Category: Blog Tour (page 1 of 5)

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong and published by Jonathan Cape.

About the Book

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born – a history whose epicentre is rooted in Vietnam – and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to the American moment, immersed as it is in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.

With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.

About the Author

Ocean Vuong is the author of The New York Times bestselling novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, out from Penguin Press (2019) and forthcoming in 30 languages worldwide. A recipient of a 2019 MacArthur “Genius” Grant, he is also the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, a New York Times Top 10 Book of 2016, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Whiting Award, the Thom Gunn Award, and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. A Ruth Lilly fellow from the Poetry Foundation, his honors include fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, The Elizabeth George Foundation, The Academy of American Poets, and the Pushcart Prize.

My Review

It is when he is in his twenties that Little Dog writes a letter to his mother. She is never going to be able to read it as she is illiterate. Contained within the letter is the family history that he has unearthed and that he traces his mothers side of the family back to Vietnam. In this letter are some of the experiences that his mother Rose, and grandmother, Lan have suffered during and after the war in Vietnam, before they arrived in America.

Little Dog is son to an American and who is still violent to Rose until the police take him away one day. But growing up in Connecticut is not easy when you are mixed race, and he suffers at school for a plethora of reasons. But he does find what he thinks is love, with another boy, an all American lad called Trevor, but is it not an even relationship, rather one where Little Dog is the submissive partner.

It is not the easiest book to read as he writes about things that a lot of people would count as trigger warnings, i.e. abuse, drugs, mental health issues, cruelty and so on. Yet with his prose, he can make this tender and intimate at one moment and then before you know it, it becomes brutal and violent in the next. Sometimes these are brought together in ways that make for uncomfortable reading. It does feel that he has drawn deep on his and his families experience as he touches on some of the factors that have affected him in his life: race, immigration, acceptance and love. Definitely an experience reading this book and you are unlikely to be unaffected reading it.

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour and have a look at the website to discover all the other books that have been longlisted.

Buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here. They might not be open at the moment, but may be able to send you a copy.

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

If All the World and Love Were Young by Stephen Sexton

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for If All the World and Love Were Young by Stephen Sexton and published by Penguin

About the Book

When Stephen Sexton was young, video games were a way to slip through the looking glass; to be in two places at once; to be two people at once. In these poems about the death of his mother, this moving, otherworldly narrative takes us through the levels of Super Mario World, whose flowered landscapes bleed into our world, and ours, strange with loss, bleed into it. His remarkable debut is a daring exploration of memory, grief and the necessity of the unreal.

About the Author

Author Photo

Stephen Sexton lives in Belfast. His poems have appeared in Granta, POETRY, and Best British Poetry 2015. His pamphlet, Oils, was the Poetry Book Society’s Winter Pamphlet Choice. He was the winner of the 2016 National Poetry Competition, the recipient of an ACES award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and was awarded an Eric Gregory Award in 2018.

My Review

Sometimes a way of coping with events in the real world is to head back to the things that gave you comfort in the past. For Stephen Sexton this means heading to the world of Super Mario Kart, where he spent lots of his youth racing against the characters in this colourful and larger than life world. It was a place that infused his reality and gave him lots of happy memories to look back on.

It is this nostalgic place that he returns to in this book frequently as the poems take us through the various tracks and characters in the game. The fun though is short-lived, because all the way through, he has the agony of watching his mothers illness develop to the point where it finally claimed her.

For a collection of poems that leans heavily on gamer references about a fun thing to play, it is heavily draped with sorrow and grief. I liked the way that he varied the pace and structure of the poems, and having those two themes running all the way through, it builds into a narrative thread and feels like we are sharing his grief. Definitely one to read again one day.

Three Favourite Poems

Donut Plains 1

Chocolate Secret

#7 Larry’s Castle

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour and have a look at the website to discover all the other books that have been longlisted.

You can buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here. They might not be open at the moment, but may be able to send you a copy.

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

Miles of Sky Above Us, Miles of Earth Below by Steve Denehan

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Miles of Sky Above Us, Miles of Earth Below by Steve Denehan and published by Cajun Mutt Press.

About the Book

Steve Denehan is an extraordinary poet. In this debut collection, he writes about ordinary everyday events in his life and does so in a way that will resonate with the reader. His poetry brings unforgettable impact into small spaces, reveals the fabric of solitude in epic proportions, and tells stories of the moments where life truly exists.

About the Author

Steve Denehan lives in Kildare, Ireland with his wife Eimear and daughter Robin. He has been twice shortlisted for the Anthony Cronin International Poetry Prize in the Wexford Literary Festival. Also nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and Best New Poet amongst other prizes.

My Review

This collection by Steve Denehan is very much rooted in the everyday and the mundane. But in amongst the most ordinary is where he finds the gaps where light floods in and inspires him to write these poems. There is nothing esoteric in here, rather these are poems about real-world situations, casual Fridays, birdsong, cookies and the struggle of writing and finding the words that he knows are there.

