Category: Blog Tour (page 1 of 4)

Second Life by Karl Tearney

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Second Life by Karl Tearney and published by Fly on the Wall Press.

 

About the Book

 

As a newcomer to poetry and writing Karl has made quite an impact with his succinct and thought-provoking style. Encouraged by Emma Willis MBE after he’d sent her a thank you poem, Karl’s work has been coveted by many. His work has included appearances at festivals and readings around the country. He is hugely passionate about encouraging other sufferers of mental issues to look toward the Arts as a means of therapy.

 

About the Author

 

Karl Tearney enlisted into the British Army at 16 and dedicated 35 years of his life as a pilot in the Army Air Corps. He was medically retired in early 2016 and found great solace in writing and especially a new-found passion for poetry. The demand for his style of writing has led to National and local Television as well as Radio. In 2018, he was a panellist at the Hay literature festival, helped with a Poetry workshop at RADA and also exhibited some of his work at the ‘Art in the Aftermath’ Exhibition in Pall Mall.

 

My Review

There are stressful jobs and then there are jobs that are another level above that. Being in the army on operational service is one of those. Tearney was in the flying core in Northern Ireland and then Bosnia. On tour, he saw things that still haunt him even today. He had been coping, but it turns out it was just that he had been suppressing the pain within and after uncontrollable sobbing at work was admitted to hospital for treatment. It worked to a point, but it was only when he began to write, and write poems in particular that some of that internal tension began to release.  This collection is his first but it follows on from many appearances where he has shared his work with others.

This collection has been separated into three themed sections, My Mental Mind, Love and finally Moments. And they are raw and honest. Some poems are lighter in tone than others, and some are very bleak indeed as he confronts the demons within. He changes the pace of the poems, moving from a regular four-line pattern to others that are dense blocks of text to others that are a brief, but intense two-line cry. I liked the way that he has used language in his search for relief from his PTSD, and through that has helped himself and many others in one way or another.

Favourite Poems

The Tiny Door

Coffin

Coastal Path

Fog

Summer 1943

 

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour

 

Buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here or direct from the publisher, here.

 

My thanks to Fly on the Wall Press and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for the copy of the book to read.

Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness and published by Unbound.

 

About the Book

‘I can’t remember the last book I read that I could say with absolute assurance would save lives. But this one will’ Chris Packham

When Joe Harkness suffered a breakdown in 2013, he tried all the things his doctor recommended: medication helped, counselling was enlightening, and mindfulness grounded him. But nothing came close to nature, particularly birds. How had he never noticed such beauty before? Soon, every avian encounter took him one step closer to accepting who he is.

The positive change in Joe’s wellbeing was so profound that he started a blog to record his experience. Three years later he has become a spokesperson for the benefits of birdwatching, spreading the word everywhere from Radio 4 to Downing Street.

In this groundbreaking book filled with practical advice, Joe explains the impact that birdwatching had on his life, and invites the reader to discover these extraordinary effects for themselves.

 

About the Author

Joe Harkness has been writing a Bird Therapy blog for the last three years. In 2017, he had articles published in The Curlew and Birdwatch magazine as well as recording three ‘tweets of the day’ for BBC Radio 4. He is employed as a Special Educational Needs teacher and has worked in the youth sector for nine years. He lives in Norfolk.

 

My Review

Just as he was putting the twisted bed sheet around his neck, the front door opened and footsteps pounded up the stairs. A firm but kind voice persuaded him to pause and think again. He did. This act was the culmination of many years of depression and anxiety, but thankfully it was a turning point. He was given medical assistance and drugs and whilst they helped, they weren’t giving him the desire for life that he needed back. That happened on a walk across a field one day near North Walsham. A huge brown bird appeared over the trees in front of them. Without really knowing why he instinctively knew it was a buzzard. That one sighting, seeing that magnificent bird soaring free moved something in his subconscious mind. The road to recovery had fully begun.

This one buzzard reignited a dormant love of bird that he used to have as a child and brought back memories flooding back of happier times spent with his grandfather whose passion for the outdoors had rubbed of on him. Before he knew it he had begun watching birds, and the time spent outdoors had begun to make him feel better. He decided not to go down the twitcher route as he could see that the dash to find a rarity would add to his anxieties, he decided to start keeping a list and began a blog.

