Strangeways: A Prison Officer’s Story by Neil Samworth #audiobook #nonfiction #bookreview

I am still catching up with reviews from the end of last year. Today’s review is for Strangeway’s: A Prison Officers Story by Neil Samworth. I listened to this from Audible and what a brilliant book it is to listen to.

Neil ‘Sam’ Samworth spent eleven years working as a prison officer in HMP Manchester, aka Strangeways. A tough Yorkshireman with a soft heart, Sam had to deal with it all – gangsters and gangbangers, terrorists and psychopaths, addicts and the mentally ill. Men who should not be locked up and men who should never be let out.

Strangeways is a shocking and at times darkly funny account of life in a high security prison. Sam tackles cell fires and self-harmers, and goes head to head with some of the most dangerous men in the country. He averts a Christmas Day riot after turkey is taken off the menu and replaced by fish curry, and stands up to officers who abuse their position. He describes being attacked by prisoners, and reveals the problems caused by radicalization and the drugs flooding our prisons.

As staffing cuts saw Britain’s prison system descend into crisis, the stress of the job – the suicides, the inhumanity of the system, and one assault too many – left Sam suffering from PTSD. This raw, searingly honest memoir is a testament to the men and women of the prison service and the incredibly difficult job we ask them to do.

MY REVIEW

WOW! I have been listening to this audio version and it is such an amazing book to listen to. The author tells his story as he worked in prisons and especially his time at Strangeways in Manchester as an officer. The narrator is amazing and his voice is perfect for this style of the book.

Samworth tells how he joined the prison service, the roles he had, his upbringing and right the way through until he left. There are some really awful stories and what he has seen and how he has dealt with the many people he has come across. He comes across as a tough bloke, but also fair. He has had some dangerous run-ins with inmates and injuries he has suffered.

He has seen problems with the prison service over the years and he does mention how he has suffered from PTSD, this is something that I imagine is rife among staff in this service. The people they are mixing with are criminals, some are highly aggressive, drug dealers, and gang members, some are psychopaths and then some are just evil. He explains how prisoners use various tactics to incite riots or to get out of their cells.

When I first saw this title I was interested to get a first-hand account of what it is like to work in a high-security prison. I know there are TV shows, but I wanted something a bit more and this book definitely gave me that. A chance to get behind the scenes in a no holds barred style of the book. There are many TV shows and documentaries about prisoners and criminals but there is very little about the officers.

This is a tough book to listen to but my goodness it was addictive. This is one for those who like to learn more about people and their jobs. Tough, gripping, sombre and one I would highly recommend.

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

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.

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

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.

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

Go Here Instead – The Alternative Travel List by D. K. Eyewitness #nonfiction #travel #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for Go Here Instead – The Alternative Travel List by D. K. Eyewitness. D. K. Witness are a well-known publisher of travel guides, and D.K is known for their many other non-fiction books. Their titles are often found in most non-fiction genres and are a good intro to topics and interests.

Bursting with beautiful photography, this alternative bucket list takes some of the world’s best-known sights, experiences and destinations – everything from over-visited national parks to crowded museums – and reveals more than 100 fascinating alternatives.

Planning a trip to Rome’s Colosseum? Why not try the ancient amphitheatre in Nimes instead. A visit to the Grand Canyon is on everyone’s bucket list – but how about adding Namibia’s spectacular Fish River Canyon to yours? And while Japan’s cherry blossoms are hard to beat, the seasonal display of hydrangeas in the Azores is just as beautiful.

Featuring expert advice and practical tips, Go Here Instead will open your eyes to a wealth of new, and more sustainable, travel ideas. We’ve organized the book by types of trip, so whether you’re a wannabe art critic, an outdoor adventurer or you’re into your history, this epic bucket list has an alternative adventure for you. So, why not give Machu Picchu a break and travel beyond the crowds. Go Here Instead: The Alternative Travel List is your ticket to the trip of a lifetime.

Inside Go Here Instead: The Alternative Travel List you will find:

– 100 entries each focusing on an alternative to a well-known destination/sight/experience
– Stunning photography throughout with colour-coded maps and chapters
 Stylized locator maps pinpointing the alternative sights, experiences and destinations.
– A beautifully designed gift book that showcases inspiring alternatives to the world’s most popular sights, experiences and destinations.

