Author: Paul (Page 1 of 150)

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.

July 2022 TBR

July! Already. Where do the months keep going but the sun is shining as I write this and we have a holiday coming up in the next month, Away as in going in a plane away too. It only seems a few days since I was posting the June TBR and here we are again. You know the drill, this is a frankly disturbingly long list and I am not going to read all of them, but it does give me the option to pick and choose.


Reading Through The Year

A Poem for Every Night of the Year – Allie Esiri

Word Perfect – Susie Dent


Finishing Off (Still!)

Opened Ground Poems 1966 – 1996 Seamus Heaney

The Travel Writing Tribe – Tim Hannigan

The Draw Of The Sea – Wyl Menmuir


Blog Tour

The Draw Of The Sea – Wyl Menmuir


Review Copies

The Mortal Word – Genevieve Cogman

Tiger – Polly Clark

Isles at the Edge of the Sea – Jonny Muir

The Good Life – Dorian Amos

Astral Travel – Elizabeth Baines

Britain Alone – Philip Stephens

We Own This City – Justin Fenton

Spaceworlds – Ed. Mike Ashley

The Power of Geography – Tim Marshall

The Spy Who Was Left Out In The Cold – Tim Tate

The Devil You Know – Gwen Adshead, Eileen Horne

Letters from Egypt – Lucie Duff Gordon

Crawling Horror – Ed. Daisy Butcher & Janette Leaf

The Valleys of the Assassins – Freya Stark

The Cruel Way – Ella Maillart

Above the Law – Adrian Bleese

Cornish Horrors – Ed. Joan Passey

Somebody Else – Charles Nicholl

Scenes from Prehistoric Life – Francis Pryor

Black Lion – Sicelo Mbatha

The Babel Message – Keith Kahn-Harris

The Heath – Hunter Davies

The Seven Deadly Sins – Mara Faye Lethem

Three Women of Herat – Veronica Doubleday

The Sloth Lemur’s Song – Alison Richard

Where My Feet Fall – Duncan Minshull

Polling UnPacked – Mark Pack

The View from the Hil – Christopher Somerville

Ring of Stone Circles – Stan L Abbott

RSPB ID Spotlight – Ducks, Geese and Swans – Marianne Taylor, Stephen Message

RSPB ID Spotlight – Garden Bugs – Marianne Taylor, Stephen Message

The Po – Tobia Jones



A Sky Full Of Kites – Tom Bowser

A Still Life – Josie George

Afropean – Johny Pitts

Beautiful Country – Qian Julie Wang

Walking With Nomads – Alice Morrison

The Treeline – Ben Rawlence

The Slow Road to Tehran – Rebecca Lowe

Grounding – Lulah Ellender



Opened Ground Poems 1966 – 1996 Seamus Heaney


Books to Clear

Our Game – John Le Carré

The Tailor of Panama- John Le Carré

Year of the Golden Ape – Colin Forbes

Dreaming in Code – Scott Rosenberg


Own Books

Prospero’s Cell – Lawrence Durrell


Challenge Books

The Wood That Made London – C.J. Schuler

English Pastoral – James Rebanks

My House of Sky: A Life of J A Baker Hetty Saunders

Living Trees Robin Walters



Sky – Storm Dunlop


So, er, that is it. Inevitably there will be library books that have to be read as others have reserved them. Either way, I win!

Any in that list that you like the look of?

Salt Lick by Lulu Allison

3.5 out of 5 stars

In the UK set in the near future, the much smaller population is recovering from a flu pandemic. The countryside is more or less empty and the cities have absorbed most of the remaining people. One of the few left in the country is Jesse’s family, but they realise that they have to head to the city as they have no work left and head into London to begin a new life.

After her mother was killed in a terrorist incident, Isolde grew up in a children’s home. It made her tough, but happiness for her was mostly absent. She decides to exercise her right to see the man convicted for the crime in prison. After three decades of not knowing what happened, she learnt that it was not as she had been led to believe. She wants to learn more and starts to walk out to Suffolk to a small farmstead.

Lee is the third main character in this book. He is escaping from one of the White Towns where he has been a resident all his life. They have discovered that he is gay, or tainted as this group calls it. They want him back to inflict their cruel justice on him. He meets Isolde en route and they walk to Suffolk together. At this farmstead, the stories of these people come together briefly before unravelling once again.

She feels the space around her, stretches into it. She feels pressed thin as a membrane between earth and sky, between liquid and light.