Little did he know where this would take him. His article touched a nerve and he began to be known for extolling the benefits of birdwatching, even ending up at Downing Street and on the radio and of course this book. The book is full of personal anecdotes showing how the recovery from mental health, even from the abyss that Joe stood at, is possible. This is a touching story of one man’s recovery. Given Joe’s anxiety, it is quite an accomplishment that he got the support to write this and then actually did it. His key to success was getting outside, taking the time to enjoy all that the natural world has to offer and letting it refresh and replenish his soul. I liked the pointers at the end of each chapter of practical things to do and this is another book like The Nature Fix and the Wild Remedy that provide evidence that the natural world is important for our mental health.

 

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour

 

Buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here

You can find Joe on Twitter here  @birdtherapy

Mental health is important, if you are feeling depressed or anxious, then speak to someone who can help. This may be a family member, or you might be better speaking to an independent expert who will be able to help you. Do not ignore it.

My thanks to Anne Cater of #RandomThingsTours for the copy of the book to read.

The A to Z of Skateboarding by Tony Hawks

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for The A to Z Skateboarding by Tony Hawks and published by Unbound

About the Book

For more than twenty years, Tony Hawks has been mistaken for Tony Hawk, the American skateboarder. Even though it is abundantly clear on his website that he is an English comedian and author, people still write to him asking the best way to do a kickflip or land a melon.

One mischievous day he started writing back in a pompous tone, goading his correspondents for their spelling mistakes and poor grammar, while offering bogus or downright silly advice on how to improve their skateboarding.

Featuring entries on Pain, Disappointment, Underachievers, Quorn and the Vatican, this is his A to Z guide to the world of skateboarding, as seen through the eyes of someone who knows absolutely nothing about it.

 

About the Author

Tony Hawks is a radio and TV comedian who makes regular appearances on I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, Just a Minute and Have I Got News for You. He wrote the Sunday Times bestselling Round Ireland with a Fridge, which has since sold more than 800,000 copies and been made into a feature film.

 

My Review

For two decades of his life, Tony Hawkes has been mistaken for the pro skateboarder Tony Hawk. It wasn’t helped when the American released his first video game, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and that tiny punctuation mark suddenly meant that the visitors to Tony Hawks’ website increased dramatically. Even though he has tried to make it abundantly clear that he is not a skateboarder, rather an author, a BBC Radio 4 star and comedian, he has received countless messages from excited fans.

To begin with, the deleted button was used a lot, but after a while, his twisted sense of humour gave him the idea to actually answer these messages from the fans of the other Tony. So began a series of cheeky, or in reality, fairly thinly veiled sarcasm, he replies back to these messages. And they are hilarious.

As he knows almost nothing about skateboarding, he thought he would share his extensive knowledge in this A to Z of the sport. So if you had no idea what a kickflip was, or always wondered about why anyone would want to count to 900 then this is the book for you. If you had come across his other books, then you’ll probably guess, this is full of very much tongue in cheek humour. Completely daft and thoroughly enjoyable. Possibly not one for the skateboarder in your life… I should also add that all the profits for this book will be donated to his charity – The Tony Hawks Centre – which offers free health care to chronically ill children in Moldova. 

 

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour

 

Buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here

 

My thanks to Anne Cater of #RandomThingsTours for the copy of the book to read.

Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer and published by Ebury.

 

About the Book

The Mongol Derby is the world’s toughest horse race. An outrageous feat of endurance across the vast Mongolian plains once traversed by the army of Genghis Khan, the Derby sees competitors ride 25 horses across 1000km, and it’s rare that more than half of the riders make it to the finish line.

In 2013 Lara Prior-Palmer – nineteen, wildly underprepared and in search of the great unknown – decided to enter the race. Finding on the wild Mongolian steppe strength and self-knowledge she didn’t know she possessed, even whilst caught in biblical storms and lost in the mountains, Lara tore through the field with her motley crew of horses. She didn’t just complete the race: in one of the Derby’s most unexpected results, she won, becoming the youngest-ever competitor to conquer the course.

A tale of endurance, adventure and man’s struggle to tame the wild, Rough Magic is the extraordinary story of one woman’s quest to find herself in one of the most remote and challenging landscapes on earth.

 

About the Author

Lara Prior-Palmer was born in London in 1994. Her aunt is Lucinda Green, a legendary rider and one of the UK’s best-ever equestrians. Lara studied conceptual history and Persian at Stanford University. In 2013, she competed in the 1000 kilometre Mongol Derby in Mongolia, sometimes described as the world’s toughest and longest horse race. Rough Magic is her first book.

 

My Review

The Mongol Derby is the world hardest horse race. The aim is to ride 600s mile across the Mongolian plains, that was once the home of the army of Genghis Khan.  The ride takes 10 days and they are restricted in the time they can ride each day and how hard they can push their horses too. The riders swap horses at regular intervals, transferring saddles onto a new horse that they have seen before at each urtuu they stop at.  

