#BookReview Lyrics by Bryan Ferry

Lyrics by Bryan Ferry

Summary:

Bryan Ferry’s work as a singer and songwriter, both as a solo artist and with Roxy Music, is legendary.

Lyrics collects the words written for music across seventeen albums, from the first iconic Roxy album of 1972 via the masterpiece of Avalon to 2014’s reflective Avonmore, introduced by the author, and with an insightful essay by James Truman.

All the classic Roxy anthems are here – ‘Virginia Plain’, ‘Do the Strand’, ‘Love is the Drug’ – songs in which the real and the make-believe blend in a kaleidoscopic mix, shot through with cinematic allure.

Also included are the evocative lyrics of romantic longing and lost illusions for which Ferry is rightly revered: ‘Slave to Love’, ‘Mother of Pearl’, ‘More Than This’. As he writes in his preface, ‘The low points in life so often produce the most keenly felt and best-loved songs.’ And, it might be added, some of the best poetry.

My Review:

It was the 16th of June 1972 when a band called Roxy Music released their first studio album called Roxy Music. Here we are now celebrating one of the most iconic bands in popular music. Now their lead singer and the bands main song writer Bryan Ferry has just released Lyrics (Chatto & Windus) to coincide with the bands 50th anniversary. Lyrics is a collection of the songs and the words from the bands most successful albums. I can still remember seeing the band late one night on the BBC with Bryan Ferry standing at the keyboard. From that moment on, I was hooked.

Their first single was a song called Virginia Plain, which was written just after the first album was released and was a huge hit, it subsequently included on later editions of their first album. All the great songs from Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry himself are here, from ‘Virginia Plain’, to ‘Pyjamarama’, ‘Do the Strand’, ‘Love is the Drug’, and through the latter years and one of my favourite albums by Roxy Music was Manifesto released in 1979. With tracks such as ‘Angel Eyes’ and ‘Dance Away’. Just read the words to that powerful song. Then the album Avalon released in 1982 with songs such ‘More Than This’ and the beautifully written ‘Avalon’ and then more closely up to date is ‘Avonmore’ the title track of the album released in 2014.

Each chapter begins with the cover photograph of the album with the year it was released. As you read the lyrics to each song, you really do get an incredible sense of what a brilliant songwriter Bryan Ferry really is. There are words to some of the songs that really do pull on your heart strings. At the very beginning of the book James Truman, gives his thoughts on the band and the poetic song writing of Bryan Ferry. Bryan himself then introduces the book and tells the reader about how he loves poetry and how a Humphrey Bogart film inspired one of his songs.

There are some songs that through our lives when you hear them playing on the radio or via your own playlist, they will take you back to those moments in your life for reasons of real happiness or moments of deep sadness. There are many songs written by Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music that are key in my own life and some will always make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up with ‘Angel Eyes’ and ‘Dance Away’ being just two.  

336 Pages.

My thanks to Laura Creyke from Mark Hutchinson Management and Chatto & Windus for the review copy of Lyrics by Bryan Ferry, which is now available in Hardback through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

The Wolfson History Prize 2022. #BookReview Devil-Land: England Under Siege, 1588-1688 by Clare Jackson

The Wolfson History Prize Shortlist 2022. #BookReview Devil-Land: England Under Siege, 1588-1688 by Clare Jackson

Summary:

A ground-breaking portrait of the most turbulent century in English history

Among foreign observers, seventeenth-century England was known as ‘Devil-Land’: a diabolical country of fallen angels, torn apart by seditious rebellion, religious extremism and royal collapse. Clare Jackson’s dazzling, original account of English history’s most turbulent and radical era tells the story of a nation in a state of near continual crisis.

As an unmarried heretic with no heir, Elizabeth I was regarded with horror by Catholic Europe, while her Stuart successors, James I and Charles I, were seen as impecunious and incompetent, unable to manage their three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. The traumatic civil wars, regicide and a republican Commonwealth were followed by the floundering, foreign-leaning rule of Charles II and his brother, James II, before William of Orange invaded England with a Dutch army and a new order was imposed.

