Category: Blog Tour (Page 1 of 8)

The Draw Of The Sea by Wyl Menmuir

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for The Draw Of The Sea by Wyl Menmuir and published by Aurum.

About the Book

Since the earliest stages of human development, the sea has fascinated and entranced us. It feeds us, sustaining communities and providing livelihoods. It fires our imagination, providing joy and solace, but it also wields immense destructive power. It connects us to faraway places, offering the promise of new lands and voyages of discovery, but also shapes our borders, carving
divisions between landmasses and eroding the very ground beneath our feet.
In thirteen interlinked chapters of beautifully written prose, Wyl Menmuir sets out to investigate what it is that draws us to the water’s edge, portraying the lives of fishermen, surfers, sailors, boatbuilders, free-divers, swimmers and artists. In the specifics of these livelihoods and their rich histories and traditions, he captures the universality of humankind’s connection to the sea. In more personal, reflective passages, Wyl reveals the grief that underpinned his settling in
the far South West and how living by the sea has consoled and restored his family.
The Draw of the Sea is a meaningful and moving investigation into how we interact with the environment around us, how it comes to shape the course of our lives, and what we have to lose – as individuals and as a society – if we don’t acknowledge its significance. As unmissable as it is compelling, as profound as it is personal, this must-read book will delight anyone familiar with
the intimate and powerful pull of
life beyond the shoreline.

About the Author

Wyl Menmuir is a novelist, editor and literary consultant living in Cornwall. He is the author of the Man-Booker nominated novel The Many, and the critically acclaimed Fox Fires and his short fiction has appeared in Best British Short Stories. A former journalist, he has written for Radio 4’s Open Book, the Guardian and the Observer. He is co-creator of the Cornish writing
centre, The Writers’ Block, and is a lecturer in creative writing at Falmouth University.

My Review

I have always been drawn to the sea, whether spending time at the beach watching the waves gently lap the sand or being in awe at the power of a storm crashing into the rocks. Wyl Menmuir is another who feels this draw too. So much so that he moved from the centre of the country down to Cornwall to be closer to the coast.

In this book, he travels around Cornwall and Scilly Isles and all the way up to Svalbard finding out the stories of the people who live and love the coast in the same way that he does. Across twelve chapters, he meets rock poolers, scavengers, wreckers and surfers. He even has a go at free diving, those amazing people who can hold their breath for minutes at a time.

Most fascinating was his walk with Lisa Woollett who has become a collector of the random items that wash up on the seashore and Tracey Williams who has a thing about finding the Lego pieces that wash up from a container that was lost at sea many years ago. He begins his own collection, but his wife asks him to move it outside as the smell worsens…

I must admit I loved this book. Menmuir has picked an interesting bunch of people that have a story to tell about their life on the coast. He wants to be involved or participate in the thing that he is investigating. I think that this gives him a better perspective on their lives and his prose about the subject is lyrical and informed. If you have the slightest interest in the sea then I can highly recommend this.

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 Tours for the copy of the book to read.

The Ottomans by Marc David Baer

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for The Ottomans by Marc David Baer and published by Basic Books.

About the Prize

The Wolfson History Prize, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is the UK’s most prestigious historical writing prize and was created to champion the best and most accessible historical writing, and to highlight the importance of history to modern life. Previous winners have included Mary Beard, Antony Beevor, Antonia Frasier, Sudhir Hazareesingh, Amanda Vickery and many more.

A number of the six titles in the running for the £50,000 prize (making it the UK’s most valuable non-fiction writing prize) prove that current social divisions are nothing new, exploring times of discord and crisis throughout history, including accusations of witchcraft in a small New England town, the shock of Britain’s European neighbours during the turbulent Stuart dynasty, and the topical question of fallen statues and what they tell us about historical legacy.

Other titles on the shortlist showcase the impact faith has had on our lives over the centuries, tackling subjects such as the role of religious tolerance within the Ottoman Empire, the surprising realities of Medieval churchgoing, and the ways in which the anatomical concept of God has changed across time.”

