Category: Blog Tour (Page 1 of 6)

The Greatest Beer Run Ever by John “Chick” Donohue

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for The Greatest Beer Run Ever by  John “Chick” Donohue and published by Octopus Books.

 

About the Book

 

A Crazy Adventure in a Crazy War is the amazing true story of a young man going to take his buddies a few cans of beer – in the heat of the Vietnam war. In 1967 – having seen students protesting against the Vietnam war, some New York City bar friends decided that someone should hop over to Vietnam to buy their various neighbourhood army buddies a beer, to show them that SOMEONE appreciates what they’re doing over there. One man was up for the challenge: John “Chickie” Donohue. A U. S. Marine Corps veteran turned merchant mariner, Chickie decided he wasn’t about to desert his buddies on the front lines when they needed him most.

Chickie set off on an adventure that changed his life forever. Armed with Irish luck and a backpack full of alcohol, he made his way to Qui Nho’n, tracking down his disbelieving friends one by one. But Chickie saw more of the war than he ever bargained for…

 

About the Author

John “Chickie” Donohue joined the United States Marine Corps at the age of seventeen and spent several years as a Merchant Mariner after his discharge. His work took him to numerous foreign ports, including Saigon during the Vietnam War. After the war, he became a Sandhog, or tunnel builder, and eventually became the Legislative and Political Director of Sandhogs, Local 147, Laborers International Union of North America, a post in which he served for over three decades. Donohue is a graduate of the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government where he received his Master of Public Administration degree. He is happily married to Theresa “Terri” O’Neil and spends his time between New York, Florida, and West Cork, Ireland.

Peter Farrelly, writer and producer of Green Book, is turning THE GREATEST BEER RUN EVER into a movie. In 2018 Green Book won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay and the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor. Farrelly has also directed and produced Dumb and Dumber, Shallow Hal, Me, Myself and Irene, There’s Something About Mary, and the 2007 remake of The Heartbreak Kid.

 

My Review

Donohue was 26 years old and already a veteran. He was an ex-marine and now a merchant seaman, and he had got together with his friends in the Doc Fiddler Bar in Manhattan. They had gathered there to drink, tell jokes and stories, have a laugh and share the craic. Something that their Irish and Scottish ancestors would have understood completely. They had all seen the protestors who were making a stand against the ongoing Vietnam war, a war that a number of their friends were still fighting in.

One of the guys at the bar suggested that someone, one of the guys present here ideally, should sneak into Vietnam, find their friends, give them a bear hug, let them know they were missed back home, have a few laughs and to hand them a beer. ‘Chick’ volunteered for the mission. It’ll be the greatest beer run ever.

It seemed like a good idea at the time…

Word got around that he was going and people started to pass him names of family members and the units that they were in. He collected them together but in the cold light of day nerves were setting in. He made a promise to the mother of one of his best friends that he would find him, so he really had to go now. He managed to get a passage on the SS Drake Victory. It was leaving very soon, so he grabbed some things and hurried down to the port. He stopped at a bar to get some beers and after he explained to the barman what he was doing he gave him a great price on them. He was soon on the way in the ammo ship to Vietnam.

They anchored of Qui Nhon and he thought of a ruse to get ashore. He found the captain and told him about the family news that he wanted to pass on to his step-brother in person. The captain fumed a little and as he had arranged for the shift to be covered let him go ashore for three days. He thought that would be all the time he needed to catch up with the guys and hand them a fine New York beer. Little did he know how wrong he was.

He jumped on the water taxi that had dropped off some MP to help guard the ship. The other guys on the boat were from the 127th MP Company, Tommy Collins unit. And it turns out they knew him and the ship they were going to next he was on! If it was that easy finding his friends he would have this wrapped up in no time. To say Tommy was shocked to see him was an understatement, it was quite an emotional reunion, and he really liked the beer.

He wanted to head north to find Rick Duggan and manages to bump into another of the friends in the jeep that stops to offer him a lift. Kevin is also shocked to see him, but he knows lots of people and helps him blag a lift of a Huey Helicopter that is heading north. In fact, being in civilian clothes seemed to be helping as most of the military personnel though he was from the CIA. The ride in the helicopter was pretty scary and they don’t shut the doors, and the pilots turned off the big fan up top just to scare him. It was early evening when they landed and the guy they spoke to knew where Duggan was. Donohue was told to jump in a fox hole and they radioed Duggan to return.

He only had a day left to return to his ship though and he manages to blag a lift of a chinook, and then wangles his way onto another plane that took him to Phu Cat. That was 17 miles from his destination. He decided to walk overnight, but gave up and headed back to the camp. He was lucky not to have been captured or shot. Arriving at the port the next day he sees that his ship has already departed. He is in so much trouble.

The harbour master recommends that he heads to Saigon and speak to the American Consulate. They would be able to get his out of there. But his arrived in the city happens at the time of the Tet Offensive by the Vietcong. He is now in the middle of a war zone and he is really not sure if he is going to live, let alone make it home.