Devil-Land reveals England as, in many ways, a ‘failed state’: endemically unstable and rocked by devastating events from the Gunpowder Plot to the Great Fire of London. Catastrophe nevertheless bred creativity, and Jackson makes brilliant use of eyewitness accounts – many penned by stupefied foreigners – to dramatize her great story. Starting on the eve of the Spanish Armada’s descent in 1588 and concluding with a not-so ‘Glorious Revolution’ a hundred years later, Devil-Land is a spectacular reinterpretation of England’s vexed and enthralling past.

My Review:

Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2022, Devil-Land: England Under Siege, 1588-1688 (Allen Lane) by Clare Jackson is a momentous book covering the period from the defeat of the Spanish Armada by Elizabeth I to what has become known as the Glorious Revolution. The years that are covered from 1588 to 1688 was nothing short of tortuous period in English history.

There is so much history from this period to pack into a book of 700 pages, England was known by foreign observers as ‘Devil-Land’. It is not difficult to see how England was seen as a nation that was failing when you consider what happened in this period. Seventeenth-century England from the perspective of foreign countries such as France, Spain, the Dutch Republic and even closer to home within our own shores from Scotland and Ireland. They viewed this nation from civil war to the Gunpowder Plot and then the Great Fire of London, let alone a Queen that was unmarried viewed in horror by Catholics across Europe and then there is her successors such as Charles I who was then executed, and England became a republic as Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector until the monarchy was restored in 1660 as Charles II became King and his reign was turbulent. England was being viewed as a failed state.

It is hard to put into words the sheer amount of research that Clare Jackson has put into a book that is packed with historical facts and the author deserves real credit for this alone. As the book reaches its climax with the ‘Glorious Revolution’ as William of Orange invaded England.

A powerful and I found a really engaging read, for what was a traumatic period in English history. Readers should not be put off by the fact the book is about 700 pages. If you enjoy reading about history, then I would really recommend Devil-Land.

704 Pages.

My thanks to Midas PR and Allen Lane for the review Copy of Devil-Land:  England Under Siege, 1588-1688 by Clare Jackson. Published on 30 September 2021 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

On Wednesday 22 June the winner of The Wolfson History Prize 2022 will be announced at 7.15pm and you can watch the announcement live via www.wolfsonhistoryprize.org.uk/2022

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Snow Widows: Scott’s Fatal Antarctic Expedition Through the Eyes of the Women They Left Behind by Katherine MacInnes

Snow Widows: Scott’s Fatal Antarctic Expedition Through the Eyes of the Women They Left Behind by Katherine MacInnes.

Summary:

The men of Captain Scott’s Polar Party were heroes of their age, enduring tremendous hardships to further the reputation of the Empire they served by reaching the South Pole. But they were also husbands, fathers, sons and brothers.

For the first time, the story of the race for the South Pole is told from the perspective of the women whose lives would be forever changed by it, five women who offer a window into a lost age and a revealing insight into the thoughts and feelings of the five heroes.

Kathleen Scott, the fierce young wife of the expedition leader, campaigned relentlessly for Scott’s reputation, but did her ambition for glory drive her husband to take unnecessary risks? Oriana Wilson, a true help-mate and partner to the expedition’s doctor, was a scientific mind in her own right and understood more than most what the men faced in Antarctica. Emily Bowers was a fervent proponent of Empire, having spent much of her life as a missionary teacher in the colonies. The indomitable Caroline Oates was the very picture of decorum and everything an Edwardian woman aspired to be, but she refused all invitations to celebrate her son Laurie’s noble sacrifice. Lois Evans led a harder life than the other women, constantly on the edge of poverty and forced to endure the media’s classist assertions that her husband Taff, the sole ‘Jack Tar’ in a band of officers, must have been responsible for the party’s downfall. Her story, brought to light through new archival research, is shared here for the first time.

In a gripping and remarkable feat of historical reconstruction, Katherine MacInnes vividly depicts the lives, loves and losses of five women shaped by the unrelenting culture of Empire and forced into the public eye by tragedy. It also reveals the five heroes, not as the caricatures of legend, but as the real people they were.

My Review:

So much over the years has been written of the ill-fated expedition by Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his men to the South Pole, they risked so much to explore places and suffer the extreme hardships. But what of those left behind? In Snow Widows: Scott’s Fatal Antarctic Expedition by the Women Left Behind (William Collins) by Katherine MacInnes tells the story of the five women whose lives were thrust into the limelight.

