Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Fiction and Non-Fiction Books of the Year 2019

Fiction and Non-Fiction Books of the Year 2019

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As the old year comes to a close it is time to look back at the books I have read and loved through the year. This year I am going to do something a little different rather than just select my favourites I am going to simply select my best fiction and non-fiction. Two books that really made my year and really got my attention. So many books could have made the list that I had trouble just choosing the top ten.

FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR 2019

 

COVER

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

(Harper Collins)

Summary:

EVERYONE’S INVITED.
EVERYONE’S A SUSPECT.
AND EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT IT.

In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.

The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.

Fiction Book of the Year 2019:

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley was my first read fiction read that I started on New Years Day and it was the perfect read for the time of year. It screamed Agatha Christie very quickly into the book. I was hooked and this is a story based at a Hunting Lodge on The Loch Corrin Estate in the Highlands of Scotland a group of friends who have known each other for many years gather again to bring in the New Year Hogmanay style. The weather is closing in with heavy snow falling and there is a murder. Nobody can leave. Among the group trapped in the lodge are the guests and a small number of staff and there is a murderer among them. But who is it?

A chilling and atmospheric crime thriller and a cast of characters that you will come to know and one of them could be the killer, but then again what of the staff? You will also get to hear their thoughts as well.

My Review from January 2019:

What a cracking start to 2019 with a good old fashioned murder mystery and The Hunting Party (Harper Collins) the debut crime novel Lucy Foley and what a cracking edge of your seat thriller it turned out to be. The perfect read between Christmas and New Year as you will see why.

It is New Year’s Eve at a group of friends have come together to see in the New Year in style at The Loch Corrin Estate which is a typical out of the way hunting lodge in the Highlands. A Hogmanay to remember as it turned out for all the wrong reasons.

Snow is falling and it is turning out to be a white out, real blizzard conditions. So a group of friends who all went to oxford spend their New Year’s Eve year on year together. The story starts on New Year’s Day and something is very wrong as one of the guests is missing and a body has been found. This was no accident in the snow. This is murder. So who done it and why?

This group of friends now in their thirties have known each other for some years so who has been murdered and it is clear the killer is one of the party. With the snow getting worse. No-one is leaving and the police cannot get to the lodge due to the bad weather.

We do not know who has been murdered as Lucy Foley keeps us guessing as we work back and forth and are introduced to each of the characters and what a group of characters they are. Then there are the staff. There are three on duty for the Hogmanay celebrations and we get to know each of them. The plot is thickening and past history is bubbling to the surface.

There is something brilliantly old about reading The Hunting Party, knowing you are trapped inside this old lodge and there is a killer among you and will they strike again?

The characters really do bring something to the party and eerie setting makes for a chilling and twisty plot.

This will keep you gripped to the very end. Brilliant writing from Lucy Foley makes The Hunting Party a one to watch for January 2019. I would order your copy today. How well do you know your friends?

So many great fiction titles I have read through the year and so many of them came very very close but The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley was the book that I just kept talking about through the year.

NON -FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR 2019

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The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

(Doubleday)

Summary:

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.

What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888.

Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women.

Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, historian Hallie Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, and gives these women back their stories.

Winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2019

Hay Festival Book of the Year 2019

NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR 2019:

If my choice of the fiction book of the year was my first book to have been read of 2019, then my choice of Non-Fiction book of the year was my last book to have been read of 2019 and what a book it was.

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold was released in late February of this year and I never got to read this until December despite many people recommending this to me and what an outstnading piece of work by Hallie Rubenhold. For over 130 years the five Women were all labelled as protitutes and finally Hallie Rubenhold tells the story of the five women and their lives. There only crime was that they were homeless and many of them turned to drink and so when their bodies were found they were labelled as protitutes. What Rubenhold tells in her account is the story of the five women. This book will leave a mark on me for many years and will make you angry at how badly each of the victims have been treated for over 130 years. A briliant book that will finally give a voice to the five women.

My Review from December 2019:

The brutal murders by Jack the Ripper took place in 1888, that was 131 years-ago and at last a landmark book has been written of the real lives of the five women that were murdered in London by a killer that has never been identified. The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Historian Hallie Rubenhold (Doubleday) gives a voice to the five women and it is without doubt one of the greatest books of 2019.

