Category: Blog Tour (page 1 of 3)

The Wellcome Book Prize 10th Anniversary Blog Tour

Welcome to Halfman, Half Book, I am Paul Cheney. This is the first stop on the 10th Anniversary Blog Tour for the Wellcome Book Prize. Launched in 2009, the prize celebrates the best new books that engage with an aspect of medicine, health or illness, showcasing the breadth and depth of our encounters with medicine through exceptional works of literature. These exceptional works of fiction and non-fiction illuminate the many ways that health, medicine and illness touch our lives. Over the last decade, the prize has recognised an eclectic variety of titles from novels to memoirs to popular science. In 2019, the prize will celebrate this legacy and this extraordinary genre of books that add new meaning to life, death and everything in between.

Today I am going to be highlighting one of the books from 2009, the first year that the prize ran, Tormented Hope. First, though I will be talking about, Illness by Havi Carel.

What is illness? Is it a physiological dysfunction, a social label, or a way of experiencing the world? How do the physical, social, and emotional worlds of a person change when they become ill? Can there be well-being within illness?

In this remarkable and thought-provoking book, Havi Carel explores these questions by weaving together the personal story of her own illness with insights and reflections drawn from her work as a philosopher. Carel’s fresh approach to illness raises some uncomfortable questions about how we all – whether healthcare professionals or not – view the ill, challenging us to become more thoughtful. Illness unravels the tension between the universality of illness and its intensely private, often lonely, nature. It offers a new way of looking at a matter that affects every one of us.

Revised and updated throughout, the third edition of this groundbreaking volume includes a new chapter on organ transplantation. Illness: The Cry of the Flesh will prove essential reading to those studying philosophy, medical ethics, and medical anthropology, as well as those in the healthcare and medical professions. It will also be of interest to individuals who live with illness, and their friends and families.

My Review:

However, there are those that have long term, debilitating and life-shortening illnesses that affect them and their families in a multitude of ways. How does society as a whole consider those that are ill and how should we as individuals treat those that are ill.

Havi Carel is well placed to consider the impact of illness on an individual and the wider implications in society in her position as Professor of Philosophy at Bristol and as a long term sufferer of Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM). This is a rare, progressive and systemic disease that typically results in cystic lung destruction and affects younger women.

Using the intimate knowledge of her own illness from when she began to realise that there was something wrong in 2004, learning about the illness with her father there, to details on the medical treatments that she needed. She is open about how some friends, family and medical practitioners have treated her since the diagnosis and when their care has succeeded and when it hasn’t. With the finely honed gaze of a philosopher and through the prism of phenomenology she is best placed to understand how and why people do the things that they do.

It is quite a profound book in lots of ways. Carel explores from a very personal perspective the feeling and emotions that come with severe and long term debilitating illness and gets to the very crux of the matter on how we need to treat those in those long term illnesses. Some of the more esoteric philosophy I didn’t really get the first time, so it will be worth a second read again on those sections. In my opinion, this is a brilliant companion volume to the book by Kathryn Mannix that was shortlisted last year, With The End In Mind, that explores different and more empathetic ways to treat people as they reach the end of their life.

Another book on the shortlist in 2009 was, Tormented Hope. 

In this, Brian Dillon looks at nine prominent hypochondriacs – James Boswell, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Daniel Paul Schreber, Alice James, Marcel Proust, Glenn Gould and Andy Warhol – and what their lives tell us about the way the mind works with, and against, the body. His findings are stimulating and surprising, and the stories he tells are often moving, sometimes hilarious, and always gripping. With a new afterword on Michael Jackson.

Brian Dillon’s first book, In the Dark Room, won the Irish Book Award for Non-fiction in 2006. He lives in Canterbury.

Please do come back later for a review of this book and thank you for stopping by today

Do find the other blogs and book lovers on social media as they talk about the books that have made the shortlists over the past decades

Find out more about the prize and the Wellcome Trust here:

Follow the hashtag too: #WBP2019


The longlist for the prize will be announced in February, the shortlist in march and the winner announced in April. Really looking forward to seeing what makes it on this year.