With access to family records and years spent researching the lives of the five women, what the author has put together is superbly written account that for the first time gives the account of the five women behind the men who set off to explore the Antarctic for their country and the empire. But who were the women?

Kathleen Scott was the young wife of Captain Scott and the leader of the team, Oriana Wilson, wife of the expedition’s doctor, Emily Bowers, Mother of Henry Robertson Bowers, Emily Bowers had travelled the world as a missionary teacher, Caroline Oates, Mother of Lawrence Oates and Lios Evans, the wife of Edgar Evans. In the 1948 film Scott of the Antarctic Edgar Evans was played by James Robertson Justice.

The expedition became known as the Terra Nova expedition after their ship Terra Nova and the expedition covered the years 1910-1913. Sadly, the bodies of Scott and his team were found on 12 November 1912. Now the wives and mothers of the men were thrust into the spotlight. Snow Widows is an incredibly fascinating read with so much historical detail and photographs that have not been seen before. The story of the five women and the sacrifices that they made from assisting with the fundraising and lobbying. These are their stories and for the first time are now being told.

512 Pages.

My thanks to Alison Menzies and William Collins for a copy of Snow Widows by Katherine MacInnes which was published on 14 April 2022 and is now available in Hardback through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

Sabine’s War: The Incredible True Story of a Resistance Fighter Who Survived Three Concentration Camps by Eva Taylor

Sabine’s War: The Incredible True Story of a Resistance Fighter Who Survived Three Concentration Camps by Eva Taylor

Summary:

An astonishing tale of romance, resistance and bravery

Sabine’s War is the previously untold story of a remarkable resistance fighter and her incredible story of survival against the odds.

When Germany invaded Holland in May 1940, Sabine Zuur joined the resistance movement without a moment’s hesitation aged just 22. Helping to hide those avoiding the German authorities, she was soon betrayed and subjected to repeated violent interrogations. Many of her friends were executed but Sabine was instead sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp, via the Amersfoort and Ravensbrück camps. Enduring gruelling conditions and backbreaking forced manual labour, she survived through a combination of guile and good fortune.

But it was only after Sabine’s death that her daughter Eva discovered an archive of letters detailing her extraordinary life, revealing a rich inner world and a past she had discussed little. Amongst them were declarations of love from pilot Taro, shot down in his Spitfire over northern France aged just 26; notes from Sabine’s second love Gerard, executed by the Germans; letters to her mother smuggled out in her prison laundry; and passionate, creepy missives from a German professional criminal named Gebele who would ultimately save Sabine’s life. She emerges from this correspondence as a woman with an indefinable aura, somehow in control of her own destiny even when to all intents and purposes she was not.

A transfixing story of survival, Sabine’s War captures a remarkable life in the words of the young woman who lived it.

My Review:

Today is my spot on the blog tour for Sabine’s War by Eva Taylor (Harper North) which is published tomorrow 31st March. This is the true story of Sabine Zuur a brave Dutch resistance fighter, her story is told by her daughter Eva Taylor after she discovered an archive of letters and photographs after Sabine’s death. The letters detailed her incredible life as a resistance fighter in Holland.

Sabine Zuur was born in Samarang, Java, Indonesia in 1918 and the family moved to Holland in the early 1930’s. In the letters the Eva discovered, she manages to put together her mother’s life. As the Second World War engulfed Europe, Sabine was in love with Taro who was a fighter pilot flying Spitfires and Taro was shot down while on active service over France. Sabine like many others joined the Dutch resistance when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands in May 1940, Sabine was just 22 years-old at this time. One of her roles was to hide those that needed shelter from the Nazi regime now in control in Holland. This was a dangerous position to be in and soon Sabine was betrayed by those that colluded with the Germans.

Sabine Zuur now faced a brutal period at the hands of her Nazi interrogators as they sought to find others in the group. Sabine was not just brave she was courageous to face what she endured, but not she was to face two years in concentration camps, she was first in Amersfoot, and then Ravensbrück before being marched to Mauthausen concentration camp situated in Upper Austria. Many of her friends were executed and a number of times she believed that she was next. Sabine faced terrifying conditions with forced manual labour and little food.

