The Secret Life of Fungi by Aliya Whiteley @aliyawhiteleypr @alisonmenziespr @eandtbooks #nature #nonfiction #autumn #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for The Secret Life of Fungi by Aliya Whiteley. Autumn is a wonderful season and it is ideal for those of us who like to go foraging for mushrooms. I only ever pick the ones that I know are safe, so tend to stick to puffball or field mushrooms.

My huge thanks to Alison Menzies for getting in touch about this book and sending me a wonder paperback copy from the publisher Elliott & Thompson.

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Fungi are unlike any other living thing—they are almost magically unique. Welcome to this astonishing world. . . 

Fungi can appear anywhere, from desert dunes to frozen tundra. They can invade our bodies and live between our toes or our floorboards.  They are unwelcome intruders or vastly expensive treats, and symbols of both death and eternal life. But despite their familiar presence, there’s still much to learn about the eruption, growth, and decay of their secret, interconnected, world.

Aliya Whiteley has always been in love with fungi—from her childhood taking blurry photographs of strange fungal eruptions on Exmoor to a career as a writer inspired by their surreal and alien beauty. This love for fungi is a love for life, from single-cell spores to the largest living organism on the planet; a story stretching from Aliya’s lawn into orbit and back again via every continent.

From fields, feasts and fairy rings to death caps, puffballs and ambrosia beetles, this is an intoxicating journey into the life of an extraordinary organism, one that we have barely begun to understand.

MY REVIEW

This is a brilliant little book that delves into the murky world of Fungi. The author has a wonderful way of expressing her interest in this subject and it makes it very interesting reading. Last year I read a book by Suzanne Simard, Finding the Mother Tree, this book went into a lot of detail about the way fungi connect the trees. In The Secret Life of Fungi, the author, Aliya Whitely explains how fungi are part of our everything. It survives in the most surprising of conditions and environments. There is a lot more to fungi than the mushrooms we see in fields, on trees or on decomposing vegetation.

This book is set out in quick sub-chapters, with three main chapters entitled – Erupt, Spread and Decay. A simplified version of a lifecycle.

As the author makes her way through the chapters and subchapters she gives examples of research, observations and discoveries over the years. This introduces the reader to the basics of this far-reaching and unstoppable organism and follows it to the ends of the earth and beyond.

This would fall into the Science and Nature genre and to some extent, this is what it is. But rather than being all science, symbols, maths and other undecipherable, this book keeps to the basics. It makes sit a very easy-to-read book and the journey the author guides the reader on is like an adventure of discovery.

There are dangers to foraging and there is a section that describes some of the symptoms. Also going into details about how harmful spores can be spread and nature’s own way of dealing with them. Often the strands of fungi, or mycelia, have a symbiotic relationship with another plant and so it continues its lifecycle. It can be easily spread and there has been evidence of fungi in the International Space Station.

Not just confined to being eaten, this can be used for health and medicinal cures and treatments, just think of penicillin as an example. The other side of this can also be the strain that can cause pneumonia or Valley Fever and have devastating results.

Wherever you are in the world you will be near some type of fungi. You probably won’t even notice it, you may not see it, but it’s there.

This was a really interesting book and the author has a real passion for her field and this is evident in her writing. A cracking read that took me by surprise in a very good way. This is a relatively quick read at just over 200 pages, and if you like nature, the natural world and being outside then this is one that you would probably really enjoy. Very accessible and totally absorbing I soon discovered time had passed by as I was busy reading this one. I would definitely recommend it.

After finishing this book I decided to go out into the garden and explore. I knew there were some fungi and I hunted for more. This is what I found.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

(www.aliyawhiteley.wordpress.com / @aliyawhiteley)
Aliya Whiteley is inspired by how fungi and humanity share the world. She grew up
in North Devon where she developed an early passion for walking and observing
nature. She writes novels, short stories and non-fiction and has been published in
places such as The Guardian, Interzone, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and in
several anthologies. Previously a magazine editor, she has written about the natural
world for Mental Floss and in her fiction. Her novella, The Beauty, was shortlisted for
both Shirley Jackson and Sabotage Awards, and depicts a future world in which a
fungus interacts with humanity to create a new form of life, leading readers all over
the world to send her photographs and articles relating to mushrooms.
She walks with her dog through the woods and fields around her home in West
Sussex every day, taking inspiration from the hidden worlds around her.

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The Plant Hunter by Thomas Mogford @ThomasMogford @welbeckpublish @maddie_dk #histfic #mystery #adventure #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for The Plant Hunter by Thomas Mogford. This is a fabulous adventure style story that is a mix of historical fiction and a journey of discovery. I adored it so much.