If you searched for books on Jack the Ripper it would take you the best part of the day to look at each one as each book sets out trying to identify who the killer was, but how many books have there been that give a voice to the five women: Mary Anne ‘Polly’ Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly. The research done by Hallie Rubenhold has been extensive and deserves the many plaudits she has received for this vital book. The misogyny that surrounds the many stories of Jack the Ripper through the years and even still today.

Each of the women has a chapter dedicated to them and follows their lives from day they were born to when they died. Each one found themselves alone and in poverty in the Whitechapel part of London. Each of the women led a life and someone’s daughter, friend, lover and deserves better than history has given them. At last in Hallie Rubenhold’s book their lives are detailed and the myths finally buried.

What Rubenhold explores is the extreme hardship of the times and being a woman meant having little or no support. Being born into hardship and spiralled downwards, alcohol dependency and being homeless, the police investigation tells of the women being prostitutes but this Hallie Rubenhold after extensive investigations finds that there is no evidence stating that three of the five being Nichols, Chapman or Eddowes were not prostitutes but they were preyed upon because they were just intoxicated, homeless and asleep. To Jack the Ripper they were targets.

Never has a book held me in its grasp as The Five has. History has been extremely shameful in what has been said of the five women but 131 year later, Hallie Rubenhold has provided justice for each of the victims for which I congratulate the author. It is though shameful that it has taken over 130 years for this wrong to be righted. Highly Recommend.

Books of the Year 2

 

So there we have it. Another year in books has come to a close. A year that I will remember for many great reasons. We celebrate books and the writers through the year and looking ahead to 2020 and a new decade it promises to be another exciting literary year.

To those who follow me here or through my Twitter feed, thank you for all your kind words and to the those who I have had the pleasure of meeting here is to the next time.

Let us hope for a more peaceful year ahead.

Happy Reading and Happy New Year.

 

 

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

Cover

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

Summary:

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.

What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888.

Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women.

Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, historian Hallie Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, and gives these women back their stories.

Winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2019

Hay Festival Book of the Year 2019

 

My Review:

The brutal murders by Jack the Ripper took place in 1888, that was 131 years-ago and at last a landmark book has been written of the real lives of the five women that were murdered in London by a killer that has never been identified. The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Historian Hallie Rubenhold (Doubleday) gives a voice to the five women and it is without doubt one of the greatest books of 2019.

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If you searched for books on Jack the Ripper it would take you the best part of the day to look at each one as each book sets out trying to identify who the killer was, but how many books have there been that give a voice to the five women: Mary Anne ‘Polly’ Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly. The research done by Hallie Rubenhold has been extensive and deserves the many plaudits she has received for this vital book. The misogyny that surrounds the many stories of Jack the Ripper through the years and even still today.

Each of the women has a chapter dedicated to them and follows their lives from day they were born to when they died. Each one found themselves alone and in poverty in the Whitechapel part of London. Each of the women led a life and someone’s daughter, friend, lover and deserves better than history has given them. At last in Hallie Rubenhold’s book their lives are detailed and the myths finally buried.

What Rubenhold explores is the extreme hardship of the times and being a woman meant having little or no support. Being born into hardship and spiralled downwards, alcohol dependency and being homeless, the police investigation tells of the women being prostitutes but this Hallie Rubenhold after extensive investigations finds that there is no evidence stating that three of the five being Nichols, Chapman or Eddowes were not prostitutes but they were preyed upon because they were just intoxicated, homeless and asleep. To Jack the Ripper they were targets.

Never has a book held me in its grasp as The Five has. History has been extremely shameful in what has been said of the five women but 131 year later, Hallie Rubenhold has provided justice for each of the victims for which I congratulate the author. It is though shameful that it has taken over 130 years for this wrong to be righted. Highly Recommend.

Note: The London Library has recently started a Podcast series and in Episode One Director of the London Library Philip Marshall talks to Hallie Rubenhold. The podcast is available to download via all the main podcast providers or through the London Library website: Here

432 Pages.

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold was published by Doubleday and was published on 28th February 2019 in Hardback and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy. (Watersones Book of the Year 2019)

COVER

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy

 

Summary:

Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons.

