Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes #ancientgreece #myths #legend #nonfiction #audiobook #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for Pandora’s Jar: Women in Greek the myths by Natalie Haynes. I saw this title on Audible and as I do love hearing about myths from all around the world I decided to give this one a go.

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The Greek myths are one of the most important cultural foundation-stones of the modern world.

Stories of gods and monsters are the mainstay of epic poetry and Greek tragedy, from Homer to Virgil to from Aeschylus to Sophocles and Euripides. And still, today, a wealth of novels, plays and films draw their inspiration from stories first told almost three thousand years ago. But modern tellers of Greek myth have usually been men, and have routinely shown little interest in telling women’s stories.

Now, in Pandora’s Jar, Natalie Haynes – broadcaster, writer and passionate classicist – redresses this imbalance. Taking Greek creation myths as her starting point and then retelling the four great mythic sagas: the Trojan War, the Royal House of Thebes, Jason and the Argonauts, Heracles, she puts the female characters on equal footing with their menfolk. The result is a vivid and powerful account of the deeds – and misdeeds – of Hera, Aphrodite, Athene and Circe. And away from the goddesses of Mount Olympus it is Helen, Clytemnestra, Jocasta, Antigone and Medea who sing from these pages, not Paris, Agamemnon, Orestes or Jason. 

MY REVIEW

I do like stories and tales from the times of Ancient Greece. I think it was watching films such as Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, then as I got older reading stories and watching documentaries and now listening to audiobooks.

The author brings together her knowledge of this topic and she definitely knows her stuff. She narrates her own book and she has a nice voice to listen to.

She tells of the women that have appeared over time that many of us will already know about, and there are some that I hadn’t heard of. These are ones that have been forgotten about or didn’t have such an important role in history according to more male-dominated figures. As I listened to this book I realised I knew far more male figures from mythology than I did female. The author does suggest that historians such as Aristotle and Socrates and writers such as Ovid are men, so focused more on the strengths, adventures, toils, and victories of their male heroes. Women tended to be scorned rather than revered, and Medusa is a prime example of this, and when I listened further the author went on to tell of how women had been used, abducted and blamed. The author does give a more balanced view of women in history, rather than being the victims they are shown their own rights and show their own strength. The author does use modern references to give a present-day example using songs from pop culture, literature and art.

This is a really interesting book to listen to, there are loads of historical fact and obviously a lot about myths and legends from the days of the Greek heroes. This is a book that provides a good discussion and isn’t one that tries to rewrite history, it does give opinions and thoughts to help bring women into the forefront and away from the patriarchal stereotype. It is one I really enjoyed listening to and one I would happily recommend.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Natalie Haynes, author of THE FURIES (THE AMBER FURY in the UK), is a graduate of Cambridge University and an award-winning comedian, journalist, and broadcaster. She judged the Man Booker Prize in 2013 and was a judge for the final Orange Prize in 2012. Natalie was a regular panelist on BBC2’s Newsnight Review, Radio 4’s Saturday Review, and the long-running arts show, Front Row. She is a guest columnist for the The Independent and The Guardian. Her radio series, Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics, was first broadcast in March 2014.

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The Royal Art of Poison by Eleanor Herman Narrated by Joan Walker #audiobook #audible #nonfiction #history #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for a brilliant audiobook. The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul by Eleanor Herman and narrated by Joan Walker. This is a title that I adored, I admit it was the narrator Joan Walker that I was looking for as I had recently listened to another book narrated by her. She is a fabulous narrator and one that I will be keeping an ear and eye out for in the future.

The story of poison is the story of power. For centuries, royal families have feared the gut-roiling, vomit-inducing agony of a little something added to their food or wine by an enemy. To avoid poison, they depended on tasters, unicorn horns, and antidotes tested on condemned prisoners. Servants licked the royal family’s spoons, tried on their underpants and tested their chamber pots.

Ironically, royals terrified of poison were unknowingly poisoning themselves daily with their cosmetics, medications, and filthy living conditions. Women wore makeup made with mercury and lead. Men rubbed turds on their bald spots. Physicians prescribed mercury enemas, arsenic skin cream, drinks of lead filings, and potions of human fat and skull, fresh from the executioner. The most gorgeous palaces were little better than filthy latrines. Gazing at gorgeous portraits of centuries past, we don’t see what lies beneath the royal robes and the stench of unwashed bodies; the lice feasting on private parts; and worms nesting in the intestines.