Her race began in 2009, and there are around 30 to 40 entries each year to travel across this beautiful landscape and they will travel across lush valleys, woodlands, rivers, mountains and the steppe that this part of the world is famous for. Riding for that distance takes its toll on the competitors and the race will be lucky to see half of the starters actually complete it. On a whim Lara Prior-Palmer decided to enter the race and sent off her application, secretly hoping that she wouldn’t get in. They accepted and even knocked down the entry fee when they realised that her aunt was the Lucinda Green of Badminton Trails fame.

Prior-Palmer was totally unprepared and being a late entry meant that she had missed all the preparation that the organisers recommend for the race. On top of that, she would be one of the youngest competitors at the age of 19. The disclaimer on the website is fairly blunt:

We want to point out how dangerous the Mongol Derby is. By taking part in this race you are greatly increasing your risk of severe physical injury or even death.

She’d missed that originally and it was too late to cancel or take any of her vaccinations. However, it was time to catch a plane and head around the world to the city of Ulaanbaatar to meet the other competitors and have the pre-race briefing. It was slowly dawning on her just what she’d taken on. Next, they were heading out onto the steppe to acclimatize and final prep for the race. Then before she knew it, it was time to start, there was a blessing from the Lama and they were off.

So she begins 10 days of racing against the other competitors, the landscape and herself. Even though it is the first person past the finishing line who will win, there are time penalties for pushing your horse too hard and disqualification is certain cases. They have to navigate using the maps and GPS to each of the urtuu’s where they swap to their next pony after the vets have examined their previous one. The pony you choose next can make or break that leg. The landscape is endlessly challenging with marmot holes to trip horse and rider. At the end of the first day she is second to last.

Riding for that amount of time would be tough enough on a seasoned rider who knew the horse, but for each leg , they choose an animal that they have never seen before, let alone ridden. By the start of the third day, her legs felt like lead. Only seven more days to go… The leader of the Derby was a girl from Texas, called Devan,  and she didn’t seem to want to be relinquishing the lead any time soon. Some drop out of the race and slowly she start to catch the leader, even setting a record for the highest number of legs completed in one day. She never thought she’d finish but she might be in with a chance at this.

I like horses but have only been brave enough to go on one once. At first glance, this wouldn’t normally my sort of thing, but this is a good example of taking a chance on a book because sometime you can be surprised. This account of the frantic dash across the Mongolian steppe is nicely balanced between a personal account of the race and a memoir of her life with a light dusting of travel writing. She is quite naive, forgetting all manner of things, does almost zero preparation and makes other errors that would cost someone else the race. What she does have though is grit and determination as well as a desire, not necessarily to win, but to upset the applecart and defy all expectations. Even though I knew what the result was from the blurb, I still turned the final pages in a frantic rush as both competitors head into the final stages of the race. It is what good non-fiction should be, a strong narrative about a subject that you may not know about with a personal angle. Well worth reading.

 

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour

 

Buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here

My thanks to Ebury and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for the copy of the book to read.

Trading in War by Margarette Lincoln

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Trading in War by Margarette Lincoln and published by Yale Books.

 

About the Book

A vivid account of the forgotten citizens of maritime London who sustained Britain during the Revolutionary Wars

In the half-century before the Battle of Trafalgar the port of London became the commercial nexus of a global empire and launch pad of Britain’s military campaigns in North America and Napoleonic Europe. The unruly riverside parishes east of the Tower seethed with life, a crowded, cosmopolitan, and incendiary mix of sailors, soldiers, traders, and the network of ordinary citizens that served them. Harnessing little-known archival and archaeological sources, Lincoln recovers a forgotten maritime world. Her gripping narrative highlights the pervasive impact of war, which brought violence, smuggling, pilfering from ships on the river, and a susceptibility to subversive political ideas. It also commemorates the working maritime community: shipwrights and those who built London’s first docks, wives who coped while husbands were at sea, and early trade unions. This meticulously researched work reveals the lives of ordinary Londoners behind the unstoppable rise of Britain’s sea power and its eventual defeat of Napoleon.

 

About the Author

Dr Margarette Lincoln was director of research and collections and, from 2001, deputy director of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. She is now a visiting fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London. She lives in London.