The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.

 My Review:

Sometimes when you write a review for a book that is just so special there literally are no words you can write because no matter what you write it would not do justice to the book or the author. The same can be said of The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy (Ebury Press) The most beautiful book of the year.

Author

Our world is in a real mess right now and hope seems to be in short supply, many of us have been looking for something to cling to I guess call it a life raft for life itself and then comes along a book that is just so full of hope and is a real inspiration. It is a beacon for everything that is good in us and in our lives.

This is the story of Charlie’s four friends, it all started with a simple conversation with the horse confiding in the boy about the bravest thing he had ever said. ‘Help’ said the horse. Sometimes in life we all need to be brave and ask for help. It is not a weakness but it is a strength of character as well as brave.

The story is set in Springtime when the weather can be really strange a bit like life as we all know. The boy meets the mole. They set off on an adventure and soon meet the fox who is quiet for a reason that will become clear and then they meet the horse.

Throughout this beautiful story we meet ourselves in every character and there is nothing wrong with that. It is a book that will tug at your heartstrings and bring a few tears to your eyes and yet at the same time fill you full of hope. At times we are all fragile and doubt ourselves. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse will make your heart burst. We do sometimes forget the words love and also friendship then I recommend that you spend time with Charlie’s four remarkable friends and it is like a warm blanket on a cold winters night. I can feel my heart filling up as I write these words.

Voted as Waterstones Book of the Year for 2019 this will make the most beautiful Christmas gift for anyone of any age. Can I suggest that you go out and buy this book for yourself and one for anyone you know who is going through a difficult time. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

128 Pages.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy was published by Ebury Press and was published on 10th October 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay

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Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay

 

Summary:

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat . . . but 1.4 million NHS staff are heading off to work. In this perfect present for anyone who has ever set foot in a hospital, Adam Kay delves back into his diaries for a hilarious, horrifying and sometimes heartbreaking peek behind the blue curtain at Christmastime.

Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas is a love letter to all those who spend their festive season on the front line, removing babies and baubles from the various places they get stuck, at the most wonderful time of the year.

My Review:

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay was huge success and is still selling very well. Adam returns with a festive book Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas (Picador). This is a book that will find its way into many a Christmas stocking this year and it is both hilarious and heart-breaking at the same time.

AUTHOR

There was many laughs in Adam Kay’s first book but may be because this is a look at the life on the NHS wards at Christmastime I actually found this to be more hilarious.

I mean what on earth are people doing at Christmas to land themselves in hospital I mean what are Candy Canes for exactly? To eat you cry, just try telling that to some out there. (I will leave this to your imagination). Adam really does know how to reach out to people and make them laugh and there are barrel loads of laughs throughout.

The NHS staff across the country all year deserve so much praise for being there at all hours of the day and night to look after us when we need their help. But so much more during the festive period when they sacrifice so much to care for those of us who need care and attention. I was one of those in my childhood that spent Christmas in hospital. I have never forgotten the nurses and doctors of that hospital. Being ill or having accidents does not stop just because it is Christmas.

There are so many hilarious stories that Adam shares from his diaries of his time in an NHS hospital during the festive period. But also at the same time there are some stories that will make you stop and think and are rather sad and poignant.

There is also the message about how dangerously underfunded the NHS has become to the point of the medical staff working long hours without a break or sleep. Our wonderful NHS needs all our support all year round it is not a political football to be played with at election time. It needs real-time investment and that includes in nurses and doctors.

If you do want a seriously good laugh after you have over eaten and drunk too much, then my prescription is Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay. I promise it is a far more entertaining than Christmas Day TV.

One last thought. If you have been treated in hospital this past year, why not send a card to the hospital or some chocolates to the doctors and nurses that treated you to give them some Christmas cheer on the big day.

160 Pages.

Twas The Nightshift before Christmas by Adam Kay is published by Picador and published on 17th October 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott

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The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott

Summary:

1921. The Great War is over and families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He was declared ‘missing, believed killed’ during the war, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph in the post, taken by Francis, hope flares. And so she begins to search.