In The Royal Art of Poison, Eleanor Herman combines her unique access to royal archives with cutting-edge forensic discoveries to tell the true story of Europe’s glittering palaces: one of medical bafflement, poisonous cosmetics, ever-present excrement, festering natural illness, and, sometimes, murder.

MY REVIEW

This has been a fabulous audiobook to listen to. I will mention the narrator first though. Joan Walker is a narrator I have only recently come across and I have to say she is brilliant. She has a very soothing voice and I am just able to relax as she tells of the poisons that the author has compiled into this book.

This is a history of poisons through the centuries. From way back when to the modern day and taking in all the varied, various and macabre ways of discovering if you have been poisoned and also the treatments over the centuries to find an antidote. After listening to this I am so glad I live in the age of today rather than a few hundred years ago.

I will say that this isn’t a book you want to listen to while you are eating your lunch! Especially if it’s the sections dealing with how royalty and noble persons would guard against poisoning, well how the medics at the time would. Using mummified human remains for example to ward off ill effects is just a very basic thing that was used.

This is so interesting to listen to and it follows a natural progression of medical discoveries and treatments over the centuries. From basic herb lore to cutting-edge laboratory discoveries this book includes a lot.

There is the obvious historical and medical interest to be found in this but also if like me, you are also a fan of crime fiction then this is also a great listen.

The author obviously knows her stuff and it does come across in the narration. I think this is where the narrator and author have been well matched as I think both enjoyed writing and reading this book as much as I did listening to it.

This is one of those books that is ideal for curious minds as well as those with a fascination for the macabre world of poisoning. It is a series of snapshots through history that documents how effective a good poison cold be. It is something that has changed monarchs, rulers and important decisions, and as we know it is still in use in today’s world.

If I had to sum this book up I would say it is fascinating and an eye-opener. It is one I would definitely recommend.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

New York Times best-seller Eleanor Herman’s new non-fiction book, The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul, is set to come out in June 2018. Think royal palaces were beautiful places to live? Think again!

Herman offers a rare combination of skills for a historian – her research is intensely scholarly, yet she writes the story in a colorful, witty manner. “History is so fascinating that it never has to be presented in a boring way,” she explains. “These were flesh and blood people, just like you and me, facing war and plague, falling in love, living among splendid art and gut-wrenching poverty. Sometimes people ask me if I plan to write novels. And I say, with all the things that really happened, who needs to make stuff up?”

Eleanor, a New York Times bestseller, has also written Sex with Kings (a history of royal mistresses), Sex with the Queen (a look at queens’ love affairs), Mistress of the Vatican (a biography of an influential papal mistress), and a four-part YA fantasy series on Alexander the Great, called The Blood of Gods and Royals.

Eleanor is a frequent commentator in the media about royal scandals, and has hosted episodes for The History Channel, the National Geographic Channel, and America: Fact vs. Fiction. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Eleanor graduated with a degree in journalism from Towson University, studied languages in Europe, and for thirteen years worked for NATO’S Nations & Partners for Peace magazine. She is married and lives in McLean, VA with four very demanding cats

ABOUT THE NARRATOR

Joan Walker is a hugely experienced, extremely versatile professional voice artist. Her range extends from crisp concise technical narration, to inventing the perfect character voice for a bubble blowing elephant. It’s a voice that can be funny, friendly, sexy, warm, authoritative…or more.

As well as appearing in over 500 plays on BBC radio, Joan has voiced countless TV and radio adverts, read copious talking books some of which have won awards including the Golden Earphones from AudioFile USA plus the American Library Journal Best Audio of 2016, narrated an array of documentaries, created voices for animations and video games and is the voice of audio guides in some of the greatest art galleries and museums in the world.

Following a degree in maths and psychology Joan taught maths for 2 years to earn enough money to send herself to drama school. She did a 1 year post graduate diploma at Welsh College of Music and Drama, qualifying in July 1983 and starting her acting career immediately as part of the rep at the Dukes Theatre, Lancaster.

Her career includes theatre, television, film, lots of radio drama and poetry, much commercial voiceover work, talking books, narration for galleries and museums, and most recently a world tour of Mamma Mia! Lycra, platform boots and Abba songs for a whole year. Bliss.