I remain calm

I try to remain calm

But the words are there inside my fingertips

Eager to be born

trapped

Family ties are a big theme too. He reminisces about his childhood, spends time with his dad and looks forward to his daughters future. It is a small book about the big things in life, that we can’t always see until too late. His poems are easy to read, feel grounded in our world and soar with joy and bleed with pain.

I buy old library books

Because they are cheap

Because they come with extras

History

Stories beyond the books themselves

I have read more poetry this year than ever before having set myself a challenge of reading at least one poetry book a month. Some of the collections have been really good, other I have struggled with for a variety of reasons, but nonetheless, I have still enjoyed them. I feel a real connection to the poetry that Denehan writes. It is very accessible  whilst still having a depth that comes from having lived.

Three Favourite Poems

Hate

Everything is Invisible

Columbia

 

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 Isabelle Kenyon from Fly on the Wall Press for a copy of the book to read.

You can follow Steve on Twitter here and his website is here.

Effin’ Birds by Arron Reynolds

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Effin’ Birds by Arron Reynolds and published by Unbound

About the Book

Effin’ Birds is the most eagerly anticipated new volume in the grand and noble profession of nature writing and bird identification. Sitting proudly alongside Sibley, Kaufman, and Peterson, this book contains more than 150 pages crammed full of classic, monochrome plumage art paired with the delightful but dirty aphorisms (think “I’m going to need more booze to deal with this week”) that made the Effin’ Birds Twitter feed a household name. Also included in its full, Technicolor glory is John James Audubon’s most beautiful work matched with modern life advice. Including never-before-seen birds, insults, and field notes, this guide is a must-have for any effin’ fan or birder.

About the Author

Aaron Reynolds is the writer of @EfinBirds and @swear_trek, and the curator of @BatLabels. He is also a software instructor, which is where most of his elfin’ inspiration comes from.

My Review

Nature writing seems to be the in thing to be reading at the moment. Wander into your local bookshop and you will find lots of recently published books by people who have recently discovered the healing benefits of nature, or who are extolling the virtues of putting the screen down and looking at something else.

When you have ventured outside, it helps to have a guide to the things that you might see. These have always been popular, especially when it comes to identifying the LBJ’s (little brown jobs) that make up a large number of small brown passerine birds, many of which are notoriously difficult to distinguish, even for experts.

This though is a guide with a difference. It is filled with beautiful sketches that are so much like the art of Thomas Berwick, but rather than having details of regular birds, Reynolds has gathered details of birds like the Hipster Pelican, the Enervated Eagle and Buff Petrel, not forgetting the Snub Gull and the Fatalistic Falcon.

Astute Owls

As much as you don’t want an astute owl to be correct, the astute owl is correct

Habitat: Lurking nearby whenever you make a mistake

Identifying Characteristics: An unnerving sense of timing

As you might have guessed from the above, this is a humorous bird identification book. It gives a peek into the characteristics of these new birds and a fairly (ok, very) broadminded insight into what they might be thinking. I really liked the imaginative bird names and the thought he’d put into their habits and characters. The images are excellent too, in particular, the colour ones, they portray the bird and also show the aloof, contemptuous or angry look that the artist and author were aiming for.  There is a lot of swearing in here, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

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 Things Through my Letterbox for arranging a copy of the book to read.

Ring the Hill by Tom Cox

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Ring the Hill by Tom Cox and published by Unbound.

About the Book

A hill is not a mountain. You climb it for you, then you put it quietly inside you, in a cupboard marked ‘Quite A Lot Of Hills’ where it makes its infinitesimal mark on who you are.

Ring the Hill is a book written around, and about, hills: it includes a northern hill, a hill that never ends and the smallest hill in England. Each chapter takes a type of hill – whether it’s a knoll, cap, cliff, tor or even a mere bump – as a starting point for one of Tom’s characteristically unpredictable and wide-ranging explorations.

Tom’s lyrical, candid prose roams from an intimate relationship with a particular cove on the south coast, to meditations on his great-grandmother and a lesson on what goes into the mapping of hills themselves. Because a good walk in the hills is never just about the hills: you never know where it might lead.

About the Author

Tom Cox lives in Norfolk. He is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling The Good, The Bad and The Furry and the William Hill Sports Book longlisted Bring Me the Head of Sergio Garcia. 21st-Century Yokel was longlisted for the Wainwright Prize, and the titular story of Help the Witch won a Shirley Jackson Award. You can find him on Twitter @cox_tom

My Review

There are countless books written about mountains, just take a look around the travel section of a bookshop. However, there are not so many written about hills, in particular, the small inconsequential hills that abound the landscape in our country. A hill might not have the majesty or presence of a mountain, but for Cox, these are more accessible, and still have as much mystery and lore and their larger cousins.

Beginning in Somerset under the ever-watchful eye of the Tor and the inland sea that is the Somerset levels he wanders from Britain’s smallest hill, in Norfolk no less, to the highest point on the South Coast. Yet another house move takes him to a house most of the way up a hill in Derbyshire; he is snowed in and it is a place that alarms his cats, and he is often woken at 3.44 in the morning from a nightmare and he would often hear things being moved in the loft… Not many things scare him, sitting with his feet over the edge of Golden Cap is no problem, but halfway up some mechanical edifice is enough to freak Cox out.