Francis’s brother, Harry, is also searching. Hired by grieving families to photograph gravesites, he has returned to the Western Front. As Harry travels through battle-scarred France, gathering news for British wives and mothers, he longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last conversation they ever had. 

And as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they begin to get closer to a startling truth.

An incredibly moving account of an often-forgotten moment in history, The Photographer of the Lost tells the story of the thousands of soldiers who were lost amid the chaos and ruins, and the even greater number of men and women desperate to find them again.

My Review:

We all know of the horrific stories of the battlefields of World War One but what of the those who were lost. The Photographer of the lost by Caroline Scott (Simon & Schuster) tells this part of the story. The war is over and now the search for the missing begins.

author

It is impossible for me to sit here and try and imagine what life must have been like to be told that your loved one has been killed or missing and then to find out that his body has not been found. Caroline Scott has written a powerful and hugely emotive novel based on one families search for answers. This is an incredible debut novel that Caroline Scott has researched and poured her heart into.

Three years after the war ended so many families have been left broken by the loss of their loved ones but in this story it focuses on one of the missing. It is May 1921 and Edie is distraught still after losing Francis her husband who is missing presumed dead. Edie receives a letter in the post and a photo of her beloved husband. This completely throws Edie. But there is no news. Has he been found alive or has his body been located?

What Edie does next is to head to the battlefields of France to seek answers but when she arrives she realises that there are many who are searching for answers as to what happened to their loved ones. We also meet Harry who is the brother of Francis. Harry survived the war but the scars remain and now he wants answers to what happened to his brother and won’t rest until he does. But the scars of the war have been taking their toll on Harry.

Harry is not only searching for answers about his brother but has been tasked by so many families to seek answers to their own lost. Harry is the photographer of the lost by taking photographs of the last resting place for those who have been killed so that the families have some closure and can grieve and start the long of moving on with life even with the pain in their hearts.

The tone is sombre all throughout as you would come to expect from such a storyline. There is so much pain that pours from each page as you travel with Edie through France and to the grave sights and also with Harry tasked with finding those who were lost and to try and find his brother. The silence of France as it too grieves for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Caroline Scott has written a beautiful story of the lost and asks so many questions that the reader will ask of themselves. It is hard to imagine the pain and hardship of the families left without their loved ones as they begin the journey of looking for answers. I have been thinking a lot about this book since I have finished reading and the story of Edie, Harry and Francis has touched a part of me.

So many books have been written about WWI but this is the first novel focusing on the aftermath of the war and the search for answers. If you enjoy reading historical fiction, then I would look no further than The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott. Highly Recommended.

512 Pages.

Thank you Simon & Schuster for the review copy of The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott

The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott was published by Simon & Schuster and was published on 31st October 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

 

Christmas Poetry pamphlets from Candlestick Press

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Ten Poems about Snow Selected and Introduced by Carole Bromley

 

Summary:

The appeal of snow must have something to do with childhood – the excitement of waking up to a white world and placing our wellies into cold crunchiness. As adults we still feel the magic of snow’s hushed calm, which for a few days can slow down our hectic lives.

This mini anthology takes us on an enchanted journey through worlds of snow until we arrive, of course, in Robert Frost’s mysterious snowy woods. You’ll also find poems published here for the first time – winners and runners-up in our snow poem competition. Each offers a delightfully unexpected response:

“And I stood at the window and held the cat warm and purring
Heart to heart with me as we watched the snow fall

 My Review:

My childhood memories of snow are some of the happiest. Crazy snowball fights and dashing out of bed at the sight of morning snow to build a snowman. These memories we carry through our lives and we recall them when you need them most. Just reeased are two Christmas poetry pamphlets in time for the festive period that make the ideal christmas card.

Ten Poems about Snow selected and introduced by Carole Bromley we are seo reminded of those cold snowy winter days. From playing in the snow to those glitery winter snow globes. What is about waking to find snowfall and the world suddelny falls quiet. Is it me that just thinks that? Ten Poems that take us on a journey through the world of snow as seen and experienced through many eyes.