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The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho by Paterson Joseph #historicalfiction #NetGalley @LittleBrownUK #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho by Paterson Joseph. I requested this one from NetGalley after spotting the cover first. This is a fictionalised account of an influential figure from history.

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An illuminating and original tale of a Black writer and composer Charles Ignatius Sancho. Recently named as a Great Black Briton and immortalised with a Google Doodle this brilliant story charts the life of the little-known maverick and his life in Regency London in a witty polemic, we have grown to love through many great 18th Century English writers. Candid and characterful, illuminating and illustrious this is a great opportunity to revive the history of an important, engaging historical character to a wide audience. 

MY REVIEW

The life of Charles Ignatio is a remarkable one, born on a slave ship and then sold into slavery before being taken into the care as an orphan. He was given to three sisters and was their pet. A chance meeting with Duke Montague gave him a start in life that benefited him later on. He was taught to read. In the Georgian era of the 1700s, it was not seen as a good thing for Black People to read as they were there to serve not to be educated.

Nevertheless, Charles Ignatius did learn, and it is through his diaries that the author has fictionalised the life of Charles Ignatius Sancho. I didn’t really know anything about this historical figure, but his name had recently cropped up while I was reading another book. As I had a copy of The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho it seemed the right time to pick it up and learn more.

While the author has fictionalised the life of Sancho, he has done research and references back to diaries and some of these have been included in this book. It tells of life starting with nothing and no parents and the conditions he lived in when he was between homes and also how he was perceived by different people at the time.

Sancho had built a reputation without realising it and therefore he would have been different and not just because of his skin colour. This builds up an image of Sancho as he tries to work out where he belongs. He is educated but this is a problem as he is Black, for this would be problematic, for others it made him better than them. As for Sancho he just wanted to live his life and eventually settle down to raise a family. Instead, he found himself in a sort of limbo, an outcast, a curiosity but one that started to make himself known and then worked on a way to be heard. In doing this he h found his vocation.

The author creates an interesting fictional account of this historical figure. It is done in a way that is interesting, but at times I did feel the story dragged a little. What this book did do for me though was introduce me to a historical figure who eventually found his voice and the courage to stand up to slavery. He was the first Black man to vote as at that time he was a man of property, and with the help of other Artists and Authors of the time became an ardent supporter of the Abolition of Slavery.

This is a book that I found really interesting, at times it did feel slow and occasionally repetitive. It is, however, a great starting point for further reading which is exactly what I did after reading this book. If you have an interest in historical figures then this is a good book to read, it tells the fictionalised account of a man born into slavery that then joins the movement to abolish slavery. Informative and interesting and one I would happily recommend.

I discovered more about Charles Ignatius Sancho on various websites. Here is a couple that I found interesting.

MUSEUM OF COLOUR

THE BRITISH LIBRARY

THE BRITISH LIBRARY – LETTERS, LETTER WRITING & EPISTOLARY NOVELS

The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho by Paterson Joseph

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The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval World by Shelley Puhak @HoZ_Books @jadedgwill #nonfiction #europe #historicalbiographies #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval World by Shelley Puhak. This is a brilliant non-fiction book that is such an addictive read. Two formidable women from history doing their utmost to survive and continue their hold on power.

My huge thanks to Jade Gwilliam at Head of Zeus for sending me a gorgeous hardback copy of this book. When it comes to history and books I prefer physical books simply because I can flick back and forth easier to look at maps, graphs and other stuff that is often included.

The remarkable, little-known story of two trailblazing women in the Early Middle Ages who wielded immense power, only to be vilified for daring to rule.

Brunhild was a Spanish princess, raised to be married off for the sake of alliance-building. Her sister-in-law Fredegund started out as a lowly palace slave. And yet—in the 6th-century Merovingian Empire, where women were excluded from noble succession and royal politics was a blood sport—these two iron-willed strategists reigned over vast realms for decades, changing the face of Europe.

The two queens commanded armies and negotiated with kings and popes. They formed coalitions and broke them, mothered children and lost them. They fought a years-long civil war—against each other. With ingenuity and skill, they battled to stay alive in the game of statecraft, and in the process laid the foundations of what would one day be Charlemagne’s empire. Yet after Brunhild and Fredegund’s deaths—one gentle, the other horrific—their stories were rewritten, their names consigned to slander and legend.