 

My Review

The Port of London has always been significant, but in the fifty or so years before the Battle of Trafalgar, it grew and grew in importance becoming the commercial hub of what was rapidly becoming a global empire. The docks were east of the Tower of London and centred in the Parishes of Rotherhithe, Deptford, Greenwich and Wapping. Other parishes around supplied materials and people into the riverside shipwrights and victualler that kept the vast machine that was the Navy, fed.

On top of all the industry, there was a seething mass of humanity, dockers, sailors, shipwrights, traders, cooks, crooks and Navy wives who lived in the area. This place was changing rapidly as it expanded to meet the demands of the crown. The dynamics though meant that it was a place that brought in people who had a different view on the rule of law. Not only were there criminals and thieves but with a revolution in the air over the channel in France, then there was an undercurrent of subversion and open challenges to the authority of the monarch.

It is a vivid story of life in the London docks. Just some of the details that Lincoln has uncovered in the excellent social history are quite staggering. For example, bakers made 6500kg of biscuits a day to keep the navy supplied, a constant supply of livestock that was being slaughtered for food for the ships. Women who took over from their late husbands and continued to supply the navy for years after. Most campaigns could not have been undertaken without the tonnes of material that flowed into the docks and headed out onto the world’s oceans and as the area became more important more businesses appeared to ensure that they could become suppliers to the docks and shipbuilders. There were chemical factories producing sulphuric acid in huge vats, as well as a never-ending stream of felled trees to build the ships being launched fairly frequently.

If you have any interest in the history of London, maritime events or social history then I can highly recommend this. This is crammed with detail, the narrative takes you from musings on the political changes of the time to personal stories of the people that lived, worked, sailed from the port right up to global events that affected the ebb and flow of life in the area. I liked the way that the chapters are split into broad themes. Lincoln writes with clarity, ensuring that this really complex story of London does not read like an academic text.

 

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour

 

About the Wolfson History Prize

First awarded by the Wolfson Foundation in 1972, the Wolfson History Prize remains a beacon of the best historical writing being produced in the UK, reflecting qualities of both readability for a general audience and excellence in writing and research. The most valuable non-fiction writing prize in the UK, the Wolfson History Prize is awarded annually, with the winner receiving £40,000, and the shortlisted authors receiving £4,000 each. Over £1.1 million has been awarded to more than 100 historians in the prize’s 47-year history. Previous winners include Mary Beard, Simon Schama, Eric J. Hobsbawm, Amanda Vickery, Antony Beevor, Christopher Bayly, and Antonia Fraser.

To be eligible for consideration, authors must be resident in the UK in the year of the book’s publication (the preceding year of the award), must not be a previous winner of the Prize and must have written a book which is scholarly, accessible and well written.

To learn more about the Wolfson History Prize please visit www.wolfsonhistoryprize.org.uk, or connect on Twitter via @WolfsonHistory / #WolfsonHistoryPrize.

About the Wolfson History Prize Judges

David Cannadine is an historian of modern British history from 1800 to 2000 and a trustee of the Wolfson Foundation. He is Dodge Professor of History at Princeton University, a Visiting Professor of History at the University of Oxford, the editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and became President of the British Academy in July 2017. He has previously taught at the University of Cambridge and Columbia University, New York. He was Director and Professor of History at the Institute of Historical Research from 1998-2003. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Society of Literature, the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Historical Society. In 2009 he was awarded a knighthood for services to scholarship. His publications include Margaret Thatcher: A Life And Legacy (2017), The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond our Differences (2012), Mellon: An American Life (2006), Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire (2001), Class in Britain (1998), and The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy (1990).  He has contributed to many national bodies in heritage and the arts, including the National Portrait Gallery, English Heritage, Westminster Abbey, the Victorian Society, Royal Academy Trust and the Library of Birmingham Trust.

 

Richard Evans is Provost of Gresham College in the City of London and Regius Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of numerous books on modern German and European History, including A Death in Hamburg: Society and Politics in the Cholera Years 1830-1910, which won the Wolfson History Prize in 1989. His most recent books are The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914, a volume in the Penguin History of Europe, and Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History, published in February 2019. From 2010 to 2017 he was President of Wolfson College, Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and was knighted in 2012 for services to scholarship.

 

Carole Hillenbrand has been Professor Emerita of Islamic History at the University of Edinburgh since 2008 and Professorial Fellow (Islamic History), at the University of St Andrews since 2013. Studied Modern and Medieval Languages at the University of Cambridge, Arabic and Turkish at the University of Oxford, and wrote a PhD on Islamic history at the University of Edinburgh.  She has held Visiting Fellowships in America and Holland. She was elected an Honorary Life Fellow at Somerville College, Oxford in 2010 and a Corresponding Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America in 2012.  She was awarded the King Faisal International Prize in Islamic Studies in 2005 and the British Academy/ Nayef Al Rodhan Prize for Transcultural Understanding in 2016. She is a Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Historical Society. In 2009 she was awarded an OBE for services to Higher Education and in 2018 she was awarded a CBE for services to the understanding of Islamic history.