He survived. We wouldn’t be reading this book otherwise.

It was an experience that changed him and the guys to deliver the beers too and this book is a warm and generous account of his travels. I can imagine that it was terrifying at times. He is a good storyteller, the writing is full of anecdotes about the people that he meets and helps him in his task of delivering the beers to his friends. The photos that he took enhance the writing. I liked this a lot, the writing is light-hearted and conversational. Whilst he was not in the thick of the fighting, he manages to convey the tensions in the country, in particular, the descriptions of the war.

 

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 Thing Tours for the arranging a copy of the book to read.

Music to Eat Cake By – Lev Parikian

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Music to Eat Cake By by Lev Parikian and published by Unbound

About the Book

Today’s reader has choices: books about love, about life, about death – and everything in between. The variety is overwhelming, bewildering.

But what if the reader could play a part in producing something different, something about everything, about nothing, about everything and nothing at the same time? What if the reader could tell the writer what to write about?

Lev Parikian asked his readers those very questions, gathered their responses and then set out to write that book. Music to Eat Cake By is the result, a collection of essays exploring everything from the art of the sandwich and space travel to how not to cure hiccups and, of course, his beloved birdsong. Lev considers each subject with his signature wit and warmth, inviting the reader to wonder: what might we ask him to write about next?

About the Author

Lev Parikian is a writer, conductor and hopeless birdwatcher. His first book, Waving, Not Drowning, was published in 2013, and his second, Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? followed in 2018. His numerous conducting credits include the re-recording of the theme tune for Hancock’s Half Hour for Radio 4.

My Review

If you were to walk into any bookshop you would be able to find books on most subjects and the bigger the shop the more specialist and wider the range of books available. Most of the time you can find what you are looking for, but what if you had the opportunity to tell a writer a subject that you would like him to write about? And it could be an obscure a subject as you wanted to pick. Foolishly, Lev Parikian has done just that, funding his book through Unbound he gave people the opportunity to suggest things for him to write about.

To add a twist to this concept, he set each of the essays or musings a particular word length starting at four thousand words and dropping by 100 words each time down to the final chapter of 100 words with a subject suggested by his wife, Tessa. Asking people for subjects to write about has given us a book that mines a rich seam of Parikian’s life and background.

To say the subjects are diverse is an understatement, there is a longer essay on Where’s the cue ball going, allotments, scars gelato (most definitely not ice cream) and the link between chocolate, Wombles and musical theatres. There are a few chapters on some of his favourite subjects; cricket, music, and of course birds.

Like Lev himself, this is quite a unique book. He has a way with writing that will mean that you will be falling around laughing fairly soon into the book. I was with his description of just how bad amateur musicians can sound and a handful of pages in. This humour is a common thread in each of the chapters, whether it is him trying to remember the people whose wedding that he went to, the delights of getting older, how to stop hiccups and how to tell what species of elephant you are looking at.

They are very diverse subjects and I am fairly sure that one or two have been deliberately picked to be super difficult. Can’t think why that is… That said, he has risen to the occasion magnificently and each essay is entertaining, opinionated, full of snippets of his life and he often heads of on tangents, mostly because he can. He does manage to sneak quite a bit of cricket in too. As with all his other books, I thoroughly enjoyed 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 arranging for a copy of the book to read.

The Saints of Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for The Saints of Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton and published by Pan Macmillan

About the Book

Humanity welcomed the Olyix and their utopian technology. But mankind was tricked. Now these visitors are extracting a terrible price. For two years, the Olyix have laid siege to Earth, harvesting its people for their god. One by one, cities are falling to their devastating weaponry. And while millions have fled to seek refuge in space, others continue to fight an apparently unwinnable war. As Earth’s defeat draws near, a team attempts to infiltrate the Salvation of Life – the Olyix’s arkship.

If it succeeds, those chosen will travel to a hidden enclave thousands of light-years away. Once there, they must signal its location to future generations, to bring the battle to the enemy. Maybe allies scattered throughout space and time can join forces. Yet in the far future, humanity are still hunted by their ancient adversary. And as forces battle on in the cold reaches of space, hope seems distant indeed…

About the Author

Peter F. Hamilton was born in Rutland and now lives near Bristol. He began writing in 1987 has penned many bestselling novels, including the Greg Mandel series, the Night’s Dawn trilogy, the Commonwealth Saga, short-story collections and the Salvation Sequence, set in a new universe.

My Review

Having originally welcomed the Olyix and their technologies, it became apparent that they had tricked mankind. They laid siege to the Earth and began harvesting the people there, cocooning them and shipping them back through their wormholes as offering to their god. They claim it is a mission to present all sentient life to this god at the end of time. Humanity is fighting back though, and they are prepared to play the long game, their plan has been millennia in the making and they are starting to reach the point where the final elements can be put into action.