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

The books shortlisted for the 2022 Wolfson History Prize are:

The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World by Malcolm Gaskill (Allen Lane)

Devil-Land: England Under Siege, 1588-1688 by Clare Jackson (Allen Lane)

Going to Church in Medieval England by Nicholas Orme (Yale University Press)

God: An Anatomy by Francesca Stavrakopoulou (Picador)

Fallen Idols: Twelve Statues That Made History by Alex von Tunzelmann (Headline)

And the book I am reviewing today:

The Ottomans: Khans, Caesars and Caliphs by Marc David Baer (Basic Books)

About the Book

The Ottoman Empire has long been depicted as the Islamic-Asian antithesis of the Christian-European West. But the reality was starkly different: the Ottomans’ multiethnic, multilingual, and multireligious domain reached deep into Europe’s heart. In their breadth and versatility, the Ottoman rulers saw themselves as the new Romans.

Recounting the Ottomans’ remarkable rise from a frontier principality to a world empire, Marc David Baer traces their debts to their Turkish, Mongolian, Islamic and Byzantine heritage; how they used both religious toleration and conversion to integrate conquered peoples; and how, in the nineteenth century, they embraced exclusivity, leading to ethnic cleansing, genocide, and the dynasty’s demise after the First World War. Upending Western concepts of the Renaissance, the Age of Exploration, the Reformation, this account challenges our understandings of sexuality, orientalism and genocide.

Radically retelling their remarkable story, The Ottomans is a magisterial portrait of a dynastic power, and the first to truly capture its cross-fertilisation between East and West.

 

About the Author

Marc David Baer is Professor of International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is the author of five books: Honored by the Glory of Islam: Conversion and Conquest in Ottoman Europe, winner, Albert Hourani Prize, Middle East Studies Association of North America; Sultanic Saviors and Tolerant Turks: Writing Ottoman Jewish History, Denying the Armenian Genocide, winner of the Dr Sona Aronian Book Prize for Excellence in Armenian Studies, National Association for Armenian Studies and Research; The Dönme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular Turks; German, Jewish, Muslim, Gay: The Life and Times of Hugo Marcus; and The Ottomans: Khans, Caesars and Caliphs.

 

My Review

The Ottoman Empire controlled a large part of Southeast Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It crushed the Byzantine Empire and after it won in the Balkans it became a genuine transcontinental empire. It has been perceived in history as being the Islamic foe of Christian Europe, but the reality was utterly different, it was a multiethnic, multilingual, and multireligious society that accepted people from everywhere.

They were keen on converting people to Islam, but this was not a prerequisite to being a member of this society. Jews that were fleeing European persecution found a home here and could even rise high in the elite service of the sultans. In fact, the tolerance and acceptance of a whole variety of peoples became its strength over the greater part of its history.

The book follows both the political leaders of the empire over the six centuries of rule. The way that each new sultan would put to death brothers and cousins to ensure that they had no threat to their leadership was shocking reading. For me, I found, the descriptions of the way that the society worked and the cultural aspects much more interesting reading.

 

To say there is a lot to take in in this book is an understatement. Baer covers the 600 years of the ebb and flow of the history of this empire in a remarkably readable book. It has a strong narrative and only occasionally descends into detailed academic prose about very specific or particular events. It also shows that Ottoman history is unequivocally European history too.

 

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 Bei from Midas PR for the copy of the book to read.

The Price of Immortality by Peter Ward

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for The Price of Immortality by Peter Ward and published by Melville House.

This is part of the Blog Tour to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Melville House. They are an independent publisher located in Brooklyn, New York with an office in London. It was founded in 2001 by sculptor Valerie Merians and fiction writer/journalist Dennis Johnson, in order to publish Poetry After 9/11, a book of material culled from Johnson’s groundbreaking MobyLives book blog. The material consisted of things sent into the blog by writers and poets in response to the 9/11 attacks, and Johnson and Merians felt it better represented the spirit of New York than the call to war of the Bush administration.

Melville House is also well-known for its fiction, with two Nobel Prize winners on its list: Imre Kertesz and Heinrich Boll. In particular, the company has developed a world-wide reputation for its rediscovery of forgotten international writers — its translation of a forgotten work by Hans Fallada, Every Man Dies Alone, launched a world-wide phenomenon. The company also takes pride in its discovery of many first-time writers — such as Lars Iyer (Spurious), Tao Lin (Shoplifting from American Apparel), Jeremy Bushnell (The Weirdness) and Christopher Boucher (How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive) — all of whom have gone on to greater success.

