Category: Blog Tour (page 2 of 3)

Blog Tour – I Found My Tribe – Ruth Fitzmaurice

Welcome to my blog for today’s stop on the blog tour for Ruth Fitzmaurice’s book, I Found My Tribe. 

The Blurb:

She has her husband Simon, a filmmaker with advanced Motor Neurone Disease who can only communicate with his eyes via a computer. Together they have five children under the age of 10, as well as Pappy, a cantankerous Basset Hound. They are kept afloat by relentless army of nurses and carers that flows through their house in Greystones, on the East Coast of Ireland.

And then there is Ruth’s other family – her Tribe of amazing women. Amidst the chaos and the pain that rules their lives, The Tragic Wives Swimming Club congregate together – in summer and winter, on golden afternoons and by the light of the moon – on the sea steps at Women’s Cove. Day after day, they throw themselves into the freezing Irish sea. In that moment, they are free. Later, they will share a thermos of tea, teeth chattering, hands shaking, ready to take on the world once more.

An invocation to all of us to love as hard as we can, and live even harder, I Found My Tribe is an urgent and uplifting letter to a husband, family, friends, the natural world and the brightness of life.

My Review:

Back in 2008, Ruth Fitzmaurice’s husband Simon was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. His career was just starting to lift and they had three small children so Ruth put her writing ambitions on the back burner to care for him and them. Events took a more dramatic turn when he was given four years to live and then they had had twins. Even though Simon can only communicate using his eyes and technology, he still managed to direct My Name is Emily. Ruth regularly heads to a cove in Greystones, Co. Wicklow with two close friends, Michelle and Aifric to swim in the cold seas. She calls this tribe ‘The Tragic Wives’ Swimming Club’; and gives her a necessary respite from her other tribe of children and carers for Simon.

Even in the most tragic of circumstances, she can see hope, even though she has periods of time where she feels raw and vulnerable. Ruth has a roller coaster of emotions living with Simon and his motor neurone disease. It is tough, but not as tough as the moments when she has to answer the children’s questions as what is happening with Dad, especially when she doesn’t have the answers. The sea swimming becomes those moments when she can be herself and relax with her friends. Her beautiful, sparse prose gets to the very essence of what is happening with the various tribes. It is a moving book too, with several poignant moments.

She is one tough lady. 

Since this book was originally written Simon Fitzmaurice sadly passed away in October 2017. He was a celebrated filmmaker who even after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease still continued to make films. My Name Is Emily was about a teenager who decides to free her father from a mental hospital and starred Evanna Lynch, Michael Smiley, and George Webster. He made a documentary about his life called It’s Not Yet Dark and it tells us how he coped with everything and how he spoke to the outside world using eye-tracking software. 

R I P Simon.

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.

#BlogTour – Why Do Birds Disappear – Lev Parikian

Welcome to my turn on the blog tour for Lev Parikian’s new book, Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? 200 Birds, 12 Months, 1 Lapsed Birdwatcher published today:

The picture of the cover doesn’t really do it justice. The artwork is exquisite and the title has fine copper foiling, not only that it has a nice heft to the hardback too

A little about the author first. most of the time he is not an author, rather he is a conductor. No, not the one on a bus, but the guy with a small stick who manages to coerce an unruly bunch of musicians into producing marvellous music. He even wrote a book about it called, Waving, Not Drowning. With his second book, he feels that the balance has shifted from just being a conductor to being a writer too. This book was crowdfunded by the new publisher on the block, Unbound. He is currently seeking funding and ideas for his latest venture called The Long and the Short of It where you can suggest the ideas to be written about.