In Snow Day by Lucy Jeynes we are reminded that in one cubic foot of snow there are a billion snowflakes and each one unique. All is quiet and no sound of cars on the road. In When it Snowed by Kerry Darbishire there is Wordsworth skating in his black coat.

Each poem is a reminder of the beauty of snow and it changes the landscape. Don’t ask me to select a favourite as they are all just beautiful. This is just the perfect Christmas Card.

 

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Christmas Spirit – Ten Poems to Warm the Heart

 

Summary:

These ten specially commissioned poems celebrate the joy of Christmas in all its variety. Some evoke the bustle of untangling fairy lights, of shopping and cooking and opening presents, while others celebrate our more ancient seasonal traditions, such as collecting holly and ivy to bring into the house. And then, of course, there’s the mistletoe:

“I want to cry out, as Frigga did,
to the air and birds and new-found tenderness of
the world…
…Come, stand with me beneath these white berries of love.
Let me hold you, kiss you.

from ‘The Golden Bough’ by Rosie Jackson

The poems remind us that amid the inevitable hurly burly there’s always time to pause and savour quiet moments. This joyful and heart-warming selection is guaranteed to add a sprinkle of beauty and delight to every Christmas.

 My Review

What does Christmas mean to you? It means different things to everyone of course. In Christmas Spirit: Ten Poems to Warm the Heart the poems celebrate the pure joy of christmas period.

We all know how busy we are at this time of year trying to find the perfect gifts for family and friends, celebrations with family and friends and yet with the year now old we are really supposed to be slowing down to enjoy Christmas but here are ten poems to just make us stop and remember how chirstmas should be. I love bringing the outside in with Holly and Mistletoe to decorate the living room. Each poem has been specially commissioned for the pamphlet to help us just remember this special time of year and to make us pause amid the rushing around the shops and enjoy just some quiet moments and realise what christmas should be about. Think of it as a little christmas sprinkle in a card.

Thank you to Candlestick Press for the review copies of Ten Poems About Snow and also Christmas Spirit. Both Now available to order through their website: Candlestick Press

Candlestick Press are a small independent publisher based in Nottingham and were founded in 2008. The team consists of four dedicated people in Di Slaney (Publisher), Kathy Towers (Assistant Editor) and two admin assistants. Their aim is simple to spread the joy of poetry to adults and children alike who love poetry and or may be just beginning their journey in to enjoying poetry. These small pamphlets are just ideal for bedtime reading or like I have been doing and that is enjoying them on journeys.

They have published so many of these beautiful pamphlets on a wide range of topics from Christmas to Cricket, from Dogs to Sheep and even Clouds and walking and even breakfast. These wonderful poetry pamphlets make the ideal gift to send to friends and loved ones. For more information, please visit the Candlestick Press website: Candlestick Press

100 Things I Meant to Tell You by Arthur Smith.

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100 Things I Meant to Tell You by Arthur Smith

Summary:

Arthur Smith’s first book for many years, 100 Things I Meant to Tell You brings together 100 stories, poems and articles gathered over a colourful lifetime making a living on the
comedy circuit.

In 2005 Arthur turned down a Perrier Award for Lifetime Achievement, saying “They wanted to tell me I was old and cool; well, I know that already.” Currently the popular host of BBC Radio 4 Extra’s Comedy Club, he has travelled all over the British Isles and the rest of the world perform-ing and reporting on a range of subjects as diverse as Flotsam and Jetsom in Holland (in a series for BBC 1’s The One Show) and more recently, goat yoga in Ipswich, but never before has he corralled all these wonderful stories into book form.

Some humorous, some anecdotal, some nostalgic and some extremely poignant, the stories include the time Arthur was arrested for ‘breach of the peace and possession of a megaphone’, the time he hitched a lift from a nun and heard his own voice (imitating Leonard Cohen) playing on her car radio, the fight he had with Billy Connolly, his flight in a Tiger Moth, and – in verse – his hatred of Teletubbies.

Covering a huge range of subjects and emotions, tales of hilarious, chaotic antics are juxtaposed with gentle, bittersweet stories about love affairs that ended badly and his mother’s journey into dementia, making this a cornucopia of delight for Arthur Smith fans everywhere.