There was a lot to like about this. The dystopia that she portrays after the flu pandemic feels utterly plausible. There are enclaves of white-only towns, a much-reduced population that is eking out a living in various small settlements around the country and centralised cities that are run by a strong authoritarian government. Allison has a very lyrical way of writing and I really liked her style. I kind of liked the chorus of the feral cows that are scattered liberally throughout the book, but I thought it was a little overdone. I did feel that the plot wasn’t as strong as it could have been, but it feels like a future that I would like to read more about other people who inhabit this place in another book.

The Hill of Devi by E.M. Forster

3.5 out of 5 stars

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

In the early 1900s E M Forster twice visited India where he served in the post of private secretary of the Rajah of Dewas. Even though he lost his father when he was two years old, he had grown up in a life of privilege in the UK and had an inheritance to ensure that he could live of independent means.

Arriving in this country was somewhat of a culture shock to him and this book is a collection of letters that he wrote describing what he saw all around him. They reveal details of the ancient court system that treated the Maharajah as a saint. He doesn’t quite go fully native, but he partakes in the rituals and court life and was in a uniquely privileged position.

I thought that this was a fascinating insight into life in the last days of the Raj in India. Forster gives a glimpse of what life was like for those at the top end of Indian society and the way they had been moulded under English rule. He never judges what he sees, rather he is amused and bemused with what he witnesses considering sometimes to be stranger than fiction.

Scraps Of Wool by Bill Colegrave

4 out of 5 stars

As regular readers of my reviews will know I have read a lot of travel books and have even been fortunate enough to be a judge on two of the prizes on the Stanford Travel writing awards. Of all of the books that I have read, I have had a number that I thought were outstanding, for example, An Unexpected Light, To A Mountain in Tibet and The Bells of Old Tokyo.

Each person reads a book differently, and in Scraps of Wool, Bill Colegrave has collected here some of his all-time favourite passages from the vast quantities of travel books that he has read. He hasn’t done this alone either, he has minded the minds and bookshelves of the greatest travel writers such as Dervla Murphy, Jan Morris and Sara Wheeler to name a few.

It is an eclectic and very personal collection and that is its strength. Some of the passages come from my favourite books and they are not the passages that I would have selected, which for me goes to show that each and every person gets something different from each book.

If you like travel writing then this is a great book to be able to dip into old favourites and discover books that you have not yet read. I have made a list and will slowly work my way through all the others that I haven’t read.

Anticipated Books For Autumn 2022

I have been through all of the autumn 2022 publishers’ catalogues that could lay my hands on (31 so far). I have listed all the books that I really like the look of. The majority on this list are non-fiction, as you have probably come to expect by now, but there is a smattering of fiction, sci-fi and the odd poetry in there.


4th Estate

Fen, Bog and Swamp: A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis – Annie Proulx


Allen Lane

Nomad Century: How to Survive the Climate Upheaval – Gaia Vince


Atlantic Books

The Raven’s Nest Sarah Thomas

Letters To My Weird Sisters: On Autism and Feminism – Joanne Limburg

Hot Air: The Inside Story of the Battle Against Climate Change Denial – Peter Stott

Masters of the Lost Land: The Untold Story of the Fight to Own the Amazon – Heriberto Araújo

Saving the Planet Without the Bullshit: What They Don’t Tell You About the Climate Crisis – Assaad Razzouk

Bibliomaniac: An Obsessive’s Tour of the Bookshops of Britain – Robin Ince



The Draw Of The Sea – Wyl Menmuir

Shape Of A Boy: Family Life Lessons In Far Flung Places – Kate Wickers


Basic Books

Escape from Model Land: How Mathematical Models Can Lead Us Astray And What We Can Do About It – Erica Thompson



Hebridean Journey: The Magic of Scotland’s Outer Isles – Brigid Benson

Hindsight: In Search of Lost Wildness – Jenna Watt

A Taste for Treason: The Letter That Smashed a Spy Ring – Andrew Jeffery

The Perfect Sword: Forging the Middle Ages – Paul Gething

The Coffin Roads: Journeys to the West – Ian Bradley



Swamp Songs – Tom Blass

Sixty Harvests Left – Philip Lymbery

Himalaya – John Keay

The Book of Vanishing Species – Beatrice Forshall

The Big Bang of Numbers – Manil Suri

The Flow: Rivers, Water and Wilderness – Amy-Jane Beer

Settlers – Jimi Famurewa



Billy No-Mates: How I Realised Men Have a Friendship Problem – Max Dickins

Sick Money: Sky-high Prices and Dirty Tricks: Inside the Global Pharmaceutical Industry – Billy Kenber