The final part of this huge trilogy is set in two separate timelines. The main story is of Yirella and Ainsley and their efforts to take the fight to the Olyix. They decide to take a few calculated risks in their preparation to stop the Olyix taking humans and other species to their deity. The second smaller sub-plot is set on Earth; it is not a place as we would recognise. Cities are protected by shields to stop the harvesting of the population by the Olyix. They have laid waste to the world and slowly their agents and are some traitors are ensuring that the shields are coming down so their capturesnakes can capture the people left.

The final battle between humanity and the Olyix is frantically paced and contains all the things that I have come to expect from Hamilton, new concepts like time flowing differently only meters apart, wormholes linking places thousands of light-years apart, star-sized weapons, huge 3-metre tall humans that have evolved down a different path. On top of that, all the technologies feel plausible and utterly alien at the same time.

I really liked this as with the other two books in the trilogy. He has a knack of writing the huge galaxy-wide space operas that still have those intimate stories woven through it. It is very much plot-driven and the various threads that were teased out from the first two books are concluded almost neatly. I say almost, as there are certain suggestions in the book that implies there is much more to come from this universe that he has created here. I really hope that is the case.

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 Bethan at ed public relations for the copy of the book to read.

Days of Falling Flesh and Rising Moons by Steve Denehan

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Days of Falling Flesh and Rising Moons by Steve Denehan and published by Golden Antelope Press.

About the Book

Steve Denehan’s wholehearted response to family life is the cornerstone of this wise and canny book. Through the tiny, everyday moments, we come to know an energetic seven-year-old daughter, a wife whose presence heals, a father aging into forgetfulness, and a host of others. We see bonds between parent and child strengthen through conversations about dinosaur-shaped clouds, questions about death, quiet humming, loud car-singing, evening bike rides. We witness an adult father re-seeing his own childhood, the parental decisions which had shaped him, and the decisions which he and his spouse are making as they give their Robin her wings. As songwriter Mark Nevin says, Steve Denehan is a “beautiful soul with an all too rare lightness of touch.”

The collection was finished before a virus named Covid-19 shook the globe and sent Ireland into a complete lockdown. However, that event seemed to require poetry, so ten of this collection’s final poems are late additions, Denehan’s responses to the pandemic. Taken together, they constitute a microcosm, not just of the Covid-19 world but of this poet’s interior landscape. They range from shock to acceptance, from strict observance of painful rules to moments of deep peace and bright wings.

Such intertwining keeps readers aware that both happiness and pain can be fragile, easily cracked or crumbled. Though wholehearted devotion to a rich family life is the collection’s cornerstone, it’s the awareness of complexity that gives Denehan’s Days of Falling Flesh and Rising Moons its essential shape.

About the Author

Steve Denehan is an award-winning poet who lives in Kildare, Ireland, with his wife Eimear and daughter Robin. He is the author of Miles of Sky Above Us, Miles of Earth Below (Cajun Mutt Press), Of Thunder, Pearls and Birdsong (Fowlpox Press), Living in the Core of an Apple (Analog Submission Press) and A Chandelier of Beating Hearts (forthcoming from Salmon Poetry). His numerous publication credits include The Irish Times, Poetry Ireland Review, Acumen, Westerly and Into The Void. He has been nominated for Best of the Net, Best New Poet and has been twice nominated for The Pushcart Prize.

My Review

Family life in all of its messy forms is one of the fundamental things that tie communities together across our world, especially in times like this. Steve Denehan’s new collection is a mirror reflecting back his close family; there is his seven-year-old daughter, his wife who can calm him, and his parents who are in their twilight years.

His messy, complexity and emotional real-life are present in all of the poems in here. The subject range is vast too, so there are verses on Karaoke, floating in a pool in the dark, painting a room, the joy of holding a buttercup under his daughter’s chin, bouncy castles and most of all love in all of its different forms.

You are still my father

but sometimes, now

in these darkening dusks

I have the privilege

of being yours

There is humour in these poems, but it is often framed with a black gilt edge, just like life really, we can be laughing at something one moment and soon after we are hearing of the latest tragedy to strike someone we know. The collection feels very relevant too; there are a few poems on his take on the COVID pandemic, the one that struck home the most is when his father goes to hug his daughter and is sharply told no by his mother. Covid has driven a 2m gap between generations of the same family and love and the warmth of a hug is forbidden.

I am old

I stand

Still

At the edge of the ocean

 

The salt air sings to me

A lullaby

I look across the infinite expanse of green-blue

hypnotised

As his first collection, Miles of Sky Above Us, Miles of Earth Below, Denehan puts his heart and soul into this, and his emotions soar and writhe in these short bursts of prose. I liked the variation in structure and the way that the form and layouts have been changed to suit particular poems. Another highly recommended collection.

Three Favourite Poems

Your Old Datsun Cherry

Fiat Ritmo

An Eight-Minute Summer

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

Confess by Juliette van der Molen

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Confess Juliette van der Molen and published by Twist It Press.

