Category Archives: Non-Fiction

The Books that made my year – 2018

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As another year comes to a close we look back on 2018 and the news might be full of bad news but in the world of books it has been another great year. Sales are continuing to grow in both physical hard copy but audio books are also booming. This really is great news and added to this more independent books shops have opened during the year with the trend set to continue. With the high street struggling like never before it is just heartening to see the growth of sales in books. Just a few years ago some were saying the days of the hard copy book were doomed.

2018 will be a year that I will remember for years to come. So many great books have been read some sadly I have not had time to read and will miss this end of year review. I look back with great memories to take away from this year whether it the honour of being asked blog about some of the books and authors for The 2018 Jewish Book Festival to being invited to assist with a very special book On Courage: Stories of Victoria Cross and George Cross Holders a day surrounded by some of the bravest men and women. Real heroes. Also to be involved with The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize a book prize that is dedicated to books on natural history and the great outdoors. Then of course there was The Lost Words project I launched for Somerset Primary Schools in August which is still going to this very day. The generosity of many that made this a success. To those behind the scenes who helped and are still helping I could not have done this without you. To the many radio interviews not just in Somerset but across the UK and also in Europe. In the early part of the Summer I was invited to take a tour of The London Library which turned out to be an incredible experience a very special place that holds over one million books on over 17 miles of shelving. You walk in the footsteps of literary giants.

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So this brings me to my 15 books of 2018. The books that made my year. This was incredibly hard as so many could have made it in.

The choices are in no particular order so there is no number one book just the best of the year.

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Our House – Louise Candlish

(Simon & Schuster) 5th April 2018

Fi Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house. The terror of knowing your life is about to be turned upside down and all the possessions of your life with Bram have gone and who are these people moving into the home they never had any intention of selling. Bram has made a dreadful mistake and there is a price to pay. Now there are score to settle. Both have secrets that they kept from each other.

Our House is a gripping domestic noir read that I recall racing through and kept up long into the night.

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All Among the Barley – Melissa Harrison

(Bloomsbury) – 23rd August 2018

With memories of The Great War still in the minds and memories of the community it casts a shadow across the fields as the autumn harvest approaches. It is 1933 the glamorous Constance arrives from London to write about the traditions of the Suffolk farming community. For Edie Mather adulthood is approaching and the arrival of Constance is seen by Edie to be everything she longs for. But there is something more to Constance than Edie thinks. This is a remarkable and powerful novel from the Costa Shortlisted author of Hawthorn Time.

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Three Things About Elsie – Joanna Cannon

(The Borough Press – 11th January 2018

With a Battenburg cover Three Things About Elsie is just a wonderful and delicious story. 84-Year-old Florence has had a fall and as she lies there waiting for help to come she wonders if some part of her past is come back. Florence lives in a flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly and she wonders if the new resident is who he claims to be as he died sixty years ago. It is a beautiful, charming and profound novel from the author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. Three Things About Elsie was longlisted for The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018.

 

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Something of His Art – Horatio Clare

(Little Toller Books) – 11th October 2018

(Non-fiction choice)

The year is 1705 and the yet unknown Johann Sebastian Bach is earning a living as a teacher and organist sets off on more than a 250 mile walk from Arnstadt to Lübeck to visit a composer. This was to be a pivotal time for the young J.S. Bach and this short book tells of his walk and Horatio Clare walks in his footsteps and re-traces that walk that was to change Bach’s life. Based on the BBC Radio 3 series of the same Horatio talks of the walk, the sights, and sounds and natural history that would have accompanied Bach on this epic adventure that would see him become the greatest composer.

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The Lost Letters of William Woolf – Helen Cullen

(Michael Joseph) – 12th July 2018

William Woolf works for the Dead Letters Depot in East London were he spends his days solving mysteries that include terrible hand writing, missing post codes, torn packages to name but a few. Then he discovers letters addressed to ‘My Great Love’ and suddenly life for William Woolf takes on a whole new perspective. These letters written by a woman to a man she has not met yet, and William now starts to think that he could be the man the letters are meant for. Now he must take on his biggest mystery to follow the clues in the letters and solve the biggest mystery of all. The human heart. This is a charming and romantic novel a wonderful debut. Shortlisted for the Newcomer of the Year – Irish Book Awards.