Elif Shafak, the award-winning author, is chair of the Wellcome Book Prize 2019 and is joined on the panel by Kevin Fong, consultant anaesthetist at University College London Hospitals; Viv Groskop, writer, broadcaster and stand-up comedian; Jon Day, writer, critic, and academic; and Rick Edwards, broadcaster and author.



The Light in the Dark by Horatio Clare

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Light in the Dark by Horatio Clare

The Blurb

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

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

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

About the Author

Horatio Clare was born in London, but grew up on a hill farm in the Black Mountains of South Wales. He went to Malvern College and then read English at the University of York. From there he ended up at the BBC, on Front Row on Radio 4 and then Night Waves and The Verb on Radio 3. He has written numerous books including some for children, two memoirs, three travel books, a couple of natural history and travel combined, edited a book on Sicily and now this very personal book about Winter. His writing has appeared in all of the broadsheets and elsewhere. On top of all that he is Contributing Editor for Conde Nast Traveller and a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Liverpool John Moores University.

My Review

5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

For me, each season has its highlights, the freshness and vitality of spring, the balmy days of summer, the quality of the autumn light and crisp days of winter. However, for others, not every season is loved equally and winter for some is the toughest season. Days are short, often gloomy cold and wet and it becomes a time when people feel at their lowest ebb. These pensive moments can lead to depression and long-term mental health issues.

Horatio Clare is one of those who suffers from this seasonal woe. This diary of his thoughts, feelings and fears written from mid-October, that time of the year as the nights draw into the 20th March, the spring equinox. In this diary, he is open and brutally honest about how the darkest part of the year affects him, how when he is teaching at John Moores University the words that would come naturally to him are scarce. Calder Valley, where he lives has a high suicide rate, attributed to a feeling that there is no way out and his very bleakest moments hurt his relationships with his loved ones.

Thin wisps of bird song come through bare woods and I am aware of gathering every sign of life and nature against a lowering threat.

But in amongst all the gloom of the season, he finds light and beauty around when he ventures outside. The skeletal starkness of trees, jewel-like frost sparkling in the sun, sunsets the colour of fire and that day went he spots the snowdrops have begun to open and realises that winter is actually on the wane. He is open about his anxieties that causes him to worry about so many things; money, the future, Brexit and his ability to teach; it causes him to frequently wake in the middle of the night mindlessly scrolling through a list of worries. Clare’s writing is taut, sparse and charged with emotion as he details the battles against his own personal demons of winter. This moving book should be essential reading for those that are suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and also for those that know someone who is afflicted.

This tour was arranged by Emma Finegan and Anne Cater of #RandomThings. Do go and have a look at all the other blogs on the tour for their take on the book.

The book is published by Elliott and Thompson and is available from your local independent bookshop 

Blog Tour: The Real McCoy by Claire Cock-Starkey

Hello everyone, welcome to my blog for the next stop on the blog tour for The Real McCoy, the new book by Claire Cock-Starkey. And here it is:

The Blurb

From diesel to gerrymandering, the English language is rich withSamhain—words that are named after an individual. The many histories behind these words are often mesmerizing—a word named, incidentally, after the German physician Franz Mesmer, who developed the practice of hypnotism as a form of therapy.

Deriving from numerous sources, eponyms are full of intrigue. This book features one hundred and fifty of the most interesting and enlightening specimens, delving into the origins of the words and describing the fascinating people after whom they were named. Some honor a style icon, inventor, or explorer, such as pompadour, Kalashnikov, and Cadillac. Others have roots in Greek or Roman mythology, such as panic and tantalize. Still others are far from celebratory and were created to brand the negative association of their origins—into this category can be filed boycott, Molotov cocktail, and sadist.

Encompassing words from medicine, botany, invention, science, fashion, food, and literature, this book uncovers the curious tales of discovery, mythology, innovation, and infamy behind the eponyms we use every day. The Real McCoy is the perfect addition to any wordsmith’s bookshelf. 