MY REVIEW

I love to travel vicariously and especially to other countries. I don’t have a passport so reading books and looking at photos is the next best thing. I know it isn’t the same as actually being there in person though.

This is a lovely hardback book and it is great for perusing through, discovering new places and learning new things. This book is laid out in sections after a brief introduction it then goes on to the sections –

Ancient & Historical Sights
Festivals & Parties
Great Journeys
Architectural Marvels
Natural Wonders
Art & Culture
Captivating Cities

This is then followed by the INdex and the Acknowledgements.

Let me give you a couple of examples –
The alternative to Everest Base Camp in Nepal is to visit Annapurna in Nepal.
The alternative to the Sagrada Familia in Spain is to visit the Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro.

From these two examples, you can see that not all the alternatives are in the same country. Now for some who are planning visits to certain countries, I could see this being a bit annoying, but for me, it makes it really interesting. It is showing me other places that have similar features, conditions, terrains or architecture.

Each page has a photo that shows a particular feature of the place mentioned. These are clear and look great as they are accompanied by basic information about the area, region or history. There are suggestions for other similar things for further research or reading as well.

I really like how this is laid out and it makes a great book for flicking through. I think this is more of a coffee table book and it would make a great talking point for people that have actually travelled or those that want to compile a wish list. While I may not have a passport I do have a bucket list of places I would like to see if money were no object.

Lovely book, with loads of information and one I would happily recommend.

ABOUT D.K. EYEWITNESS

At DK Eyewitness, we believe in the power of discovery. We make it easy for you to explore your dream destinations. DK Eyewitness travel guides have been helping travellers to make the most of their breaks since 1993. Filled with expert advice, striking photography and detailed illustrations, our highly visual DK Eyewitness guides will get you closer to your next adventure. We publish guides to more than 200 destinations, from pocket-sized city guides to comprehensive country guides. Named Top Guidebook Series at the 2020 Wanderlust Reader Travel Awards, we know that wherever you go next, your DK Eyewitness travel guides are the perfect companion. 

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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 Rules of Everything by Richard Templar @BookPublicistUK #nonfiction #selfhelp #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for The Rules of Everything by Richard Templar. I was offered a copy of this book to review by The Book Publicist and the brief synopsis did interest me. I am not one who usually reads this style of book, but I have found the odd one in the past quite helpful. My views are unbiased and are my own.

Whether it’s at work or in their relationships, as parents or managing their money, the Rules have described how happy and successful people behave for over 25 years. The Rules of Everything contains the top 100 rules from the bestselling Rules books, as voted for by readers, so you can follow the common-sense advice on how to be happier and more successful.

MY REVIEW

This is a book that is not something I would normally read, so I come to it with no expectations and previous knowledge of the author or his books. This book is a collection of the Top 10 Rules from several books that the author has written. The books cover many aspects of a person’s life and how they can live it better.

The sections in this book are – The Rules of- Work, Management, Life, Wealth, Parenting, Love, to Break, of People, Thinking, Living Well and a shorter one on Knowing When to Break the Rules.

As you can see this list of topics does cover a vast array of items that are intrinsic to the way a person lives. The author gives tips, advice, scenarios and ways of being better, more successful, richer, happier and so on.

While I did find a lot of things in this book to be useful and also a lot is common sense, there were also certain things that really jarred with me. I could see what the author was getting at but some of the things didn’t feel right. But this is advice and it is up to an individual as to whether they want to take it or leave it. For me the work and life balance are important, I have a balance between the two that I am happy with, maybe it is because I am older and have had the experience of working, having children, running a house and balancing all sorts of things that at I have naturally prioritised things.

I just found that some of the sections were more relevant or more appealing to me. I could use some of the advice and techniques and this is also a book that makes a good introduction to this author. It is ideal for then going on to other books of his for a more comprehensive read on certain topics that would be more relevant to yourself.

This is a guide and it can be used as a basis to work through so that you can define your own set of rules. Rules are something that can help keep you on track as you work towards a target or goal, they can help you prioritise and help you focus. I do think that some of the rules were just not for me, I am in my 50s though and I could see them being of more benefit to me quite a number of years earlier.