My Huge thanks to Maddie at Welbeck Publishing Group for my gorgeous advanced copy of this book – I love it 🙂

1867. King’s Road, Chelsea, is a sea of plant nurseries, catering to the Victorian obsession with rare and exotic flora. But each of the glossy emporiums is fuelled by the dangerous world of the plant hunters – daring adventurers sent into uncharted lands in search of untold wonders to grace England’s finest gardens.

Harry Compton is as far from a plant hunter as one could imagine – a salesman plucked from the obscurity of the nursery growing fields to become ‘the face that sold a thousand plants’.

But one small act of kindness sees him inherit a precious gift – a specimen of a fabled tree last heard of in The Travels of Marco Polo, and a map.

Seizing his chance for fame and fortune, Harry sets out to make his mark. But where there is wealth there is corruption, and soon Harry is fleeing England, rounding the Cape of Good Hope and sailing up the Yangtze alongside a young widow – both in pursuit of the plant that could transform both their lives forever.

MY REVIEW

I am a huge fan of plants and books. Every room in our house has at least one of each in them, so when I saw this book I knew it was one that I needed to read. (The photo above is a few plants in my bedroom 🙂 )

This is what the title suggests it is, about a Plant Hunter. However, the particular plant hunter in this novel is one Mr Compton, a salesman in a nursery in London. He has worked for Piggott for a while, although being a salesman is not what he wants. He would rather be behind the scenes propagating, tending, and general growing the plants that will then go on for sale.

A chance encounter with a drunk leaves him with an option or two. He is in possession of a map showing the location of a rare and exquisite tree. It is 1867, plant collectors and hunters of exotic flora is a very lucrative business, ideal for those who have backers.

So, begins the travels of Mr Compton. From salesman in London to plant hunter embarking around the world on an adventure of a lifetime.

This is just a fabulous book and one that lived up to my hopes. It is a mix of several genres, there is some mystery, adventure, suspense, romance, crime, murder, history and nature so I do think it would appeal to a vast array of readers.

The author has a great balance in this story so that the plants don’t take over the story and are mixed in with Compton’s own experiences and expectations. He meets some fascinating people on his travels and becomes more worldly-wise at the same time.

I really like the way the author wove everything together as the journey embarks Britain and the sailing to China. It all helps to toughen up Compton, and believe me it is needed for what he has to meet. Not everyone is dangerous, but there are some individuals that you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of.

This is a wonderful mix of historical content and also attitudes around China and opium in the mid to late 1800s. It allows the reader to see differing viewpoints as foreigners in the country are not always welcomed. What can be a well-meaning gesture can actually be seen as something else. I did like this as it showed various sides to social, political and economics at the time. Enough to give a general idea but not too much to distract.

This is a wonderful book and it is a fabulous read. I liked the style, the pace and the storyline. A must-read for fans of historical fiction with an exciting adventurous storyline. It is one I would absolutely recommend.

Many thanks for reading my post, a like or share would be amazing 🙂 xx

Paperback Publication Day for: Into the Tangled Bank by Lev Parikian @LevParikian @alisonmenziespr @eandtbooks #nature #bookreview

I am delighted to re-share my review today for a book that I read and loved last year. Into the Tangled Bank: In Which Our Author Ventures Outdoors to Consider the British in Nature by Lev Parikian.

I did read the hardback copy of this book supplied by Alison Menzies from Elliot & Thompson publishers and today see’s the publication of the paperback version.

Let me share more about this fabulous book…

Lev Parikian is on a journey to discover the quirks, habits and foibles of how the British experience nature. He sets out to explore the many, and particular, ways that he, and we, experience the natural world – beginning face down on the pavement outside his home then moving outwards to garden, local patch, wildlife reserve, craggy coastline and as far afield as the dark hills of Skye. He visits the haunts of famous nature lovers – reaching back to the likes of Charles Darwin, Etta Lemon, Gavin Maxwell, John Clare and Emma Turner – to examine their insatiable curiosity and follow in their footsteps.

And everywhere he meets not only nature, but nature lovers of all varieties. The author reveals how our collective relationship with nature has changed over the centuries, what our actions mean for nature and what being a nature lover in Britain might mean today. 

My Review…

I really enjoyed reading this book as I followed Lev’s observations on how people and nature interact. Lev has such an easy style to his writing and as well as various facts there is also a nice level of humour. The book is littered with various interesting facts from history, nature and life.