About the Author

Claire started out working at BBC Radio Four and Five before going on to work at LBC. Then she ended up finding her spiritual home working with Ben Schott, as a researcher for Schott’s Almanac and was a series editor for eleven different editions. Other opportunities presented themselves for London and American papers whilst she was there.

Family life beckoned and post-nappies she decided to set up as a freelance writer and editor. In between the Lego project management and the business of family life, she has written books, this being her latest. Heaven to her is the British Library reading rooms, rootling through the obscure to find the gem that will make her next book.

As a special treat there is an extract:

My Review

Some people reach that ultimate accolade of having something named after them and making it into the dictionary. Some you would have heard of; Rudolf Diesel managed to get a type of engine and a fuel named after him. The opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba had a dessert and a type of toast named in her honour and the Douglas Fir is named after the Scottish botanist, David Douglas

Lots of people have managed to get places on the planet named after them, Everest, Hudson Bay and Bolivia are three examples, but some of the stranger eponyms that appear in here, mesmerise, Apgar, dunce and praline are some of the few covered in this fascinating little book. There are the weird and wonderful too, a dish that has cultured almost countless numbers of cells was developed and named after the Julius R. Petri, a Germ bacteriologist, the greengage and boysenberry are named after people too and the Scoville will blow your mind.

I had read two of her previous books, The Book Lovers’ Miscellany and A Library Miscellany, so was really looking forward to this one. Whilst this isn’t about books, it is about the English language which is another of my favourite things to read about. There are 150 different eponyms and is a perfect little book for those who also have a passion for words and their origins. The research is meticulous and because of that, this is full of tiny details and anecdotes that make it an entertaining read. If there was one tiny flaw, I would have liked more of it to read.

Don’t forget to take a look at the other blogs on the tour:

Created with GIMP

And head over to Claire’s website too:

Thank you for stopping by.

Blog Tour: Help the Witch by Tom Cox

Welcome to my blog for the penultimate stop in the #HelptheWitch Blog Tour.

The Blurb

Inspired by our native landscapes, saturated by the shadows beneath trees and behind doors, listening to the run of water and half-heard voices, Tom Cox s first collection of short stories is a series of evocative and unsettling trips into worlds previously visited by the likes of M. R. James and E. F. Benson.

Railway tunnels, the lanes and hills of the Peak District, family homes, old stones, shreds fluttering on barbed wire, night drawing in, something that might be an animal shifting on the other side of a hedge: Tom has drawn on his life-long love of weird fiction, folklore and nature s unregarded corners to write a collection of stories that will delight fans old and new, and leave them very uneasy about turning the reading lamp off.

About the Author

Tom Cox has written ten books, including The Good, The Bad And The Furry, which was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller and 21st Century Yokel, (a brilliant book), which was longlisted for the Wainwright Nature Writing prize earlier this year. He still hasn’t got around to getting any A-levels or a degree, neither has he discounted it. When writing, he can be discovered reading, mooching about in a secondhand record shop or bookshop, wild swimming or walking somewhere out in the elements in the South West. Cox has also DJ’d on a radio station called Soundart and once was a journalist. The amazing art in his books is created by his mum, Jo and if you were ever to meet his dad, you’d find he was very LOUD.

My Review

October is the time of year for ghost stories and come the end of the month when the clocks go back then it feels like the right time to read them. This very latest book from Tom Cox is his first venture into fiction and there are ten short stories from him in here that venture from ghost stories to a modern take on stories that we have heard time and time again.

Beginning with Help the Witch, a tale of a guy who has just moved into an old house in early December and is shortly snowed in. Not is all that it seems though, even though he has just split from his girlfriend, Chloe, he starts to hear voices around the house, voices that answer him back. Listings is an unusual take on a story, it is told through the small ads that you see in the local paper, and tell of a modern executive home with a cave underneath.

For a surreal take on the world, then you might like his nine tiny stories about houses, or the ghostly sighting on a speed awareness course, where a guy meets his uncle who he hasn’t seen in ages. Or there is the Pool, a place where teenagers swim in the summer and when they have all left is revealed as the home of something ancient that emerges from the depths as winter breaks. There are more like this, stories that exist in the gloaming moments of the day and on the liminal fringes of our culture.

