Sword of Bone by Anthony Rhodes

Sword of Bone by Anthony Rhodes


It is September 1939. Shortly after war is declared, Anthony Rhodes is sent to France, serving with the British Army. His days are filled with the minutiae and mundanities of Army life – friendships, billeting, administration – as the months of the ‘Phoney War’ quickly pass and the conflict seems a distant prospect.
It is only in the spring of 1940 that the true situation becomes clear; the men are ordered to retreat to the coast and the beaches of Dunkirk, where they face a desperate and terrifying wait for evacuation.

My Review:

I am delighted to be reviewing another in the Wartime Classics series by The Imperial War Museum. Sword of Bone by Anthony Rhodes and was first published in 1942 and is based on the authors own experiences of life in the British Army during the opening weeks of WWII and then being evacuated at Dunkirk.

When Britain declared war on Germany on 3rd September 1939 many believed that the war would be over very quickly, and many soldiers also believed that the war would be akin to WWI with fighting in the trenches. But what happened in those early weeks was called the ‘phoney war’ with British troops sent to France and many enjoying the French hospitality. But that was soon to end with the German blitzkrieg as they stormed in Belgium and then France and British troops began to head to the coast with Dunkirk becoming the focal point as they gathered in the hope of being rescued and shipped back home.

Very much written with the author recounting his time and memories of what it was like arriving in France and life seemingly carrying on as normal, there are some humorous moments but with the fighting getting ever closer and those in command realising they could be defeated and so the order to retreat was made and the beaches at Dunkirk were packed with hundreds of thousand of British troops trying to escape but even when they arrived at Dunkirk the German Luftwaffe would attack the troops and ships.

A slow burn of a book to read but once the retreat is ordered the book began to pick up. But it is another book to add the collection of Wartime Classics if you are collecting the series.





336 Pages.

My thanks to Imperial War Museum and RandonTTours for the review copy of Sword of Bone by Anthony Rhodes.

Sword of Bone by Anthony Rhodes is published by Imperial War Museum Books   and was on published on 20th May 2021 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

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Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe by Judith Herrin

Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe by Judith Herrin

Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2021


In 402 AD, after invading tribes broke through the Alpine frontiers of Italy and threatened the imperial government in Milan, the young Emperor Honorius made the momentous decision to move his capital to a small, easy defendable city in the Po estuary – Ravenna. From then until 751 AD, Ravenna was first the capital of the Western Roman Empire, then that of the immense kingdom of Theoderic the Goth and finally the centre of Byzantine power in Italy.

In this engrossing account Judith Herrin explains how scholars, lawyers, doctors, craftsmen, cosmologists and religious luminaries were drawn to Ravenna where they created a cultural and political capital that dominated northern Italy and the Adriatic. As she traces the lives of Ravenna’s rulers, chroniclers and inhabitants, Herrin shows how the city became the meeting place of Greek, Latin, Christian and barbarian cultures and the pivot between East and West. The book offers a fresh account of the waning of Rome, the Gothic and Lombard invasions, the rise of Islam and the devastating divisions within Christianity. It argues that the fifth to eighth centuries should not be perceived as a time of decline from antiquity but rather, thanks to Byzantium, as one of great creativity – the period of ‘Early Christendom’. These were the formative centuries of Europe.

While Ravenna’s palaces have crumbled, its churches have survived. In them, Catholic Romans and Arian Goths competed to produce an unrivalled concentration of spectacular mosaics, many of which still astonish visitors today. Beautifully illustrated with specially commissioned photographs, and drawing on the latest archaeological and documentary discoveries, Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe brings the early Middle Ages to life through the history of this dazzling city.

My Review:

Over the years I have learned a lot about Ravenna and the mosaics in the churches. As a lover of history, it is one of those must-see places. On this year’s Wolfson History Prize shortlist is Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe (Allen Lane) by Judith Herrin tells of how Ravenna became the Western Capital of the Roman Empire, but it did not stop there. We all know the history of Rome and how it was the centre of the Roman Empire. But situated in the North of Italy is Ravenna and its rich place in history.

From 402 until its collapse in 476 Ravenna was the capital of the Roman Empire, and then the Kingdom of Theoderic the Goth and then that of the Byzantine empire.

Judith Herrin has written a sumptuous book that is beautifully illustrated, and the research is incredible. If you have a real interest in the history of Europe, then this is a book I would add to your reading list. Going through this part of history Ravenna changed hands so many times. There is so much incredible artwork on show through Herrin’s book that will entice the reader to add Ravenna to their places of interest, it is not just the mosaics that have remained but there are also important documents that date back to the fifth century.

