Sunday, 18 February 2018

#BlogTour for Library Miscellany

Welcome to my blog for the final stop on the blog tour for #ALibraryMiscellaney by Clare Cock-Starkey.

I have been a fan of libraries for longer than I care to remember. I visit my local one in Wimborne most weekends and normally have a book or two to collect or drop back and always look at the shelves to see if there is anything that catches my eye.

This is not the only library in Wimborne though, the other is one of England's very first public libraries, second only to Chetham. It is located in the beautiful 12th Century Minister at the top of a spiral staircase in the room that in the reformation housed the treasury; now it's treasure lies on the pages. First opened in 1686, the oldest book in the collection dates back to 1343 and explains how to avoid spiritual pitfalls. The 150 books in the library were open to all, but the major donor, Roger Gillingham, wanted them to be available to the 'better class of person in the town'. The books in the collection were seen as so valuable at the time that he insisted that they were chained up. It is the second largest chained library in the country. You can still visit it and there are more details on the website here:

Clare's book is a little book full of gems of information and details about libraries from around the world. 

But before my review here is an extract kindly provided by Clare.

My Review:

I have been a fan of libraries for longer than I care to remember. I visit my local one in most weekends and normally have a book or two to collect or drop back and always look at the shelves to see if there is anything that catches my eye.

This sister volume to The Book Lovers' Miscellany picks up the same baton as that book. It is one that will have you retiring to the closest comfortable chair to uncover the delights and secrets of the libraries of the world. In here we will learn who was the first librarian, which library in the UK loans the most books each year and just what a legal deposit library is. There is a potted history of the library from the earliest over 2500 years ago to the most recent digital libraries. There are the rules of some of the world's most famous libraries where you can discover which one states that you cannot carry a gun in (!!!)

It is shocking I know, but there are libraries out there that don't contain books, however, they do contain a variety of other objects from seeds to smells, art and there is even a library of magic. We learn who wanted the library stock for themselves and were caught stealing the maps and books from some of the most famous libraries in the world, and those who have borrowed the books then forgot to bring them back for quite a while. I'm quite excited by the Future Library that Katie Peterson has created, she is collecting 100 books by 100 different authors and these will not be published until 2114.

There is some overlap between this book and The Book Lovers' Miscellany, but this is still a cornucopia of snippets, facts and figures about libraries that bibliophiles will treasure.

There's more. Clare was kind enough to send me a copy of the Book Lovers Miscellany too. 

My Review:

In case you haven't worked it out yet, I love books. I even like reading books about books too, and when I was given an opportunity to read The Book Lovers’ Miscellany I jumped at the chance. This small volume is packed to the covers with details and facts and stories about books, authors and significant events from the world of literature.

If you want a list of publishers who declined the books that went onto break all the sales records, which parts of animals have graced the pages and the what the largest and smallest books ever made were about and the texts that have been translated the most, then this is a really good place to start. You can find out who are the youngest authors, who are the most prolific and who left unfinished manuscripts, as well as finding out what the colours of the original Penguin paperbacks were for. Not sure what colophon and incunabule mean? The answers are in here as well as finding out what books other than science fiction contains wormholes.

This is a delightfully written and produced book that is a treasure trove of information. Perfect for anyone who has the slightest interest in books, authors and reading, it is short so will take almost no time to read spend a few moments to learn a new fact every time you open it.

You can find Clare on the web here: 
On Twitter Here @nonfictioness
If you want to go and hear her speak about both books she will be at the Oxford Literary Festival on March 20th at 12pm:

Buy the book at your local bookshop; that way you will support the author, the bookseller and the publisher with one purchase. Thank you for stopping by. 

#BlogTour for All her Starry Fates

Welcome to my blog as the final stop on the blog tour for All her Starry Fates. Thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the tour and for sending a copy of this book to read

Normally my go-to reading is non-fiction as for me it can entertain and educate at the same time, but it is nice to stretch the mind and indulge in something else every now and again so I do occasionally read poetry. In the past, I have read Kathleen Jamie and Carol Ann Duffy, and Edward Ragg was generous enough to send me his two published works that I am intending to read later this year.

However, back to this small volume. Lady Grey sets out to explore just how the otherworldly relates to the every day, with short and sometimes abstract poems about subjects that are close to her heart, so we have musings and prose on subjects as varied as love and belonging, books and freedom, magic and the intimacy of a partnership.

There were poems in here that I liked a lot, they spoke to me on many different levels and had elements that appealed deep in my psyche. The prose is sparse, as she seeks to elicit meaning from the simplicity of the words rather than the complexity of language. Some of the poems are quite raw as they have been written from the heart. Some evoke the natural world, and other venture into otherworldly realms. There were a number of other poems I found harder to fathom, but that is as much my fault as they do need to be read and read to sink in. There are some lovely verses in here and it is one to return to another time.

Poetry has a way of reaching into your very soul that fiction doesn't always seem to manage and this is a collection that has the capacity to do just that. 