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The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood – John Lewis-Stempel

(Doubleday) – 8th March 2018

(Non-fiction choice)

For four years John Lewis-Stempel managed a mixed woodland of three and a half acres that is Cockshutt Wood and raised cows and pigs that had free reign through these woods. This is John’s month by month account of his last year managing the wood. Through the lives of the trees and the birds and animals that made this wood their home a sanctuary for the wildlife and also for the author. You are there through the changing seasons through to the final days of John’s management of the woods that became his spiritual home. This is a man in tune with the natural world and one of the country’s finest natural history writers. Longlisted for the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize 2018.

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Anatomy of a Scandal – Sarah Vaughan

(Simon & Schuster) 11th January 2018

A scandal that will rock Westminster. This is a high profile marriage and James has been accused of a shocking crime and his wife Sophie believes in him and will protect the family. Kate on the other hand is the Barrister who believes he is guilty and will make sure he pays for the crimes he has committed.

This is an explosive thriller that will keep the reader on the edge of their chair until the very end. Superbly written with great characters. A story of marriage and power and who has it and how they use it. Totally absorbing and gripping.

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The Last Wilderness – Neil Ansell

(Tinder Press) – 8th February 2018

(Non-fiction choice)

Nature and solitude. Neil Ansell has spent the best part of his life walking the remote parts of Britain but here in The Last Wilderness he takes on the part of Scottish Highlands but doing so as he talks of his hearing loss and hoe this affects his love of the great outdoors and the birds he loved to hear that have now become silent. To be in the wilderness is to be at one with nature. It is indeed a love letter to both the wilderness and to the Highlands of Scotland. The wonderful rich writing of Neill Ansell almost makes you believe you are there walking in his footsteps. A treasure of a book. Shortlisted for The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize 2018.

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I Love You Too Much – Alicia Drake

(Picador) – 8th February 2018

A novel based in Paris and centred around Paul a quiet and lonely boy who is unloved. He spends his time watching those in his family and his rather glamourous mother Séverine and her musician boyfriend Gabriel. For a boy who closely observes his family and their daily lives, you just know one day he will see something he is not supposed to see.

Paul seeks the friendship of the not so quiet Scarlett and the patisseries of this part of Paris. Paul is crying out to be loved but what if love does not come his way. What then? This is a book I totally loved and still do to this day. So deserving to be read by a wider audience. It is deft and intelligent and so beautifully told. One book I would I would recommend.

 

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Erebus: A story of a Ship – Michael Palin

(Hutchinson Books) – 20th September 2018

(Non-fiction choice)

Michael Palin tells the story of the ill-fated journey of HMS Erebus and its crew that set sail for the arctic in search of the North West Passage. In 1845 it disappeared with HMS Terror along with their crews. What really happened? A story of the ship and its crew as Palin recounts the adventure and ultimately the biggest naval disaster. Together with photographs this makes for a remarkable read for anyone who has an interest in the sea or adventures.

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Dark Pines – Will Dean

(Point Blank) – 14th June 2018

An impressive debut by Will Dean. Dark Pines is dark, chilling and atmospheric. Set in an isolated Swedish town. An unsolved murder from two decades ago a deaf reporter trying to find a story that could make her career. Now Tuva needs to find the killer before she becomes the killers next target. But there are secrets in the pine woods were Tuva must venture. If she solves the crime she could find a way out of the small of Gavrik and finally make a name for herself. Dark Pines is the thriller that really beats all thrillers in 2018 and is the first in a series with Red Snow about to be released in January 2019. If I had to choose my book of the year Dark Pines would be that book. If you have not read Dark Pines and thrillers are your genre, then read it now!

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Owl Sense – Dr Miriam Darlington

(Guardian Faber Publishing) 8th February 2018

(Non-fiction choice)

I have been fascinated by Owls all my life and have been lucky to have travelled and seen many species of Owl in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean and I loved Owl Sense by Miriam Darlington she takes walks with her son seeking species of UK Owls. Then she travels into Europe from France to Spain, Serbia and Finland and close to the arctic lands of snow and ice. But this book not only is a story of a quest for Owls but her son Benji becomes very ill and then suddenly it is also a quest for a cure. Owl Sense brings to life the mysterious lives of Owls and what we are so fascinated with these mysterious birds.

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The Lingering – SJI Holliday

(Orenda Books) – 15th November 2018

This dark and creepy ghost story is best read during the dark hours as it really sets the tone. Though you might not want to switch the light off after.