 

Diarmaid MacCulloch is a Fellow of Saint Cross College and Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Historical Society and of the Society of Antiquaries of London; he co-edited the Journal of Ecclesiastical History for twenty years. He was ordained deacon in the Church of England in 1987 and in 2012 was knighted for services to scholarship. His chosen research field has been Tudor England (including a biography of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and a study of the Reformation under Edward VI); he has also written on the wider history of the European Reformation and on world Christianity generally. His History of Christianity: the first three thousand years (winner of the 2010 Hessell-Tiltman Prize and the 2010 Cundill History Prize, Montreal) was followed by the BBC series A History of Christianity (given the Radio Times Readers’ Award, May 2010). Further television work has included How God made the English, 2012, Henry VIII’s Fixer: the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, 2013, and Sex and the Church, 2015. His biography of Thomas Cromwell was published in September 2018. He won the Wolfson History Prize in 2004 for Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490-1700.

 

About the Wolfson Foundation

The Wolfson Foundation (www.wolfson.org.uk) is an independent grant-making charity that aims to promote the civic health of society by supporting excellence in the arts & humanities, education, science and health. Since 1955, almost £900 million (£1.9 billion in real terms) has been awarded to nearly 11,000 projects and individuals across the UK, all on the basis of expert peer review. The Wolfson Foundation is committed to supporting history and the humanities more broadly. Since 2012, awards across the UK of more than £10.7 million have been made for Postgraduate Scholarships to support research in the humanities at universities, and some £11 million to museums and galleries, as well as numerous awards for historic buildings. You can connect via twitter @wolfsonfdn.

Buy this and all of the others on the shortlist at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here

My thanks to Ben at Midas PR for the copy of the book to read.

You Are What You Read by Jodie Jackson

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for You Are What You Read by Jodie Jackson and published by Unbound.

 

About the Book

Do you ever feel overwhelmed and powerless after watching the news? Does it make you feel sad about the world, without much hope for its future? Take a breath – the world is not as bad as the headlines would have you believe.

In You Are What You Read, campaigner and researcher Jodie Jackson helps us understand how our current twenty-four-hour news cycle is produced, who decides what stories are selected, why the news is mostly negative and what effect this has on us as individuals and as a society.

Combining the latest research from psychology, sociology and the media, she builds a powerful case for including solutions into our news narrative as an antidote to the negativity bias.

You Are What You Read is not just a book, it is a manifesto for a movement: it is not a call for us to ignore the negative but rather a call to not ignore the positive. It asks us to change the way we consume the news and shows us how, through our choices, we have the power to improve our media diet, our mental health and just possibly the world.

 

About the Author

Jodie Jackson is an author, researcher and campaigner. She holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of East London (UK) where she investigated the psychological impact of the news.

As she discovered evidence of the beneficial effects of solutions focused news on our wellbeing, she grew convinced of the need to spread consumer awareness. She is a regular speaker at media conferences and universities. Jodie is also a qualified yoga teacher and life coach.

 

My Review

When did you last see a good news story? We seem to have a diet of really bad news that never stops. Even when the presenter is talking about the latest disaster there is a ticker tape of sub-stories that expand to fill the vacuum of the entire day. It is just draining listening to or reading the stories that flood out of our media. I stopped watching a while ago now, and even though I buy the weekend papers, I tend to read the supplements rather than the main section. Thankfully though, there could be another way and campaigner and researcher Jodie Jackson wants to show us it.

First, though, you have to understand that psychology of why the media outlets produce the material that they do, Jackson goes into the details behind the headlines, why bad news rather than good news sells and the cumulative effect that this has on our mental well being. She addresses points on fake news, and churnalism, where journalists take a very liberal view of the truth in the speed to get the articles written for the ever hungry news machine.

She says that we don’t need to stop seeing bad news, being informed about significant world events is necessary, however, we need to limit our intake of it. What Jackson is advocating though is looking for alternative sources for your news, places that have taken time to do the proper research about a topic, can write with a balanced view and are seeking to inform rather than just go for the sensational headline. Seeking solution focused news sources that concentrate on innovation, initiative peacebuilding and positive responses to social issues need to make up a significant proportion of our media diet.