He wades through some family history when he discovers that his great grandmother who lived on Dartmoor, prior to moving to Nottingham. He finds that Dartmoor is at its most eerie in the summer when the heat makes time move like treacle. He spends time walking across Dorset’s hills spotting his third hare since moving to the West Country and amusing himself over alternative meanings for the village names in the area. Just seeing a hill on a car journey and then finding on an OS map late is a thrill, especially if there is access to walk up it later.

As I drive the roads, I watch the hills. I always notice the interesting ones, and none of them aren’t interesting, so I notice them all.

Ring the Hill is not quite a sequel to 21st Century Yokel, more of a slightly lairy companion. He seems to be one of the fastest funded authors on the publisher Unbound as he doesn’t really fit in any of the niches that a regular publisher has. Preferring to write widely about whatever the hell takes his fancy, from folklore to the music that works best when he is walking in a place. It is this wide-ranging fascination with all that he sees is what makes this book such a delight. Hares permeate the book too, not just the scant physical ones that he sees out and about, but the way that they are interwoven into the natural and spiritual worlds. I thought that this was a wonderful book, full of tangents and glimpses of things that fascinate him. I love the traditional linocut illustrations of hares that have been created by his mother and I was glad to see that his very LOUD DAD was back in the book again.

 

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 Things Through My Letterbox and Unbound for the copy of the book to read.

Magnificent Women and Their Revolutionary Machines by Henrietta Heald

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Magnificent Women and Their Revolutionary Machines by Henrietta Heald and published by Unbound

About the Book

‘Women have won their political independence. Now is the time for them to achieve their economic freedom too.’

This was the great rallying cry of the pioneers who, in 1919, created the Women’s Engineering Society. Spearheaded by Katharine and Rachel Parsons, a powerful mother and daughter duo, and Caroline Haslett, whose mission was to liberate women from domestic drudgery, it was the world’s first professional organisation dedicated to the campaign for women’s rights.

Magnificent Women and their Revolutionary Machines tells the stories of the women at the heart of this group – from their success in fanning the flames of a social revolution to their significant achievements in engineering and technology. It centres on the parallel but contrasting lives of the two main protagonists, Rachel Parsons and Caroline Haslett – one born to privilege and riches whose life ended in dramatic tragedy; the other who rose from humble roots to become the leading professional woman of her age and mistress of the thrilling new power of the twentieth century: electricity.

In this fascinating book, acclaimed biographer Henrietta Heald also illuminates the era in which the society was founded. From the moment when women in Britain were allowed to vote for the first time, and to stand for Parliament, she charts the changing attitudes to women’s rights both in society and in the workplace.

About the Author

Henrietta Heald is the author of William Armstrong, Magician of the North which was shortlisted for the H. W. Fisher Best First Biography Prize and the Portico Prize for non-fiction. She was chief editor of Chronicle of Britain and Ireland and Reader’s Digest Illustrated Guide to Britain’s Coast. Her other books include Coastal Living, La Vie est Belle, and a National Trust guide to Cragside, Northumberland.

 

My Review

As World War one started the drain of men to go and fight began to affect the ability of factories to produce the ordinance and supplies that the army needed to fight. They turned to the women to work in the factories, but some would not just do the simple repetitive tasks that are needed to make simple items, they would step up and learn the trade so they could construct places and some went onto design new things.

By the end of the war though, the UK government and unions wanted to return to the previous status quo and parliament was set to pass the Restoration Of Pre-War Practices Bill which would mean that any women employed by engineering companies who had not employed women in that role would have to sack them or face a fine. This went against what was happening in wider society, as some women were just starting to get the vote and play a more meaningful role in a society that had changed after the war.

There were some women who were not prepared to take this, in particular, Katharine and Rachel Parsons and Caroline Haslett, who, in 1919 created the Women’s Engineering Society. They had several aims, but the core focus was to ensure that women’s rights were protected and promoted and they really had their work cut out. The book is mostly about the two main women involved in society and how one became the leading professional engineer of her age and the other whose life ended in tragedy.

However there is much more to this book than just these two characters, there are stories of women who created their own women-only engineering businesses, improved worker safety, became marine engineers and mechanics, pilots and racing drivers and engine designers. It was really hard to make inroads against the status quo, but they stuck at it and with the impending war, they were going to become useful once again.

Henrietta Heald has written a really good book about the history of the Women’s Engineering Society and about two much-maligned sectors of society, women and engineers. It is very readable and full of details and anecdotes about all sort of female engineers and their achievements and it is very timely. My father was an engineer during his career and worked in the navy and was then an inspector for pressure vessels. I am an engineer too having studied, electronic and then mechanical engineering and have worked in defence, hi-fi and lighting industries. For me, this is an important book as my daughter is just about to embark on her apprenticeship as an engineer for a large local company and she will be accompanied by two other girls in this years intake approaching near to the 30% target they have set by 2030.

For those want to see just what women are capable of in STEM then have a look at this thread

 

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 Anne Cater from Random Things Through My Letterbox and Unbound for the copy of the book to read.

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.

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