Lev looks at various aspects of nature including our own gardens, parks and open green areas. He notices various things about human nature and how people with certain interest can chat about things for quite a while. As a gardener I found myself sniggering about they way gardeners can talk about “their patch” what they grow, the pests and bugs.

Lev’s observations of people in nature draw together different walks of life. From the dog-walkers, to the gardeners, the photographers to the birdwatchers. These observations make a really enjoyable read and many times I found myself nodding my head in agreement or as I read sections thought “this is me!”.

A book that is ideal for dipping in and out of, in fact I read most of this book sat in the garden have a break from the weeding, trimming and filling bird feeders and it was the perfect spot.

A refreshing read that I think various people would really enjoy, and I am sure any nature lover, or those who spend time outdoors and then reads this book will find themselves in it at some point. A good book about the observations of an author and one I would happily recommend, its a fabulous read.

Purchase from – AMAZON UK

Many thanks for reading my post, a like or share would be amazing 🙂 xx

Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard #memoir #nature #ecosystem #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard. This is a wonderful book that looks at the relationship of trees and also a mix of the author’s memories growing up.

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From the world’s leading forest ecologist who forever changed how people view trees and their connections to one another and to other living things in the forest–a moving, deeply personal journey of discovery.

Suzanne Simard is a pioneer on the frontier of plant communication and intelligence; she’s been compared to Rachel Carson, hailed as a scientist who conveys complex, technical ideas in a way that is dazzling and profound. Her work has influenced filmmakers (the Tree of Souls of James Cameron’s Avatar) and her TED talks have been viewed by more than 10 million people worldwide.

Now, in her first book, Simard brings us into her world, the intimate world of the trees, in which she brilliantly illuminates the fascinating and vital truths–that trees are not simply the source of timber or pulp, but are a complex, interdependent circle of life; that forests are social, cooperative creatures connected through underground networks by which trees communicate their vitality and vulnerabilities with communal lives not that different from our own.

Simard writes–in inspiring, illuminating, and accessible ways–how trees, living side by side for hundreds of years, have evolved, how they perceive one another, learn and adapt their behaviors, recognize neighbors, and remember the past; how they have agency about the future; elicit warnings and mount defenses, compete and cooperate with one another with sophistication, characteristics ascribed to human intelligence, traits that are the essence of civil societies–and at the center of it all, the Mother Trees: the mysterious, powerful forces that connect and sustain the others that surround them.

Simard writes of her own life, born and raised into a logging world in the rainforests of British Columbia, of her days as a child spent cataloging the trees from the forest and how she came to love and respect them–embarking on a journey of discovery, and struggle. And as she writes of her scientific quest, she writes of her own journey–of love and loss, of observation and change, of risk and reward, making us understand how deeply human scientific inquiry exists beyond data and technology, that it is about understanding who we are and our place in the world, and, in writing of her own life, we come to see the true connectedness of the Mother Tree that nurtures the forest in the profound ways that families and human societies do, and how these inseparable bonds enable all our survival.

My Review…

I have been reading this book over the past week or so and it was such an interesting and eye-opening book.

Dr Suzanne Simard has learnt her trade over years of observations, discoveries and research. Born and raised in the rainforests of British Columbia, she has natural respect and a relationship with the trees. this comes across in this book as she recounts her childhood with memories, stories and also how she gradually worked to become the leader in the field she is today.

What started as a childhood curiosity bloomed into something more. Through experiments, research, and a certain amount of bloody-mindedness she brought her findings to all who would listen. The book documents how she found the symbiotic relationship between the soil, enzymes and naturally occurring biology and the trees. While there is a certain amount of science, it is been given in layman’s terms making this a very accessible and easy to understand the book.

I like how this book is laid out. Chapters are a mix of memories, experiences and also the findings of her research. This makes it more manageable and keeps the book flowing rather than getting hung up in great swathes of science.

This is such an interesting book and as I was reading I could feel the excitement as discoveries were made, and also the heartbreak and upset as things failed or that sometimes trees had to be destroyed to be able to see the impacts of pesticides.

A wonderful read and one that has led me onto further reading on the internet. Looking at interviews and talks about the relationship of trees to the world around us.

This is a book for anyone who has an interest in the natural world, in relationships between nature and it is one I would definitely recommend.

Many thanks for reading my post, a like or share would be amazing 🙂 xx

Gone: A search for what remains of the world’s extinct creatures by Michael Blencowe #nature #environment #LeapingHarePress @alisonmenziespr #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for by Gone: A search for what remains of the world’s extinct creatures by Michael Blencowe.