 

About the Book

In the tradition of Jon Ronson and Tim Wu, an absorbing and revelatory journey into the American Way of Defying Death

As longevity medicine revolutionizes the lives of many older people, the quest to take the next step—to live as long as we choose—has spurred a scientific arms race, funded by Big Tech and Silicon Valley, in search of the elixir of life. Once the stuff of Mesopotamian mythology and episodes of Star Trek, as the pace of technological progress quickens, proposals to make humans immortal are becoming increasingly credible. It has also empowered a wild-eyed fringe of pseudo-scientists, tech visionaries, scam-artists, and religious fanatics who have given their lives to the pursuit of immortality.

Peter Ward’s The Price of Immortality is a probing, deeply reported, nuanced — and sometimes very funny — exploration of the current state of the race for immortality and an attempt to sort the swindlers from the scientists, while also analyzing the potentially devastating consequences should humanity realize its ultimate dream. Starting off at the Church of Perpetual Life in Florida and exploring the feuding subcultures around the nascent cryonics industry that first emerged in the wake of World War 2, Ward immerses himself into an eccentric world of startups, scientific institutions, tech billionaires and life-extension conferences, in order to find out if immortality is within our grasp, and what the cost might be if we choose to take what some people think is the next step in human evolution.

About the Author

Author Photo

Peter Ward is a British business and technology reporter whose reporting has taken him across the globe. Reporting from Dubai, he covered the energy sector in the Middle East before earning a degree in business journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His writing has appeared in Wired, The Atlantic, The Economist, GQ, BBC Science Focus, and Newsweek.

My Review

Who wants to live forever? sings Freddie Mercury in the Queen song. But who does? I grew up knowing that getting your three score and ten in was a good thing, but thanks to modern healthcare people are living way beyond that. But in the end, there is always death, it is as inevitable as taxes and your computer crashing.

There are people out there who do not think that death is for them. They are seeking that elusive and magic elixir of life that they will hope will give them that chance of immortality. What technology and medical advances are there out there that people are hoping might solve the problem. In this book, Peter Ward tries to find out where the money is and to see if it is actually going to work.

He begins this journey at the appropriately named Church of Perpetual Life. This organisation is not a Christian organisation but rather they describe themselves as a science faith-based church. Its members are drawn from all over the place but they all have the desire to live for a long time. They know that they can’t avoid death at the moment, but some want to live until they are 150 in the hope that as yet uninvented technologies will be available to help them live longer again.

For those that aren’t going to live that long, they are hoping that cryonics will mean that their bodies or just their heads can be preserved to be resurrected at some indeterminate point in the future. The technique has been around for a long while, but strangely enough, no one knows if it will actually work…

Ward takes us through all of these different techniques. Some of them sound plausible and based on strong science such as research into other animals that have extraordinarily long lives. There are other techniques that seem to be pedalled by charlatans and snake oil salesmen that stand more chance of shortening your life.

I thought that this was a fascinating and informative read about the search for immortality, He is open to hearing what these people have to say and tries to find out why they are seeking this path. He takes a rational look at the house of smoke and mirrors that is this industry, going in with an open mind and presenting the facts. He acknowledges that we can make people live longer with much better health care and details some of the differences in the state for those wealthy enough to have cover to pay for their medical bills. He has a great writing style, and this makes it an easy read for a complex subject. 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 Nikki Griffiths for the copy of the book to read.

Villager by Tom Cox

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

 

About the Book

There’s so much to know. It will never end, I suspect, even when it does. So much in all these lives, so many stories, even in this small place.

Villages are full of tales: some are forgotten while others become a part of local folklore. But the fortunes of one West Country village are watched over and irreversibly etched into its history as an omniscient, somewhat crabby, presence keeps track of village life.

In the late sixties a Californian musician blows through Underhill where he writes a set of haunting folk songs that will earn him a group of obsessive fans and a cult following. Two decades later, a couple of teenagers disturb a body on the local golf course. In 2019, a pair of lodgers discover a one-eyed rag doll hidden in the walls of their crumbling and neglected home. Connections are forged and broken across generations, but only the landscape itself can link them together. A landscape threatened by property development and superfast train corridors and speckled by the pylons whose feet have been buried across the moor.

 

About the Author

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. @cox_tom

Tom Cox has 80k followers on Twitter and 33k on Instagram. He is also the man behind the enormously popular Why My Cat is Sad account, which has 240k followers. He lives in Devon.