About the Book

1692 Salem, Massachusetts – Based on the life of Dorothy Good, the youngest person accused of and imprisoned for witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials, Confess tells the story of the trauma surrounding this nearly forgotten child from one of the darkest chapters in early American history. A colony is plunged into turmoil filled with misunderstandings, fear, intolerance, religious fervour, and an egregious abuse of power. Over the course of the year, more than two hundred people are accused of witchcraft and thirty are found guilty. Nineteen will be sentenced to death.

Four-year-old Dorothy and her mother, Sarah Good, are arrested for witchcraft.

Dorothy will confess.

Sarah will hang.

This is Dorothy’s story…

About the Author

Juliette van der Molen is an ex-pat poet living in Wales. She is an intersectional feminist and member of the LGBTQ+ community. Her work has appeared in The Wellington Street Review, Nightingale & Sparrow, Burning House Press and several other publications. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of The Net. Juliette is also the Poetry Editor for Mookychick Magazine. She is a spoken word performer and has had the honour of appearing in several venues in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Her books include; Death Library: The Exquisite Corpse Collection, Mother May I? and Anatomy of A Dress.

Extract: A Hex On All Your Houses

a bit of thread, black
tied tight around this
Hathorne poppet who cares
not enough to know my
name, but removes me
from the world, all the same.

a bit of thread, red
knotted over the mouths
of Ann & Mary, who bled
untruths from tongues
loosed, cries and shakes
just from my stare, enough to
induce—
this witch, unawares.

poppets, poppets
dance for me,
slide through fire,
singed with flame,
with coals for feet,
may the heat of your lies
burn within, your lips
blotted black with sin.

i call for justice,
i call for power,
i call in the name of:
the weak,
the poor,
the unwashed,
the unwanted.

i bind your cords as
these threads burn,
i still your tongues
& break your power.

this little girl,
unjustly handled,
robbed of youth—
has grown into
what you fear,
manifested power
no longer denied.

through this hex
i heal & protect.

My Review

In February 1692 a four-year-old child watched as her mother, Sarah Good, was arrested by magistrates and took her into custody. Almost four weeks later they came back to arrest the child, Dorothy. They were both charged with the same offence, witchcraft.

This was the Salem Witch trials and of the 200 or so people who were arrested 20 of them were to lose their lives. Dorothy Good was arrested after the Putnam’s made complaints against her. She was bullied and coerces into testifying against her mother. And it was this ‘confession’ that condemned her mother to the gallows. It is not known if Dorothy was killed at the same time.

This collection is the result of Juliette van der Molen hearing about these trials and Dorothy’s arrest. She then scoured the records to discover the scant details that exist about her. It is split into four sections, the first is on her incarceration and trial, the poems are charged with emotion, from the howling as her mother is taken away in Farewell, the unfounded accusations in Devil’s Issue and when they arrest her in Poppet Mine and where a square of flannel twisted into a doll is the sole source of comfort she has as she is taken away.

The second part is the sentencing and judgement where the poems take on a really dark element, in particular When The Moon Is Dark and Banished. The third section is titled Of Revelation and Precedence and is about Ann Putnam, the accuser of the Good’s and her later revelations. Criminalis Carolina is incredibly powerful. Finally, there is Voice and Remembrance, a poetic tribute the those that lost their lives because of unfounded hysteria

i could hold them,
fold them, in my heart
or let them go in the tides
these prayers
these spells
Sinking ships in maelstroms
as my soul divides

At times, Confession makes for grim reading  but van der Molen has written this collection to be a voice to the unheard and almost unknown Dorothy Good. It is also a warning against the way that mob rule and the fear of certain types of people can mean that the modern ‘witch hunt’ is still with us.

Three Favourite Poems
Pact
When The Moon Is Dark
Remember Me

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

Buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here

You can connect with her via Twitter and her website

My thanks to Isabelle from Fly On The Wall Press for the copy of the book to read.

Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow and published by Head of Zeus.

 

About the Book

Returning to the world of ​Little Brother​ and ​Homeland​, ​Attack Surface​ takes us five minutes into the future, to a world where everything is connected and everyone is vulnerable.

Masha Maximow has made some bad choices in life – choices that hurt people. But she’s also made some pretty decent ones. In the log file of life, however, she can’t quite work out which side of the ledger she currently stands.

Masha works for Xoth Intelligence, an InfoSec company upgrading the Slovstakian Interior Ministry’s ability to spy on its citizens’ telecommunications with state-of-the-art software (at least, as state-of-the-art as Xoth is prepared to offer in its middle-upper pricing tier).

Can you offset a day-job helping repressive regimes spy on their citizens with a nighttime hobby where you help those same citizens evade detection? Masha is about to find out.

Pacy, passionate, and as current as next week, ​Attack Surface​ is a paean to activism, to courage, to the drive to make the world a better place.