Just Good Friends was probably my favourite of all of the short stories in this book, it manages to be both normal and very unnerving at the same time. Folk horror can be properly scary, probably because it is deeply rooted in our own psyche, but most of the stories in here I didn’t find that frightening. Rather the stories were eerie and often unnerving and even had proper goose-bumps moments too. Cox is a quality writer, prepared to explore different things in different ways and seeking unconventional ways around subjects. I loved his 21st Century Yokel and this is great stuff too. The cover of this is quite distinctive too, the figure that is tree-like is quite chilling and the gold foil makes it a striking book.

This tour was arranged by Anne Cater of #RandomThings. Do go and have a look at all the other blogs on the tour for their take on the book.

The book is published by Unbound and is available from your local independent bookshop 

Tom Cox lives here on the web

BlogTour: LITERARY LANDSCAPES – Charting the Real-Life Settings of the World’s Favourite Fiction

Welcome to my blog for the start of the #BlogTour for LITERARY LANDSCAPES: Charting the Real-Life Settings of the World’s Favourite Fiction. This is a follow-up book to the richly illustrated Literary Wonderlands: A Journey Through the Greatest Fictional Worlds Ever Created. Deatils on how to win a copy are at the bottom of this post.

Literary Landscapes draws together those well-loved authors who are synonymous with a place and time, celebrating Hardy’s Wessex, Joyce’s Dublin and Du Maurier’s Cornwall. It comes right up to date with recent bestsellers, such as Eleanor Catton’s Booker Prize-winning The Luminaries, Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City and Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend. Its charm lies in the way these favourites are interspersed with the unfamiliar, providing much to explore.

Led by John Sutherland, a team of specialist literary critics have contributed individual essays on over 70 literary novels where landscape is as central to the tale as any character, and just as easily recognized. Entries are beautifully illustrated with archive material, original artworks, maps and photographs. International in breadth and scope, Literary Landscapes is an enchanting read that book lovers will not be able to resist dipping into.

Some stories couldn’t happen just anywhere.  As is the case with all great literature, the setting, scenery and landscape are as central to the tale as any character, and just as easily recognised. Literary Landscapes: Charting the Real-Life Settings of the World’s Favourite Fiction delves deep into the geography, location and terrain of all our best-loved literary works and looks at how setting and environmental attributes influence storytelling, character and our emotional response as readers.

Led by John Sutherland, a team of specialist literary critics have contributed individual essays on more than 50 literary worlds.  Beautifully illustrated with hundreds of full-colour maps, archival material, photographs and illustrations, the landscapes are vividly brought to life, evoking all the sights and sounds of the original works.

A great way to remind you of favourites, or inspire your next book choice, what will you read next?

These are the landscapes that are in the book:

Romantic Prospects, Up To 1914

JANE AUSTEN Persuasion


HONORÉ DE BALZAC La Comédie humaine

EMILY BRONTË Wuthering Heights


VICTOR HUGO Les Misérables

LEO TOLSTOY   Anna Karenina

THOMAS HARDY The Return of the Native

MARK TWAIN The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn


AUGUST STRINDBERG   The People of Hemsö

G. WELLS The War of the Worlds




Mapping Modernism, 1915–1945

H. LAWRENCE The Rainbow

SIGRID UNDSET Kristin Lavransdatter

EDITH WHARTON The Age of Innocence


THOMAS MANN The Magic Mountain



A. MILNE Winnie the Pooh

ALFRED DÖBLIN Berlin Alexanderplatz

ALBERTO MORAVIA The Time of Indifference

ISAAC BABEL Odessa Stories


LAURA INGALLS WILDER Little House on the Prairie

WILLIAM FAULKNER   Absalom, Absalom!