 

My Review

The Dartmoor village of Underhill is exactly where you would expect, under a hill. It has a long history of occupation, the stone circle taking it back beyond recorded history. Some of the stories from the landscape have gone forever but others have permeated the local folklore if you know where to look.

The people that have lived in the village over this have their own stories to tell and the narrative switches between different characters from 100 years ago to almost 150 years in the future. They all have a different story to tell of their time spent there, from the music that was created there and became a cult in its own right. There is the story of a doctor seeing the ghost of a woman in a ruined barn and the discovery of a body by two golf man teenagers.

Each of these stories is connected by the main character of the book; the landscape. Its presence is often brooding and sometimes comforting in each of these short vignettes and it feels like it is watching over the inhabitants of the village as they change the land for better or for worse.

The stones will talk, I think, if you give them long enough

I have been a big fan of Tom Cox for ages, so much so that I have even read his golf book, and I really liked this. It took a few days to grow on me, and this, like his non-fiction, is full of quirks and tiny details that make me wonder just where he gets his ideas from. I really liked the underlying rumble of folk horror in the stories, it is there like a satisfying bass line in a favourite track, not enough to scare you, but enough to give a feeling of unease. It is not a conventional novel by any means and is a strong reflection of his interests and passions. I am so glad that I read this, if it wasn’t for Unbound then we may not have seen this as most publishers wouldn’t consider this a commercial book. I still think that his non-fiction writing has an edge over this, but I am very much looking forward to whatever he writes next.

 

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 Tours for the copy of the book to read.

Machine Journey by Richard Doyle

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Machine Journey by Richard Doyle.

About the Book

Machine Journey is a pamphlet of poems and flash fictions. Travel the road from Slough to Mars. Discover wild visions, strange tales and machine futures. Scramble your way to the prefect stroke

 

About the Author

Author Photo

Richard Doyle is an old-school SF fan who began writing seriously in 2001. He has a Diploma in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and collaborated on a book in 2006. He has had poems published in the UK poetry magazines Orbis and Sarasvati and is a regular member of the Bristol Stanza Poetry Group. His debut pamphlet “The death of the sentence” was published in 2020. Two of his poems appear in the Bristol Stanza pamphlet “The Weather Indoors” (2021).

 

My Review

This is a strange and eclectic collection of verse and prose. There are poems about being a writer and how he shuffles scenes of death and dramatic entrances. It is the first collection that I have read that had something about Slough of all places.

He moves from the Stone Age with the poem called the Stone Computer about the screen that has not displayed an image for hundreds of years to the far future and a trip to Mars.

I particularly liked the Collision With A Greenberg, kind of a green punk story about an event that took place and Encounter with an Angel where someone has an angel reach out to touch them and The Trouble With Spaceships and novel and possibly illegal ways of travelling to Mars.

I liked this short collection. Doyle has drawn on subjects that are niche and wide-ranging. They are quirky and infused with gentle humour and are a pleasure 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 Isabelle Keynon for the copy of the book to read.

Fledgling by Hannah Bourne-Taylor

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Fledgling by Hannah Bourne-Taylor and published by Arum Books.

About the Book

Read the powerful account of one woman’s struggle to reshape her identity when all normality has fallen away.

When lifelong bird-lover Hannah Bourne-Taylor moved with her husband to Ghana seven years ago she couldn’t have anticipated how her life would be forever changed by her unexpected encounters with nature and the subsequent bonds she formed.

Plucked from the comfort and predictability of her life before, Hannah struggled to establish herself in her new environment, striving to belong in the rural grasslands far away from home.

In this challenging situation, she was forced to turn inwards and interrogate her own sense of identity, however in the animal life around her, and in two wild birds in particular, Hannah found a source of solace and a way to reconnect with the world in which she was living.

Fledgling is a portrayal of adaptability, resilience and self-discovery in the face of isolation and change, fuelled by the quiet power of nature and the unexpected bonds with animals she encounters.

Hannah encourages us to reconsider the conventional boundaries of the relationships people have with animals through her inspiring and very beautiful glimpse of what is possible when we allow ourselves to connect to the natural world.

Full of determination and compassion, Fledgling is a powerful meditation on our instinctive connection to nature. It shows that even the tiniest of birds can teach us what is important in life and how to embrace every day.

