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.

Displaying Secret Life of Fungi Jacket.jpg

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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On the Scent: Unlocking the Mysteries of Smell – and How Its Loss Can Change Your World by Paolo Totaro and Robert Wainwright @alisonmenziespr @eandtbooks #nonfiction #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for On the Scent by Paola Totaro and Robert Wainwright. When I received an email from Alison Menzies PR at Elliott & Thompson Publishers about this book I was definitely intrigued. Having had Covid and losing my sense of smell and taste wasn’t nice. I wish I had this book while I had these symptoms, and it has made me realise how important your fifth sense is! A case of – you don’t know what you have until it is gone…

I admit that I hadn’t given the sense of smell much of a thought until I had Covid, if you are one of those lucky enough not to have lost it, then you should consider picking up this book as well. You don’t realise how it can impact your everyday life.

A fascinating exploration of how losing our sense of smell can shape our world, and how the global pandemic transformed our understanding of this mysterious sense.

Paola is on a journey to get her sense of smell back.  Before the pandemic, loss of smell was estimated to affect about 5% of adults in the UK but about 40% of Covid sufferers experience anosmia in some form, catapulting this least understood sense into the spotlight. 

Paola lost her sense of smell just days after London went into the first lockdown, 2 months before anosmia was an officially recognised symptom here. Reporting from the UK on the pandemic for the Australian press, she began to investigate whether this strange and awful symptom might be related to Covid.  

On the Scent weaves together Paola’s own story of scent loss and partial recovery, with the latest chemo-sensory research and fascinating facts about the sense we know least about, as well as practical solutions for those experiencing scent loss.  It is set against the context of how the British government delayed their acceptance of anosmia as a symptom of C-19; and how the scientific community came together in an unprecedented way to research it.  

From Scent Training as a recovery aid to why some anosmics experience radical distortions in how things smell, On the Scent, explains why we ignore the Cinderella of the Senses at our cost: it is a risk factor in depression and significant in the early detection of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. 

MY REVIEW

This is one of those books that I wish I had when I had Covid. I was one of the many who lost the sense of taste and smell. It’s one of those things that you don’t realise how important it is to your mental well-being as well as being one of the physical senses.

This book made me realise how important the sense of smell is. Without it, things just were not the same. I never appreciated how much of my everyday life revolves around smell until it wasn’t there. I am one of the very lucky ones who only had to deal with this abandonment on a temporary basis, around two weeks before I could start to pick up aromas, perfumes and other strong smells.

The authors of this book have laid everything out in such an easy-to-understand way. Yes, obviously there are science bits, but all done in a way that this non-science-brained reader could get. The authors take the reader through the various terms, the history, and also most recently Covid. In some ways, Covid provided answers for many people who have anosmia – a loss of smell, or parosmia – a distortion of smell. From having only a few volunteers pre-pandemic, researchers had a whole world of people who were suddenly discovering that they had lost their fifth sense.

The authors bring accounts, quotes, and articles from various people around the world. Those who have never had a sense of smell, to those who have a sense of smell but one that is wrong. AS I was reading this book I realised that there is a lot more to having a sense of smell than you first realise. Have you ever smelt a flower, or a perfume and been reminded of a favourite relative or an occasion? Have you ever smelt something starting to burn, or smelt a whiffy nappy? How about your own body smell? Can you smell the rain coming so can go and get your washing in off the line?

Not having this sense for me was a shock. Food became, boring and bland. Cooking a meal felt at times pointless as I knew I would not enjoy it. This book goes through all of these moments and so many more. It makes it such an enlightening read and one that, as I have mentioned, I wish I had before I got Covid.

The treatments, diagnosis, attitudes, advice and realisation have changed since Covid. This means that it will hopefully be given greater importance. If you lost your sight you would be classed as blind, if you couldn’t hear you would be classed as deaf. In both of these cases, you would have access to aids. Now, what about the smell!

This is an educational book that comes across in a very informal way. I was surprised by how much I could identify with, and also how much I really had no idea about. I know I am very lucky to have my sense of smell back because without that my sense of taste is also gone. An interesting read and very accessible. It is one I would definitely recommend.

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

Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers by Robin A Crawford @RobinACrawford2 #cauldblasts @eandtbooks #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review of Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers by Robin A Crawford. You would not believe how many time I have checked the spelling of those words!!! Spell checker is having an absolute field day with its wiggly red lines as well 😁

So this is a book about Scottish words and I have a few words here that you can have a guess at for a bit of fun. They definitions can be found below in the synopsis.

Do you know what these mean…

Clishmaclavers

Inkie-Pinkie

Sodie-heid

Smowt

Simmer dim

Dreich

I would like to thank Alison Menzies at Elliot & Thompson for my gorgeous copy of Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers. My thoughts are my own.

Publication: 20 August 2020

£9.99 B-format hardback

ISBN 13: 978-1-78396-478-9

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.

 Clishmaclaver: the passing on of idle gossip, sometimes in a book.

Inkie-pinkie: weak beer.

Sodie-heid: literally, ‘head full of soda bubbles’, airhead.

Smowt: youngster, technically a young trout or salmon but also affectionately applied to a child. 

Simmer dim: Shetland term for long summer evenings where due to the northern latitude it never really gets dark.

