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The Sebastopol Project, authors, public figures, The Victoria Cross and George Cross Association and Combat Stress.

The book was launched and there then followed a drinks reception and a chance for everyone to meet each other and listen to stories and enjoy the launch evening and obtain a copy of On Courage.

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On Courage is officially launched.

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Chief Superintendent James Wallace Beaton GC CVO

Chief Superintendent James Wallace Beaton GC CVO received the George Cross for protecting Princess Anne in March 1974. While Princess Anne was being driven down the Mall back to Buckingham Palace the car was stopped and an attempted Kidnap of the Princess was stopped by Inspector Beaton was shot three times including serious wounds to his chest and abdomen when he placed his own body in front of the kidnapper’s weapon.

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Sergeant Johnson Gideon Beharry VC

Sergeant Johnson Gideon Beharry VC was awarded the Victoria Cross the highest award military award for valour in 2005 by Her Majesty the Queen for saving the lives of his unit 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales Royal Regiment on two occasions in 2004, he sustained serious head injuries during the second engagement.

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Lady Dodd, Baroness Hale, Margaret Macmillan, Dame Katherine Grainger and Kate Adie.

 

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Tom Bromley, Author

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Paul Garlington, Author

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Lady Dodd

Lady Dodd the wife on the Late Sir Ken Dodd who made a contribution to On Courage with the story of Norman Jackson VC.

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On Courage Launch

My thanks must go to Kate Klevitt at Four-Colman Getty, for all the incredible help and assistance and everyone at The Sebastopol Project and The Victoria Cross and George Cross Association for a deeply moving and inspirational book launch.

On Courage is available now via Waterstones and also Amazon with proceeds going to two charities in Combat Stress and also The Victoria Cross and George Cross Association.

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On Courage: Stories of Victoria Cross and George Cross Holders by The Sebastopol Project

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On Courage – Stories of Victoria Cross and George Cross Holders by The Sebastopol Project

It is a great honour to have been asked to become involved in the launch of On Courage: Stories of Victoria Cross and George Cross Holders by The Sebastopol Project. The book is a collection of 28 stories of those who have been awarded The Victoria Cross or The George Cross. Each of the stories is introduced by a personality. Alexander Armstrong, Baroness Hale, Bear Grylls, Bill Beaumont, Bobby Charlton, Katherine Grainger, Kelly Holmes, Derek Jacobi, Eddie Redmayne, Frank Bruno, Geoffrey Palmer, Jeremy Irons, Joanna Kavenna, Joanna Lumley, John Simpson, Joseph Calleja, Julian Fellowes, Kate Adie, Ken Dodd, Margaret MacMillan, Mark Pougatch, Mary Berry, Michael Whitehall and Jack Whitehall, Miranda Hart, Richard Chartres, Tom Ward, Will Greenwood, and Willie Carson.

I am delighted to talk about one of those stories from the book introduced by John Simpson CBE – Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC.

The word ‘hero’ is used far too easily in our lives today what On Courage will to the reader are twenty-eight real heroes who bravery and self-sacrifice despite everything that is against them is nothing more that moving and inspirational.

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Leonard Cheshire VC was a shy man who never really spoke of his time during the war but his heroism while serving in the RAF in WWII spoke volumes of the man. A man who courage saved many a fellow airman during the war. He was awarded the VC not for a specific action but for the time from 1940 to 1944. He had completed four tours of duty in the RAF and had completed 100 sorties over enemy territory with selfless bravery.

John Simpson details the life of Leonard Cheshire VC and makes for incredible and moving reading. Leonard Cheshire VC had a life of two halves after the war he married for the second time to Sue Ryder who herself was a wonderful humanitarian. For Leonard Cheshire after the ended he found it difficult to adjust to normal life and so began his charitable work that would become his second half of his life. In 1948 The Leonard Cheshire Disability Charity was founded and operates here in the UK and in many parts of the world to this day. He also went on to found other charities with his wife Sue Ryder.

I was left incredibly humbled just reading this one story of twenty-eight in the book. Stories that should be told so that future generations can learn of the selfless acts of heroism and bravery.

Proceeds of sales of On Courage will be going to Combat Stress and also The Victoria Cross and George Cross Association.