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Review: Owl Sense

Owl Sense Owl Sense by Miriam Darlington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Owls have fascinated and terrified people for thousands of years. These raptors, most of whom hunt at night or at the witching hour of dusk have been seen as the harbingers of doom or symbols of wisdom. Nowadays science has explained just how specialised these beautiful birds are. They use their wise looking faces to focus the minutest sound into their binaural hearing, how their feathers have evolved to ensure that they are utterly silent when flying.

She could hear owls calling from her bedroom window and wanted to see if she could spot them as they went looking for food each night, and discovering her local owls sparked something inside her. Initially, Darlington was intending to head out onto the moors and woods to find the five species of owl in Britain, which are the Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Little Owl and the Short and Long-Eared Owls, but like with the otters in her previous book these elusive birds became an obsession too.

This fascination with the owls of the UK takes a step up when she finds herself booking a flight to Kikinda in Serbia to see the thousands of Long-Eared Owls that visit the town. Now Darlington is completely hooked and trips to southern Spain, France and Finland are arranged to see the Pygmy Owls and Snowy Owls.

Like a lot of natural history books at the moment, there is a personal element too, and this is no different as she tries to balance work and family life and they find out that her son Benji has a condition that affects the decisions that he can make with his life. It is full of fascinating details and facts and is a touching book about those most elusive and silent of raptors and the way that Darlington becomes besotted by them; if you liked Otter Country then this should be on your reading list.

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Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Review: Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight

Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight by Joe Pappalardo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Space travel was one once the sole domain of governments; they were the only ones who could afford the multi-million pond budgets and the long timescales for design, development and testing, as well as the risks associated with launching expensive rockets full of very explosive fuel. The once great NASA now has to buy space and payloads on rockets from ESA and the Russians

Whilst it is no longer a race amongst countries for space, we now have a plethora of companies vying for government and private companies money as well as those trying to start the space tourism industry. There are some big players getting involved, Bezos with his Blue Origin company, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic. They have all been pouring vast sums into this industry as the sky is the limit for potential growth and profits.

Joe Pappalardo has had a fascination with space flight for a long time and has been fortunate (or lucky) enough to see many launches not only in America but at various sites around the world. As well as the main contenders who are developing their own rockets there are a large number of other companies that want to hitch a ride before the rocket goes, and it is these people that Pappalardo travels to see and talk too. He talks to those with the money, the rocket scientists making them work, the states that are investing in the infrastructure for their own spaceports. Even though technology is improving, it is still a dangerous game, there are stories of failed projects, huge explosions as rockets fail even before launch and sadly those that have had their lives extinguished pushing to the future.

I finished this on the day that Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon Heavy Lifter blasted off from Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral and put a car into space. I loved the Don't Panic message on the screen on the dashboard, but most impressive was the return of the boosters bask to Earth, landing in perfect synchronicity. This is a really good introduction to the current state of space technology and those seeing it as just another investment opportunity. There are going to be few winners and lots of losers in this very expensive game. One day this will all be history; but at this very moment, it is the future.

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Monday, 12 February 2018

Review: Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall Hadrian's Wall by Adrian Goldsworthy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Hadrian's Wall and the associated forts are the largest Roman ruins visible in the world. It is 80 miles long and reaches from the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea across hills and dales to the banks of the Tyne on the North Sea and marked the northern frontier of the Roman Empire. It wasn't the only wall built to be the northernmost frontier, that honour goes to the Antonine Wall. This was started in 142AD and abandoned around 20 years later when legions were moved back to the more substantial Hadrian's Wall. Long thought to be a barrier keeping out the Picts and Ancient Britons that lived north of this wall, it turns out to have a much deeper and complicated history.

Adrian Goldsworthy brings us up right up to on the latest hypothesis' and theories of Hadrian's Wall, considering how it functioned, how it was built and whether it served a military function or it was just a demonstration of power to the marauding tribes. By drawing on the recent archaeological discoveries, in particular, the details gleaned from the tablets discovered at Vindolanda, he pieces together a vivid picture of how life would be there for a soldier on the furthest outpost from Rome. It is a beautifully produced book, full of maps, photos and images of what we know of life in the UK 2000 years ago; definitely a book for any lover of Roman history.

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Sunday, 11 February 2018

Books Acquired this week

Thank you to Elliot and Thompson and the British library for these
And two from the library too

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Wellcome Book Prize

Another excellent longlist for the Wellcome Book Prize which consists of:

'Stay With Me' by Aỳbámi Adébáỳ

'The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s quest to transform the grisly world of Victorian medicine' by Lindsey Fitzharris

'In Pursuit of Memory: The fight against Alzheimer’s' by Joseph Jebelli

'Plot 29: A memoir' by Allan Jenkins

'The White Book' by Han Kang translated by Deborah Smith

'With the End in Mind: Dying, death and wisdom in an age of denial' by Kathryn Mannix

'Midwinter Break' by Bernard MacLaverty

'To Be a Machine: Adventures among cyborgs, utopians, hackers, and the futurists solving the modest problem of death' by Mark O’Connell

'I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen brushes with death' by Maggie O’Farrell

'Mayhem: A memoir' by Sigrid Rausing

'Behave: The biology of humans at our best and worst' by Robert Sapolsky

'The Vaccine Race: How scientists used human cells to combat killer viruses' by Meredith Wadman

I have read two of them! Quite a few look equally good.