In The Dark Queens, award-winning writer Shelley Puhak sets the record straight. She resurrects two very real women in all their complexity, painting a richly detailed portrait of an unfamiliar time and striking at the roots of some of our culture’s stubbornest myths about female power. The Dark Queens offers proof that the relationships between women can transform the world.

MY REVIEW

The Dark Queens is a brilliantly researched book about two queens who helped and ruled parts of Europe in the mid – 500Ad.

Brunhild, born 543AD came from Spain to marry the Merovingian king, Sigibert in 567AD. Her sister-in-law Fredegund was a palace slave, who then went on to also become Queen.

The author has done a fascinating and fabulous job of bringing the lives of these two women to life. Mid 500AD is not a time when women have any power, the only power they have is that they bear sons. Their worth is in their fertility so how on earth did two women rise to become the most prominent rulers of their time?

Using manipulation, spies, poisons, assassins, being quick-witted, devious and above all willing to do what they must. At times doing what men would do.

This is an era when sibling rivalry, family squabbles and arguments can lead to all-out war. Europe is not settled and when kingdoms are split between brothers then there is always going to be sour grapes if one has more than another. The more land one has, the more the others want and so it is important to be aligned with the right side, although which side is the right side is always open to contention. Of course, sides can be swapped.

The author makes the history of Brunhild and Fredegund so easy to read, while there are dates and facts they are incorporated in such a way as to make this really enjoyable reading. Not lists of dates, or who was married to who and when this one killed that one and succeded the throne. But, instead, it follows an almost storylike style. Many times I actually forgot I was reading a factual or non-fiction history book as the author had made it so exciting. It does have a fiction feel and this makes it really accessible reading.

I discovered so many things about these two women and just how hard they worked to get where they got and also to remain there. I was aware of both women from history but didn’t know hardly anything about them.

As I read this I imagined Europe as a chessboard with the Queens, Kings and others being the pieces on a bloody and vicious board. Each one trying to outwit the other, trying to out-think, out-manoeuvre and predict where the other would next strike.

If you have an interest in European history, especially from Medieval times then you really need to pick up this book. It is the story of two women who became powerful leaders in a world of men. Quite an inspiring book and one that shows just what it took to be successful way back in the later part of 500AD.

It is a book I would definitely recommend, brilliant reading, well researched and also loads of notes, bibliography and the like at the end for further reading. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shelley Puhak is the author of The Dark Queens, which is her nonfiction debut. Her essays and articles have appeared in publications like The Atlantic, Creative Nonfiction, and Virginia Quarterly Review; been anthologized in Best American Travel Writing, and designated as Notable in four editions of Best American Essays.​

Shelley is also the author of three award-winning books of poetry. The most recent is Harbinger, a National Poetry Series selection, forthcoming with Ecco/HarperCollins in 2022.

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The Vanished Collection by Pauline Baer de Perignon translated by Natasha Lehrer @jadedgwill @HoZ_Books #nonfiction #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for The Vanished Collection by Pauline Baer de Perignon translated by Natasha Lehrer. This is a fabulous non-fiction book about Pauline’s search for her family’s art collection.

Massive thanks to Jade at Head of Zeus publishers for my hardback copy of this book. I answered a social media call for readers interested in non-fiction books.

It all started with a list of paintings. There, scribbled by a cousin she hadn’t seen for years, were the names of the masters whose works once belonged to her great-grandfather, Jules Strauss: Renoir, Monet, Degas, Tiepolo and more. Pauline Baer de Perignon knew little to nothing about Strauss, or about his vanished, precious art collection. But the list drove her on a frenzied trail of research in the archives of the Louvre and the Dresden museums, through Gestapo records, and to consult with Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano. What happened in 1942? And what became of the collection after Nazis seized her great-grandparents’ elegant Parisian apartment? The quest takes Pauline Baer de Perignon from the Occupation of France to the present day as she breaks the silence around the wrenching experiences her family never fully transmitted, and asks what art itself is capable of conveying over time.

MY REVIEW

This is a wonderful and a captivating book about a lost, or I should say, a Vanished Collection of artwork. The author, Pauline Baer de Perignon has written such an absorbing account of her research into her family and a missing art collection.

The collection belonged to Jules Strauss, a well-known collect0r of famous painters, artists and furniture collections. During her research that was initiated by her cousin, she discovers that there are paintings that were lost and have yet to be returned.