Anyway, back to today’s book. Here is my review of the book:

At the age of 12, Lev Parikian was an avid birdwatcher. He had a huge list of birds from the common or garden to the exotic neatly ticked off. Except he hadn’t seen some of them, in fact, he had probably only seen half of them. There has been a smidgen over six hundred species recorded as being seen in Britain, and as the bird watching bug bites again after a walk around the park in an attempt to combat middle age spread, Parikian feels that this time he needs a challenge and this time to do things properly. So there are rules; there has to be because this time it is serious.
But what sort of target should he go for? A friend of his managed 206 in a single year, but he was an avid bird watcher, 100 would be too easy and 300 would be unrealistic. A lot of birds that have appeared over here are very rare, swept in by the Atlantic storms and take a day or so to re-orientate themselves before disappearing once again. But first, he needs to create a list, because every birder needs a list. Separating the birds into four categories, already seen, will probably see, might see and no chance (one is now extinct after all) and the list has been whittled down from a vast 600 to an unmanageable 200. It should be ok, shouldn’t it?
Starting with the ubiquitous blue tit, so begins a very amusing story of trying to track down his 200 ticks. It will take him from the Dorset shorelines to the dramatic west coast of Scotland, the big skies of Norfolk and the waters of the Somerset levels. He has some spectacular finds and spends a lot of the year not seeing any owls at all; there was one here five minutes ago is not what you want to hear. Some of the trips he is accompanied by his wife and son who seem to tolerate his new obsession and he is helped by other bird watchers that are generous with their time, expertise and telescopes. Two hundred birds in one year is a big ask, can he do it? Will he actually see ll the birds? Can he stick to the rules, or will it be a project that will join the other abandoned ones alongside the discarded resolutions on the barely used yoga mat…

Parikian has written a thoroughly enjoyable book that because of his bone-dry wit had me chuckling and laughing out loud at times. I thought that it was written with genuine warmth about his feathered subjects, his cricket and spreadsheet obsession and his love of life in general. There are amusing anecdotes about him learning to become a conductor at the same place that his father worked as well as nostalgic and poignant moments about growing up and losing his father. One to read and enjoy, and maybe make you reach for the binoculars.

Thank you to Unbound for providing a review copy. 

You can follow Lev Parikian on Twitter here and his blog is here.

Don’t forget to get your copy from an independent bookshop. By doing that you support, them, the author and the publisher. Follow the others on the blog tour too:

#BlogTour for Stranger In My Heart

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the blog tour for #StrangerInMyHeart. This book is about Mary Monro’s father, John and his activities in World War II.  I will be reviewing it below, but first a little about the book. This is the cover:
The blurb says:

John Monro MC never mentioned his Second World War experiences, leaving his daughter Mary with unresolved mysteries when he died in 1981. He fought at the Battle of Hong Kong, made a daring escape across Japanese-occupied China and became Assistant Military Attaché in Chongqing. Caught up in Far East war strategy, he proposed a bold plan to liberate the PoWs he’d left behind before fighting in Burma in 1944. But by the time Mary was born he’d become a Shropshire farmer, revealing nothing of his heroic past. 

Thirty years after his death and prompted by hearing him described as a ‘20th Century great’, Mary began her quest to explore this stranger she’d called ‘Dad’. Stranger In My Heart skilfully weaves poignant memoir with action-packed biography and travels in modern China in a reflective journey that answers the question we all eventually ask ourselves: ‘Who am I?’
This is Mary’s first book, but she is an accomplished writer of technical and academic articles as well as being an experienced lecturer and presenter. She is currently resident in Bath with her husband Julian and their dog, Gobi. Animals have been a big part of her life, she grew up riding horses and inevitably falling off them too, so has a raft of injuries. This has not stopped her riding though. Mary’s first job was working with Cadbury’s and had never shaken the chocolate habit, next came a spot of consultancy, but a career change meant that Mary now works as an osteopath treating animals and humans. 