Jack and Ali move have moved into a self-sufficient commune set in Rosalind House, the local village it is said is were witches roamed and the home itself has a dark and sinister past. But it is not long after they arrive that things start to happen. Now the residents and locals are nervous, something or someone is seeking retribution. But why? Terrifying and unnerving. The Lingering really had me spooked. Superbly written and a storyline that holds until the very end.

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Take Nothing With You – Patrick Gale

(Tinder Press) – 21st August 2018

Set in the 1970’s West-Super-Mare and only son Eustace has been signed up for Cello lessons by his mother. Music is an escape for Eustace and his lessons from his teacher he cannot get enough of. But it is his mother that is not sure of the glamorous teacher. Soon though it is lessons in life and love that take on whole new meanings for Eustace. This is beautifully told story of coming of age and finding out who you really are told with real compassion. A truly wonderful read.

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The Lost Words – Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris

(Hamish Hamilton) – 5th October 2017

(Non-fiction choice)

After everything this year, I could not leave The Lost Words out of my selection for the year. It has been the bedrock of my year.

Imagine a world where children no longer talk of Heron’s, Otters, Bluebells, Acorns, Conkers, Dandelion, Bramble to name but a few. Well there are around 50 words that The Oxford Dictionary for Children removed. What they did not reckon on was Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane. Here is the most beautiful book imaginable. In words spoken as Spell-Poems and paintings by the amazing Jackie Morris they both bring these words back to life.

Many people across the country have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to bring this book in into Schools, care homes and hospitals. Even today many more are planned to launch. A truly remarkable book that has a life all of its own. And this story for Somerset has only just begun.

And so there we have it. As the old year ends and a new one is about to begin and so it starts all over again. It has been a pleasure and an honour to work with such incredible writers and publishers and I thank them all for their incredible work.

In 2019 I have some great plans ahead I am honoured to have been asked to be an official blogger for The Jewish Book Festival in early March. I will be podcasting through the year and hope to take the podcast on the road to talk to writers and may be a few publishers. I will be doing my usual book giveaways when time permits and also there will be The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize.

Have a happy and peaceful 2019 and remember “We read to know that we are not alone”. Books take us to places and to escape all the bad news of the day.

John

The Last Word Book Review

 

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Erebus: The Story of a Ship – Michael Palin

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Erebus: The Story of a Ship – Michael Palin

I love the sea and stories of the ships that have explored the seas. Michael Palin is well known for his travelling and writing but when I heard that he had released a book on the ill-fated Arctic exploration to find the North West Passage and the famous ship HMS Erebus I was incredibly excited as I have followed this story for many years. Erebus: A Story of a Ship is the story of HMS Erebus from its launch in 1826 as a warship to its disappearance in 1845.

 

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I love the sea and stories of the ships that have explored the seas. Michael Palin is well known for his travelling and writing but when I heard that he had released a book on the ill-fated Arctic exploration to find the North West Passage and the famous ship HMS Erebus I was incredibly excited as I have followed this story for many years. Erebus: A Story of a Ship is the story of HMS Erebus from its launch in 1826 as a warship to its disappearance in 1845.

The last resting place of HMS Erebus was finally discovered in 2014 and the photographs of Erebus on the Arctic seabed are just incredible. The freezing waters and lack of Oxygen have preserved the ship so well. This is where Palin starts and then winds the clock back as he tells of the birth of HMS Erebus as a ‘Bomb Ship’. She was small in size (104ft) compared to other warships of the time. After two years’ service it was converted as an exploration ship.

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HMS Erebus and Terror trapped in the ice.

On the ill-fated expatiation Erebus was accompanied by HMS Terror and the two ships under the Captaincy of Sir John Franklin set off on the disastrous expedition and were last seen in Baffin Bay in August 1845. This is really where the story really begins as the crews of both ships knew they were trapped in the ice and the only hope of survival was to abandon Erebus and Terror. The stories of the fate of the men of both ships and how they tried to survive the Arctic conditions as the dragged lifeboats packed with supplies over the ice.

What followed was dramatic search effort to find the crew and ships and Palin writes with incredible detail after so much research. The characters of the crews not to mention Sir John Franklin himself. Anyone who has read any of Michael Palin’s previous books will already know of his writing style which make this book such an incredible read and for me I have learnt so much of both the ships and crew. Contained within the book are colour and black and white photographs which are incredible all by themselves and just add to the detail. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

352 Pages.

@HutchinsonBooks  #Erebus 

Erebus: The Story of a Ship by Michael Palin was published by Hutchinson Books and was published on 20th September 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2019 – Lia Leendertz

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The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2019 – Lia Leendertz

Do you like me follow the path of the seasons through each month of the year? I have been since my youth as the seasons turn from Winter to Spring and then the long days of Summer. I could not resist buying a copy of The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2019 by the award winning writer Lia Leendertz (Mitchell Beazley).