The paintings were taken during World War II. There were a lot of German collectors, Hitler himself was one and there were no qualms at the time as to how certain masterpieces ended up in the wrong hands. Trying to discover the provenance of stolen and looted paintings is the only way of returning them to their rightful owners. This is a difficult and long process, and not guaranteed.

The author of this book has written a story of her family’s history as she tracks down information about lost artefacts. It brings several things to light and also makes you realise how things have changed over the years. Documents are lost, destroyed or still need to be catalogued.

This is such an absorbing book to read, it is a fabulous journey into a family’s history and through to its present. This is one for those who like their history and also mysteries as it does become the author’s challenge to piece together all the information she discovered.

After finishing this book I immediately went to the internet to search for the paintings mentioned and also for Jules Strauss himself. This was great as I was able to see the artwork. A brilliant book and one I would definitely recommend.

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Murder: The Biography by Kate Morgan #NetGalley #nonfiction #crime #history #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for Murder: The Biography by Kate Morgan. I requested this e-book from the publisher Harper Collins, via NetGalley. It was a book I had planned to read over the summer! Better late than never.

Totally gripping and brilliantly told, Murder: The Biography is a gruesome and utterly captivating portrait of the legal history of murder.

The stories and the people involved in the history of murder are stranger, darker and more compulsive than any crime fiction.

There’s Richard Parker, the cannibalized cabin boy whose death at the hands of his hungry crewmates led the Victorian courts to decisively outlaw a defence of necessity to murder. Dr Percy Bateman, the incompetent GP whose violent disregard for his patient changed the law on manslaughter. Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in England in the 1950s, played a crucial role in changes to the law around provocation in murder cases. And Archibald Kinloch, the deranged Scottish aristocrat whose fratricidal frenzy paved the way for the defence of diminished responsibility. These, and many more, are the people – victims, killers, lawyers and judges, who unwittingly shaped the history of that most grisly and storied of laws.

Join lawyer and writer Kate Morgan on a dark and macabre journey as she explores the strange stories and mysterious cases that have contributed to UK murder law. The big corporate killers; the vengeful spouses; the sloppy doctors; the abused partners; the shoddy employers; each story a crime and each crime a precedent that has contributed to the law’s dark, murky and, at times, shocking standing 

MY REVIEW


This is a really interesting book to read, it documents the history of murder from when it became a recognised crime to what we see today in courts of law in the UK.

There is quite a long introduction that gives a glimpse into the research that has been brought to this book. The author, a lawyer herself, has covered many aspects and crimes to give quite a comprehensive and detailed background as to what constitutes murder. She differentiates between murder and manslaughter and how manslaughter has various differences when it comes to the courts.

This is a well laid out book, there are little stories and snippets of news from the previous centuries to add evidence. These are also really interesting in their own right and could lead you onto further reading if you were interested in learning more.

I really enjoyed this book, it is quite serious but at times there is some humour to it especially when it comes to some of the documented accounts. This is a book that will appeal to fans of history, criminal history and law in the UK.

I enjoyed this and I would happily recommend it. 

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The Gathering Storm – (The Sturmtaucher Trilogy #1) by Alan Jones @alanjonesbooks #TheGatheringStorm #histfic #mustread #bookreview

I am absolutely delighted to share my review today for an amazing book. The Gathering Storm – (The Sturmtaucher Trilogy #1) by Alan Jones is a book that has completely blown me away. If you have an interest in history and historical fiction in the lead up to WWII in Germany, then you really do want to look this book up. It is a book I cannot recommend highly enough.

Book 1 in the Sturmtaucher Trilogy: a powerful and compelling story of two families torn apart by evil.

‘Kiel, Northern Germany, 1933. A naval city, the base for the German Baltic fleet, and the centre for German sailing, the venue for the upcoming Olympic regatta in 1936.

The Kästners, a prominent Military family, are part of the fabric of the city, and its social, naval and yachting circles. The Nussbaums are the second generation of their family to be in service with the Kästners as domestic staff, but the two households have a closer bond than most.

As Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party claw their way to power in 1933, life has never looked better for families like the Kästners. There is only one problem.

The Nussbaums are Jews.

The Sturmtaucher Trilogy documents the devastating effect on both families of the Nazis’ hateful ideology and the insidious erosion of the rights of Germany’s Jews.