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On Courage contributors:

Introductions to the stories in the book have been provided by the following public figures: Kate Adie, Alexander Armstrong, Bill Beaumont, Mary Berry, Frank Bruno, Joseph Calleja, Willie Carson, Sir Bobby Charlton, Bishop Richard Chartres, Sir Ken Dodd, Lord Julian Fellowes, Dame Katherine Grainger, Will Greenwood, Bear Grylls, Baroness Hale, Miranda Hart, Dame Kelly Holmes, Jeremy Irons,  Sir Derek Jacobi, Joanna Kavenna, Joanna Lumley, Margaret MacMillan, Geoffrey Palmer, Mark Pougatch, Eddie Redmayne, John Simpson, Tom Ward, Michael Whitehall and Jack Whitehall.

 About The Sebastopol Project

The Sebastopol Project is a charitable endeavour aimed at inspiring the public with stories of the diverse and courageous acts of men and women awarded the Victoria Cross and George Cross. Its ambition is to raise funds for the benefit of current and former members of the British armed forces and their dependents through the publication and sale of On Courage.

About The Victoria Cross and George Cross Association

The Victoria Cross and George Cross Association represents all living holders of the Victoria Cross and George Cross. The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military decoration awarded for valour “in the face of the enemy” to members of the armed forces. The George Cross (GC) is awarded to those who have displayed the greatest heroism or the most conspicuous courage whilst in extreme danger.  vcgca.org

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The Victoria Cross and George Cross Medals. 

 

400 Pages.

Thank you to Kate Klevitt from Four – Colman Getty for the review copy of On Courage: Stories of Victoria Cross and George Cross Holders by The Sebastopol Project.

On Courage: Stories of Victoria Cross and George Cross Holders is published by Constable and imprint of Little, Brown and was published today 17th May 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 About Combat Stress

Combat Stress is the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health. For almost a century, the charity has helped former servicemen and women deal with trauma related mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). combatstress.org.uk

PRIZE DRAW

I am delighted to announce that in conjunction with Four-Colman Getty I am running a free prize draw to win a copy of On Courage. This is a free to enter prize draw and is a UK based competition. The draw will close at 6pm Sunday 20th May. Head over to my Twitter page @thelastword1962 and RT and Follow the Prize Draw Tweet. I will draw a winner and they will be notified via a DM. The prize will be issued by Four-Colman Getty. This is book that you will not want to miss. Good luck.

 

All Rivers Run Free by Natasha Carthew

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All Rivers Run Free by Natasha Carthew

I have to admit to being intrigued when All Rivers Run Free by Natasha Carthew (riverrun) arrived I was not sure what to think. It is the story of a damaged sole in Ia Pendilly who is living in a caravan on the Cornish coast with her husband is nothing short of brutal. This is a story that that has a unique and raw. There is a heartbreaking storyline and Carthew has a unique writing style.

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A futuristic world ravaged by floods and armed gangs roam and storm after storm is battering the country. People are trying to survive day by day and the rule of law has broken down. Ia is frightened to leave as she no longer knows the country that was her home and she is scared of her brute of a husband Bran. The Cornish coast is their home.
Ia walks the coastline collecting shells and then one day she finds a young girl washed up on the shoreline and the little girl is rescued. What Ia does not realise is that this little girl will waken Ia and rescue her in return. She recalls her younger sister Evie and now wants to find Evie, she is out there somewhere in a world that has changed because of floods and armed gangs. But Ia has woken and her journey is about to begin. Memories of a family and her sister will take her in danger and she will face her past, present and future.
Natasha Carthew’s writing is nothing short of lyrical and also unusual but a story that deserves to be read. The tone may be tender and heartbreaking but compelling. There is so much written into the storyline that I believe it would be the perfect book group discussion novel. A story of a young woman locked into a world she does not want to be part of with memories of a past and communities living through their own rules to survive. A story with very few characters but this is a story that does not need a long cast. A bleak, rugged and atmospheric novel. Beautifully written.

288 Pages.

Thank you Ana McLaughlin at Quercus Books for the review copy of All Rivers Run Free by Ana McLaughlin

All Rivers Run Free is published by Riverrun and was published on 19th April 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

Rose Gold – David Barker

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Rose Gold by David Barker

Rose Gold (Urbane Publications) by David Barker is the sequel to Blue Gold which I enjoyed immensely. Set in in the future (2030’s) a world war has raged and this is for water and the scene is set for a fantastic and sensational storyline with superbly written characters that will have salivating for more.

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Terrorism is stalking every part of the world as are tensions between countries. There is a mining base on the moon far away from Earths conflicts and a character from book one that we met Sim Atkins now suddenly receives a shocking message that leaves him reeling the son he never knew existed is in grave danger. He needs help and quickly to save his son’s life he will try and save his marriage after rescuing his son.