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This just has to be one of the most beautiful books of 2018. Each month is guides to nature, when to look out for the first of our birds that brighten our summers. But also if like me you are a keen gardener then this gem of a book will be perfect for you. Many are now enjoying growing their own vegetables and Lia’s handy sized book will be a handy book.

Through each month are recipes to try out and stories and folklore. There is even a cheese of the month which will appeal to all cheese aficionados like me. But overall it is the beautiful presentation and the cover and illustrations by Celia Hart that give The Almanac its real warmth.

Harking back to days gone by I found The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2019 just turned the clock back to seasonal almanacs I read as a boy.

It read like a scenic journey through the year.  This would make the ideal gift for Christmas and I have already bought a number of copies for friends. Highly recommended.

272 Pages.

The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2019 by Lia Leendertz was published by Mitchell Beazley and was published on 6th September 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

Landfill by Tim Dee

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Landfill by Tim Dee

I do have to say Little Toller are producing some incredible books. I was delighted to receive a review copy of Tim Dee’s latest natural history books Landfill. The first thing that strikes you is the jacket cover is just amazing and this is down to Greg Poole.

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Landfill is a beautifully written and produced book that takes a look at one species of bird that has now made the towns its home. Tim Dee has spent long hours studying Gulls and especially one species of Gull and that is the Herring Gull. Now many people consider Herring Gulls to be a pest. How many have been harassed when walking through a town centre especially when carrying food. I have faced similar, but these Gulls have adapted to the throw away nature of modern times.

The author has been visiting many landfill sites were the Gulls now spend most of their lives feeding off our food waste that we humans have thrown away and the Gulls have adapted to make their lives here and can find free food. So who is to blame for the populations of Gulls that many people consider as pests. The answer is a very simple one. We all are. Food waste that is discarded has to go somewhere and that is landfill.

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Tim Dee has researched the Gull populations and has spent time with fellow birdwatchers and fellow researchers in studying Gulls and their behaviour all over the country. Like Tim Dee I have spent many winters studying seabirds and especially Gulls. Travelling from the South West to as far as all corners of Scotland and the Isle of Lewis looking and watching the behaviour of Gulls and occasionally finding those much sort after rarer species of Gull.

But our town dwelling Gulls are moving in and now have free food around the clock whether that is from a landfill site or throwaway fast food in the town centres of emptying rubbish bags outside of shops. I once watched one Gull tear open a rubbish bag and rip out its contents looking for a free meal.

From following fishing boats to following we humans the Gulls have adapted to city life and they are here to stay. The real problem is us the people and how we run our own lives and throwaway culture of especially food. May be it is us who need to change.

I remember watching Hitchcock’s The Birds and for a while it scared me and I avoided Gulls but overtime I learned to love them. Landfill is wonderfully researched and makes for great reading. I loved Tim’s writing style and Landfill now sits proudly among some of my most favourite natural history books. Highly Recommended.

#Landfill  @TimDee4  @LittleToller

256 Pages.

Thank you to Littler Toller Books for the review copy of Landfill by Tim Dee.

Landfill by Tim Dee was published by Little Toller and was published on 10th September 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal – Horatio Clare

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The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal – Horatio Clare

I am becoming quite a fan of Horatio Clare’s writing this is my second book in a matter of a few weeks. Released on 1st November is The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal (Elliott & Thompson) is a book written in the form of a diary that starts in October and works its way through from autumn through the winter months.

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I am someone who loves the outdoors and all things nature, the dark winter months trapped in an office has often left me feeling tired and exhausted and then come the weekend I cherish every moment of the hours of daylight.

Here in Horatio Clare’s excellent diary, he talks openly of how he to suffers as we move from kicking our way through the autumn leaves and then as the days grow shorter and then into November one of the darkest months of the year. I really found Horatio’s open and honest account to be very reassuring. Many of us suffer in silence especially in the workplace.