About the Author

Hannah Bourne-Taylor graduated from the London College of Fashion, with a First in Photography in 2008. She became an equine photographer with photographs exhibited in the Royal Academy and solo exhibitions in London and New York. From 2013 – 2021 Hannah lived in rural Ghana with her husband who ran the ‘Right to Dream’ charitable foundation. She worked within the charity’s media team producing a documentary series on gender equality in celebration of the foundation’s girls’ programme, the first of its kind in Africa. Since 2019, Hannah has ghost written and edited several books, including working closely with Anne Glenconner on her bestselling Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown.

My Review

Almost four thousand miles from her home in southern England lies the house that she lived in, in Ghana. It is located very close to the 0-degree latitude and longitude intersection and is so utterly different to anything else that she was used to. She was with her husband who was running a sports foundation. He has all the various permits needed to work there, but being a trailing spouse, someone who was not allowed any paid work in the country.

Her residence permit was vividly marked ‘dependent’.  To say that she was lonely and lost was an understatement. She clung to little treats, such as a spoonful of marmalade each day as a reminder of home and happier times. It was supposed to be an adventure, but the warning from her parents about what could go wrong and the snakes that could kill her should she happen to come across them was just terrifying.

One thing that did lift her was the return of the swift from their long journey back from Europe. She stood out in a rainstorm waiting for them to arrive and soon after the rain stopped they appeared in the sky screaming and acting like aeronautical hooligans as they flew far too close to everything. As the sun set, she turned for home and as she approached the school, she saw a man poking under the eaves, she saw something fall and after he had left went over to see. There was a tiny swift in amongst the debris. She tried to help it, but it didn’t want to leave her hand. She made a snap decision and took it, home.

I didn’t fully realise it at the time, but it was not just the bird’s life at stake. Somehow, it was also mine.

This was the moment that it changed for her in Ghana, this new beginning with this swift gave her a purpose and the goal of getting this bird back into the air with its fellows. It would not be the first bird, she would end up caring for a mannikin finch after. It is a heartfelt memoir about one woman’s loneliness in another country and the way that she manages to cope with being far from home and family. Bourne-Taylor is very open and honest about her feelings all the way through the book and I think that she writes well in this, her debut. We all take different things from immersion in the natural world and this is how it gave as much to her as she gave back to it.

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 Random Things for arranging a copy of the book to read

Hannah can be found here; or on Twitter, here

The publisher is here

 

London Clay by Tom Chivers

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for London Clay by Tom Chivers and published by Doubleday .

 

About the Book

Part personal memoir, part lyrical meditation, London Clay takes us deep in to the nooks and crannies of a forgotten city: a hidden landscape long buried underneath the sprawling metropolis. Armed with just his tattered Streetfinder map, author Tom Chivers follows concealed pathways and explores lost islands, to uncover the geological mysteries that burst up through the pavement and bubble to the surface of our streets.

From Roman ruins to a submerged playhouse, abandoned Tube stations to ancient riverbeds, marshes and woodlands, this network of journeys combines to produce a compelling interrogation of London’s past. London Clay examines landscape and our connection to place, and celebrates urban edgelands: in-between spaces where the natural world and the city mingle, and where ghosts of the deep past can be felt as a buzzing in the skull. It is also a personal account of growing up in London, and of overcoming loss through the layered stories of the capital.

Written in rich and vivid prose, London Clay will inspire readers to think about what lies beneath their feet, and by doing so reveal new ways of looking at the city.

 

About the Author

TOM CHIVERS is a poet and publisher. He is the author of two pamphlets and two full collections of poetry to date, and is director of the independent press Penned in the Margins. In 2008 he was the Bishopsgate Institute’s first writer in residence, and has appeared widely at events and made a number of contributions to radio, including presenting a 30 minute documentary for Radio 4. He has collaborated with the climate arts organisation Cape Farewell and conducts immersive walking tours of London. Chivers is currently an Associate Artist of the National Centre for Writing.

 

My Review

London has a long history, for the past 2000 thousand years, it has grown to the financial and cultural global city of today whilst surviving several invasions, one major fire, a plague or two. Bronze Age bridges have been found but the people that made it their own were the Romans. They settled there and made their city at the point where it was possible to cross. The river meant they could control the local area and still have access to the resources and might of their empire.