Dreich: grey, miserable, tedious; usually applied to weather but indicative of the Scots temperament, hence it being voted Scotland’s favourite word in a recent poll (or perhaps indicative of the temperaments of Scots who feel the need to participate in online polls): ‘It’s gey dreich the day.’

Purchase from Amazon UK – KindleHardback (these are affiliate links)

So, were you right with what you thought the words meant? xx

My Review

I love learning new words and different dialects and local variants are always fascinating to me. I have lived in several counties so I have picked up local sayings. It amazes me how you can have different meanings for a word on adjoining counties. Having read fictional books written by many Scottish Authors I do find it really interesting to come across local words while reading.

So, the author has gathered 1,000 words from all walks of Scottish life, from farmers, fishermen, comedians and from years gone by. The words are a mix of old almost forgotten words as well as more mainstream ones that were more recognisable to me. I love how the author has brought so many words together as a way of bringing the past back to the forefront.

This book is ideal for dipping in and out of and I loved looking at the words and trying to guess those that I hadn’t come across before. Mostly I was wrong but that adds to the fun of this book. I have the hardback version and I have to say the cover is gorgeous and it also makes it the perfect book for leaving on the coffee table for others to enjoy.

A wonderful little book that is full of Scottish words that will amuse as well as test your pronunciation. I adored this book and I would recommend it to those who like to expand their vocabulary. I would also suggest that readers of Non-fiction and history would really enjoy this book as there are so many little anecdotes and historical snippets that have been included.

A brilliant book that I would absolutely recommend.

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. He is available for interview.

Check out the other stops on the Blog Tour…

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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

The Secret Life of Books – why they mean more than words by Tom Mole @ProfTomMole @alisonmenziespr @eandtbooks #bookreview

I am delighted to share my thoughts today on The Secret Life of Books – why they mean more than words by Tom Mole. My huge thanks to Alison Menzies for the invite to join the Blog Tour and also for arranging for my gorgeous copy of the book from Elliott & Thompson.

This is a book that is not about books but about the role books play in our lives and it is a fascinating read. Let me show you what the Synopsis says about it…

‘Probably the most compulsive text ever penned about what it means to handle and possess a book’ – Christopher de Hamel, author of Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts

‘A real treasure trove for book lovers’ – Alexander McCall Smith

We love books. We take them to bed with us. They weigh down our suitcases when we go on holiday. We display them on our bookshelves or store them in our attics. We give them as gifts. We write our names in them. We take them for granted. And all the time, our books are leading a double life.

The Secret Life of Books is about everything that isn’t just the words. It’s about how books transform us as individuals. It’s about how books – and readers – have evolved over time. And it’s about why, even with the arrival of other media, books still have the power to change our lives. 

In this illuminating account, Tom Mole looks at everything from binding innovations to binding errors, to books defaced by lovers, to those imprisoning professors in their offices, to books in art, to burned books, to the books that create nations, to those we’ll leave behind. 

It will change how you think about books.

This is a book about books, not about the stories in the books but the books themselves. Books can be read, looked at, studued, referenced and of course be sat on a shelf unread. They can be bought, passed on, donated, found, lost, discarded and recycled. They can be free and given away as part of a promotion or giveaway or they can go to auction for the collectors to bid on.

I like the way this Author has looked at the role books play in our lives, what impact they can have, how they are part of history and of the future. Throughout the book the author makes observations and I have to say he made me realise how right he is about many of the things he has looked at.

A favourite book can fall open at a favourite page, the reader may have made a doodle or folded the corner or left a note or has a bookmark in it. The book has become personal to that reader and becomes different to other prints of that book.

The author provides a fascinating and yet brief history about how books came about and their transition from scrolls. Historical facts are littered throughout this book and include mentions of authors, painters and, collectors. As books have become easier to access than many years ago. It’s not just books though, its all the accessories that may also be bought, so think about bookmarks, notebooks and pens, reading lights, bookscases, reader lights. As books have become more accessible then the market for accessories has developed.

The author uses a few analogies to show similarities between books and other everyday objects and this really helps to see books from a different perspective. It helps to see them as an object and not something that readers use to learn or escape from or into.

This is such a fascinating read and it makes observations that many readers will be aware of or maybe only subconsciously aware of. The author has explored books and the role in society, how they are seen and used. They have been burned, banned, championed and used as propaganda because of political or religious viewpoint.

My review for this book is just the very tip and there is so much more to discover. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read that I only planned on reading in short bursts, well that didn’t happen. Once I started it and recognised some of my own habits in it and discovered how their presence has evolved and developed. I think the author has pretty much covered every aspect of books and I cannot think of anything he has missed, but then I also discovered things that I had not realised!

This is a small book but my goodness there is a lot packed into its 256 pages, I am still surprised that it is only 256 pages as there is so much in it! Prof Tom Mole definitely knows his book history.

This is a book that I would definitely recommend to readers, yep All readers! It is fascinating and I found it completely addictive. Loved it!


Tom Mole is Professor of English Literature and Book History at the University of Edinburgh, where he runs the Centre for the History of the Book. He has taught at universities in the UK and Canada, and has lectured widely in Europe, Australia and North America. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He has written or edited several volumes about books and literature, including What the Victorians Made of Romanticism, which won the 2018 Saltire Prize for Research Book of the Year. He lives in Edinburgh with his wife and young daughter.

Many thanks for reading my post, a like or share is always appreciated 🙂 xx