The excitement of Christmas comes to Horatio Clare and his family, with memories of childhood and now with his own family. But silently he suffers knowing that there is a tax bill and other debts to be paid and how he is going to find the money to pay all this. It is during the winter months he becomes more or less withdrawn to save money. At times there is a little tension in the household.

Seasonal depression is not something anyone should suffer in silence with (all except me apparently). Nature too shuts down but there is joy to be found in nature during the darkest months. The joy of chilly frosty morning walks at the weekend. There is so much we can enjoy about winter but we have to appreciate its beauty. The Light in the Dark is a moving and poetic look at this time of year and one book I rejoice in. This is a torch to guide us through the dark winter days until Spring’s first rays of light warm us. I am delighted to highly recommend The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal.

208 Pages.

#TheLightInTheDark   @HoratioClare

@annecater #RandomThingsTours

Thank you to Elliott & Thompson for the review copy of The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal by Horatio Clare. Also my thanks to Anne Cater for arranging the Blog Tour via Random Things Tours.

The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal by Horatio Clare was published by Elliott & Thompson and was published on 1st November 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal – Blog Tour

Final Light in the Dark Blog Tour Poster

Something of his Art – Horatio Clare

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Something of his Art – Horatio Clare

This short book (96 pages) is based on the BBC Radio Three programmes when writer Horatio Clare retraced the 250 mile walk by the young and then unknown Johann Sebastian Bach. Something of his Art (Little Toller) recounts the authors walk in J.S. Bach’s footsteps.

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The walk in 1705 from Arnstadt to Lübeck took place during the winter at a time when Bach was earning a living as a teacher and organist. Still yet to be discovered as a composer. A defining moment in the young life of Bach.

The walk by Horatio Clare is not just a walk covering the same route as J.S. Bach it is a walk that talks of the landscapes and the wildlife of the journey today and what it would have been in Bach’s day as he walked the German countryside.

For someone like me who has loved classical music since my childhood, this was a real insight to the composer’s early days and Clare tells of Bach’s drinking and also the fights. The evocative writing by Horatio Clare really makes you walk each step with him just as the author must have thought Bach was walking with him as well. The sheer quality of the writing is a shining example to the research for both this book and also the BBC Radio Three programmes.

Just a words on the cover design, it is in itself a real work of art and Little Toller need to be congratulated. I cannot rate Something of his Art high enough. This is sheer quality. I have a feeling I will be returning this fabulous book again in the near future.

96 Pages.

Thank you to Little Toller Books for the review copy of Something of his Art by Horatio Clare.

Something of his Art by Horatio Clare was published by Little Toller Books and was published on 11th October 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

From the Mill to Monte Carlo: The Working Class Englishman Who Beat the Casino and Changed Gambling Forever by Anne Fletcher

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From the Mill to Monte Carlo: The Working Class Englishman Who Beat the Casino and Changed Gambling Forever – Anne Fletcher

Well this is a book that had me up for a few late nights. A true piece of detective work by the writer Anne Fletcher as she traced the incredible story of Joseph Hobson Jagger who was an engineer from Bradford who then travelled to Monte Carlo and literally broke the bank. From the Mill to Monte Carlo (Amberley Publishing) tells the remarkable story of just how Jagger managed to pull this off. What’s more The author Anne Fletcher is the great-great-great niece of Joseph Jagger.

 

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For the author it all started with a single photograph, a newspaper article and then lyrics to a famous song. There was no way Anne Fletcher was going to stop the research now. There was an incredible story to be uncovered. And this really is an incredible true story.
Joseph Jagger was a married man with four children with the youngest of his children aged only two. Life was incredibly hard. He himself came from a large family, not unusual in those times. He taught himself to read and write before working in the Mills. He then set up his own business which was maintaining the cotton looms. His business later failed with large debts and now the family was facing the worst scenario the dreaded debtor prison. Life would be incredible harsh with little chance of ever getting out.
Jagger knew of only one way to escape the debtor prison and his plan which was nothing short of crazy was to find the cash and travel to Monte Carlo by 1861 Jagger was bankrupt, but he was determined to get to Monte Carlo and this did not happen until 1880. Through the generosity of friends, he managed to get enough money together and travel 1000 miles to Monte Carlo were he hatched out a plan to get rich quick.
He cleverly realised that the roulette wheels never span true. He studied the wheels very carefully and then started gambling. By the time he had finished he had won the equivalent of seven million. This had got the owners of the casino’s questioning what he was doing and in the end the wheels were redesigned. Jagger knew it was now time to quit and return home.
So what exactly did Joseph Jagger do with all his winnings? Jagger was clearly not a man who fame, he sought a fortune to solve a problem and won. When he got home he quietly faded from the scene. He paid back everyone who had lent him money and then made sure his children never faced the same fate he did. Jagger never lived a life of a rich man, he carried on living in the same home and just lived a very quiet life. When he died in 1892 there was no wealthy will to be read out.