Sabine managed to smuggle out letters to her mother. But it was a German criminal by the name of Gebele that despite the fact that he seemed to send Sabine terrifying letters it was he who ultimately saved Sabine’s life. The fact that she managed to survive at all is an incredible story and a powerful story at that. Sabine Zuur was brave and courageous, and her story needed to be told for future generations to understand. Sabine’s War is a remarkable story of survival against the odds.

224 Pages.

My thanks to Sofia Saghir (Midas PR) for the review Copy of Sabine’s War by Eva Taylor which is Published by Harper North on 31st March 2022 and is now available 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 Books That Made My Year: 2021

My Books of the Year for 2021

That was the year that was. We are still living in uncertain and strange times, but you can always guarantee that books will be there and get us through and they have again this year.

So as the old year draws to a close, I want to share some of the books that I have read and reviewed here on my blog, or through my book reviews for Word Gets Around magazine or via radio during the past year.

This year I have selected my ten fiction titles and ten non-fiction titles without actually picking just one from each to be my best book of the year. There have been so many great books through 2021 and it was incredibly hard to keep it down to just ten.

My ten fiction books of 2021

My ten favourite fiction reads for 2021:

The Night Gate by Peter May (riverrun)

Set in France in the autumn of 2020, Enzo Macleod is asked to investigate the discovery of the remains of a man found beneath a tree. He has been shot through the head. There is another murder and the two are seventy years apart. To uncover the whole story, you must go back to the fall of France in 1940.

A Net for Small Fishes by Lucy jago (Bloomsbury)

This is a fabulous novel based on the true story that rocked the court of James I. If you love historical novels then this sumptuous novel with vivid characters is just waiting to be read. So much detail of the seventeenth century court life.

While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart (Headline)

Paris in 1944 a young woman is hoarded onto a train that is bound for a concentration camp and in an act of desperation she passes her baby to a complete stranger. Fast forward to Santa Cruz in 1953 and the past is about to return. I absolutely loved this novel.

No Honour by Awais Khan (orenda Books)

A story based in a small Pakistani village and sixteen-year-old Abida there are age old rules to abide by and consequences if you don’t. She wants a life with the young man she loves. She has no choice but to leave her village and head to Lahore. But this is where the story really begins. Powerful and heart wrenching.

Still Life by Sarah Winman (Fourth Estate)

Brilliant does not do justice to Still Life. I know this is many readers favourite of 2021 and it is not hard to see why. I just love Sarah’s writing. The story moves between London and Florence in a sweeping novel of love and fate. Simply gorgeous.

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex (Picador)

Cornwall 1972 and three lighthouse keepers have simply vanished from the lighthouse, but what did really happen to the three men? Surely, they could not have just simply vanished? Based on real events.

On Hampstead Heath by Marika Cobbold (Arcadia Books)

Thorn Marsh writes for the London Journal but now it has been bought out Thorn finds herself moved from the news desk to the midweek supplement and fabricates a good news story. So why has she done this? You could easily overlook this novel. But don’t it is just wonderful.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint (Wildfire)

Shortlisted for Waterstones book of the year. A stunning retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and Minotaur. A wonderful debut novel. Jennifer Saint writes so beautifully. Cannot wait to see what comes next.

The Beresford by Will Carver (Orenda Books)

The Beresford is an apartment building where the rates are cheap but ring the doorbell if you dare. No-one seems to stay for very long, but they never seem to leave if you know what I mean. This is a dark and creepy story with some humour added. A master storyteller.

Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks (Hutchinson)

Set across three time periods, beginning in 1914 and WWI and as we move through the years WWII is looming. This is a sweeping love story that begins in Austria. A tale of love lost and found.

My ten non-fiction books of 2021

Power and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages (Head of Zeus)

Dan Jones does not write short history books, at 720 pages but what Dan does is write gripping history books. This account covers the period from AD 410 to AD 1527. It is a compelling read that you just cannot put down. There is so much contained in over 700 pages. Through this period, we see empires built and destroyed. Easily in my top ten of the year.

The Reacher Guy: The Authorised Biography of Lee Child by Heather Martin (Constable)

Think of Lee Child and you automatically know him from the huge bestselling books, over 100 million of them, but do you know Lee Child the man? How did it all begin? Heather Martin has spent time with great man himself and it is all here. There is so much in this biography. Heather Martin is a wonderful writer and if you are a fan of Lee Child, this is a must read.