But Chivers wants to start with the real history of the place, seeking the deep history of the landscapes of the lost rivers and secret woodlands. Like with all good adventures it begins with a map, a streetfinder that is being changed with felt tip pens and highlighters. Trafalgar  Square turns orange to show the underlying silt and clay, the banks of the Thames are shade yellow to represent the alluvium deposited by the river. Under all of these layers is the clay that has played a big part in the creation of the city as some of the people who have inhabited it. As the maps are coloured in, features that have long been hidden show their ghostly presence once again.

A map is only so useful though. What he needs to do it to start to see if that underlying geology is still visible in the modern concrete jungle. He knows exactly where to start too, Aldgate. It was here that he noticed a trench that was around 15 feet deep and was slowly accumulating junk. He could see the brick lining but also visible was the silt that built London. But it is a reminder that London is a city that is constantly changing, buildings that are not that old are ripped out to make space for the newest glass edifices. His next journey takes him to Dulwich in search of the rivers that once flowed across the city and now only flow through culverts before he traces the Walbrook on the modern streets.

It is clay. Of course it is. London Clay. I cannot help myself. I stretch my hand towards the bank and dig my thumb in. it comes out thick and yellow. The dark, sandy yellow of London stock brick. Clay.

Westminster is now the centre of our government and establishment, but it used to be a river delta in its past. He heads down into a sewer to see the River Fleet and has to shower a long time after that experience. If you know where and how to look there are still echoes of the roads that the Romans first used, Watling Street, Stane Street as well as hints of more recent London, as he searches for the lost island of Bermondsey and sees if the Olympic Park has eradicated the ancient causeway that crossed the marshes.

I thought this was a fantastic book. For me, Chivers has got the mix of history, geology and personal memoir spot on. I particularly liked the way that he sees the way that even the modern cityscape reflects the underlying geology, the subtle rises in the modern tarmac reveal the paths of ancient causeways and the traces of the rivers long since buried under the streets. He has a way of bringing to the surface, moments of London’s ancient history in a way that is utterly compelling. He draws deeply from his life as a Londoner and his knack of seeing the tiniest detail in the cityscape he walks is transferred onto the page as he uses his skill as a poet in the wonderful prose. If you want a very different book on London that explores how we have transformed the city as much as it has shaped our nation.

 

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 Random Things Tours and Doubleday for the copy of the book to read.

Peacocks in Paradise by Anna Nicholas

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Peacocks in Paradise by Anna Nicholas and published by Burro Books.

 

About the Book

The long-awaited seventh title in Anna Nicholas’s humorous travel series about how to live the dream in a Mediterranean country. The author explores different local cultural themes in each title. Anna delves into the island’s authentic heartland, exploring nature reserves, bird sanctuaries and paprika, fruit and almond farms. On her travels, she meets the makers of siurell whistles, palm leaf baskets, hot sauces and ensaimada pastries, and revels in visiting local producers of wine, craft beer, gin and brandy – and Mallorca’s famed herbes liqueur. Meanwhile, she and chum, Alison, are tackling all 54 Tramuntana peaks over 1,000m, enduring the arduous overnight Guell hike to Lluc Monastery along the way.

 

About the Author

Anna Nicholas is of Celtic origin & has lived for 18 years in rural Mallorca. An inveterate traveller & experienced freelance journalist, she regularly participates in humanitarian aid expeditions overseas with British explorer Colonel John Blashford-Snell, CBE and is a Fellow of the RGS. She ran her own PR company in Mayfair, London, for 20 years, was a Guinness Book of Records adjudicator alongside the book’s founder, Norris McWhirter, CBE, and as a rookie press officer at charity Help the Aged, handled events for Princess Diana. She runs an international marathon annually for her favourite causes.

 

My Review

There are nicer ways to be woken than a hearing the screeching of a peacock, but the most recent addition to their ever-growing menagerie has a habit of waking them at some ungodly hour before the alarm goes off. She glances out of the window and sees the sun lighting the Tramuntana mountains. One very strong cup of coffee later and they are ready to face the day.

The peacock is just one of the numerous animals that they have around their home. Over the course of the book, they seem to end up with an endless influx of other animals as well as finding a large number of kittens on their property. They have a full and entertaining life there in Mallorca, her son has left home now and is in other parts of Europe, they miss him, but he is travelling as she did at the same age.