My Review:

What can I say about Arthur Smith? He is one of my favourite comedians. Anyone who has seen and loved the BBC series Grumpy Old Men will know just how funny Arthur Smith really is. Now just released is 100 Things I Meant to Tell you. (AA Publishing).

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After studying at the University of East Anglia Arthur became a dustman and even starred in a rock band before eventually becoming a full-time entertainer and one of our best loved ones at that. Arthur Smith is a regular at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival now for over 40 years. Not to mention that he has travelled the world performing he comedy act as well as performing in plays.

In 100 Things I Meant to Tell You the legend that is Arthur Smith brings us his own unique great humour and there are here many things that you will have never previously known of before that even I at times gasped at while reading. This can only be described as a rip-roaring memoir. But really I think it is more than just a memoir. A lesson in life perhaps from one of the great grumpy old men. His humour is my humour just plain dry.

This is Arthur’s life through his very own eyes. It is gags galore but there are also moments when he tells his story with great humility as he talks about his near death experiences.

With Christmas coming up it is just the perfect gift for anyone who is a fan of the great man and entertainer Arthur Smith.

288 Pages.

 Thank you Vanessa Oboagye (Midas PR) for the review copy of 100 Things I Meant to Tell You by Arthur Smith.

100 Things I Meant to Tell You by Arthur Smith was published by AA Publishing on 31st October 2019 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames by Lara Maiklem

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Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames by Lara Maiklem

Summary:

Mudlark (/’mAdla;k/) noun A person who scavenges for usable debris in the mud of a river or harbour

Lara Maiklem has scoured the banks of the Thames for over fifteen years, in pursuit of the objects that the river unearths: from Neolithic flints to Roman hair pins, medieval buckles to Tudor buttons, Georgian clay pipes to Victorian toys. These objects tell her about London and its lost ways of life.

Moving from the river’s tidal origins in the west of the city to the point where it meets the sea in the east, Mudlarking is a search for urban solitude and history on the River Thames, which Lara calls the longest archaeological site in England.

As she has discovered, it is often the tiniest objects that tell the greatest stories.

My Review:

Before I settled down to write this review I Googled ‘What is a mudlark’ and it say they are people who scavenge along river beds for items of value. But there is so much more to Mudlarking than just looking for items of value. The River Thames is tidal and is really an archaeological site all of its own. Just stop and think about the history of the Thames. Now Lara Maiklem in Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames (Bloomsbury) gives us an insight to the items she has found and that each one has a story.

AUTHOR

As the tide recedes then history is just waiting to be discovered. the Thames is the main artery of London. Would London even exist if the Thames was not there? Where there is a main river then towns and cities are built and with it comes items that are discarded into the river all just waiting to be discovered by Lara Maiklem. For Maiklem she has been walking the Thames now for about fifteen years and every item she finds is of historical value. Each has a story back in years gone by. From the many clay pipes that are discovered daily to items of incredible value and even ordnance dropped by German aircraft in WWII as London went through the blitz.

Of course you just cannot turn up at the banks of the Thames and start searching for items, being a Mudlark is not that simple. You have to apply for a permit and you have to be a member of the Society of Mudlarks and even then you have then needed to have held a standard permit for over two years and then it is still not that simple. This is a society surrounded in mystery. There is so much history to the Thames. I lived in London for over thirteen years and was fascinated by the river.

There are those of course who see the river as a bit of a goldmine just waiting to discover the next item of value with their metal detectors, but not for Lara. Each item she finds is carefully examined and cleaned and then researched. From early man to the Romans through to the period of the Great Fire of London when people hurled their belongings into the river rather than seeing them being consumed by the fire that spread along the river bank.

There is so much history just beneath the mud on the banks of the Thames and each time Lara makes a visit as the tide drops she looks and finds. Just turn over that rock and there is another piece of history just waiting to be found.

What I loved about Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames was that it read so easily and Lara’s care and also interest in the items she has found. Lost items are just waiting to be found it may take a few hundred years but someone else will be find our lost items. Some years ago I tossed an engagement ring into the Thames from London Bridge after a relationship ended. I would like to think that in a few hundred years-time a Mudlark scouring the riverbank will find that very ring. That in itself is a romantic thought. A wonderful read and highly recommended.