What Judith Herrin does is tell the story of Ravenna in short chapters from the fourth century to the ninth that are fascinating and throughout there are the beautiful illustrations which just add to the interest of Ravenna and its place in history of its rulers and the politics.

Lord Byron made Ravenna his home from 1819 to 1821, anyone who has read Mary Shelly’s The Last Man will know of Ravenna and Oscar Wilde wrote a poem called Ravenna in 1878 and the poem features in the opening pages of Judith Herrin’s outstanding Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe.

One of six books Shortlisted for The Wolfson History Prize 2021 with the virtual prize ceremony taking place at 6pm Wednesday 9th June. I am extremely honoured once again to be taking part in the blog tour to cover one of the six books on the shortlist.


This year’s winner will be announced on Wednesday 9th June.

To find out more about the Wolfson History Prize visit their website: https://www.wolfsonhistoryprize.org.uk/

576 Pages.

My thanks to Ben McCluskey and Midas PR for the invitation to take part in this year’s blog tour.

Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe by Judith Herrin is published by Allen Lane on 27th August 2020 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

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The Anointed by Michael Arditti

The Anointed by Michael Arditti


Michal is a princess, Abigail a wealthy widow, and Bathsheba a soldier’s bride, but as women in Ancient Israel their destiny is the same: to obey their fathers, serve their husbands and raise their children.

Marriage to King David seems to offer them an escape, but behind the trappings of power they discover a deeply conflicted man. The legendary hero who slew Goliath, founded Jerusalem and saved Israel is also a vicious despot who murders his rivals, massacres his captives and menaces his harem.

Michael Arditti’s masterly new novel centres on three fascinating, formidable women, whose voices have hitherto been silenced. As they tell of love and betrayal, rape and revenge, motherhood and childlessness, they not only present the time-honoured story in a compelling new light but expose a conflict between male ruthlessness and female resistance, which remains strikingly pertinent today.

My Review:

This is the retelling of the story of King David, but this is no ordinary retelling as the story is from the perspective of three women. The Anointed (Arcadia Books) by Michael Arditti. Novel rich in history of biblical times as Michal, Abigail and Bathsheba all formidable women give voice when at a time women were silenced and to obey their fathers and serve their husbands. But this is the story of the three women.

All three women were married to King David, Michal is a princess and daughter of Saul, Abigail is a wealthy widow of Carmelite Nabal and Bathsheba was a soldiers wife, before King David she was married to Uriah before being widowed. Now all three are married to the hero who slaid Goliath and went on to found Jerusalem and hero of Israel.

But there is more to King David as he is brutal despot who murders anyone who is against him and then there is the massacres, and the story tells of how he treats his wives. The women silenced but this is their story and it a story of long ago but one that is important today.

The women tell of love, rape, betrayal, sorrow, childlessness, and revenge. A story from the women’s perspective is a strong one and is thought provoking as we look at King David in a new perspective.

It is though Bathsheba who will come out of this story as the stronger and more powerful she will have a son who will be called Solomon who will be just as cruel and brutal as his father.

But there is something else within King David that only one of his wives can seem to be able to see. Despite the horrors and how he treats his wives there is real sadness in David a tragic sadness perhaps, it is Abigail that only sees this through her own eyes.

Although this is a retelling of the story of King David, it is a powerful historical story that brings the story of King David to life. A man who believes he was the chosen one by the Lord.

Thought provoking and challenging but I really enjoyed The Anointed by Michael Arditti. If you like your historical novels then I will recommend you read as historical Israel is brought to life.





337 Pages.

My thanks to Amber Choudhary and Midas PR for the review copy of The Anointed by Michael Arditti

The Anointed by Michael Arditti is published by Arcadia Books and on 20th May      2021 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org


Pathfinders by Cecil Lewis

Pathfinders by Cecil Lewis


Over the course of one night in 1942, the crew members of Wellington bomber ‘P for Pathfinder’ each reflect on the paths of their own lives, as they embark on a fateful mission deep into the heart of Nazi Germany.
Cecil Lewis’ novel examines the life of every man in turn, rendering a moving account of each as not merely a nameless crew member, but as an individual with a life lived, ‘a life precious to some, or one… these men with dreams and hopes and plans of things to come’.

My Review:

Over recent years I have become addicted to the Imperial War Museum Wartime Classics over recent years, and I am delighted to be able to review Pathfinders (Imperial War Museum Books) by Cecil Lewis. Originally published in 1944 and is about the crew of a Wellington bomber as they set off on a mission at the very heart of Nazi Germany.

The story of Pathfinders is each member of the crew of the Wellington bomber ‘P’ for Pathfinder they are the first to light up the target for the bomber aircraft that are following behind. But this is not going to be just another ‘sortie’ for the crew. Each member of the Wellington will take their turn at looking back over their lives as they set off on their fateful mission over Germany.