ERNEST HEMINGWAY For Whom the Bell Tolls

JORGE AMADO The Violent Land



Post-War Panoramas, 1946-1974

GERARD REVE The Evenings: A Winter’s Tale




DYLAN THOMAS Under Milk Wood

YUKIO MISHIMA The Sound of Waves

FRANCOISE SAGAN Bonjour Tristesse

SAM SELVON The Lonely Londoners



ELSA MORANTE Arturo’s Island

CHINUA ACHEBE Things Fall Apart

HARPER LEE To Kill a Mockingbird


MIKHAIL BULGAKOV The Master and Margarita

JOHN FOWLES The French Lieutenant’s Woman


TOVE JANSSON The Summer Book



Contemporary Geographies, 1975–Present

ARMISTEAD MAUPIN Tales of the City

EARL LOVELACE The Dragon Can’t Dance

FERNANDO PESSOA The Book of Disquiet


JAY MCINERNEY Bright Lights, Big City


MICHAEL ONDAATJE In the Skin of A Lion


TIM WINTON Cloudstreet

E ANNIE PROULX The Shipping News

NATSUHIKO KYOGOKU The Summer of the Ubume


PATRICK MODIANO The Search Warrant

CARLOS RUIZ ZAFÓN The Shadow of the Wind



ELENA FERRANTE My Brilliant Friend

YAN LIANKE The Explosion Chronicles


NEEL MUKHERJEE Lives of Others


LITERARY LANDSCAPES: Charting the Real-Life Settings of the World’s Favourite Fiction

General Editor: John Sutherland

Published 25 October 2018 – Price: £25 hardback, full-colour illustration

Available from all good bookshops. I would urge you to buy them from an independent bookshop if you can as this supports them, the publisher and of course the author with one purchase.

You could win a copy too: Follow @modernbooks and tweet your own favourite #LiteraryLandscape for a chance to win a copy of Literary Landscapes.




Blog Tour: Dear Mr Pop Star by Derek & Dave Philpott

Welcome to my blog on today’s stop on the Dear Mr Pop Star Blog tour.

The Blurb

For more than a decade, Derek Philpott and his son, Dave, have been writing deliberately deranged letters to pop stars from the 1960s to the 90s to take issue with the lyrics of some of their best-known songs. They miss the point as often as they hit it.

But then, to their great surprise, the pop stars started writing back…

Dear Mr Pop Starcontains 100 of Derek and Dave’s greatest hits, including correspondence with Katrina and the Waves, Tears for Fears, Squeeze, The Housemartins, Suzi Quatro, Devo, Deep Purple, Nik Kershaw, T’Pau, Human League, Eurythmics, Wang Chung, EMF, Mott the Hoople, Heaven 17, Jesus Jones, Johnny Hates Jazz, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Chesney Hawkes and many, many more.


My Review

3.5 out of 5 stars

Never Mind the Buzzcocks used to do a hilarious round called Indecipherable Lyrics where the panels would try to guess what the artists were actually singing. But even if you can understand them, have you ever been singing along to a song in the car, possibly even a favourite and realised that the lyrics make no sense whatsoever? You’re not the first. However, it has probably never even crossed your mind to ask the pop star just what they meant by their particular phrase, or even to gently rib them but utterly misunderstanding the significance of what they were singing.

For nearly 10 years, ‘Team Philpott’ as Derek and Dave are known, have been asking the questions that no one was really looking for an answer for. Sitting down in front of a typewriter and asking just someone like Katrina and the Waves just how she was going to be Walking on Sunshine; or if T’Pau really did have China in her hand. These letters are quite droll, often amusing, and pedantic with their tongues firmly wedged in their cheeks.

However, what is funnier still is these artists began to reply to these nonsense missives with even funnier replies in response to the letters sent over the decade. Their reputation grew, mostly because people loved seeing the responses on their website, friends of friends would ensure that the letter got to the bands in question and bands would let other bands would let others know what was going on and urge them to get involved.

Dear Ultravox,

I fear that your nonchalance towards Austria’s premier holiday destination may cause you to fall foul of the tourist board…

What you have here is a collection of the letters they wrote and the replies received. These would take as much glee in pointing out the errors in the first correspondence from Team Philpott. It is mostly about two guys writing daft things and getting equally daft correspondence back, and there are some very amusing moments. Great piece of light-hearted reading.