This is a stunning and poignant book that I received from Alison Menzies PR for review. My huge thanks to Alison for my gorgeous copy of Gone published by Leaping Hare Press.

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Dynamic naturalist Michael Blencowe has travelled the globe to uncover the fascinating backstories of eleven extinct animals, which he shares with charm and insight in Gone.
 
Inspired by his childhood obsession with extinct species, Blencowe takes us around the globe – from the forests of New Zealand to the ferries of Finland, from the urban sprawl of San Francisco to an inflatable crocodile on Brighton’s Widewater Lagoon. Spanning five centuries, from the last sighting of New Zealand’s Upland Moa to the 2012 death of the Pinta Island Giant Tortoise, Lonesome George, his memoir is peppered with the accounts of the hunters and naturalists of the past as well as revealing conversations with the custodians of these totemic animals today
 
Featuring striking artworks that resurrect these forgotten creatures, each chapter focuses on a different animal, revealing insights into their unique characteristics and habitatsthe history of their discovery and just how and when they came to be lost to us
 
Blencowe inspects the only known remains of a Huia egg at Te Papa, New Zealand; views hundreds of specimens of deceased Galapagos tortoises and Xerces Blue butterflies in the California Academy of Sciences; and pays his respects to the only soft tissue remains of the Dodo in the world. Warm, wry and thought-provoking, Gone shows that while each extinction story is different, all can inform how we live in the future. Discover and learn from the stories of the:
 
·         Great Auk. A majestic flightless seabird of the North Atlantic and the ‘original penguin’.
·         Spectacled Cormorant. The ‘ludicrous bird’ from the remote islands of the Bering Sea. 
·         Steller’s Sea Cow. An incredible ten tonne dugong with skin as furrowed as oak bark. 
·         Upland Moa. The improbable birds and the one-time rulers of New Zealand. 
·         Huia. The unique bird with two beaks and twelve precious tail feathers. 
·         South Island Kōkako. The ‘orange-wattled crow’, New Zealand’s elusive Grey Ghost. 
·         Xerces Blue. The gossamer-winged butterfly of the San Francisco sand dunes. 
·         Pinta Island Tortoise. The slow-moving, long-lived giant of the Galápagos Islands. 
·         Dodo. The superstar of extinction. 
·         Schomburgk’s Deer. A mysterious deer from the wide floodplains of central Thailand. 
·         Ivell’s Sea Anemone. A see-through sea creature known only from southern England. 
 
A modern must-read for anyone interested in protecting our earth and its incredible wildlife, Gone is an evocative call to conserve what we have before it is lost forever.

Purchase LinkAmazon UK

My Review…

I had planned on reading this book over a couple of days, instead, I found myself quite addicted to the author’s journey and search for the remains of extinct creatures. How sad this title is “Gone: A search for what remains of the world’s extinct creatures”!

Michael Blencoe describes his love of natural history from his childhood and how exciting the world seemed. As he grew he had that realisation that there were things that once lived and thrived in the world that had now gone. The only thing that remains of these creatures is to be found in museums, collections, photographs and diaries and accounts during the travels of explorers and scientists over the past few centuries.

As I try to write a review for this book I realise that I am caught up in a bit of a vicious circle. Many Victorian Collectors contributed to the extinction of many species. But, without the collections, we would not be able to see what once lived free!

This book is broken down into an introduction followed by 11 chapters, these chapters look at a different species that is now extinct. The author introduces each animal and gives a brief history of it and also of how it was discovered and then what led to its extinction. He also includes his search for any remains that are to be found in museums and also tried to visit the spot where the animal lived or was last seen. There are further reading and other useful extras in the back of the book.

This is such a sad book to read in the respect that the creatures mentioned will never be seen again, but it also highlights the impact humans have had on the natural world. It is something that is very relevant in today’s society as more and more animals are being brought to the edge of extinction. Several species no longer exist in the 50 years that I have been around.

While it is a sad book as it deals with loss, it is also very addictive reading as I discovered more about the different birds, mammals and sea creatures that have been used in this book. The authors’ obvious love of the living world and his interest is quite infectious as I read, and, as I said I found it impossible to put it down until I had finished it.

It is a lovely presented book with some gorgeous colour plates in it. At just under 200 pages long it is one doesn’t take long to read. This is a book that readers of natural history would enjoy, it also crosses somewhat into history and is the authors account of his own journey. It is a book I would definitely recommend this book if you have an interest in nature.