The book is laid out well, each section has an intro and then goes through the Top 10 tips with examples and at the end of each tip there is a summary, it is almost like a mantra.

This book is quite practical, it is a good starting point and if you like to pick up new techniques and see other sides to life and living then this is one for you. I did enjoy reading it and for the most part, this has some good advice and can help you with coping strategies. Overall a good one and one I would happily recommend.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Templar is the author of the international bestselling Rules books. Over 2 million people around the world have enjoyed and now play by Richard Templar’s Rules. The complete list of titles is as follows: The Rules of Life, The Rules of Work, The Rules of Management, The Rules of Wealth, The Rules of Parenting, The Rules of Love, The Rules to Break, The Rules of People, The Rules of Thinking, and The Rules of Living Well.

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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

Faces We Love Shanghai @realfaceswelove @Lovebookstours #FacesWeLoveTour #nonfiction #photography #Shanghai #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for Faces We Love Shanghai by Authors and Curators – Derek Muhs & Marisa Tarin.

This is a gorgeous non-fiction book and I was fortunate to receive a hardback copy. The book is a series of portraits capturing the people of Shanghai in their everyday lives.

My huge thanks to Kelly at Love Book Tours for my spot on the Blog Tour and for arranging my copy of this beautiful book.

Go beyond the glitz, glamour, and bustle of one of the most populated cities on the planet and discover the real heartbeat and soul of Shanghai—its people.

Through this collection of 100 mostly full-colour photographs captured by a team of passionate artists and photographers, Faces We Love Shanghai takes you on a journey through the city’s narrow alleyways and secluded backstreets. Each photograph reveals an untold story, showcasing the beauty and joy behind the everyday moments and people that are often overlooked.

Also featured in the book are photographs of a community working together as a team, supporting one another in a time of tremendous stress and anxiety, as COVID-19 swept the globe and the world pointed its finger at China. In a world divided, this stunning photography book cuts through the language barriers and cultural divide to bring you a work of pure craftsmanship—a collection that shows the true beauty of capturing people as they really are.

Highlighting the raw and honest moments of life in Shanghai that are at times heartbreaking and hopeful, serendipitous and authentic, Faces We Love Shanghai is a love letter to a city visited by many but truly seen by few. 

MY REVIEW

A PICTURE TELLS A THOUSAND WORDS…

This is a gorgeous book to sit and look through. It is a snapshot of people in Shanghai. If you are a fan of people watching, photography, composition and gorgeous natural-looking portraits then you are going to love this book.

I have been looking at this book over the past couple of three weeks. I did initially go through each picture when it first arrived, but then I have taken the time to stop and look at each one. Each picture is lovely, whether it is a photo of a young or old person, one looking at the camera or not, whether dressed up in finery or work clothing, the photos are a snapsh0ot of the people who live and work in a very populous city.

Each photograph has a short snappy caption for example – ” ‘ella, ‘ella” or “safe” I did like the captions “I got ya” and “Got more sunlight now” and I adored the photographs that went with them. In fact, I thought every picture was a lovely one, some I obviously liked more than others, but there isn’t a single one I didn’t like. Sometimes the simple caption actually made the picture more poignant.

This is a gorgeous and stunning book, it is one I will continue to look through. Looking through the images actually gives me a positive vibe. So well laid out, with a mix of black and white as well as colour. Different styles and angles. All in all a wonderful book giving a glimpse into the lives and people of Shanghai. It is a book I would definitely recommend.

SOME OF THE GORGEOUS IMAGES FROM THE BOOK…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Derek Muhs is an entrepreneur and has been investing in real estate, health care and media. Derek was a producer on two award-winning documentaries and then founded Human Touch Media. As a world traveller and 25-year volunteer, he enjoys capturing the stories of everyday people through visual storytelling. In 2022 he launched Faces We Love, a private collection of photographs capturing one of his favourite cities in the world, Shanghai. Human Touch Media projects have been featured on Netflix, along with international film and photography festivals including TriBeCa.

Check out the other stops on the Tour…

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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.

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