 There are various methods and suggestions in the book that are very sensible. Stop reading the dirge from the media outlets that want sensational headlines and find those that have a more considered and balanced approach. Avoid the tabloids they are preaching to a base level of readers as well as trying to dictate the political agenda in a lot of cases. Read from different perspectives on the same story. Don’t forget though, we as the consumers of this actually hold the power, if we stop buying and watching the worst news channels then they will change as they will lose customers and then income. Jackson writes with a positive clarity about a subject that most people find unpalatable these days, but more than that there are things that you can do to change your media intake and make you a better-informed person.

 

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour

 

Buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here

My thanks to Anne Cater from Random Thing Tours for the copy of the book to read.

Take Me to The Edge by Katya Boirand

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Take Me to The Edge by Katya Boirand and published by Unbound.

 

About the Book

Five words is all it takes to provoke a chain of creation. That is what Katya Boirand discovered the first time she asked a friend for five words and then turned them into a poem, using the words and the subject as her inspiration. This spark started a movement, and soon Katya was asking friends and strangers alike for their five words of choice. Take Me to the Edge is a selection of these poems, sitting alongside a portrait of each subject, in this stunning and joyous celebration of language, connection and art. 

 

About the Author

Katya Boirand is an actress, dancer, writer and poet. She has travelled the world but now has roots in London. Take Me to the Edge is her first poetry collection.

 

My Review

This year I have been reading more poetry and aiming to read at least one book a month. Most of the poetry books that I have read this year have been slim paperback volumes, muted colours on the covers and feel like they are serious. This book, however, is very different.

The entire book is not something that you’d expect. To start with, the cover is not what you’d normally find on a poetry book, with a photo of a partially clad lady doing a handstand. The poems within though are very different too. Each poem has as its source, five words that have been provided by someone. Boirand then uses these to create a poem inspired by the words and the person who provided them.

 

Lavender mist rolls

Ardently through

Ethereal scapes

 

Boirand wrote the poems very quickly and they vary in length from a few lines to a fuller length. Sometimes the writing is sparse and transient and at other time it is deeply embedded with meaning. Each of the poems is accompanied by a quirky portrait of the source of the words taken by the photographer, Eli Sverlander. They are as eclectic as the subjects and turn this book from a regular poetry book into something quite special and greater than the sum of its parts. At the back of the book is a brief biography of the people provided the words and what their five words are. It is worth reading the words from the people and then re-reading the poems for further insight on how they were created.


 

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour and see what they thought about the book.

 

Buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here

 

My thanks to Unbound for the copy of the book to read. This was a Blog Tour arranged by Anne Cater of Random things through my letterbox

The Good Bee by Alison Benjamin & Brian McCallum

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for The Good Bee by Alison Benjamin & Brian McCallum and published by Michael O’Mara Books

 

About the Book

 

Bees are our most loyal ally. These fascinating, enigmatic creatures are a key lynchpin in the working of our planet. Without them, the landscape, as well as every aisle in our supermarkets would look radically different. 

And we’re not just talking about honey bees. There are more than 20,000 species of bee worldwide and only a handful make honey. Some live in colonies and others are solitary. We can all help protect them – and they desperately need protecting – but you can’t save what you don’t love. And you can’t love what you don’t know. 

The Good Bee is a celebration of this most vital and mysterious of nature’s wizards. Here you’ll discover the complexities of bee behaviour – as well as the bits that still baffle us – the part they play in the natural world, their relationship with us throughout history, how they are coming under threat and what we can all do about it.

Beautifully produced, with hand-made illustrations throughout, it is a story for our times and a book to treasure.

 

About the Authors

Alison Benjamin

Alison is the co-founder of Urban Bees. She is a Guardian journalist and co-author of Keeping Bees and Making Honey, A world without Bees and Bees in the City; an urban beekeepers’ handbook. In her spare time, she assists Brian in a voluntary capacity by writing blogs, giving talks and developing partnerships to improve forage and habitat for bees and pollinators in towns and cities. She tweets @alisonurbanbees

Brian McCallum

Brian runs Urban Bees. He is a qualified teacher and works part-time as a seasonal bee inspector for the government. He is also a member of the Bee Farmer’s Association and the co-author of three books on bees, Keeping Bees and Making Honey, and A World without Bees and Bees in the City; an urban beekeepers’ handbook.

Brian provides tailored beekeeping training for a number of corporate clients and other organisations. He educates children, young people and adults about bees, writes blogs and tweets @Beesinthecity. He’s part of a team that’s designed a bee trail app to count bees, and raise awareness about bees and forage in King’s Cross.