It seems Joseph Hobson Jagger was ashamed of what he had done and did not want the fame that went with the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo. An incredible story wonderfully told by Anne Fletcher.

304 Pages.

Thank you to Hazel Keyes for the review copy of From the Mill to Monte Carlo by Anne Fletcher

From the Mill to Monte Carlo by Anne Fletcher was published by Amberley Publishing and was published on 15th July 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

Crowdfunding to get The Lost Words into Somerset’s Primary School’s Www We

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Crowdfunding to get The Lost Words into Somerset’s Primary School’s

The Oxford Children’s Dictionary decided to remove around 50 words that connect children and British Wildlife, words such as Otter, Dandelion, Bluebell, Kingfisher, Conker to name a few, the award winning writer Robert Macfarlane and artist Jackie Morris got together and came up with a fantastic idea that has swept across the country and taken a life of its own. The Lost Words (Hamish Hamilton) came into being.

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With spell-poems by Robert Macfarlane and the stunning artwork by Jackie Morris brings together just some of those words that would have been missing from children’s vocabulary. Nature at such a young age is so important. It was over 40 years ago that I was inspired by nature just by sights and sounds and words read in a book. All these years later nature and wildlife still bring the many pleasures and joys to me. The health benefits of being outdoors and being and being close to nature at a young age can spur a love of wildlife that may last a lifetime and who knows to their children.

It was not long after The Lost Words was released and people started to take the book to their hearts and then it began. First in Scotland. In early 2018 Jane Beaton raised £25,000 to get a copy of The Lost Words into every school in Scotland. This was the spur and The Lost Words is now a movement and around the country there are at present fifteen fund raising campaigns to get The Lost Words into school’s and the words back into children’s lives. It is a movement of love and the work and dedication of everyone involved really has moved moved me. It is uplifting and inspiring.

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Over recent months I have been close to the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize and I was delighted to see this remarkable book reach the longlist. Then to see it reach the shortlist and with a chance of winning the Wainwright Book Prize. I attended the shortlist party and spoke with Robert Macfarlane about The Lost Words and I know how much the campaigns mean to him. The the prize winning event earlier in August I spoke with the artist Jackie Morris about my initial idea of raising enough money to get a copy into Somerset’s Primary School’s.

On the morning of 15th August I launched my Crowdfunding page to raise £2,500.00 which would mean that I would be able to place a copy of The Lost Words into each of the 242 Primary School’s in Somerset. I am extremely grateful to Penguin/Random House for giving me a very special price of £9.60 rather than the cover price of £20.00 which helps keep the target figure to £2,500.00.

The Lost Words for Somerset’s Primary School’s

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-lost-words-for-somerset-primary-schools

This is were I need your help. I have until 10th October to raise the funds, and I would be extremely grateful for any donations that you can give.

The Lost Words Artist Jackie Morris has very kindly donated three special prints. If you donate £75.00 you can select a word and Jackie will create this word written in Otter. I have seen some of these and they are rather special. There is only three available. When they are gone they are gone. Jackie has also very kindly donated a small Inked Otter print. If you donate £5.00 or more you will automatically be entered into the draw to win this Small Inked Otter print.

Please spread the word far and wide the more people know the better chance we have of achieving our target.

I hope you can help and pledge to support The Lost Words for Somerset’s Primary School’s.

#LostWordsforSomerset

Thank you for reading.

John

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Hitler’s British Isles: The Real Story of the Occupied Channel Islands by Duncan Barrett

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Hitler’s British Isles: The Real Story of the Occupied Channel Islands by Duncan Barrett

When Hitler’s forces rampaged across Europe and then finally France fell to the Nazis, Hitler then turned his attention to across the Channel. Mainland Britain prepared for a similar Blitzkrieg but the Channel Islands lay perilously close to the French coastline, it was now apparent that they would be alone and not defended by Britain. In Duncan Barrett’s Hitler’s British Isles this is the definitive account of the Channel Islands five-year occupation by German forces during the war.