336 Pages.

Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames by Lara Maiklem was published by Bloomsbury and was published on 18th August 2019 and is available to through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

Ring the Hill by Tom Cox

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Ring the Hill by Tom Cox

 

Summary:

It is a book written around, and about, hills: it includes a northern hill, a European hill, some hills from East Anglia that can barely be called hills at all. Each chapter takes a type of hill whether it be knoll, cap, cliff, tor, bump or even mere hillock as a starting point for one of Cox’s characteristically unpredictable and wide-ranging explorations.

These can lead to an account of an intimate relationship with a beach, a journey into Cox’s past or a lesson from an expert in what goes into the mapping of hills themselves. Because a good walk in the hills is never just about the hills: you never know where it might take you.

My Review:

Over recent years I have become a bit of a fan of Tom Cox’s writing, I pick up one of his books and I am lost for the entire day. Now just released by Unbound is his latest offering. Ring the Hill. This is a book about hills! So for someone like me who loves hills and mountains (though mountains are not included in the book) the first thing I did when a copy of Ring the Hill arrived was to Google: What constitutes a hill? The answer is really quite simple according to the National Geographic. A hill is a piece of land that rises higher than everything around it. So there you have it. Armed with this I settled down to what turned out to be a real gem of a read.

Tom-Cox-and-Bear

So what is Ring the Hill all about. In Tom’s own words A knoll, cap, cliff, tor or even just a bump, Tom is going to take you the reader on a trip across the country and even a European hill.

The first thing that I have to say is what a glorious cover design and Glastonbury Tor on the cover. I was sold straight away and talking of Glastonbury and its Tor, it does take centre stage for me in the book as Tom takes us around the mystical town and surrounding parts of Somerset that have mystery just around every corner. I hold Glastonbury Tor very close to my heart it is a very special place but I just don’t know why. It has history of course as the last About of Glastonbury Abbey, Richard Whiting was hanged, drawn and quartered along with two of his Monks on the 15th November 1539.

There is so much to rejoice in Tom’s writing as he makes it look so easy (I am sure he would argue with me over that) and it is a real pleasure to read as he takes us across the land to hills and bumps and Knolls. And there is great humour in Tom’s writing while on his adventure to discover the hills and the towns around them.

Ring the Hill is the sort of book you want to pack in your rucksack and head off to climb a few hills one Sunday and them find a cosy pub with a log fire and settle down with your favourite tipple and I promise you time will just disappear while you read this joyous book.

Now get your walking boots on! Highly recommended.

#RingTheHill     @cox_tom     @unbounders

340 Pages.

Thank you to Unbound and also Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of Ring the Hill by Tom Cox.

Ring the Hill by Tom Cox was published by Unbound and was published on 3rd October 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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

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

Paperback release

Summary:

As November stubs out the glow of autumn and the days tighten into shorter hours, winter’s occupation begins. Preparing for winter has its own rhythms, as old as our exchanges with the land. Of all the seasons, it draws us together. But winter can be tough.

It is a time of introspection, of looking inwards. Seasonal sadness; winter blues; depression – such feelings are widespread in the darker months. But by looking outwards, by being in and observing nature, we can appreciate its rhythms. Mountains make sense in any weather. The voices of a wood always speak consolation. A brush of frost; subtle colours; days as bright as a magpie’s cackle. We can learn to see and celebrate winter in all its shadows and lights.

In this moving and lyrical evocation of a British winter and the feelings it inspires, Horatio Clare raises a torch against the darkness, illuminating the blackest corners of the season, and delving into memory and myth to explore the powerful hold that winter has on us. By learning to see, we can find the magic, the light that burns bright at the heart of winter: spring will come again.

My Review:

Released on 3rd October is The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal (Elliott & Thompson) in Paperback. Written in the form of a diary that starts in October and works its way through from autumn through the winter months. This is a repost of my review for the hardback edition which was released in November 2018.

Horatio Clare Author Picture

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.

#TheLightInTheDark @HoratioClare @eandtbooks

224 Pages.

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