Mozart: The Reign of Love by Jan Swafford (Faber & Faber)

I have been fascinated by the great composers for many years and really wanted to get to know more about who they really were. Well look no further, this is a stunning book that covers the life of the genius composer. Mozart was not like the other composers. Different is an understatement but what genius as a composer. This book covers his life in over 800 pages.

Index, A History of the by Dennis Duncan (Allen Lane)

We can be so guilty of overlooking the humble index, so how did it all begin and were did they begin. The answer is here in one of my non-fiction books of the year. This could be so easily overlooked but it should not as we use indexes more than you think. Next time you Google, think of this. Duncan brings wit into his account of the index which spans over 800 years.

The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster (Little Toller Books)

Writing this on a dull last day of the year, I miss the Swift, the scream as they fly low of the house. But it won’t be long I tell myself. In the meantime, here is an account of Charles Foster’s as he follows the Swift from its wintering home and waits patiently for the return to the UK. It is poetic and thoughtful with beautiful illustrations. Shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize in 2021.

The Making of Oliver Cromwell by Ronald Hutton (Yale University Press)

This is a new and fascinating history of Oliver Cromwell. The only English commoner to become head of state. Ronald Hutton gets to the facts of a man that really has his place in history of this country. I am really hoping there is a part two to this outstanding book.

A Poet for Every day of the Year by Allie Esiri (Macmillan)

I have had a love of poetry since I was very young and have many of the collections put together by Allie Esiri and here are 366 poems for each and every day of the year. From Shakespeare to Wordsworth to Christina Rossetti and many more. Many of the poets and the poems may be familiar but many will be new to you. This book is never far away from me every day.

The White Ship by Charles Spencer (William Collins)

One of the great disasters of this country happened was the sinking of the White Ship in 1120. Many drowned including the King’s heir. But what really happened that night. It was the fastest ship afloat. Charles Spencer writes an historical account, and it reads like a bestselling thriller.

Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack by Richard Ovenden (John Murray)

A 3,000-year history of the destruction of knowledge. We all know of the burning of the books in Germany in 1933, but books have been under attack since the clay tablets. This is a really important book about knowledge, and it is very thought-provoking.

The Glitter in the Green: In Search of Hummingbirds by Jon Dunn (Bloomsbury)

Having been to the Caribbean and seen Hummingbirds up close, they are just so alluring. Jon Dunn takes us on a journey to discover some of the great Hummingbirds with great stories of his encounters with the birds and the people he meets on his travels.

So, there we are another year in books comes to a close. I will keep saying this, but writers and books are so important, especially during uncertain times when we can escape into a book be it a novel or a book on history. This year I have started my journey with the Open University studying English Literature and Creative Writing and it has already given me a new perspective on how I read as well as writing.

I have really sharing some great books over the last year and I am so grateful for all the kind comments that many have taken to the time to add. Sat on my desk among the pile of study material are some great books for 2022 just waiting to be read and it already looks like being another great year.

This is also my opportunity to thank all the authors and publishers and the many people who work in PR who have trusted me with their books. To each one of you all I can do is thank you. It is also a chance to mention bookshops and the incredible booksellers who again have been working so hard in these difficult times and yet just look at the book sales over the past year.

I hope the New Year is a better year for us all. Here’s to more great books in 2022.

Aurochs and Auks: Essays on Mortality and Extinction by John Burnside

Aurochs and Auks: Essays on Mortality and Extinction by John Burnside

Summary:

Aurochs and Auks is a deeply moving and intelligent meditation on the natural processes of death and extinction, renewal and continuity. Prompted by his own near-death in a time of pandemic, John Burnside explores the history of the auroch (Bos primigenius), the wild cattle that has become the source of so much sacred and cultural imagery across Europe, from the Minotaur and the Cretan bull dances to Spanish corrida traditions. He then tells the story of the Great Auk, a curious bird whose extinction in the mid-nineteenth century was caused by human persecution and before stepping into multiple extinctions of the outer and inner world.