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Writer Duncan Barrett interviewed over one hundred people on the islands who had direct experience of the war under the Nazis. When it was announced that the Channel Islands would not be defended, an evacuation took place in 1940 of British forces and also many of the children. Though some could not come to terms of being separated from their parents and stayed on despite the fear of what was on the horizon.

It was June 1940 and the Luftwaffe arrived over the islands bombing and strafing many lost their lives during the attacks. The Islanders were not in a position to fight back. The occupation had begun and the Channel Islands were now under Nazi control. These are British Islands and they had been invaded. Over on the mainland the Battle of Britain was about to begin.

Many on the islands had their homes taken over and families had to move out. The effects of the invasion now came into force. Food was rationed and as the war went on food was scarce and the inhabitants went hungry.

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At first those that represented the islanders co-operated with their occupiers. Many of the German soldiers believed the war would be over very quickly, but after the Battle of Britain they knew they were on the Islands for some years. Many of the German soldiers believed that being on the Islands prevented them later from being sent to the front line when Hitler invaded Russia.

There was a small Jewish population living on the Channel Islands and many went into hiding sadly though many were found and rounded up and sent to concentration camps never to return.

As the war went on it was clear the Nazi command was intent on turning the main Islands into a fortress and the Organisation Todt brought around 15,000 men as slave labourers were brought in from the Eastern Europe and they were badly abused and many died of hunger or killed during the building of the fortresses. One of the sadder stories was that of Louisa Gould who helped some of the men and was caught. Louisa was sent to the infamous Ravensbrück concentration camp. She was killed in the gas chambers.

By latter part of 1944 the Islanders were starving there was little food remaining and pets were killed to survive. Now Red Cross Parcels started to arrive and just in time.

There are many horrific stories that are uncovered in Barrett’s outstanding book, and as the war ended, some of the Islanders sought justice on those who were a little too close to their German Masters. It was time for retribution.

When the war ended it was a time of trying to pick up the pieces of shattered lives. Many sent to Europe never returned. Then there is the story of a young woman from the Island of Sark who fell in love with a German and when he was sent to England as a prisoner after the war after a number of ‘arranged’ meetings it was clear their love was too strong and they married and then later returned to Sark to live their lives in peace.

Duncan Barrett has well researched the stories of the occupation of the Channel Islands and must be complimented on how well this is set out against the personal stories of those involved. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

432 Pages.

Thank you to Sue Stephen (Simon & Schuster) for the review copy of Hitler’s British Isles by Duncan Barrett

Hitler’s British Isles by Duncan Barrett was published by Simon & Schuster and was published on 14th June 2018 and is available in Hardcover through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

The 2018 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize – Shortlist Announcement

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The 2018 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize – Shortlist Announcement.

Thursday 5th July saw the announcement of the much anticipated Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize Shortlist. This year there are seven books that make the shortlist and what a shortlist. Later that day at there was a party to celebrate the shortlist announcement which was held at Waterstones Piccadilly were all the authors of the books were present as well as some of the judges and invited guests.

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Chair of Judges: Julia Bradbury

Chair of judges Julia Bradbury introduced each of the authors and their books and gave an insight to this year’s book prize and how difficult it has become to judge as the standard of nature writing has increased year on year since the prize was first launched. It is pleasing that this year for the first time we have a children’s book in The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris.

The judges for this year’s prize are for the second year will be chaired by Julia Bradbury, and her fellow judges are: TV presenter Megan Hine; Waterstones non-fiction buyer Bea Carvalho; National Trust publisher Katie Bond and ex-chairman of the campaign to protect rural England, Peter Waine.

The winner of the Wainwright Book Prize again this year be announced the National Trust Arena at BBC Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace, on 2 August. The winner will receive a cheque to the value of £5,000.

This is a book prize that is very close to my heart as my passion is nature and the great outdoors and to share this book prize that has the name of one of my boyhood heroes the great man himself Alfred Wainwright a lover of the fells of the Lake District and also a  great writer.

The 2018 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize Shortlist:

Alys Fowler

Hidden Nature by Alys Fowler (Hodder & Stoughton)

Written by award winning Guardian writer, Alys Fowler explore the canals and waterways of Birmingham via a Kyak. A book of real beauty where she explores and finds nature in places many would not expect. But this is now just a nature book, it is a personal journey of losing and finding and opening up. Nature as well as a personal journey.