Brian and Alison live in Hackney, east London.

 

My Review

Bees and almost all other insects are in deep trouble. There has been a catastrophic collapse of insects in the past few years, some species are down 40% and it is not getting any better. They are an essential part of the natural world, almost everything relies on them for food, either to eat or to pollinate plants that then feed us. Supermarket shelves are going to be much more sparse if we were to lose them, especially the bees.

When you mention bees, people generally think of honey bees, the subtle coloured insects that buzz lazily around the flowers in the summer or the huge bumblebees that defy gravity with their tiny wings. In total, all round the world thought there are 20,00 species and they are all pollinators. Some live in colonies but most are solitary, finding little holes to live in. The fact is that a lot of these solitary bees are much better pollinators than the regular honey bee. Most importantly they all need our protection.

In this charming little book, Alison Benjamin & Brian McCallum take us on a journey in the world of the bee. In here you can learn about the body parts of the bee, some of the species that you can see around your garden and the wonderful names that they have, like Buff Tailed and Pantaloon. There are details on how they make wax and honey, their lifecycles and some of the history of the partnership we have had with them.

Most importantly, there are details on what you can do to help them, for example, the best plants to fill your garden with and how to make bee hotels for the solitary bees. It is a timely book too, as it is slowly dawning on people that we need to look after the whole ecosystem because of the interconnected links between everything. There are schemes like this here that are aiming to get as many gardens with the right plants for insects. Get involved and make a difference.

 

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour

 

 

Buy this book at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here

My thanks to Bethany at Michael O’Mara Books for the copy of the book to read.

Under the Rock by Ben Myers

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Under the Rock by Benjamin Myers and published by Elliott and Thompson.

 

About the Book

In Under the Rock, Benjamin Myers, the novelist perhaps best known for The Gallows Pole, winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2018, returns to the rugged landscape of the Calder Valley in a bold and original exploration of nature and literature.

The focus of his attention is Scout Rock, a steep crag overlooking Mytholmroyd, where the poet Ted Hughes grew up. In solitude, Ben Myers has been exploring this wooded ten acre site for over a decade and his Field Notes, scribbled in situ are threaded between sections entitled Wood, Earth, Water and Rock. Taking the form of poetry, these Field Notes are “lines and lists lifted from the landscape, narrative screen-grabs of a microcosmic world that are correspondent to places or themes explored elsewhere, or fleeting flash-thoughts divined through the process of movement”.

 

About the Author

BENJAMIN MYERS was born in Durham in 1976. He is a prize-winning author, journalist and poet. His recent novels are each set in a different county of northern England and are heavily inspired by rural landscapes, mythology, marginalised characters, morality, class, nature, dialect and post- industrialisation. They include The Gallows Pole, winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, and recipient of the Roger Deakin Award; Turning Blue, 2016; Beastings,2014 (Portico Prize For Literature & Northern Writers’ Award winner),Pig Iron, 2012 (Gordon Burn Prize winner & Guardian Not The Booker Prize runner-up); and Richard, a Sunday Times Book of the Year 2010. Bloomsbury will publish his new novel, The Offing, in August 2019.

As a journalist, he has written widely about music, arts and nature. He lives in the Upper Calder Valley, West Yorkshire, the inspiration for Under the Rock.

 

My Review

For a lot of people landscape is something they travel through or past, barely acknowledging it in the maelstrom of modern life, unless it is something spectacular. Hathershelf Scout above the Yorkshire town of Mytholmroyd is one of those places that most would consider unremarkable. It lacks some of the photogenic qualities of the dales, has been a place where criminals and coin clippers hid in the 18th Century, has a drawn for those with suicidal thoughts was once a tip and hides a lethal secret.

However, Benjamin Myers would disagree. Not only is it his home patch of landscape, but he can walk through tangled woods that lead up onto a crag that has its own stark beauty, its brooding gritstone seeping into his psyche as he uncovers the geological and personal histories of the place that run deep into the bedrock. Entwined with the landscape that he walks every day he can, he starts to discover that the remarkable exists in the mundane and ordinary, the imperceptible daily changes that slowly build to make the seasons feel like they have arrived in a rush.