You can follow Team Philpott on Twitter : @DerekPhilpott

Don’t forget to have a look at the other reviews on the (humungous) blog tour:

Blog Tour: Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton

Welcome to my blog for the next stop on the Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton blog tour


Know your enemy – or be defeated

AD 2204
An alien shipwreck is discovered on a planet at the very limits of human expansion – so Security Director Feriton Kayne selects a team to investigate. The ship’s sinister cargo not only raises bewildering questions, but could also foreshadow humanity’s extinction. It will be up to the team to bring back answers, and the consequences of this voyage will change everything.

Back on Earth, we can now make deserts bloom and extend lifespans indefinitely, so humanity seems invulnerable. We therefore welcomed the Olyix to Earth when they contacted us. They needed fuel for their pilgrimage across the galaxy – and in exchange they helped us advance our technology. But were the Olyix a blessing or a curse?

Many light years from Earth, Dellian and his clan of genetically engineered soldiers are raised with one goal. They must confront and destroy their ancient adversary. The enemy caused mankind to flee across the galaxy and they hunt us still. If they aren’t stopped, we will be wiped out – and we’re running out of time.


About the Author

Peter F. Hamilton was born in Rutland in 1960. He began writing in 1987, and sold his first short story to Fear magazine in 1988. He has written many bestselling novels, including the Greg Mandel series, the Night’s Dawn trilogy, the Commonwealth Saga, the Void trilogy, short-story collections and several standalone novels including Fallen Dragon and Great North Road.



My Review

4.5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Callum Hepburn has just married Savi Chaudhri after a whirlwind relationship. They both work for Connexion, he as a team leader for the emergency detoxification squad and she is in the security division. After their all too brief honeymoon they both head back to work, Callum, to dig a government from the mire with an urgent material extraction and Savi heads back undercover. A week later and he hasn’t heard a thing from her, so pings her and does not get a response. Worrying about her he heads off to see her boss, Yuri Alster to see if he knows anything. The thing is, no one does; she has vanished off the face of the planet. It looks like it might be down to him to find her and in his search, he will discover more than he really wants to know about the company he works for.

Connexion Corp, the organisation that they both work for, can really be considered a government in their own right. Their quantum entangled portals is a technology that allows people to live in one part of the world and work in another and literally be there in no time at all. This technology along with most other things on Earth are powered by solarwells, that have been dropped into the sun and have allowed humanity to have unlimited power.

In 2204 and an alien ship has been discovered 90 light years from Earth. That there are aliens is not the surprise, another race, the Olyix have been known to humanity for a while now. What is shocking is the cargo that they are carrying; human beings held in suspended animation. No one knows how they got there. No one knows who took them there. Feriton Kayne, Connexion’s deputy director of security is asked to pick a team to investigate. Two of the people that he picks for this team are Yuri Alster and Callum Hepburn, who have a healthy disregard for each other after their earlier clash over Savi. What they are walking into will change everything.

Entwined in this narrative is the story of Dellian and his friends set thousands of years in the future. They have been born as soldiers and are being trained to combat an enemy who is prepared to stop at absolutely nothing to wipe humanity from the universe…

To say this is fast-paced would be a little bit of an understatement, certain scenes rocket by, in particular, the ones with the Connexion security team. The technology that Hamilton uses in the books, all sounds plausible, the web that they all use is pervasive and all-seeing, however, most people feel free and liberated in the modern society. I loved the portals and the way that they worked with people passing all over the world in the blink of an eye. The scenes with Dellian and his team, set way in the future felt like they were inspired by Enders Game. There are a plethora of characters in here, and it occasionally I had to think who was who, thankfully there is a guide and a timeline included. The only bit that I didn’t like was the way it jumped backwards and forwards between the different times and there were several ambiguities that weren’t cleared up by the ending. That is fine as there are more books to follow and threads opened here leads onto other things, but this was a brilliant start to a new series. Now have a long while to wait for the next!