They are fully embedded in life on the island and you sense from the scenes she describes with the neighbours that they have got deep and long-lasting friendships with neighbours and others around the islands. They are partial to good food and wine, and they are always travelling around in their battered mini to all sorts of different places to meet various food and wine producers of the island. They are often out to lunch with friends or visiting organisations that are trying to help local species and protect the local environment. There is a little part of the story in London too. In her past life, Nicholas was a PR and old friends want to use her skills to help launch a new set of products in Mallorca. Whilst in London it gives her time to catch up with some old friends that she wouldn’t normally see.

I really enjoyed this. It is a welcome break from the gloom of the pandemic that keeps rumbling on. Nicholas writes in a chatty style as she tells us about her extremely busy life in Mallorca. She is really good at extracting the details from the things that she is doing, whether that is the walking challenge that she undertakes with her friend up the fifty-four peaks over 1000m or the time spent at a number of vineyards or just the interactions with her friends and neighbours on a daily basis. She is a good saleswoman too because having read about the island I now want to visit it and see it for myself. Even though this is the seventh book in the series, this is the first of the series that I have read. I do have one of the others and as I really enjoyed this I am going to make an effort to get and read the others.

 

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 Random Tours and  Anna Nicholas for providing a copy of the book to read.

The Storm Is Upon Us by Mike Rothschild

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for The Storm Is Upon Us by Mike Rothschild and published by Monoray, an imprint of Octopus Books.

About the Book

In 2017, President Trump made a cryptic remark at a gathering of military officials, describing it as ‘the calm before the storm’-then refused to explain himself to puzzled journalists. But on internet message boards, a mysterious poster called ‘Q Clearance Patriot’ began an elaboration all of their own.

Q’s wild yarn hinted at a vast conspiracy that satisfied the deepest desires of MAGA-America. None of Q’s predictions came to pass. But did that stop people from clinging to every word, expanding Q’s mythology, and promoting it ever more widely? No.

Conspiracy culture expert Mike Rothschild is uniquely equipped to explain QAnon, from the cults that first fed into it, to its embrace by Trump and the right-wing media. With families torn apart and with the Capitol under attack, he argues that mocking the madness of QAnon will get us nowhere. Instead, he argues that QAnon tells us everything we need to know about global fear after Trump-and that we need to understand it now, because it’s not going away.

About the Author

Mike Rothschild is a journalist, author, and the foremost expert in this ever-changing QAnon conspiracy theory. He is a contributing writer for the Daily Dot, where he explores the intersections between internet culture and politics through the lens of conspiracy theories. As a subject matter expert in the field of fringe beliefs, Mike has been interviewed by the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and Yahoo – among many others. He is also a frequent speaker, and podcast and radio guest on the topic of conspiracy theories, including NPR’s weekly show “On the Media” and a Vice documentary. Rothschild has been studying the QAnon phenomenon since early 2018 and was one of the first journalists not only to reveal its connections to past conspiracy theories and scams but also to openly address its danger to the American public—and beyond.

My Review

 

Thankfully the maelstrom of the Trump years are behind us and hopefully they won’t ever be back. He is still wildly popular there, his supporters see him as some godlike man who can purge American politics of liberalism and Democrats. His influence on American politics though has left a deep and long lasting scar on their country and it is going to take a long time to heal.

His 2016 campaign about Making America Great Again along with his popularist pitches reached a lot of people who felt that they had lost a voice in American politics. He was also attracting the voters who wouldn’t normally be that interested in politics, those that felt that the state had too much power and believed in the myriad of conspiracy theories that have been around for ages. Then in 2017, President Trump made a cryptic remark at a gathering of military officials, describing it as ‘the calm before the storm’ and then refused to explain himself to puzzled journalists.

A short time after this, a person identifying themselves as ‘Q Clearance Patriot’ started posting messages of the anarchic message board, 4chan. A follow up post hinted at massive riots taking place across the country. It read like the opening paragraph from a techno thriller and was the beginning of the mother of all conspiracy theories that would become QAnon. Q was claiming to be a high level military intelligence office who was there to tell the people that there was a secret war taking place, the culmination of this would be the end of the child trafficking rings, the end of the deep state, the end of all things evil and the beginning of true freedom. The posts or drops as they became known, were prolific at first, hinting at all manner of things happening, referencing the comment Trump had made earlier and hinting at a ‘mind blowing truth’ that cannot be fully revealed and the hell that was about to unleashed.