My Review:

John Burnside is a poet and an author, for his latest work Aurochs and Auks: Essays on Mortality and Extinction (Little Toller) John Burnside takes a look death and extinction in a collection of four essays which includes the story of the Great Auk that was extinct back in the mid-nineteenth century directly because of human persecution.

What prompted John to write his collection of essays was a near-death experience because of covid. This was the catalyst that created the four essays and begins with Aurochs. These were the very large Cattle that roamed the landscapes of Europe centuries ago. The very last Aurochs died out in Poland in 1627. The second is a look at extinction itself and a look really behind the word and Extinction Rebellion come into this chapter.

The third chapter is the sad story of the Great Auk that became extinct in the mid-nineteenth century again this was due man’s persecution. Been keen on ornithology I have read many books on this incredible bird. It is sad that we never had the chance to witness the Great Auk.

The final chapter ‘Blossom Ruins’ looks at the authors near-death experience due to covid and how close John was to dying, so much so that that his wife was told to prepare for the worst. To come back from this experience is life changing and you look at life and the world very differently. He notes in his account his deep appreciation for the NHS and the work they have done during this dreadful time and how they looked after him.

This may seem like a dark book to read but the message through these pages is loud and clear for all humanity to read. Maybe this is a book that politicians around the world need to read. John’s words are profound and prophetic if man does not change its ways. After all are we not the caretakers of this planet we call home? Not just for us but all the creatures on this planet.

128 Pages.

My thanks to Little Toller Books for the review copy of Aurochs and Auks by John Burnside. Published on 18th October 2021 and is now available direct through Little Toller Books https://www.littletoller.co.uk/shop/books/little-toller/aurochs-and-auks-by-john-burnside/ or through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or via Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

The Reacher Guy: The Authorised Biography of Lee Child by Heather Martin

The Reacher Guy: The Authorised Biography of Lee Child by Heather Martin

Summary:

Lee Child is the enigmatic powerhouse behind the phenomenally successful Jack Reacher novels. With devoted fans across the globe, and over a hundred million copies of his books sold in more than forty languages, he is that rarity, a writer who is both critically acclaimed and adored by readers. And yet curiously little has been written about the man himself.

The Reacher Guy shows us for the first time the young man behind the invention of Jack Reacher. Through parallels drawn between Child and his literary creation, it tells the story of how a lost and lonely boy from Birmingham with a ferocious appetite for reading grew up to become a high-flying TV executive, before coming full circle and establishing himself as an internationally bestselling author.

Heather Martin explores Child’s lifelong fascination with America – and shows how the Reacher novels fed and fuelled this obsession. Drawing on exclusive correspondence and conversations with Child over a number of years, she forensically pieces together his life, from Northern Ireland and County Durham to New York and Hollywood. This is the definitive account of the man behind one of the most iconic series of our times.

My Review:

I have to admit here that I read this some months ago when the weather was warmer and the days longer. Welcome to The Authorised Biography of James Dover Grant OBE. Or to put it another way. The Reacher Guy: The Authorised Biography of Lee Child (Constable) by Heather Martin. Huge international bestselling author does not do him justice. Lee Child is more than this.

I have to say a very big thank you to Heather Martin who I have go to know on Twitter and her inspirational comments. The paperback was released on 21st October.

This really is the stuff of boyhood dreams to become one of the worlds leading thriller writers. Everyone knows the number one worldwide Jack Reacher series from book to Hollywood silver screen. But how many of us know the man behind the writing?

What Heather Martin has done is to craft his story from the in-depth conversations over a period of time that has given Heather the chance to tell the story of Lee Child from childhood and his early school days in Coventry to the day he was made redundant, and this is where he decided that this was his moment in time to become an international bestselling writer. We all dream the dream of making good and the security this will bring but as many writers know there is rejection, but his time had arrived.

As biographies go this, I found to be a real page turner, as I have been fascinated with writers and their craft for many years and I must congratulate Heather Martin for the engaging way she has gone about writing Lee Child’s biography. There are interesting facts that come to light through the pages.

This is by no means a quick biography at 544 pages it is a fabulous read. If you have enjoyed reading the Jack Reacher series, then you must make The Reacher Guy high on your list as this will give a gripping insight to the man who made it all happen and proves that dream can come true.

There are also interviews with teachers, colleagues, and friends in interweaved with many stories of Lee Child’s life that eventually took him to the USA. One biography not to be missed.