 

About the Author

Cory Doctorow ​is a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger – the co-editor of Boing Boing and the author of many books: ​In Real Life​, a graphic novel; ​Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free,​ a book about earning a living in the Internet age; and Homeland​, the award-winning, best-selling sequel to the 2008 YA novel ​Little Brother​. Cory has been on the frontline of international debates on privacy, copyright and freedom of information for over a decade.

 

My Review

Masha Maximow is a smart girl who is working for Xoth Intelligence. This is an InfoSec company who can provide individual, companies, states and countries with the tool they need to monitor and spy on their staff and citizens. She is currently in the country of Slovstakian working with the Ministry of the Interior to upgrade their systems to enable them to spy on their citizens with the best software that Xoth is prepared to sell a former Soviet Bloc country.

She learnt her trade of surveillance and providing the tools of oppression by slipping through the darker shadows of the internet in the virtual battlegrounds of Iraq, and now she is highly paid and very very good at her job. Rather than chill out in a five-star hotel in the evenings, she hits the streets and finds the leaders of the public opposition to the right-wing goons in the government and teaches them every thin that she knows on how to fight back against the oppressive surveillance. Insider knowledge does help sometimes…

Then she gets caught.

He boss at Xoth considers her compromised and she is swiftly sacked. The hotel room that she stays in that night is normally rented by the hour, but she needs to lie low before leaving the country. She is woken in the middle of the night by the sound of a car crash, it was one of the Finecab automated taxi’s wrapped around a planter. She is just dozing off and hears another crash. Another cab crash, The feeds on her phone showed the usual riot and overly heavy police response and then lots of photos and videos of cabs being deliberately run into the protestors. She realised that this was the work of the company that she had been working for not long ago. She had to leave the country as soon as possible.

She ends up back home in San Francisco, but waiting for the flights means she has time to think about how she ended up in the InfoSec business and the first person that she worked for, Carrie Johnson. When she is back home she hooks up with Tanisha a friend from long ago who is involved with the Black-Brown Alliance which had its origins in the Black Lives Matter campaign. They spend a while catching up and Maximow realises that the group needs a full-time security person and offers her services. They head back to Tanisha’s flat and she falls fast asleep. She realises that she is being targeted when the alarm of her sounds. The phone is off, but there is a hacker trying to get into her phone. The log file terrifies her, so she goes to check Tanisha’s phone and realises that it has been compromised. Just how much is soon clear when she is picked up on a train and Maximow offers to go with her.

Life for both is never going to be the same again.

This world that Doctorow has imagined is set in the very near future, with most of the technologies that he is writing about either already with us or we are on the cusp of receiving them. It feels absolutely bang up to date with some of the things that are happening in the plot and subplots being very strongly influenced by current real-life events. It is set just far enough into the future to be a quite disturbing dystopia. I really liked this book, even though it is a terrifying read. If you think about the implications of a future of overly authoritarian states that he is predicting in here, then it is pretty grim.

I thought that the characters mostly felt fully fleshed out, Maximow, in particular, seems to be some flawed genius. Her two bosses at the InfoSec companies, Carrie Johnstone and Ilsa are two sides of the same coin really. Both super smart and ambitious they only have on thing in mind and that is to maintain power and influence in their company and over the population as a whole. I did find that it jumped around a bit too much between her present warp-speed life and the recounting of her previous life. Occasionally he moves away from the technical language that most will be able to follow and ventures deep into the silicon pathways. Where this book really wins though is presenting the stark future of the advent of mass and oppressive surveillance of the population at large and the choices that we have to make very soon as a society to curtail government and private sector intrusion into our private lives. This is 1984 in real life; your life. Oh, and read the two afterwords too; they should make you think.

There is a need to balance online privacy, everyday security and the ability to solve crime. But not at the cost of individuality, freedom and self-expression

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 Lauren Tavella for the copy of the book to read.

You can follow Cory Dotorow on Twitter here, and I strongly recommend that you do so

Head of Zeus are on Twitter here

The Museum Makers by Rachel Morris

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Museum Makers by Rachel Morris and published by September Publishing.

About the Book

‘Without even thinking I began to slide all these things from the dusty boxes under my bed into groups on the carpet, to take a guess at what belonged to whom, to match up photographs and handwriting to memories and names – in other words, to sort and classify. As I did so I had the revelation that in what we do with our memories and the stuff that our parents leave behind, we are all museum makers, seeking to makes sense of the past.’

Museum expert Rachel Morris had been ignoring the boxes of family belongings for decades. When she finally opened them she began a journey into her family’s dramatic story through the literary and bohemian circles of the nineteenth and twentieth century. It was a revelatory experience – one that finds her searching for her absent father in archives of the Tate, and which transports her back to the museums that had enriched a lonely childhood. By teasing out the stories of those early museum makers, and the unsung daughters and wives behind them, and seeing the same passions and neglect reflected in her own family, Morris digs deep into the human instinct for collection and curation.