Many thanks for reading my post, a like or share would be amazing 🙂 xx

Fragile Planet – The Impact of Climate Change by Collins Books #nonfiction #climateawareness #photography #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for a book that I read before Christmas, in fact I think it was November when I read it! Fragile Planet – The Impact of Climate Change and published by Collins Books, this is a book that shows the images of changes rather than going into the science. Sometimes images work better than words to give a bigger impact. Let me show you more…

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A striking look at climate change through dramatic photographs
This unique book provides a striking look at the dramatic changes that are happening to our planet. Containing over 230 stunning photographs, this important book documents the effects of climate systems and forces of nature on our world alongside images which strikingly show the impact of climate change.


With unique photographs of locations including;
American, European and Asian glaciers
• Australian bushfires
• Pacific Islands under threat
• Rivers drying out
• Cities flooding
• Alaskan coastline
• Advancing deserts
• Greenland’s shrinking ice


Fragile Planet also contains images taken during the recent global COVID-19 pandemic, showing clearer canals in Venice and cleaner air at India Gate in New Delhi. 

My Review…

Sometimes it is far better to see the dynamics or rather the dramatics of changes when you sit down with a book and see the images. I think this is what makes this such a good book to sit down with.

I originally just started to flick through it, but then soon found myself working through each image from the beginning. Each image does contain a description of where and when the photo was taken. In some cases, there are two images that range from a couple of months to several decades between them. These show surprising dramatic differences, and some of them are very startling.

In a time when climate change and the damage to our planet are more in the spotlight than ever before it is a good time to see a book full of images and not too much focus on the science. Sometimes the best impact is via a visual route.

This is a gorgeous book to flick through which sounds quite odd to mention when the subject matter but what I mean is the quality of the book, the soft softback cover and the glossy images are really first-rate. The descriptions are to the point and make this ideal for flicking through or sitting and giving more attention to.

I really like this book, it is ideal for many different age groups as a general interest book, as well as being a coffee table book that makes you more aware of the world. I would definitely recommend it.

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Many thanks for reading my post, a like or share would be amazing 🙂 xx

Into the Tangled Bank by Lev Parikian @LevParikian @alisonmenziespr #publicationday #nature #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for Into the Tangled Bank by Lev Parikian. When I received and email from Alison at Elliot & Thompson and it was entitled “A funny nature book” I knew this was for me. I would also like to wish Lev a very Happy Publication Day.

Let me show you what it’s about…

Into the Tangled Bank – In which our author ventures outdoors to consider the British in nature
Lev ParikianPublication: 9 July 2020

Purchase from Amazon UK (this is an affiliate link)


This is a thought-provoking , humorous examination of how we experience the natural world -described by Melissa Harrison as “Funny, accessible and full of wonders – a genuine breath of fresh air” .


Lev is a conductor, writer and birdwatcher.  In Into the Tangled Bank, he attempts to get to grips with what it means to be a nature lover.  The book travels from his doorstep to garden plot, local patch, wildlife reserve and as far as the Isle of Skye.  Everywhere, he comes up against nature lovers of all varieties: from ramblers and dog-walkers, to passionate enthusiasts or just people out for a stroll in the sun.


Lev is the instigator of the #twitterbirdsong project and hosts a new youtube channel  Bird Brains devoted to all things avian.  

AND… the cover is gorgeous in real life!

I really enjoyed reading this book as I followed Lev’s observations on how people and nature interact. Lev has such an easy style to his writing and as well as various facts there is also a nice level of humour. The book is littered with various interesting facts from history, nature and life.

Lev looks at various aspects of nature including our own gardens, parks and open green areas. He notices various things about human nature and how people with certain interest can chat about things for quite a while. As a gardener I found myself sniggering about they way gardeners can talk about “their patch” what they grow, the pests and bugs.

Lev’s observations of people in nature draw together different walks of life. From the dog-walkers, to the gardeners, the photographers to the birdwatchers. These observations make a really enjoyable read and many times I found myself nodding my head in agreement or as I read sections thought “this is me!”.

A book that is ideal for dipping in and out of, in fact I read most of this book sat in the garden have a break from the weeding, trimming and filling bird feeders and it was the perfect spot.

A refreshing read that I think various people would really enjoy, and I am sure any nature lover, or those who spend time outdoors and then reads this book will find themselves in it at some point. A good book about the observations of an author and one I would happily recommend, its a fabulous read.

Lev Parikian is a writer, birdwatcher and conductor. His book Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? was published by Unbound in 2018. He lives in West London with his family, who are getting used to his increasing enthusiasm for nature. As a birdwatcher, his most prized sightings are a golden oriole in the Alpujarras and a black redstart at Dungeness Power Station.

Many thanks for reading my post, a like or share would be amazing 🙂 xx