544 Pages.

My thanks to Heather Martin, Little Brown and to Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the  review copy of The Reacher Guy by Heather Martin. Published by Constable (Little Brown) on 21st October 2021in Paperback and is now available 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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Three Stripes South by Bex Band

Three Stripes South by Bex Band

Summary:

In 2016, desperate for a drastic change, Bex Band decided to walk the length of Israel with her husband: a 1000km trek including a dangerous crossing through the vast Negev desert.

She’d never done anything like it before and the experience changed her life, building back her confidence and self-esteem.

Three Stripes South tells the story of this transformative adventure – battling heat, exhaustion, self-doubt and prejudice – and the new life Bex built for herself when she got home, founding the Love Her Wild women’s adventure community.

‘Lacking confidence is something that a lot of women can relate to’ says Bex. ‘For me personally, it began at school with undiagnosed dyslexia and bullying. This fed into my adult years where I found myself in a vicious cycle of unhappy jobs and bouts of depression. I had low self-esteem and a belief that I really wasn’t capable of achieving much in life.’

Fast forward to today and Bex has transformed her life, tackling gender inequality in adventure travel, and championing women in the outdoors through regular talks, blogging and leading women on adventures all over the world. Nominated for multiple awards for her work advocating women in adventure, her story is an inspiration.

My Review:

Have you ever dreamed of just giving up your home and your job and just heading off on the adventure of a lifetime? Allow me to introduce you to Bex Band who did just that along with her husband and gave up everything and headed off to Israel. Three Stripes South (Bradt Travel Guides) is Bex’s account of their adventure.

The Israel National Trail is 1,000-kilometre trek that includes a dangerous trek through the Negev desert, and this is the trek that Bex and her husband gave up everything and head to Israel and complete the arduous trek in searing temperatures.

Bex has had to this point very little in the way of experience in trekking this sort of distance but after years of seeing dreams becoming stifled, she knew that there needed to be change and to find herself and regain the confidence that sometimes only the wild outdoors can bring. Nature as they say is an incredible cure. So now Bex found herself booking airline tickets. Just that little click, and her life was about to change for ever. Now the 1,000-kilometre trek lay ahead of her. Like a pebble tossed into a pond and watching the ripples spread outward, this was how this incredible trek, and its effect had her confidence and self-esteem. Just the thought of the trek through the desert is an incredibly brave thing to do when you do not have the experience. But does this stop Bex and her husband, not on your life.

Bex writes with humour and passion for what she does, and how this trek has changed her life, after returning home she set up Love Her Wild and this has inspired so many people with her social media posts and just reading Three Stripes South is inspiring. You will want to buy yourself a pair of walking boots and head off.

You can almost feel the heat of the sun from the pages, it is an engaging read, and I really enjoyed the adventure.

You can find more about Bex Band through her Twitter page @Bex_Band

216 Pages.

My thanks to Bex Band and Bradt Travel Guides for the review copy of Three Stripes South by Bex Band Published by Bradt Travel Guides on 6th August     2021 and is now available through Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

A Short History of Russia: From the Pagans to Putin by Mark Galeotti

A Short History of Russia: From the Pagans to Putin by Mark Galeotti

Summary:

Can anyone truly understand Russia? Let one of the world’s leading experts show you how, using the fascinating history of a nation to illuminate its future.

Russia is a country with no natural borders, no single ethnos, no true central identity. At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, it is everyone’s ‘other’. And yet it is one of the most powerful nations on earth, a master game-player on the global stage with a rich history of war and peace, poets and revolutionaries.

In this essential whistle-stop tour of the world’s most misunderstood nation, Mark Galeotti takes us behind the myths to the heart of the Russian story: from the formation of a nation to its early legends – including Ivan the Terrible and Catherine the Great – to the rise and fall of the Romanovs, the Russian Revolution, the Cold War, Chernobyl and the end of the Soviet Union – plus the arrival of an obscure politician named Vladimir Putin.

My Review:

When we think of Russia, we think of the Russian Revolution and more recently the Cold War. The world’s largest country has quite a history and how Mark Galeotti manages to keep it to under 210 pages is a real feat, but in A Short History of Russia: From the Pagans to Putin (Ebury Press) he manages this really well.