be/longing: understories of nature, family and home – Amanda Thomson

The Edge of the Plain: How Borders Make and Break Our World – James Crawford

All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler – Rebecca Donner

Revenge of the Librarians – Tom Gauld

Poetry Unbound: 50 Poems to Open Your World – Pádraig Ó Tuama

See/Saw: Looking at Photographs – Geoff Dyer


Elliott & Thompson

Thunderstone: A true story of losing one home and discovering another – Nancy Campbell

Why Is This a Question? : Everything about the origins and oddities of language you never thought to ask – Paul Anthony Jones

The Wheel Of The Year: A nurturing guide to rediscovering nature’s cycles and seasons – Rebecca Beattie


Faber & Faber

Landscapes of Silence – Hugh Brody

The Passengers – Will Ashon

Black and Female – Tsitsi Dangarembga

The Waste Land – Matthew Hollis

What Just Happened? – Marina Hyde

The Golden Mole: and Other Vanishing Treasures – Katherine Rundell

England’s Green – Zaffar Kunial


Fitzcarraldo Editions

Dandelions – Thea Lenarduzzi


Frances Lincoln

Colours Of London – Peter Ackroyd

Road Life: A Slow Life Guide Sebastian – Antonio Santabarbara



Wild Maps: A Nature Atlas for Curious Minds – Mike Higgins

The Curtain and the Wall: A Journey in the Shadow of the Cold War – Timothy Phillips


Head of Zeus

Cixin Liu’s For The Benefit of Mankind – Sylvain Runberg, Ill. Miki Montllo

Cixin Liu’s The Butterfly – Dan Panosian

Cixin Liu’s The Circle – Xavier Besse

Cixin Liu’s The Devourer – Jean-David Movan Ill. Yang Wei-Lin

The Best Of World SF: 2 – Ed. Lavie Tidhar

The Po: An Elegy For Italy’s Longest River – Tobias Jones

The Museum Of The Wood Age – Max Adams

House of Snow – Ed. Ed Douglas

Wild Women – Ed. Marialla Frostrup


Hodder & Stoughton

Tree Thieves: Crime and Survival in the Woods – Lyndsie Bourgon

Influence Empire: Inside the Story of Tencent and China’s Tech Ambition – Lulu Chen


Hurst Publishers

The Rupture: China and the Global Race for the Future – Andrew Small

The White Mosque: A Silk Road Memoir – Sofia Samatar

A New Spirit of Capitalism: Toward More Sustainable and Inclusive Economies – Various

Authoritarian Century: Omens of a Post-Liberal Future – Azeem Ibrahim

Hybrid Warriors: Proxies, Freelancers and Moscow’s Struggle for Ukraine – Anna Arutunyan



Into Iraq – Michael Palin


Icon Books

Inside Qatar: Hidden Stories From Inside One Of The Richest Nations On Earth – John Mcmanus

Killers Amidst Killers: Murder, An Opioid Epidemic And A Hunt For Justice – Billy Jensen

The Milky Way Smells Of Rum And Raspberries … And Other Amazing Cosmic Facts – Dr Jillian Scudder

The Life Cycle: 8,000 Miles In The Andes By Bamboo Bike – Kate Rawles


Maclehose Press

High: A Journey Across the Himalaya, Through Pakistan, India, Bhutan, Nepal and China – Erika Fatland

What We Leave Behind: A Birdwatcher’s Dispatches from the Waste Catastrophe – Stanisław Łubieński


Michael Joseph

The Half Bird – Susan Smillie

Small Island: 12 Maps That Explain The History of Britain – Philip Parker

Landlines – Raynor Winn



Space Race 2.0: Spacex, Blue Origin, Virgin Orbit, Nasa, And The Privatization Of The Final Frontier – Brad Bergan