This book has been published by Pan Macmillian and is available from your local independent bookshop 

Do go and have a look at the other sites hosting the blog tour:

Blog Tour: Ladders to Heaven

Welcome to my blog for the next stop on the Ladders to Heaven: The Secret History of Fig Trees by Mike Shanahan blog tour

Fig trees have affected humanity in profound but little-known ways: they are wish fulfillers, rainforest royalty, more precious than gold. In Ladders to Heaven tells their incredible story, beautifully peppered with original hand-drawn illustrations

They fed our pre-human ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played a key role in the birth of civilisation. More recently, they helped restore life after Krakatoa’s catastrophic eruption and proved instrumental in Kenya’s struggle for independence.

Figs now sustain more species of bird and mammal than any other fruit – in a time of falling trees and rising temperatures, they offer hope. Theirs is a story about humanity’s relationship with nature, as relevant to our past as it is to our future.



About the Author

Mike Shanahan is a freelance writer and illustrator with a doctorate in rainforest ecology. He has lived in a national park in Borneo, bred endangered penguins, investigated illegal bear farms and produced award-winning journalism. His writing includes work published by The Economist, Nature, New Scientist, BBC Earth, Scientific American and Newsweek.



My Review

It is thought that the fig was one of the earliest fruits that were eaten by mankind, but they had probably borrowed the idea from watching monkeys and primates race to the trees to get the best fruits each day. This reliance on the sweet fruits seeped into the culture and religion of humans 5000 years ago, hence why the three Abrahamic faiths consider them important fruits, and the Buddha gained enlightenment whilst meditating in the cage of a Strangler Fig.

Ficus religiosais one of 750 different varieties of this plant. They vary from the shiny leafed and normally unloved houseplant to the huge figs whose roots grow down to the ground after they have rooted in the high branches of other trees. Some encase them and kill off their host, others survive in a mutual balance but they are an essential forest plant, supporting up to 1200 other species that reply of then fruits for food.

One thing that they all have in common though is the way that they flower and fruit. The flowers are not visible, contained within the peduncle and have to be pollinated by a tiny wasp around 2mm in length. Each fig has its own specific wasp that crawls in and out of the fruit and if they are not around they there is no pollination. Except the Ancient Egyptians discovered a way of tricking the tree into thinking it had been pollinated.

Until now I had never really given two figs about the fig. Their history, their importance as a food, and the significance that they have had in all sorts of historical events and the way that we intertwine ourselves with figs and the tiny wasps that pollinate them is the untold story of our age. I really enjoyed this fascinating book by Shanahan as it is written from his direct experiences as a biologist seeking out these important trees. If there was tiny flaw though, I felt it was too short, it felt like there were chunks missing from the European history and culture and maybe a little more on the benefits of them as a food stuff. It was a shame because what Shanahan has written in here was really good. One last tip, if you are not sure about them, having suffered fig rolls perhaps, bake them for around 20 minutes and serve with a little mascarpone.

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Through my Letterbox for organising this.

This book has been published by Unbound and is available from your local independent bookshop 

Don’t forget to visit the other bloggers on the blog tour:



#BlogTour: The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

The Blurb:

1967: Four female scientists invent a time-travel machine. They are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril.

2017: Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but they never talk about the past. Though time travel is now big business, Bee has never been part of it. Then they receive a message from the future–a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady.

2018: When Odette discovered the body, she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, flesh. But when the inquest fails to answer any of her questions, Odette is frustrated. Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?

My review:

The year is 1967 and four women are about to achieve worldwide fame for being the first to reveal their invention to the world; a Time Machine. As the stand in front of the live television audience and demonstrate the machine, as they step out, one of the four, Barbara Hereford has a breakdown and is rushed away from the spotlight for medical attention.

Fifty-one years later and the time machines are run by the what is known as the Conclave still headed up by Margaret. The technology is now safe to use, and there have been various spin-offs, including a child’s toy called the candy box that could project the small object placed inside to a few minutes in the future. Odette is new to volunteering at the toy museum and has been asked to open up, but when she opens the door there is a strong smell of sulphur. Following the scent, she ends up in the basement and traces the smell to a locked cupboard. Unlocking it and opening it a body of a woman falls out that is bleeding profusely from gunshot wounds. More shocking is the fact that the inquest into her death fails to find any evidence or answer any of her questions.