The story begins on a trawler off the coast, and they believe they have caught another mine in their nets but very quickly it turns out to be part of a Wellington bomber that never made it home. This is a poignant story that very rarely gets told. Those of the pathfinder aircraft.

The crew of ‘P’ for Pathfinder come from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and London and each has a life and through the story you get to know each of the brave crew members that never saw home again. It was based on the real life of the author as he was a fighter ace in World War One.

Each member of the crew has a reason for being a member of the Wellington bomber and how they joined up at the start of the war. This is no ordinary story of action adventure but focussed more on the personal stories of those involved. On a bomber each crew member as a set role and they must work together and trust each other and the bond on each aircraft is strong. I really enjoyed reading Pathfinders by Cecil Lewis and I found I could not put the book down as I wanted to learn more and hear of the lives of the crew. If you have read any in the previous Wartime Classics from the Imperial War Museum then you will want to add this to your collection.





264 Pages.

My thanks to Imperial War Museum Books and Random Things Tours for the review copy of Pathfinders by Cecil Lewis

Pathfinders by Cecil Lewis is published by Imperial War Museum and is published on 20th May 2021 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org


The Patient Man by Joy Ellis

The Patient Man by Joy Ellis



Serial killer Alistair Ashcroft is back and more terrifying than ever.

He sends a sinister warning to DS Marie Evans and breaks into DI Rowan Jackman’s uneasy domestic bliss.
Now everyone Jackman cares about is in danger. Yet for all Ashcroft’s taunts, he is nowhere to be found. Meanwhile, a seemingly routine break-in at the home of gun-club owner Kenneth Harcourt becomes complicated when the man long held responsible for killing Harcourt’s young daughter is shot dead in a car park by a sniper.
A killer is on the loose in the quiet streets of Saltern-le-Fen, and he isn’t going to stop. And the sniper, like Ashcroft, takes to taunting the police: they’ll never catch him, they need to respect him, they shouldn’t be sidetracked looking for their old adversary.

Jackman and Evans find themselves in a lethal game of cat-and-mouse, but are they the cats or the mice?

My Review:

First, I must admit I have not read any of Joy Ellis’s books before now, but I really enjoyed The Patient Man (Joffe Books) which has been shortlisted for the Crime & Thriller Book of the Year in this years British Book Awards ( Nibbies) which take place on 13th May.

The sixth in the series featuring Detective Inspector Rowan Jackman and Detective Superintendent Marie Evans. Although this continues from previous books, I found I got into the plot quickly as Jackman and Evans finally get to confront the psychopath that has haunted them. Alistair Ashcroft has murder on his mind, and it is the people of Saltern-le-Fen that are going to be dragged through coming events as Jackman and Evans hunt down their man before even more dead bodies turn up.

As the title of the book suggests, Ashcroft is intent on revenge and he now believes his time is now, the tension builds as a game of cat and mouse begins as Jackman is desperate to get this man and it is getting personal.

What I found I really liked that despite the building tense climax there is also some local crime in the town that needs investigating but is there a link to the crimes and a stolen rifle?

I really enjoyed Joy Ellis’s writing and how she weaves a thrilling pulse racing crime novel and writes in some interesting characters. The Patient Man holds nothing back from the very start and to the nerve-jangling ending. Does Jackman finally get his man? No spoilers here but this sets the pulse racing.

320 Pages.

My thanks to Becky Hunter and Joffe Books for the review copy of The Patient Man by Joy Ellis.

The Patient Man by Joy Ellis is published by Joffe Books and was published       18th June 2020 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

Walking Pepys’s London by Jacky Colliss Harvey

Walking Pepys’s London by Jacky Colliss Harvey


Samuel Pepys walked round London for miles. The 21/2 miles to Whitehall from his house near the Tower of London was accomplished on an almost daily basis, and so many of his professional conversations took place whilst walking that the streets became for him an alternative to his office. With Pepys’s London, the reader will come to know life in London from the pavement up and see its streets from the perspective of this renowned diarist. The city was almost as much a character in Pepys’s life as his family or friends, and the book draws many parallels between his experience of 17th-century London and the lives of Londoners today. Colliss Harvey’s new book reconstructs the sensory and emotional experience of the past, bringing geography, biography and history into one. Full of fascinating details and written with extraordinary sensitivity, Pepys’s London is an unmissable exploration into the places that made the greatest English diarist of all time.

My Review:

In my youth I really enjoyed reading Samuel Pepys’s diary his accounts of the Great Plague in 1665 and the Great Fire of London the following year both witnessed by Pepys’s and they offer a great insight of what it was like in the city as the rich and wealthy fled including the king. I have walked many times through London retracing the many key places of times past, but I was delighted to have received a copy of Walking Pepys’s London (Haus Publishing) by Jacky Colliss Harvey just released in a stunning read hardback edition simply perfect for your pocket.