My Review:

When her father died, Mary was only 18. She never really knew him as a person, just as a slightly remote father figure who had loved running the farm where she and her three siblings lived. She had a happy childhood, grown up fairly self-reliant, had a love of horses and freedom, but his death left a void in all their lives. Mary would never have the opportunity to ask the questions that she wanted too. It was a few years after when she was at a party an old family friend of hers said that he was one of the great war heroes, that she realised that she knew so little about him. This book is the answer to the question; who is my father.
John Monro was born in 1914, at the dawn of the Great War and was schooled in Switzerland of all places. He joined the army as a Gentleman cadet in 1932 and was commissioned in 1934. In 1937 he was posted to the British colony of Hong Kong in the 8th Heavy Brigade of the Royal Artillery and was put in command of a troop of Chinese men. He had an interpreter called Cheung Yan-Lun who was born in Guangdong. They got on so well they were to become lifelong friends. Further appointments and promotions were made and he ended up at the HQ in Hong Kong with the rank of Brigade Major. This was early in 1941 and with the war in Europe there were even more rumours about a possible conflict in the far east but nothing had happened so far.
By the end of the year everything had changed; Japan had invaded and Monro was heavily involved in defending Hong Kong, but it was to no avail and the colony surrendered to the Japanese. Monro was one of those captured and sent to a POW camp. It classic English fashion, it wasn’t long before he escaped by swimming over to the mainland. This was the first in a series of dramatic events as he takes a long and convoluted route over 1200 miles to reach China’s wartime capital at Chongqing where he was once again involved again in the war effort.
All of these details Mary found out in the large envelope of letters and other documentation that was forthcoming from her mother. It was quite a job to collate and organise it, but possibly slightly harder to read his handwriting! To really get a feel for the places that he travelled through whilst evading capture would mean a trip out to China. Even though China is far more open than it used to be and there are the well-worn tourist trails to the Great Wall and the Forbidden Palace, there are parts of it that are still not easy to travel around, but thankfully she found a company and guide who were willing to help her see the place that her father once travelled through and her mother paid towards the trip as she was equally curious as to what had happened in his past life.
These personal histories of family members add so much more to history than the slightly tedious and dry military reports and official histories of events. Not only do you get to see the person in a different light, but the author’s emotional involvement makes for much better reading. It is the same with this journey to uncover the stories of her father John, a private man who like so many of his generation, did his duty and thought no more of it, let alone want to talk about it.

We are all geniuses with hindsight, you can sense her regret about not taking the time when she could to get to know him and understand what he went through during the war. This story of his life is her tribute to her father for all he stood for and all that he meant to all of his family. If you liked Dadland about Tom Carew’s escapades in World War II then this is another book that will appeal and that fills in the patchwork of personal stories about a war that changed the world.

Stranger in my Heart will be available from the 9th June in Kindle and paperback and is published by Unbound.

This tour was arranged by Anne of #RandomThingsTours 

Thank you for stopping by. Don’t forget to visit the others on the tour to see what they had to say about the book.

Wellcome Book Prize #BlogTour #WBP2018

Welcome to my blog for the third stop on the tour for the Wellcome Book Prize #BlogTour. Follow the hashtag #WBP2018 on twitter to find the others participating in this:

The Wellcome Book Prize is focused centred on science and celebrates the best new books that illuminate our encounters with health, medicine and illness. This means that the subjects covered by the prize do not always make the easiest of reading. This year we have a fictional book on the pressures of continuing the family line in Nigeria, there is a book that considers the future of humanity and the possibilities of trans-human development. Most of us reading this would not be alive if it were not for the pioneering work of Joseph Lister, or the work that has taken place in vaccine research, subjects brilliantly covered by two of the shortlisted books. The drug culture in Western societies is now endemic, but how it affects families is often glossed over; one of the books on the shortlist talks about just how it can affect anyone at any level of society. There are three things guaranteed in life: your computer crashing, taxes and death, the final book on the shortlist is prepared to tackle the taboo subject of death. 