From the Overseas Division come Gopal and Rapten are back to assist Sim but not everything goes according to plan, they are trying to track down a huge Airship but what is it carrying and does this make Sim’s mission even more critical. A novel packed full of incidents and suspects as well as global greed that threatens the world. Lessons clearly have not been learned and Sim and his team are on their trail. Does Sim rescue his son and the woman who fathered his child he never knew existed? The future of mankind now rests with the team from Overseas Division. A stunning page turning thriller that kept me awake long into the night Rose Gold is a worthy follow up to his debut novel from 2017.

360 Pages.

Thank you Matthew Smith at Urbane Publications for the advanced review copy of Rose Gold by David Barker.

Rose Gold by David Barker is published today 10th May and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

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The Lido by Libby Page

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The Lido by Libby Page

What an absolute joy to read. It is a novel that just had the most wonderful storyline about friendship and love and also the love of the community that you live in. The Lido is a fabulous debut novel by Libby Page that is so uplifting it makes your heart sing.

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The local community is the heartbeat of society and the amenities that are there whether that is a library or swimming pool or even a lido belong to the people of that community, when you start to lose those amenities the community starts to go with it. Welcome to The Lido the beautiful debut novel by Libby Page that is being spoken of so highly this Spring.

The Story is set in Brixton, South London. We meet Kate is a lonely 26-year-old woman whose life seems to be just going to work and going back to her home she shares with a group of people she does not know. Her life of ready meals and seclusion made me feel for very quickly into the story. Then there is 86-year-old Rosemary who has lived here all her life she is missing her beloved husband George who died a few years ago and now for Rosemary she swims at the lido, the local library she used regularly has gone and is now a wine bar, for Rosemary the lido is all she has left and the memories of learning to swim here and the memories of George, she still goes to swim but also to remember. What would happen though if the lido was also to close. It has been part of the community for generations. It is now under threat by a property development business who has been talking to the local council about buying the lido and turning into an exclusive gym and tennis courts. Rosemary upset at the proposed closure of the lido now starts a campaign to keep it open.

Kate moved here to take up a reporter for a local newspaper and now she has been given the story about the proposed buyout of the lido by and what is to come. Kate has been struggling to settle in the area and suffers from debilitating panic attacks that can strike at any moment. She meets Rosemary at the lido and as a condition of an interview Kate must accompany her and swim in the open air pool. Throughout this deeply warm and emotional story we meet some great characters that Libby Page weaves into the story and they also become part of this local storyline.

The Lido is an emotional rollercoaster as we do not know of the outcome and what will happen if it does close. What would become of Rosemary and the home that is the lido. This is not just a story of the lido it is a story of a local community that is changing with time, the closure of the library and how the local market changes. Then there is the bookshop and how it is struggling to keep going. The people are the community and there are some truly wonderful moments in this book that just stand out. The lido is one of the books of 2018 and one I think we will be hearing a lot more about. I am already missing the characters. For the author Libby Page this is a work of literary art. I loved it. If you have read Three Things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon or Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman you will love The Lido.

384 Pages.

Thank you to Rebecca Gray at Orion Books for the review copy of The Lido by Libby Page.

The Lido is published by Orion Publishing and was published on 19th April 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

The Wood – The Life & Times of Cockshutt Wood by John Lewis-Stempel

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The Wood The Life & Times of Cockshutt Wood
by John Lewis-Stempel

 

The standard of nature writing over recent years has just got better and better, we are so fortunate to have so many great nature writers in the UK and twice winner of the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing. (2015 & 2017) John Lewis-Stempel returns with his best book to date.  The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood is an intimate account of John’s last year managing this three and half acres of mixed woodland in Herefordshire.

 

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Lewis-Stempel’s latest has been written in a diary format and takes us through the four season and the changing face of Cockshutt Wood, the flora and fauna of this working wood comes to life through the poetic words of a nature writer at his very best. We meet the Tawny Owl who is affectionately known as ‘Old Brown’ the various animals from pigs to sheep who mad the wood their home to keep the dreaded bramble at bay.

The book starts in December when the days are at their shortest but even now when the trees are dormant there is still life in John’s working wood. The sheer beauty of this book is how John brings the history, poetry and even recipes (some of which I will be trying through the course of the year) There are recipes ranging from Acorn Coffee, Chestnut Soup and Elderflower Champagne.

John comes from a farming family that dates back to the 13th Century and is ideally placed to write about countryside as he sees it, his passion for everything in the countryside and its history and future. As the season moves from Winter to Spring, Cockshutt Wood wakens from its deep winter sleep, animals and amphibians that have slept through the cold and dark winter months now feel the warmth of Spring and waken from their slumber. The mixed woodland now starts to come to life, the sap is rising with the temperature.