Ruby knows that her grandmother, Barbara, was a pioneer on the time machines, but after her breakdown, she has never really spoken about it and it was something that was strongly enforced by Ruby’s mother. However, when they receive a message from the future about the mysterious death of an elderly lady it is time for Barbra to open up about the past and maybe she can help solve the mystery of the murder across time.

Time travel books are notoriously difficult to get right and in the pretty accomplished debut novel from Mascarenhas, she manages it pretty well. The story zips along pretty quickly as the story is told from different perspectives by the large number of characters in the book. The narrative jumps from the past to the future as each piece of the mystery is revealed. It is a really enjoyable story and if you liked the Fifteen Lives of Harry August then you should really give this a go too.

About the Author:

Born in 1980, she is of mixed heritage (white Irish father, brown British mother) and has family in Ireland and the Republic of Seychelles.

She studied English at Oxford and Applied Psychology at Derby. Her PhD, in literary studies and psychology, was completed at Worcester.

Since 2017 Kate has been a chartered psychologist. Previously she has been an advertising copywriter, bookbinder, and doll’s house maker. She lives in the English Midlands with her partner.

Take a moment to visit the others on the tour:


Thank you to Blake Brooks at Head of Zeus for sending me a signed copy of the book to read. Follow the hashtag


#BlogTour – The Bespokist Society Guide to… London

Welcome to my blog for today’s stop on the blog tour for Jeremy Liebster’s book, The Bespokist Society Guide to… London

The Blurb:

As the first travel book produced by the hugely influential Bespokist Society, this handy guide takes you to a London you’ve never seen: a London of challenging Etruscan restaurants, edgy branding parlours, emoji hotels and hidden Icelandic communities; a London where 8-ply toilet paper is a thing.

On the way, meet an eclectic band of inspiring Londoners – from scriveners to socialites via urban wordsmiths and coffee preachers – and see why London is now the global epicentre of Bespokist consciousness, community and culture.

My Review

London is one of the most famous cities in the world drawing visitors from all over the globe to see the sights; who take selfies in front of the sights and generally get in the way of people in London who are trying to get on with their own lives. You would have thought that there are enough guides for London, but here is a new guide for this dynamic city, one that will take you to places that you never knew existed, explore trends that you may not have come across and meet those that are at the sharpest edges of urban chic.
Feeling hungry? Then a visit to the V-Gastro will leave you amazed, but still hungry. Visit, See it, Say it, Sorted for the very best in the cultural response to the London Transport catchphrase. In need of a drink? Then a session at the Sweat Shop might be up your street; get to work an ancient Singer sewing machine and imbue the latest in graft gins. If you end up with a hangover to di for, then coffee is called for. For that, The Coffee Preachers are your people, taking the ristretto to the very pinnacle of coffee adoration. There are other gems; have a unique bespoke key made, go to the Launderette coffee shop to feel part of the community whilst still having superfast wifi and stand up desks, and experience the very latest in gyms by taking a trip to Gondoliers.
Hipsters try to set themselves apart from culture as a whole, while simultaneously remaining within the culture.
As you may have guessed by now, this book is a parody. It sets about totally ripping the piss out of the Hipster culture and their obsession with the tiniest detail, the most obscure origin for an ingredient, the perfect details in an experience and the way that they almost exclusively miss the big picture. It can kind of be summed up with this video:

That video still makes me chuckle every time I see it. If you have a hipster friend and want to understand what drives them, this is as good a place to starts as any. Expertly done, brilliantly crafted and highly amusing.

I am just one of a few on this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour. Please do take a few moments to have a look at the other blogs or search for the #IFoundMyTribe hash-tag on Twitter to read more about the book.

For the very latest in artisan places follow the Bespokeist Society here:


Twitter: @TheBespokist

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