Today I am sharing an extract from The Vaccine Race by Meredith Wadman. She is a  reporter at Science and has written for NatureFortune, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. A graduate of Stanford and Columbia, she began medical school at the University of British Columbia and completed her medical degree as a Rhodes scholar at the University of Oxford and has covered biomedical research politics from Washington for two decades. She lives in suburban Washington with her husband, two sons and two dogs.  She loves walking the dogs, talking with friends and reading histories and biographies.

To remove the history of human exploitation from vaccines and medicines that were developed in the postwar era is impossible. The knowledge that allowed their development is woven into them. Should we therefore shun them? Definitely not. Take rubella as a case in point. As I write this in the summer of 2016, 1,700 babies in a dozen countries have been born with abnormally small heads or other brain malformations; their mothers were infected with the Zika virus while pregnant. Zika’s emergence is a vivid reminder of what life was like in the United States in 1964. Then, there was no rubella vaccine and tens of thousands of American babies were born gravely damaged by the rubella virus, which selectively harms fetuses in the womb. Like Zika, rubella homes in on the brains of fetuses; it also ravages their eyes, ears, and hearts. But today, thanks to the vaccine that was perfected in experiments on institutionalized orphans and intellectually disabled children, indigenous rubella has been wiped out in the Western Hemisphere. Cases occur only when they are imported from other countries. We can’t turn the clock back. The only way we can partially make it up to these children and untold others is to honor their contributions by making them meaningful – by continuing to vaccinate against rubella and the other diseases that made childhood a perilous journey before vaccines against them existed. We also need to strive constantly to enforce and improve the regulations and laws that protect research subjects so that in the future such abuses never happen again. We might also remember, when judging the men who took advantage of vulnerable human beings in order to advance both human health and their own careers, that they were creatures of their time, just as we are of ours. Rather than training our criticism on them, it might be more useful to ask ourselves this: what are we doing or accepting or averting our eyes from today that will cause our grandchildren to look at us and ask, How could you have let that happen?

It is a fascinating book about the development of the vaccines that have saved us all. 
My review for The Vaccine Race is hereI have read all the others on the shortlist too, click on the title to see the reviews.

Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris
With the End in Mind by Kathryn Mannix
To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell
Mayhem: A memoir by Sigrid Rausing 

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs to see what they are saying about the other books on the shortlist:

Wellcome Book Prize Blog Tour

#BlogTour for Library Miscellany

Welcome to my blog for the final stop on the blog tour for #ALibraryMiscellaney by Clare Cock-Starkey.
I have been a fan of libraries for longer than I care to remember. I visit my local one in Wimborne most weekends and normally have a book or two to collect or drop back and always look at the shelves to see if there is anything that catches my eye.
This is not the only library in Wimborne though, the other is one of England’s very first public libraries, second only to Chetham. It is located in the beautiful 12th Century Minister at the top of a spiral staircase in the room that in the reformation housed the treasury; now it’s treasure lies on the pages. First opened in 1686, the oldest book in the collection dates back to 1343 and explains how to avoid spiritual pitfalls. The 150 books in the library were open to all, but the major donor, Roger Gillingham, wanted them to be available to the ‘better class of person in the town’. The books in the collection were seen as so valuable at the time that he insisted that they were chained up. It is the second largest chained library in the country. You can still visit it and there are more details on the website here:

Clare’s book is a little book full of gems of information and details about libraries from around the world. 

But before my review here is an extract kindly provided by Clare.

My Review:

I have been a fan of libraries for longer than I care to remember. I visit my local one in most weekends and normally have a book or two to collect or drop back and always look at the shelves to see if there is anything that catches my eye.
This sister volume to The Book Lovers’ Miscellany picks up the same baton as that book. It is one that will have you retiring to the closest comfortable chair to uncover the delights and secrets of the libraries of the world. In here we will learn who was the first librarian, which library in the UK loans the most books each year and just what a legal deposit library is. There is a potted history of the library from the earliest over 2500 years ago to the most recent digital libraries. There are the rules of some of the world’s most famous libraries where you can discover which one states that you cannot carry a gun in (!!!)
It is shocking I know, but there are libraries out there that don’t contain books, however, they do contain a variety of other objects from seeds to smells, art and there is even a library of magic. We learn who wanted the library stock for themselves and were caught stealing the maps and books from some of the most famous libraries in the world, and those who have borrowed the books then forgot to bring them back for quite a while. I’m quite excited by the Future Library that Katie Peterson has created, she is collecting 100 books by 100 different authors and these will not be published until 2114.
There is some overlap between this book and The Book Lovers’ Miscellany, but this is still a cornucopia of snippets, facts and figures about libraries that bibliophiles will treasure.

There’s more. Clare was kind enough to send me a copy of the Book Lovers Miscellany too. 

My Review:

In case you haven’t worked it out yet, I love books. I even like reading books about books too, and when I was given an opportunity to read The Book Lovers’ Miscellany I jumped at the chance. This small volume is packed to the covers with details and facts and stories about books, authors and significant events from the world of literature.
If you want a list of publishers who declined the books that went onto break all the sales records, which parts of animals have graced the pages and the what the largest and smallest books ever made were about and the texts that have been translated the most, then this is a really good place to start. You can find out who are the youngest authors, who are the most prolific and who left unfinished manuscripts, as well as finding out what the colours of the original Penguin paperbacks were for. Not sure what colophon and incunabule mean? The answers are in here as well as finding out what books other than science fiction contains wormholes.
This is a delightfully written and produced book that is a treasure trove of information. Perfect for anyone who has the slightest interest in books, authors and reading, it is short so will take almost no time to read spend a few moments to learn a new fact every time you open it.

You can find Clare on the web here: 
On Twitter Here @nonfictioness
If you want to go and hear her speak about both books she will be at the Oxford Literary Festival on March 20th at 12pm:

Buy the book at your local bookshop; that way you will support the author, the bookseller and the publisher with one purchase. Thank you for stopping by. 

#BlogTour for All her Starry Fates

Welcome to my blog as the final stop on the blog tour for All her Starry Fates. Thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the tour and for sending a copy of this book to read

Normally my go-to reading is non-fiction as for me it can entertain and educate at the same time, but it is nice to stretch the mind and indulge in something else every now and again so I do occasionally read poetry. In the past, I have read Kathleen Jamie and Carol Ann Duffy, and Edward Ragg was generous enough to send me his two published works that I am intending to read later this year.

However, back to this small volume. Lady Grey sets out to explore just how the otherworldly relates to the every day, with short and sometimes abstract poems about subjects that are close to her heart, so we have musings and prose on subjects as varied as love and belonging, books and freedom, magic and the intimacy of a partnership.

There were poems in here that I liked a lot, they spoke to me on many different levels and had elements that appealed deep in my psyche. The prose is sparse, as she seeks to elicit meaning from the simplicity of the words rather than the complexity of language. Some of the poems are quite raw as they have been written from the heart. Some evoke the natural world, and other venture into otherworldly realms. There were a number of other poems I found harder to fathom, but that is as much my fault as they do need to be read and read to sink in. There are some lovely verses in here and it is one to return to another time.

Poetry has a way of reaching into your very soul that fiction doesn’t always seem to manage and this is a collection that has the capacity to do just that. 

#BlogTour for The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities by Paul Anthony Jones

Hello Everyone!

Welcome to my blog for the final stop on the blog tour for The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities: A Yearbook of Forgotten Words by Paul Anthony Jones. I was fortunate that the bibliopoesy people at Elliot and Thompson were kind enough to send me a copy of it, and this is the fabulous cover below. The image really cannot do it justice though, as it is finished in a glittering gold foil block.

The blurb says:

Within these pages you might leap back in time, learn about linguistic trivia, follow a curious thread or wonder at the web of connections in the English language.