There was one tiny issue though; none of it was true.

People lapped it up though. What was a niche message board became wider known as more people wanted to read these drops for themselves and a whole cabal of people would interpret and reshare these messages across a variety of social media platforms adding to the myth and conspiracy. It didn’t take long for it to become part of the mainstream and QAnon believers to make up a substantial part of the Republican Party now. Its pinnacle though was the Capitol Hill invasion by its supporters eager to unleash the storm and reinstate Trump to the presidency.

But what is QAnon? In this book Mike Rothschild takes us through its short, intense and tumultuous history, outlining key moments as it grew into the phenomena that it is now. He systematically analyses the points where it went from being the delusions of a few cranks to a significant force in American politics. He tries to answer the question as to what it actually is, a cult, a political part of even a religion and given how it is driving families apart, makes suggestions on how to deal with those that have been sucked into its sphere.

I can’t really say this is a good book, the subject matter is quite terrifying to be honest, but it is a necessary book. Rothschild knows his subject, in particular about cults and the effects they can have of those that believe in them. He writes with empathy about the people that have asked questions about the way of the world and found that QAnon were on the surface, providing those answers to them. There are stories from those that have delved a little deeper into the drop and have come to the realisation that they is no substance to the message. He even goes as far to speculate who the person was who begun this. 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 Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the copy of the book to read.

Tapestries Of Life by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Tapestries Of Life by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson and published by Mudlark.

About the Book

Trees clean air and water; hoverflies and bees pollinate our crops; the kingfisher inspired the construction of high-speed trains. In Tapestries of Life, bestselling author Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson explains how closely we are all connected with the natural world, highlighting our indelible link with nature’s finely knit system and our everyday lives.

In the heart of the natural world is a life-support system like no other, a collective term that describes all the goods and services we receive – food, freshwater, medicine, pollination, pollution control, carbon sequestration, erosion prevention, recreation, spiritual health and so much more. In this utterly captivating book, Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson sets out to explore these wonderful, supportive elements – taking the reader on a journey through the surprising characteristics of the natural world.

About the Author

Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson is the bestselling author of Extraordinary Insects. A professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) in Ås, Norway, she is also a scientific advisor for The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research NINA. She has a Doctorate degree in conservation biology and lectures on nature management and forest biodiversity.

My Review

So far we have not found life anywhere other than this planet. And the life that we have here is in every part of the planet, from the microbes floating in the stratosphere to the organisms that are at the very bottom of the oceans 11km down. The breadth of life that is around is staggering too, almost every niche has been exploited by something that a lot of the time can only live there. It is a complex and beautiful system that is self-sustaining and abundant.

Sadly we have been trying our best to muck it for the 300,000 years or so that we have been around. We seemed to have altered almost every place on earth in one way of another, sometimes only a little, but in other places there has been wholesale destruction and obliteration. It is a sorry state of affairs, especially when you think that we are in a heavily interdependent life support system and one of the 10,000,000 or so species on this planet that has an equal right to be here.

How these systems really work is only recently being understood in more detail. Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson, professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, is one of those who is in a position to be able to understand and explain just how these complex and interdependent systems actually operate.

In this fascinating book, she takes us on a tour of the planet to show us what exactly happens and how this keeps life ticking over. We learn about the way that mycelium networks help plants grow, how insects keep us fed and how there is a cure for almost anything out there in the rainforests of our world. Sverdrup-Thygeson describes how we consume vast resources of stuff in our desire to eat everything we possibly can and buy ourselves new things all the time and how we totally depend on these resources to exist. Our physical consumption has doubled since 1980; we are stretching the resources too thinly and something will break soon. She describes how in America they use thousands of tonnes of chemicals on their lawns to clear wildflowers and insects and need thousands of tonnes of fertilizer to make the grass grow properly.

I liked this a lot. Sverdrup-Thygeson is an engaging writer with a strong belief in the natural world and how we need to treat it to be able to survive and thrive on our only planet. Using the evidence of some of the mad things that we do, she calmly advises that there is another way to move forward and not only thrive on this planet but give the other 9,999,999 species that we share it with, an equal chance of surviving too.

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

Blog Tour Poster

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.

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