When Germany descends ever deeper into dictatorship, General Erich Kästner tries desperately to protect his employees, and to spirit them to safety.

As the country tears itself apart, the darkness which envelops a nation threatens not only to destroy two families, but to plunge an entire continent into war.’

You can buy a copy of this brilliant book HERE – at the time of writing up this post, the book is at a ridiculously low price!!

My Review…

Since finishing this book two days ago, I am only now ready to pick up another book. The Gathering Storm is an amazing read, it has left me desperate to continue the other two books in this trilogy.

I have read books from different perspectives of World War II, but I think this is the first time I have come across a book that explores various different perspectives and that has so much excellent research.

The story begins in the years prior to the start of the war. Hitler is only just coming back into the public eye. He is making some speeches that are catching peoples attention. At this point, he is focusing on Germany’s lost power and how the Treaty of Versailles has made life for those living in Germany harder than it should be. Obviously being based on history, we know where the story is heading.

The Kastner’s are a German family, they have a good social standing. Erich is a respected General and his wife moves in favourable social circles. Their three children have good educations and have promising futures. They employ a German family to help with the house, children and domestics. The Nussbaum’s have been with the Kastner’s for two generations, they are German Jews.

As Hitler’s National Social Party garner more support the story and the perspectives really come into their own. Not all German’s are with Hitler and his subtle indoctrinated messages, others eye the changes with a critical and sceptical eye. No one at this point really understands what will happen in the coming years.

This is such an amazing book to read, I have read it over several days as I wanted to be able to absorb it properly rather than just race through it. This has meant the books has nagged at me and got under my skin. There are obvious emotions that I felt with the book, the obvious disbelief that people will blindly follow and completely change because someone has the ability to talk them into it. The obvious horror as living conditions and lives change. The profiteering from the pain and suffering of others and also the dictatorial direction the country was going in.

I realise that I have not spoken too much about the story, but I sincerely believe that this is a book that the synopsis that does a great job of doing what it is supposed to do. It worked so well for me, the synopsis lured me in and the author took up the reins and led me into the lives of the two main families. A story that shows different perspectives, treatments, living conditions, and how one man could bring so much destruction, distrust and abhorrent behaviours out.

This is a stunning book that I cannot recommend highly enough. If you have an interest in history, WWII, The Holocaust, and persecution then you really need to pick this one up. It is a fabulous and important story that at 800 pages long was simply an amazing read. It absolutely blew me away!

About the Author…

Alan Jones is a Scottish author with three gritty crime stories to his name, the first two set in Glasgow, the third one based in London. He has now switched genres, and his WW2 trilogy will be published from August to December 2021. It is a Holocaust story set in Northern Germany.


He is married with four grown up children and four wonderful grandchildren.


He has recently retired as a mixed-practice vet in a small Scottish coastal town in Ayrshire and is one of the coxswains on the local RNLI lifeboat. He makes furniture in his spare time, and maintains and sails a 45-year-old yacht, cruising in the Irish Sea and on the beautiful west coast of Scotland. He loves reading, watching films and cooking. He still plays football despite being just the wrong side of sixty.


His crime novels are not for the faint-hearted, with some strong language, violence, and various degrees of sexual content. The first two books also contain a fair smattering of Glasgow slang.


He is one of the few self-published authors to be given a panel at the Bloody Scotland crime fiction festival in Stirling and has done two pop-up book launches at previous festivals.


He has spent the last five years researching and writing the Sturmtaucher Trilogy.


To find out more, please visit his WEBSITE TWITTER

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The Silk Roads: The Extraordinary History that created your World – Children’s Edition by Peter Frankopan #audiobook #20booksofsummer @NetGalley @BloomsburyUK #audioreview

I am delighted to share an audio book review today for The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan. I have this book in hardback and have been meaning t read it for so long. When I saw there was an audio version available via NetGalley I immediately requested a copy. My thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for granting my request to listen and review.

This is a children’s version aimed at those around 11 years and up. A quick listen at just over two and a half hours long.

Set your sails east with this stunningly original new history of the world. Peter Frankopan explores the connections made by people, trade, disease, war, religion, adventure, science and technology in this extraordinary book about how the east married the west with a remarkable voyage at its heart – the journey along the Silk Roads.