Paul Anthony Jones has unearthed a wealth of strange and forgotten words: illuminating some aspect of the day, or simply telling a cracking good yarn, each reveals a story. Written with a light touch that belies the depth of research it contains, this is both a fascinating compendium of etymology and a captivating historical miscellany. Dip into this beautiful book to be delighted and intrigued throughout the year.

And I have got a snippet from the book for you about libraries, the best way to build a collection of words and books.

Finally here is my review of the book:

The English language has a huge number of words; there are over 170,00 words in current use and over 45,000 words that are now considered obsolete. As the average person in the street has a vocabulary of around 20,000–35,000 words meaning for almost everyone there is a whole world of undiscovered words and their meanings for us to discover. One man who is aiming to unlock this Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities for us all is Paul Anthony Jones. He is the man behind Haggard Hawks, another wonderful place for everything wordy and some fiendishly difficult anagrams, and boy has he found some corkers in this book.

Some words here will make you smile, some will make you wince, but this is a cabinet full of precious treasure, an etymological gold mine. It is a labyrinth as one word leads to another and yet another word loops back past. We will learn the origins and root of words like viaticated, something that you will need to be for this journey, when you’ll need a paragrandine, just what the noise is that the word mrkgnao describes. Whilst all of this may seem mysterifical, you will start to become someone who could be called a sebastianist as you uncover this etmological Wunderkammer. You will learn how long a smoot is, when you need to scurryfunge a house, and just what a yule-hole is and at the end of all that you’ll either be a word-grubber or be in need of a potmeal

Not only is this a book for those that love all things about the English language, Paul Anthony Jones has written a book for the general reader too. Each day of the year has been given a unique word, that is either relevant for that day, or is picking up on the threads earlier in the year. There is a little history behind the word and often more in the text as I can imagine that this could have been twice the size. The first word I looked up was my birthday, as I guess that most people will do, followed by family members and other significant dates. Thankfully it is very readable and can be dipped into as and when you want to. It is great follow up to the Accidental Dictionary and I will be reading his other books, Word Drops, when I can squeeze it in.

It was published by Elliot & Thompson on the 19th October and is available from your nearest independent bookshop. Thank you to them for sending a copy from me to review.

Blog Tour – 31st October

Blog Tour – A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden

It is my turn on the blog tour to talk about Scott Oden’s new book, A Gathering of Ravens. 

To the Danes, he is skraelingr; to the English, he is orcneas; to the Irish, he is fomoraig. He is Corpse-maker and Life-quencher, the Bringer of Night, the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent.

He calls himself Grimnir 

My review:

Grimnir is the last of his species. His kind has tormented the human race since time immemorial. Their reputation has meant that people have given them the chilling names of Corpse-makers and Life-quenchers. His great age had forced him to stay deep in the shadows, but now he has emerged for one thing only; vengeance. The world has changed since he last saw the sun, the Old Ways have retreated and a new religion has gained traction and support in the world, but Grimnir will not be swayed from his destiny. He kidnaps a follower of the Nailed God to use as a guide on his journey from Denmark through war-torn southern England and across the sea to the city of Dubhlinn where his enemy and foe awaits.
Scott Oden has deftly woven a story set in the Dark Ages with elements of mythology and fantasy permeating the plot, without feeling like that one has been bolted onto the other. The plot pace varies throughout, with the battle scenes feeling suitably realistic whilst managing not to glorify the gore. The pace did twist and turn reasonably well as well as Grimnir turbulent relationship with Étaín, his captive, adding much-needed depth to the plot, however, I felt that there were the odd time when it dragged unnecessarily. There is excellent detail on the landscape that they travel through in the time set, with only the odd minor discrepancy as far as I could see. What was refreshing for a fantasy book is this is a standalone volume with no sequels; there will be others set in the same world with the Grimnir character supposedly, which I will defiantly be reading. 3.5 Stars

One that I would definitely recommend for those that want to read something different in the fantasy genre.  

Follow the others on the blog tour:

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