240 Pages

 

John Grindrod

Outskirts by John Grindrod (Sceptre)

A social history of Britain’s green belt landscape. Conservationists and developers as well as politicians have come into conflict since the post wat years as more and more land is sought after. Hidden in the landscape that John explores are nuclear bunkers, landfill sites and on his journey meets those who fight for the protection of green belt land and those who seek to exploit it. This is a fascinating insight into today’s Britain and its social history.

368 Pages

John Lister-Kaye

The Dun Cow Rib by John Lister-Kaye (Canongate)

I have long been a fan of John Lister-Kayes writing since Song of the Rolling Earth was published in 2003. With his latest book that has made the longlist this is his memoir of growing up and finding that the natural world was about to become his life. From finding nature to founding the Aigas Field Centre in the Highlands, this is John’s memoir to this countries natural landscape and heritage.

368 Pages

Neil Ansell

The Last Wilderness by Neil Ansell – Tinder Press

Alone with nature in some of the remote parts of Britain. This is Neil’s personal account of time in solitude. A time spent as one with the natural world at a time when he was losing his hearing the sound and birdsong slowly are lost to him. A captivating memoir.

320 Pages.

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The Salt Path by Raynor Winn (Michael Joseph)

This is the true story of a couple who lost everything just days after learning that her husband was terminally ill. Everything they have worked so hard for is gone. With little time left they set about walking the entire 630 miles of the SW Costal Path. Coming to terms with what they have lost and what is to come, this is a deeply honest and life-affirming account of a couple and a journey. Nature has the power to cure and with every moment on their walk around the coastline they find beauty in the land, sea and sky.

288 Pages.

Adam Nicholson

The Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicolson (William Collins, Harper Collins)

There are ten chapters and each one is dedicated to ten seabirds. Charting their ocean travels and is set in the Scottish Shiant Isles a group of Hebridean islands in the Minch. With artwork by Kate Boxer this is look at these wonderful seabirds, with numbers now crashing this is timely and well researched book from a writer that has spent many years studying these wonderful seabirds. Were once the numbers where in many thousands they are now at a shocking level that one day soon could be lost forever and we will be left recalling reading about them in books. And that day could be very close.

416 Pages.

The Lost Words

The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (Hamish Hamilton)

Overtime there have been words from the natural world that have been lost to children. Robert Macfarlane writes the poems that tells of those lost words that meant so much to those of us who grew to learn them and Jackie Morris provides the stunning artwork. An enchanting book that has now gone into many schools around the country. A wonderful book that has already won many accolades.

128 Pages.

The Wainwright Book Prize is named after the Lakelands much loved Alfred Wainwright, and is supported by White Lion Publishing (publisher of the world famous Wainwright Guides), Wainwright Golden Beer, the Wainwright Estate and in Partnership with The National Trust. The winner receives a cheque for £5,000.

For more information, and details of the shortlist  can be found on their website with a photo gallery from the shortlist party just visit:  The Wainwright Book Prize and you can follow on Twitter via: Wainwright Prize

The Wainwright Book Prize is named after the Lakelands much loved Alfred Wainwright, and is supported by White Lion Publishing (publisher of the world famous Wainwright Guides), Wainwright Golden Beer, the Wainwright Estate and in Partnership with The National Trust. The winner receives a cheque for £5,000.

For more information, visit The Wainwright Book Prize and you can follow on Twitter via: Wainwright Prize 

Look out for my podcast coming soon were I will be discussing the Wainwright Book Prize shortlist and looking forward to the winner being announced on August 2nd at BBC Countryfile Live.

#WainwrightPrize18   #LetTheOutDoorsIn   #FindYourMountain

PRIZE DRAW:

WP Shortlist 2018

I am delighted to announce that I am running a prize draw to win a complete set of books (Seven) that make up the shortlist. If you are a lover of nature and the outdoors these are a set of books that will make your summer. A collection of books that just outstanding it the quality of writing. To stand a chance of winning the set please visit my Twitter page: The Last Word 1962 All you have to do is follow and RT the Wainwright Prize Draw Shortlist. Please NoteThe Draw will close at 7pm Friday 13th July. This is a UK only prize draw. Entrants after this time will not be included. GOOD LUCK! The prize will be issued by Mark Hutchinson Management.

My thanks to Laura Creyke and the team at Mark Hutchinson Management for the amazing work and for allowing me to run the Shortlist Prize Draw.

 

 

 

 

 

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