About the Author

A director of the museum-making company Metaphor, Rachel Morris has been part of the creation, design and delivery of some of the most exciting displays, renovations and museums of the last few decades, from the new Cast Courts at the V&A and the Ashmolean, Oxford to the Terracotta Warriors at the British Museum and Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Rachel is also the author of two novels.

My Review

My father’s father died when I was eight years old. I had only just started to get to know him and he was gone. We didn’t know that much about him other than he was born in East Street, Bridport in 1902 and was an orphan whose mother was called Margaret Annie. About 12 years ago my father and I decided that we could see what we could find out if there was anything to find that was. We trawled all the family history sites and then one day got lucky and found his mother on a census. We discovered a whole family going right back to 1595 that we knew nothing about.

Rachel Morris didn’t have a problem. She knew lots about her family and the various characters involved from her parents all the way back through the generations to the painter William Gale. There were stories that she had heard that were more rumour than fact and most importantly she had boxes of these personal family archives under her bed and they had been there for years. Just the thought of them and the circumstances behind receiving them made her sad.

However, it was time to pull them out from under the bed, blow the dust off them and start looking through.

Tipping the contents out onto the carpet in her room from the first box and sorting them into small piles for each relative brought a flood of emotions back. There was no monetary value to the items within the boxes, letters, locks of hair, photos, poems, wool, diaries and even a hat! The treasure was the stories that the items would tell of her family.

And what a family it was. Her father was an immensely talented printer and mostly an absent alcoholic. Her mother had been told not to marry him by her mother, but being headstrong did so in secret. She was left bringing up her and her siblings, after the disappeared but never really stopped loving him as she was to find out through the letters in the boxes. The hub of these family memories is her Gran, a formidable yet kind woman. She was brought up on art books and romantic love. She had lived in New Zealand, a place that she loathed, written a book, went back to England leaving her husband with her two daughters there. She returned to the UK in 1947 and never went back.

As she is sifting these family stories into some semblance of order, she realises that she is creating what she calls the Museum of Me. It is fitting in some ways as she works for a company that puts together exciting and innovative displays for some of our top museums. Museums do what she is trying to do, which is with these personal effects to present the past in a way that we can understand and how they often came about from large personal collections.

Women are the memory keepers, they can keep those family links and connections

It is a fascinating story of her family and all their successes and secrets, full of happy and sad memories. Whilst she could not always understand the reasons why a particular family member did something, her collection gave her an insight into some of the reasons why it happened. I thought that it was really nicely written, sensitive and also written with an authority and confidence. She doesn’t judge her family for the decisions that they made, each person made that particular choice at a certain time of their life for a variety of reasons. If you like family histories, then I can recommend Dadland by Keggie Carew and Mary Monro’s Stranger in My Heart. They are very similar to this, women unpacking their father’s history that they knew almost nothing about.

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

You can buy this through Hive here
Or at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here

My thanks to Di Riley and September Publishing for the copy of the book to read.

Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers by Robin A. Crawford

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers by Robin A. Crawford and published by Elliott and Thompson.

About the Book

The evocative vocabulary, wit and wisdom of the Scots language – from Robert Burns to Twitter.

Scottish writer and bookseller, Robin Crawford, has gathered 1,000 Scots words – old and new, classical and colloquial, rural and urban – in a joyful celebration of their continuing usage. His amusing, erudite definitions put each of these words in context, revealing their evocative origins and essential character. Delightful line drawings by Scottish printmaker Liz Myhill contribute to this treasury of linguistic gems for language lovers everywhere.

The Scots language is intricately bound up in the nation’s history, identity, land and culture. It is also a living and vital vernacular, used daily. With references to Robert Burns mingling with contemporary examples from Billy Connolly and even Monty Python, Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers revels in the richness of one of our oldest languages, and acts as a precious
reminder of words that are also beginning to fade away, their meaning and value disappearing.

About the Author

Born in Glasgow, writer and Scottish bookseller Robin A. Crawford has a particular interest in the culture and natural heritage of his native land. He is the critically acclaimed author of Into The Peatlands: A Journey Through the Moorland Year, longlisted for the Highland Book Prize 2019. He lives in Fife, Scotland, with his wife.

My Review

I have always loved the country and have visited a number of times including one glorious holiday alongside Loch Goil just where it opens out to Loch Long. Thankfully, the time we were there we weren’t inundated with the dreaded midges. Whilst I have Scottish blood from my grandfather swilling around somewhere within, I must admit I am not that fond of haggis. Whisky, however… I have almost always been able to understand the accent, bar one case where it was so broad that I did struggle a bit.

As well as the beautiful Gallic language that is spoken by some in Scotland they have their own patois and dialect that is distinctively different from the regular English language. Robin A Crawford has collected 1000 of these words from all walks of life and from the modern-day and rummaging through their linguist history for the words that remain in use after hundreds of years.