From ancient world laws laid down by King Hammurabi and the mighty Persian empire, to terrifying Huns, the rise of Europe, two world wars and politics today, The Silk Roads moves through time and history sewing together the threads from different peoples, empires and continents into a phenomenal history of the globe.


With stories from each and every corner of society, Frankopan’s magnificent retelling of his literary triumph The Silk Roads, sumptuously illustrated by Neil Packer, is a must-have world history.

My Review…

I have a hardback version of this book but as yet have not read it. When I saw there was an audio version I thought this might be the ideal time to listen instead. I was aware that this is a version that is abridged and aimed at a teen audience and so shorter in length than the actual book.

This narration is excellent to listen to, my only issue was that it finished far too quickly! I was really enjoying the book and I could have listened for a lot longer.

This is the story of the Silk Road, from the first recognition and use of this route to modern-day use. Not only does the author deal with important events on the Silk Road, but he also uses these events to mention other events in the world. This works really well as there are various reference points so you are aware of what else was going on at the time.

So while this is primarily about the Silk Road it is also a world history book. Cross-referencing like this means you get glimpses of social events, cultures, histories. The author explores how political decisions, trade decisions are all part of how we see different countries and their rulers in the world. How money and politics are more important than the people.

Condensing world history down into this version is excellent. It makes this a fascinating listen for those who like history but want a more manageable version. After listening to this I do think I will be picking up my physical copy of the book and also the follow-on book.

A fabulous listen and one I would definitely recommend. 

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Alexandria: The Quest for the Lost City by Dr Edmund Richardson #nonfiction #NetGalley @BloomsburyBooks #history #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for Alexandria: The Quest for the Lost City by Dr Edmund Richardson. There is something about ancient and lost cities that does interest me so when I saw this book on NetGalley I did request it.

For centuries the city of Alexandria Beneath the Mountains was a meeting point of East and West. Then it vanished. In 1833 it was discovered in Afghanistan by the unlikeliest person imaginable: Charles Masson, deserter, traveller, pilgrim, doctor, archaeologist, spy, and eventually one of the most respected scholars in Asia, and the greatest of nineteenth-century travellers.

On the way into one of history’s most extraordinary stories, he would take tea with kings, travel with holy men and become the master of a hundred disguises; he would see things no westerner had glimpsed before and few have glimpsed since. He would spy for the East India Company and be suspected of spying for Russia at the same time, for this was the era of the Great Game, when imperial powers confronted each other in these staggeringly beautiful lands. Masson discovered tens of thousands of pieces of Afghan history, including the 2,000 year old Bimaran golden casket, which has upon it the earliest known face of the Buddha. He would be offered his own kingdom; he would change the world, and the world would destroy him.

This is a wild journey through nineteenth-century India and Afghanistan, with impeccably researched storytelling that shows us a world of espionage and dreamers, ne’er-do-wells and opportunists, extreme violence both personal and military, and boundless hope. At the edge of empire, amid the deserts and the mountains, it is the story of an obsession passed down the centuries.

Pre-order Link – Amazon UK

My Review…

I am rather partial to picking up the odd history book and Alexandria appealed to me when I read the synopsis. That first paragraph referring to a man who, I initially thought was a bit of a rogue, has quite a remarkable life.

Charles Masson decided that he didn’t want to be in the East India Company, years of bad pay, awful work and no chance of raising his position basically up and walks out. Unbeknownst to him, this would be the start of a very remarkable life.

The author has got a wonderful way of approaching the story of Masson and has made it very addictive. The story charts what is known of Masson, the people he met, the politics of the time as well as the East India Company. There are loads of references and these have been listed at the end of the book so it makes it much easier reading.

I have to say that the author changed my opinion of Masson, originally I thought him a bit of a rogue, this then changed to him being a man obsessed with finding Alexandria beneath the mountains. To finally feeling quite sorry for him.

His quest to find one of the cities called Alexandria becomes all-consuming. He travels, talks to people, spends all his money and on occasion risks his life. He is robbed beaten, imprisoned, starved and on the brink of death but still, his pursuit continued.

Yes, this is a non-fiction book, and yet it felt like a really fascinating action and adventure read. This is very much down to the skill of the author as he has created such a readable historical account. I adored reading this and it has also led me on to my own further reading about Masson and Alexander.

One for history fans, such an informative book that was great reading. 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.

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