Samuel Pepys was a great walker and he walked across London daily, and it is said that the streets were indeed his office. I have often thought about what routes he took and now Jacky Colliss Harvey has written a book that is a guide to five of the walks that Samuel Pepys would often take and now you can retrace he famous walks.

Each walk is of varying length and Jacky is your guide as you trace Pepys steps the author points out many famous places and landmarks. They are both entertaining and informative. Walks from Westminster to the City, a night walk, a walk along the river to Greenwich and even a New Year’s Day walk. Each synonymous as the great man himself would have walked each.

You will get to visit many famous places that would be of real interest to anyone who loves the city and its links to famous names, and many are pointed out.

The real beauty of this book is that you do not have to travel to London, from the comfort of your chair Jacky is your guide and there are maps that lead you along each walk.

The night-time walk is really a half-day walk through London then across the river to Southwark and to one of the oldest pubs in the country the George Inn which dates back from 1677 and a place I know very well and remains a place close to my heart. It is owned and leased by the National Trust and is worthy of a visit.

I really enjoyed Jacky’s writing as she guides you across the capital pointing out places of interest. If you enjoy history and London, I can really recommend Walking Pepys’s London by Jacky Colliss Harvey.

220 Pages.

My thanks to Haus Publishing for the review copy of Walking Pepys’s London by Jacky Colliss Harvey

Walking Pepys’s London by Jacky Colliss Harvey is published by Haus Publishing    and was published on 15th April 2021. Available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster

The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster


Swifts live in perpetual summer. They inhabit the air like nothing on the planet. They watched the continents shuffle to their present places and the mammals evolve. They are not ours, though we like to claim them. They defy all our categories and present no passports as they surf the winds across the worlds. They sleep in the high thin air – their wings controlled by an alert half-brain. This is a radical new look at the Common Swift – a numerous but profoundly un-common bird – by Charles Foster, author of the New York Times Bestseller, Being a Beast. Foster follows the swifts throughout the world, manically, lyrically, yet scientifically. The poetry of swifts is in their facts, and this book, in Little Toller’s monograph series, draws deeply on the latest extraordinary discoveries.

My Review:

As I write this it is that time of year that I become excited, I know they are coming, and I have heard reports of sightings, but I am out walking most days eyes searching the sky looking and hoping to see the return of my most favourite birds that visit us for the summer months. The Swift (Apus apus) but as I have been waiting patiently, I have been reading The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster that has just been released by Little Toller Books.

Swifts spend all their time on the wing and only come to land to breed, they even sleep on the wing and in the book the author recounts details of a WWI pilot while flying at night coming across a group of Swifts that seemed to be sleeping in a cloud even airline pilots have recounted sighting of Swifts.

But they like many species are under so much pressure in our modern world whether it is the insects they feed on or their nesting sites diminishing. Yet imagine a summer without seeing a flock of screaming Swifts flying low over your house. An RSPB survey said numbers had fallen by 53% between 1995 and 2016. That is a shocking statistic and more must be done to save them.

I read recently that there are 113 species of Swift in the world (International Ornithological Congress), and we do have the odd rarity of Swift that crosses the channel to the UK most summers. But for the Common Swift they are built for flying and not for landing just look at those incredible wings and the forked tail. Ever since I was a boy I was fascinated with Swifts and to this day the excitement of seeing my first of the summer. But sad when the time comes for them to depart on their return journey to Africa. I have spent a few weeks during the winter in Africa watching Swifts and bid them farewell until the summer when I left for home. It was the naturalist Gilbert White said that Swifts hibernated under water.

In The Screaming Sky, Charles Foster follows them from Africa in their wintering home and then counting the days for their migration and their perilous journey to Europe and the UK. Foster also talks about how strange weather can create vast gatherings of Swifts and in 2020 off Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire there was a gathering of more than 46,000 birds, I cannot even begin to imagine what a sight that must have been.

This is a wonderful book for anyone who loves our annual summer visitor and the illustrations by Jonathan Pomeroy just make this book so perfect. This is a book that will sit perfectly among my vast natural history books and will cherish re-reading during the cold dark winter months after the swifts have departed. But first I am off for a walk in the hope of seeing my first sighting of the summer. It has been a long winter. I yearn to hear a flock of screaming swifts again.

You can follow Charles Foster on Twitter: @@tweedpipe

And Little Toller: @LittleToller

179 Pages.

My thanks to Little Toller Books for the review copy of The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster.

The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster is published by Little Toller Books and was published on 14th April 2021. Available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org