Octopus Books

The Accidental Detectorist – Nigel Richardson

I Bought a Mountain – Thomas Firbank

The Atlas of Abandoned Places – Oliver Smith

How To Make The Best Coffee – James Hoffmann



What We Owe the Future: A Million-Year View – Will Macaskill

Overruled: Our Vanishing Democracy in 9 Cases – Sam Fowles

Volt Rush: The Winners and Losers in the Race to Go Green – Henry Sanderson


Particular Books

Henry Eliot’s Book of Bookish Lists – Henry Eliot


Pelagic Publishing

Rhythms of Nature: Wildlife and Wild Places Between the Moors – Ian Carter



The Blue Commons: Rescuing the Economy of the Sea – Guy Standing


Profile Books

Siege: Dispatches From Our War on the Wild – Charles Foster

Genetic Dreams: The Promise and Peril of Our Most Revolutionary Technology – Matthew Cobb

Remainders of the Day: More Diaries from The Bookshop, Wigtown – Shaun Bythell

The Physicks of Dirt: Matter for the Modern Wizard – Felix Flicker



Nailing it Rich Hall

An Atlas Of Endangered Alphabets – Tim Brookes


Reaktion Books

The Index of Prohibited Books: Four Centuries of Struggle over Word and Image for the Greater Glory of God – Robin Vose

Cloven Country: The Devil and the English Landscape – Jeremy Harte

Winters in the World: A Journey through the Anglo-Saxon Year – Eleanor Parker

Unworking: The Reinvention of the Modern Office – Jeremy Myerson and Philip Ross

Shifting Currents: A World History of Swimming – Karen Eva Carr



The Storm is here: An American Reckoning – Luke Mogelson

Wild – Amy Jeffs



You’ve Been Played: How Corporations, Governments and Schools Use Games to Control us All – Adrian Hon



Illuminated By Water: Nature, Memory and the Delights of a Fishing Life Malachy Tallack

I Don’t Want to Talk About Home: A migrant’s search for belonging – Suad Aldarra

She’s In CTRL: How women can take back tech – Anne-Marie Imafidon

Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes: The Official Biography – Rob Wilkins

Once Upon a Tome: The Misadventures of a Rare bookseller – Oliver Darkshire

Nightwalking: Four Journeys into Britain After Dark – John Lewis-Stempel



All the Knowledge in the World: The Extraordinary History of the Encyclopaedia – Simon Garfield

36 Islands: The Hidden Wonders of the Lake District – Robert Twigger

Diary of a Tuscan Bookshop – Alba Donati

Exploring the World: Two Centuries of Remarkable Adventurers and Their Journeys – Alexander Maitland


White Lion

The Writer’s Journey – Travis Elborough


William Collins

The Lost Rainforest Of Britain – Guy Shrubsole

Home Is Not a Place – Johny Pitts & Roger Robinson

Lost Realms: Histories of Britain from the Romans to the Vikings – Thomas Williams

Where the Seals Sing: Exploring the Hidden Lives of Britain’s Grey Seals – Susan Richardson


The Best British Travel Writing of the 21st Century Ed. by Jessica Vincent

4 out of 5 stars

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

Those of us who read travel writing, have a familiar canon to choose from the British set, Thubron, Raban, Thesiger, Young and Leigh Fermor. These guys and they were almost always guys in those days have written some really good books that still need to be read by those wanting to discover the world from their armchairs.

But the world was changing and since the Covid pandemic, it has changed immeasurably again. The writers that are making waves, following footpaths and rediscovering this dynamic world are bringing different voices and perspectives to the body of literature. For this collection, four editors, Levison Wood, Monisha Rajesh, Simon Willmore and Jessica Vincent, have chosen articles and short essays by a whole variety of authors.

I thought that it was a great introduction to the latest crop of writers that are making the travel writing genre their own now. I thought that the editors had pulled together an interesting variety of subjects and most importantly a diverse crop of authors for this book. I have read some of these writers before, but there are others in here that I have not come across until now.

I had a couple of minor issues with the collection though. I felt it would have been nice to have a little more of an introduction to the authors and the selected piece just before you went on to read it. I would have also liked to have seen some newly commissioned items in amongst the previously published work or extracts taken from books from authors like Gail Simmonds, Lara Prior-Palmer and Isambard Wilkinson, for example. I would recommend this if you want to discover new travel writing and I have another batch of writers to discover more from too.

New Leaf by Seán Lysaght

4 out of 5 stars

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

I have only read one of Lysaght’s books before now, the excellent Eagle Country. So when he offered me a review copy of his new poetry collection, New Leaf I jumped at the opportunity. As I expected he focuses his poems on the natural world, in particular from his adopted place but there are poems from the wider world too.