The poetry is just wonderful and carefully selected and really works to bring the wood alive. The sights and sounds and even the smell of the wood just seep from every page not to mention the recipes. John ends his tenure managing the wood in the month of November with the words “I though the trees belonged to me, but I now realise I belonged to them” As he left the wood there is a sense of pain at leaving the wood and its inhabitants behind. The writer at one with the countryside and a book that deserves the plaudits. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

 304 Pages.

The Wood – The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood by John Lewis-Stempel is published by Doubleday and was published on 8th March 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

Alex Reeve – The House on Half Moon Street – Guest Post

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Alex Reeve – The House on Half Moon Street – Guest Post

I am delighted to welcome to my blog author Alex Reeve whose debut novel is a Victorian crime thriller called The House on Half Moon Street is released on 3rd May (Raven Books) an exciting new historical series. Leo Stanhope is a transgender coroner’s assistant who must uncover a killer without risking his own future.

 A body is found in the River Thames it is London in 1880. Was it suicide, accidental or something more sinister. Introducing Leo Stanhope who is hiding one hell of a secret. He was born Charlotte, and his father was heavily involved in the church. When Leo left home at the age of fifteen he left his family home never to return or to see his mother and father again. He knew that life as Charlotte was not the life and he knew from an early age he wanted to be a man. Leo is in love with Maria but can his love survive this secret? At this moment in time he is hiding this secret from the world and it must not come out. Leo’s fear of being found out pours out of the pages of this historical thriller.

 Now he is heavily involved in a mystery involving the body of a man washed up by the Thames. A superbly written thriller that is written with so much warmth for our protagonist Leo. Reeve’s describes Victorian London perfectly that you can almost feel the smog around you and also smells and noise of 1880 London. This is a novel that has been carefully thought out and the characters that Reeve brings to the reader are just so incredibly real. At times I was reading this while travelling on a bus and was totally lost in a bygone age. I feared for Leo as every page was turned wondering if his secret would be exposed and what fate would befall him. At times I was so involved in this intricate thriller that time just passed me by. There is so much in this stunning debut novel by Alex Reeve that touches so many subjects including gender. it is atmospheric and dark yet intricate. I cannot recommend The House on Half Moon Street highly enough and I congratulate Alex Reeve on a fantastic debut novel. I am already looking forward to book two.

AUTHOR

Alex has been kind enough to write a little Guest Post for my blog and here he talks about his debut novel The House on Half Moon Street.

The story of the story

The first inklings of an idea for The House on Half Moon Street came during a train journey I took with a transgender co-worker. I felt great compassion and anger about the way she was treated. It wasn’t anything overtly aggressive, but it was persistent: glances, stares, whispers and sighs. And she had to deal with it every single day! All she’d done was make a choice about her identity. What more fundamental human right could there be?

Surely, I thought, things must be getting better?

I love historical crime novels, so I started doing some research. I found lots of examples of transgender men and women, and of course there must be lots more, people who lived and died in happy obscurity. However, I also found they suffered many of the same issues as today: societal disapproval, legal uncertainty and health issues, among other things.

At some point, Leo Stanhope took up residence in my head and wouldn’t leave. I knew everything about him almost immediately. I could hear his voice, both amused and exasperated, and sense his romantic nature. I knew I had to write about him and, after a few false starts, I did.

From the very start I decided this wouldn’t be a novel about being transgender; it would be about a man who happened to be transgender. That distinction steered the story; Leo suffers a tragedy that could happen to anyone, and he sets off to solve the crime. It’s neither caused by, nor solved by, his being transgender. His perspective might be unique, but so is everyone’s.

I’ve been asked before how it feels to write about a transgender experience, but actually I found writing the women much harder. After all, Leo is a man and almost all the time people treat him as a man. His personality is very different from mine though. In fact, one of things that most attracts me to this peculiar profession is the chance to live as someone else for a while, someone who’s quite different from me. If I only ever wrote versions of myself, trust me, the result would be very boring indeed.

And now I get to do it all again! The second in the Leo Stanhope series is nearing completion, and the plot of the third is taking shape. Soon there’ll be even more characters for me to live as, for a little while.

My thanks to Alex for giving his time ahead of publication for writing a Guest Post. 

 

The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve (Raven Books)

384 Pages.

Thank you to Amber Mears-Brown (Bloomsbury) for the advanced review copy of The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve.

Published by Raven Books on 3rd May and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

 

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