So if you want to know what a deil’s darning needle or a tourist eagle is, of how you are feeling when you’re forefochen or if you have runkled or fankled something is a good place to start. The range of subjects covered by the words is fascinating, know the difference between an oxter and pintil will save many a red face later on. There are words that most will be familiar with, i.e. neaps, the Tartan Arm and a Glaswegian kiss are pretty much mainstream across the country now.

With each word is a short definition and often an example of usage, very helpful for some of the more obscure ones such as doech-an-doris, lea-rig and stooshie. I thought that this was a delightful collection of words that Crawford has brought together, into this book. I really enjoy learning all things about language and have read a large number of books on the subject. Crawford has properly researched this book but still made this readable and occasionally funny. If you are a bit of an etymologicon then this is for you.

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 Alison Menzies for the copy of the book to read.

Cricket Country by Prashant Kidambi

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Cricket Country by Prashant Kidambi and published by Penguin and one of the shortlisted books for the Wolfson History Prize.

 

The Wolfson History Prize is awarded annually to promote and recognise outstanding history written for a general audience. First awarded in 1972, it remains a beacon of the best historical writing being produced in the UK, reflecting qualities of both readability and excellence in writing and research. Books are judged on the extent to which they are carefully researched, well-written and accessible to the non-specialist reader. The Wolfson History Prize is the most valuable non-fiction writing prize in the UK, with the winner receiving a total prize of £40,000, and the shortlisted authors receiving £4,000 each. The Prize is awarded by the Wolfson Foundation, an independent charity that awards grants to support and promote excellence in the fields of science, health, education and the arts & humanities.

The books shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2020 are:

The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans by David Abulafia

A History of the Bible: The Book and Its Faiths by John Barton

A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution by Toby Green

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

Chaucer: A European Life by Marion Turner

Cricket Country: An Indian Odyssey in the Age of Empire by Prashant Kidambi

 

About the Book

‘Cricket is an Indian game accidentally invented by the English, ‘ it has famously been said. Today, the Indian cricket team is a powerful national symbol, a unifying force in a country riven by conflicts. But India was represented by a cricket team long before it became an independent nation.

Drawing on an unparalleled range of original archival sources, Cricket Country is the story of the first ‘All India’ cricket tour of Great Britain and Ireland. It is also the extraordinary tale of how the idea of India took shape on the cricket field in the high noon of empire. Conceived by an unlikely coalition of colonial and local elites, it took twelve years and three failed attempts before an ‘Indian’ cricket team made its debut on the playing fields of imperial Britain.

This historic tour, which took place against the backdrop of revolutionary politics in the Edwardian era, featured an improbable cast of characters. The team s young captain was the newly enthroned ruler of a powerful Sikh state. The other cricketers were chosen on the basis of their religious identity. Remarkably, for the day, two of the players were Dalits.

Over the course of the blazing Coronation summer of 1911, these Indians participated in a collective enterprise that epitomizes the way in which sport — and above all cricket — helped fashion the imagined communities of both empire and nation.

 

About the Author

Prashant Kidambi trained as a historian at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, and completed an MA and an MPhil before proceeding to the University of Oxford to undertake a doctorate. After holding a Junior Research Fellowship in History at Wolfson College, Oxford, took up a lectureship in the School of History, University of Leicester, where he has taught ever since.

 

My Review

I have loved cricket since my early teenage years (quite a long time ago now) and have occasionally played for low-level club teams where batsmen have been underwhelmed with my spin bowling. I have followed the sport for years and have had that roller coast of emotion that you get supporting the England cricket team where defeat is often snatched from victory and the certainty of a batting collapse hangs over every match.

While cricket is a sport that we invented and evolved, it seems that most of the world is better at it than us as a rule, in particular the players of the subcontinent, hence the phrase, cricket is an Indian game accidentally invented by the English. Now days India is a force to be reckoned with in modern cricket, producing world-class batsmen and bowlers who can reduce an opposition teams supporters to tears. It is a sport that does manage to unite a country that is riven with internal conflicts, but where did it all begin?

The story begins way back in the 1830s when India was under British control and the youth of the day began to take up the sport. As it became more popular interest in traditional Indian games began to diminish. Their colonial rulers did not discourage this, seeing that the game extolled of the British virtues. Lots of local teams were formed and by the late 1870s, some of them were good enough to defeat the Royal Navy Team. It was around this time that the possibility of a tour of an Indian Cricket team around the UK was first mooted. For a variety of reasons, it didn’t happen, but in 1889 a team from England toured the subcontinent and the India team of Parsi’s beat Lord Hawkes team, much to the disbelief of spectators.

Ranji was a talented cricketer who had studied at Cambridge and at one point played for Sussex and there was even some controversy about his being selected to play for England. He was involved in the possible first Indian tour of the UK, that was being organised for the turn of the century, but he scuppered that with his attempt to secure the throne of Nawanagar. There were internal rivalries in the team too, with the Hindu and Parsi factions causing another attempt to tour being abandoned. These differences were resolved in the end.