With pencil strokes as light
as marks on sand

The subjects covered are broad, The Green man is a very different take on what I would expect from this character from folklore. Orchid Darkening is about saving seeds from these precious plants from the mower. GAVDIVM, The Tuscan Sketchbook is the longest in the book and conveys the intensity of the Italian countryside.

Every day now I visit
my own wood to see
how wildness structures space

I really enjoyed the variety in this collection. All the poems vary in length and style which I really liked. As I found with his non-fiction book, he has a razor-sharp eye for the detail that he sees as he travels, and this comes across in his poetry too. But with that is a lyrical power to fill the details of a scene in a sparse number of words. If you want a collection that is rooted in the natural world with a strong view of life flowing past then I can recommend this.

Three Favourite Poems
An Opening

The Four Horsemen by Emily Mayhew

4 out of 5 stars

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

The four horsemen. War, Pestilence, Famine and Death appear in the Bible a couple of times, but they are best known in the book of Revelations. Their appearance on the Earth in this text is to bring about the end of humanity and they are pretty effective at their job. History shows how they can reduce cities and societies to a shadow of their former selves.

It can still happen these days, examples include Syria and Yemen. However, the tools that we have at our disposal in this modern age mean that we now have the ability to take them on. I this book, historian Emily Mayhew traces the advances in science, technology and humanitarianism that the engineers, scientists, doctors and other skilled professionals are using to combat these four horsemen.

In the book, Mayhew takes us through a little of the history behind each, before using real-life examples, to show exactly how we are standing up against these spectres. She details the way that the Iraqi city of Mosel was overrun with ISIS fighters and how the local people slowly reclaimed their ancient city. For the chapter on Pestilence, she looks at the response that the authorities had against the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2017. This was a precursor to the Covid pandemic that also is discussed.

The next horseman is famine. This slots in neatly behind the first two and has the capacity to bring a state or region to its knees. One example discussed in this chapter is wheat rust. One particular form appeared in 1999 and then promptly disappeared for a few years. When it returned, it suddenly was rife across East Africa. The other example discussed is bananas, the current species that is consumed in vast quantities is affected by Panama disease. Fighting this may mean going back to the jungles of New Guinea and finding a new resistant species. The final chapter, Death talks about the relief response to the tsunami that took place in 2004 along with other disasters that have claimed huge numbers of people. How the dead are handled with respect to the local cultures by the people that deal with the aftermath is quite moving reading.

I thought this was going to be a pretty grim read, and to my surprise, it wasn’t. That said, there are some grim elements to it, it is kind of inevitable really given that the subject is about the four horsemen of the apocalypse. However, Mayhew makes this eminently readable by looking at each of them in turn and explaining what used to happen and how the collective actions of scientists, medical staff and engineers who are pushing back again the potential tide of misery with solutions for the many problems that we face as a race.

The Antisocial Network by Ben Mezrich

3 out of 5 stars

Playing the stock market can be addictive there are thousands of people out there trying to make a fortune by thinking that they have that edge of hugely expensive computer systems and superfast fibre optic networks that the main players and hedge funds have. Most they can’t win against the might of the financial industry.

But every now and again there is a story of the little guy fighting back and managing to get one over the professionals; this is the story of those people that took down one of the biggest hedge funds on Wall Street. The stock that caused this was the retail shop called GameStop. They had not migrated online and still had a plethora of shops. Because of the transfer of the gaming industry to almost exclusively online, their financial position looked precarious. Big hedge funds were circling, they were looking at shorting the stock with the intention of making a lot of money as the share price fell.

Against them were a motley crew of amateur day traders, video game nuts, and internet trolls who were getting their financial information from a page on Reddit called WallStreetBets. On this page, people were not afraid to say exactly what they thought of companies and their share prices. A few of the members noticed that GameStop looked in better financial shape than the heavyweights of Wall street thought.

Mezrich has fleshed out the story of the stock stratospheric rise and we see that story from some of the major characters involved and the agony and delight as they won and lost fortunes every time the share price changed. I can recall this being aware of this at the time from some of the stuff I was reading from some of the people that I follow on Twitter at the beginning of 2021, however, I didn’t know much detail as I wasn’t following it in any depth so this was a learning curve for me. I thought that the narrative in this book was a bit disjointed because he switches to a different person in each chapter and it always takes a moment to work out where the story is going next. It did show what the little guy can do, however, even though they won some victories in this stock shorting game, the system always wins in these financial battles. Wel will have to see if anything changes.

« Older posts

© 2022 Halfman, Halfbook

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