His writing is split into the four elements that make up the view he can from his window, wood, water, earth and rock and he uses these to explore all manner of other subjects as he walks with his dog, Heathcliff. Nothing escapes his gaze or thought process, he considers the invasive species alongside the natural, acknowledges the life of the animals that cross his path as much as their deaths. History is as important to him as the modern political issues of the day. He swims regularly in the wild and shockingly cold waters in the local pools and plays a part in helping in the community with the floods in 2015 when Mytholmroyd partially disappeared beneath the brown waters of the River Calder after days of rain and watches as a landslide takes a sizable chunk of the hillside away. It doesn’t stop him exploring though as he snags his coat on the keep out sign as he climbs over the fence.

It is a difficult book to characterise as it encompasses so much within its pages. It is as much about the natural world and the landscape of that part of Yorkshire and Myers covers subjects as diverse as political discourse to folklore, industrial music to slugs, asbestos to ravens. Most of all it, this book is about place; that small part of our small country that he has grown to love since moving out of London. I have read two of his other books, Beastings and The Gallows Pole, just before I got to this one and I found his writing in those captivating. This is no different, his mastery of the language means that you feel you are alongside him as he looks out over the valley, or clambering up the same path behind him as the water runs down through the rock. I really liked the Field Notes at the end of each section, these are short and elemental poems as well as a small number of black and white photos that add so much to the rest of the book. If you have read Strange Labyrinth or 21st Century Yokel then this should be added to your reading list. Brilliant book and highly recommended.

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour

 

 

Buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here

 

My thanks to  Alison and Elliott and Thompson for the copy of the book to read.

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein and published by Text Publishing.

 

About the Book

Husband, father, drag queen, sex worker, wife. Sarah Krasnostein’s The Trauma Cleaner is a love letter to an extraordinary ordinary life. In Sandra Pankhurst she discovered a woman capable of taking a lifetime of hostility and transphobic abuse and using it to care for some of society’s most in-need people. 

Sandra Pankhurst founded her trauma cleaning business to help people whose emotional scars are written on their houses. From the forgotten flat of a drug addict to the infested home of a hoarder, Sandra enters properties and lives at the same time. But few of the people she looks after know anything of the complexity of Sandra’s own life. Raised in an uncaring home, Sandra’s miraculous gift for warmth and humour in the face of unspeakable personal tragedy mark her out as a one-off.

This is a truly unique book, taking the humanity of S-Town, the beauty of H Is for Hawk and the sensitivity of When Breath Becomes Air to create something of startling originality. 

 

About the Author

Photo: Gina Milicia

Sarah Krasnostein is a writer and a lawyer with a doctorate in criminal law. A fourth generation American and a third generation Australian, she has lived and worked in both countries. She lives in Melbourne and spends part of the year working in New York City. The Trauma Cleaner is her first book.

 

My Review

 

Peter was adopted by his parents after Bill and Ailsa lost a child. When she conceived again and had two more boys, they moved Peter from the family home to a shed in the garden. He was rarely fed and expected to be a slave to the family and beaten by his father regularly for no reason at all. The torment and abuse continue until he is seventeen and then he is thrown out. Two years later he has met and is married to Linda and shortly after they have two boys themselves.

Peter had always felt different from other boys, and being out of the pressure zone that was his previous home meant he managed to stop surviving and begin living. He began frequenting gay bars and wearing makeup. It had never even crossed his mind that he might be trans, but when he heard that you could take drugs to enable the transfer to a female, he began as soon as he could. One thing led to another, he split from Linda and ended up as a prostitute. As soon as he was able to he had the operation and became fully female, something that she thought she would never be able to do.

After a few years working nights in the oldest profession, Sandra was brutally raped with another prostitute and made the decision to get out of the trade before it killed her. She ended up in a funeral directors, then a hardware store with her new husband and then went onto a cleaning company before starting her own business. The story of Sandra’s life is told hand in hand with the stories of the homes and people that she helps out every week cleaning up after trauma victims and helping those whose homes and lives have become unmanageable. After a lifetime of being on the edge of society, she is now helping those who have not been able to help themselves.

It really is not a book to read when you’re eating your lunch as the descriptions that Krasnostein has of the home being cleaned after deaths and suicides can be pretty grim. But this is true life and these things do not fix themselves, but require people with courage and industrial cleaning chemicals to fix. Pankhurst is one remarkable lady, even after a horrendous childhood and working in the prostitution trade she has an amazing amount of empathy for all of her clients when she is asked to clean and clear homes, treating them with a firm attitude whilst respecting their dignity. This is not going to be for everyone, but if you want to have a no holds barred look at a part of society that almost everyone will be unaware of then this is a one to read.

 

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour

 

 

Buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here

My thanks to The Wellcome Prize and Midas PR for the copy of the book to read.

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