This is not a book the delves deeply into Russian history there are many books already out in bookshops that cover this but what Mark Galeotti brings us is a concise history of the rulers and from tsars to Communist Party leaders, of course there are the wars, and they are covered here. It is impossible to cover just about every aspect of Russian history. What I did like was the various timelines at the beginning of each of the eight chapters and there are photographs along the way and there are suggestions for further reading if you want to explore the various subjects.

But most of all I really enjoyed Mark Galeotti’s writing style, I found it easy to follow and really engaging. As you reach the climax of the book we get to the end of the USSR and then on to the rise of Putin. Which you could well write a whole book on.

All in all, this for anyone who has an interest in history and even politics I would happily recommend.

208 Pages.

On Friday the 8th October, we welcome back the Cheltenham Literature Festival and in-person book events.

Mark Galeotti will be attending the festival as part of the Understanding Russia event with details below:

Monday 11th October 2021. 10:30am for tickets to the event Understanding Russia:

https://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature/whats-on/2021/l092-understanding-russia/

The 2021 Cheltenham Literature Festival returns to live in person events this year. For further information on all events taking place over the next two weeks:

https://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature

#CheltLitFestival

My thanks to Sofia Sagir (Midas PR) for the review copy of A Short History of Russia by Mark Galeotti.

A Short History of Russia by Mark Galeotti is published by Ebury Press and is now available 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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Goshawk Summer: A New Forest Season Unlike Any Other by James Aldred

Goshawk Summer: A New Forest Season Unlike Any Other by James Aldred

Summary:

In early 2020, wildlife cameraman James Aldred was commissioned to film the lives of a family of Goshawks in the New Forest, his childhood home. He began to plan a treetop hide in a remote site that would allow him to film the Gos nest, the newly hatched chicks and the lives of these elusive and enchanting birds.

Then lockdown. And as the world retreated, something remarkable happened. The noise of our everyday stilled. No more cars, no more off-roaders, no more airplanes roaring in the skies, no one in the Goshawk woods – except James.

At this unique moment, James was granted a once in a lifetime opportunity to keep filming. And so, over Spring and into Summer, he began to record his experiences in a place empty of people but filled with birdsong and new life.

Amidst the fragility and the fear, there was silver moonlight, tumbling fox cubs, calling curlew and, of course, the soaring Goshawks – shining like fire through one of our darkest times. A Goshawk summer unlike any other.

My Review:

James Aldred is an Emmy award-winning wildlife cameraman and has worked alongside Sir David Attenborough on many projects. Recently released is his latest book Goshawk Summer: A New Forest Season Unlike Any Other (Elliott & Thompson) Which tells the story of how James was commissioned to film a family of Goshawks in the New Forest during the countries first Covid lockdown. Goshawks are incredible birds of prey. I have only ever seen one in my life and was left in awe at its power.

When James Aldred was given permission to film a pair of Goshawks deep in the New Forest the country was in lockdown, the forest was quiet, even the sky was free from the noise of aircraft. It felt like James had the entire forest to himself. This was a rare opportunity to film without disturbance.  A treetop hide gave incredible views of the nest during the spring months as the pair began to raise their family.

Rarely seen as they are silent hunters of the forest James will have just seconds as he will hear the call as one of the Goshawks approaches the nest from deep within the forest. Through the spring the forest is awakening from its winter sleep and life is returning the forest is full of birdsong, but this is a springtime unlike any other we have known. As James filmed, he also kept a written diary, and this is how Goshawk Summer is set out. James writes so beautifully you are almost there with him. We all may have been locked down at home, but nature came into its own and as spring turned into early summer the forest came alive.

As much as this is a book about a family of Goshawks what James also brings us is the story of how the New Forest burst into life with birds and animals. This indeed was a very special moment and a rare moment even for the experienced James Aldred. The year 2020 was a dreadful year and one we will never forget but at the same time what James brings us here is something rather special as you join him doing what he loves in a special place that is close to his heart. Goshawk Summer is a very special book and one I treasured reading.

304 Pages.

My thanks to Alison Menzies and Elliott & Thompson Books for the review copy of Goshawk Summer by James Aldred.

Goshawk Summer by James Aldred is published by Elliott & Thompson Books on 29 July 2021 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org