Further progress was made with the organisation for the tour and the Tata family offered to help with financial assistance, but some of the team members complained about individuals from lower castes being selected, thankfully Balloo contested the decision and in his time became to be considered the best left-arm spinner in the world.

Finally, all the different aspects of the tour came together and a team left India to go to the UK in 1911. The UK that year was undergoing a heatwave with temperatures as high as 98 deg F. The country cooked, thousands died from the heat and there was even one man who shed so many clothes as he was so hot that he was arrested for nudity. On top of that, there was social turmoil, strikes fighting in the streets and a political battle between the House of Commons and the Lords. It was an inauspicious start to their tour of the UK, but they began it in Oxford, nonetheless.

They didn’t have an auspicious start to the tour and lost a number of their matches at the start of the tour, this was partly because they weren’t used to the pitch conditions of the spin and seam bowling, the matches were too close together not allowing recuperation between them and they were often set against much better sides. The odds were very much stacked against them, however, halfway through, their fortunes changed and they began to win matches, even Baloo began to take wickets and accumulated five-wicket hauls. The team was dissolved on it’s return to India and there would be another national team until 1926 and it was another five years after that, that an official Indian team would return to the UK.

I will admit to being a cricket fan, so this had an immediate appeal anyway, but for those that like their sport this book will almost certainly appeal. Kidambi has written a book that is comprehensive, richly detailed and full of stories and anecdotes about the origins of what is now a great cricket team. There was a brief sojourn into a story about a gentleman called Ramamurti Naidu who performed feats of strength and wrestling Fascinating as it was, and he was in the UK at the same time as the others, I wasn’t totally sure of the link to the cricket team’s story.

 

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

 

You can 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 Ben at Midas PR for sending a copy of the book to read.

The Cabinet of Calm by Paul Anthony Jones

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for The Cabinet of Calm by Paul Anthony Jones and published by Elliott & Thompson.

 

About the Book

For almost a decade, Paul Anthony Jones has written about the oddities and origins of the English language, amassing a vast collection of some of its more unusual words. Last year, doubly bereaved and struggling to regain his spirits, he turned to words – words that could be applied to difficult, challenging times and found solace.  The Cabinet of Calm is the result.

Paul has unearthed fifty-one linguistic remedies to offer reassurance, inspiration and hope in the face of such feelings as grief and despair, homesickness and exhaustion, missing our friends and a loss of hope.

Written with a trademark lightness of touch, The Cabinet of Calm shows us that we’re not alone. From MELORISM, when you’re worried about the future of the world and AGATHISM, when you’re feeling disillusionment or struggling to remain positive to SELF-SOOTHE, when you’re struggling to sleep and STOUND, for when you’re grieving, someone else has felt like this before, and so there’s a word to help, whatever the challenge.

 

About the Author

Paul has a Masters in Linguistics and is a language blogger from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. His obsession with words began with a child’s dictionary he received as a Christmas present when he was eight years old.  As @HaggardHawks he has tweeted obscure words since 2013 and now has a social media following of over 75k, including the likes of JK Rowling, Robert Macfarlane, Susie Dent, Richard Osman, Greg Jenner, Ian McMillan, Rufus Sewell, Simon Mayo, Michael Rosen and Cerys Matthews.

HaggardHawks.com brings together the entire HH network including a blog, books, quizzes & games, the 500 Words YouTube series, Instagram gallery and newsletter. He regularly contributes to the media.

 

My Review

In case you have been living in a forest in the middle of know where there is a lot going on at the moment. We are in the middle of a global pandemic at the moment, the planet is heating up dramatically and weather systems are becoming more extreme because of climate change. Politically we have the rise of nationalism in many countries and there is, of course, the UK’s special project, Brexit…

Some people have the ability for all these issues to just wash over them, shrugging off things that keep other people wide awake at night. But how to comfort those that need it? Well Paul Anthony Jones has just released The Cabinet of Calm. In here he has scoured the dustier corners of the dictionary to bring us words that will bring comfort to us when we are grieving, or in despair at the world around us, or have lost hope in everything.

Respair – the return of hope after a period of despair

All of these words that Jones has unearthed are a source of reassurance for those that seek solace in these troubled times within the pages of a book. In here you can learn what frowst means, words for when you are overcome with sadness or for those who often run out of weekend and you have the Monday morning blues. One very much for this moment in the middle of the pandemic and missing your friends is angel visits. If you’re in a bad mood following the news too, there is even a word coined by Dickens for a room to go and growl in.

As with his other books, it is a fascinating read, not only do you get the word, you get all the cultural and etymological background to each word and a raft of other much-underused words like sphexishness, forswunk and neiperty that you can add to your vocabulary. If you are a language addict then this is a must-read; however, its primary aim is to help those that are finding the real world all too much at the moment and I think that this will be a great help to them 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 Alison Menzies for the copy of the book to read.

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