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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog SHOOT THE MOON: AN ALTERNATIVE GAME OF HEARTS by Bella Cassidy (@BellaMoonShoot) Weddings, laughs, tears, romance and some hard-truths #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you a bit of romance today. I don’t do that often, but I couldn’t resist this one. Blame Rosie.

Shoot the Moon by Bella Cassidy

Shoot the Moon: An alternative game of hearts by Bella Cassidy 

Tassie loves many things: her friends, her job, her garden. Even her first boyfriend. But there’s a kind of love she just can’t find.

Until, in losing everything, she sees what she needed most was there all along.

Sometimes it’s not the person you need to forget, but the person you need to forgive.

Shoot the Moon is the sweetest of bittersweet novels, combining two very different love stories. One of which will probably make you cry.

Tassie Morris is everyone’s favourite wedding photographer, famous for her photos of offbeat ceremonies and alternative brides. Yet commitment is proving impossible for Tassie herself, who cannot forget her first love.

When she’s sent to photograph a ceremony on Schiehallion – the Fairy Hill of the Scottish Caledonians – she meets Dan, who might be the one to make her forget her past. That is, until a family crisis begins a chain of events that threaten to destroy not only Tassie’s love life, but her entire career.

Set in a colourful world of extraordinary weddings, Shoot the Moon explores the complexities of different kinds of love: romantic love, mother love, friendship. And, ultimately, the importance of loving yourself.

“If there’s someone in your life whom you’ve never quite got over – perhaps this book could help explain one of the reasons why.”

 https://www.amazon.com//dp/B09D2DHZYG/

https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B09D2DHZYG/

https://www.amazon.es//dp/B09D2DHZYG/

Autor Bella Cassidy

About the author:

Bella Cassidy grew up in the West Country – reading contemporary romances, romances, historical novels, literary fiction… Just about anything she could lay her hands on. After a few years in London, working as a waitress and in PR and advertising, she went to Sussex to read English – despite admitting in her pre-interview that this rather sociable period in her life had seen her read only one book in six months: a Jilly Cooper.

She’s had an eclectic range of jobs: including in the world of finance; social housing fundraising; a stint at the Body Shop – working as Anita Roddick’s assistant; as a secondary school teacher, then teaching babies to swim: all over the world.

She’s done a lot of research for writing a weddings romance, having had two herself. For her first she was eight months pregnant – a whale in bright orange – and was married in a barn with wood fires burning. The second saw her in elegant Edwardian silk, crystals and lace, teamed with yellow wellies and a cardigan. Both were great fun; but it was lovely having her daughter alongside, rather than inside her at the second one.

https://www.amazon.com/Bella-Cassidy/e/B09D3CZX2M/

My review:

I write this as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity to read and review an early ARC copy of this romantic novel.

I am familiar with the name of the author but not being a big reader of romantic novels (I read the odd one and usually enjoy them, but in general prefer other genres and sometimes read them to take a break or when I need something different to my usual read) I hadn’t read one of hers yet. My mother is a big fan of shows about weddings and wedding dresses, and I thought the job of the protagonist promised some amusing adventures, and that was indeed the case, but there was much more to the novel than that.

The description of this novel is very accurate, and I think it gives a good indication of what readers can expect from it. This is a romantic novel, with a background in the world of wedding photos and wedding magazines (and it is eye-opening to realise how much insight a photographer can get into the lives and relationships of those she photographs), with some of the ceremonies taking place in wonderful settings all over the British Isles (or almost), from London, to Exeter, the Scottish Highlands, even New York (sort of), and with stops in Somerset and Shropshire, among other places. We also have wonderful contrasts between city and country life (managing a farm, cheese making, dog breeding… also make an appearance), and although most of the story is narrated in a chronological order (with some jumps forward in time) between 2014 and 2016, Tassie, the main protagonist, also remembers scenes from her youth and her recent past, and quite late in the book we get snippets of a diary set at a much earlier time (when Tassie was a very young child). I won’t go into a lot of detail, to avoid revealing too much, but there are secrets that help explain difficult family relationships and behaviours, and, most importantly, this is one of those novels that I would classify as an adult coming of age stories, because a character that seemed to have got stuck at a young age (much younger than their chronological age), finally gets to mature and grow up. Oh, and there is a touch of the spiritual/paranormal as well.

There are many other themes that pop up in the novel, and some are explored in more detail than others (faith and loss; the difficulties a couple can face when trying to have children, miscarriages, and the toll that takes on the mental health; coming out (or not) to your traditional family; issues of trust; family relationships and the secrets families keep; toxic relationships and how to get free from them; second chances and living our dreams…) but it is far from simply a light and amusing read that will leave you with a smile on your face. There is that as well (yes, it is a proper romantic novel, and there is a happy ending, I can tell you that, although you’ll have to read the whole thing to see how it comes about, and “happy” might look quite different to what we think when we start reading the novel), but there are some important subjects explored in detail in the novel. I recommend readers to not skip the section of acknowledgments at the end, as it gives a good insight into the process of creation of the novel, and it also provides some extra resources to people wanting to explore further some of the issues that play an important part in the book.

The novel, which is narrated in the third person but from Tassie’s point of view, has a fabulous cast of secondary characters. To be totally honest, Tassie isn’t my favourite. Other than Alex, her long-term love interest, and a couple of the characters that appear fleetingly at some of the weddings, she was probably the character I liked the least at first. I didn’t hate her, but although I loved her friends (Syd and Oliver are fabulous, and so are their partners, and there are many other characters that appear only briefly, like the reverend and mother of one of the brides, or Syd’s witch aunt [well, Wiccan. She has an owl! How could I possibly not love her?] that I would have happily read whole books about), she was one of those people I felt like shaking and telling her to get her head out of the sand and start really looking at what was going on around her and in her own life. Perhaps because I’ve had friends with similar issues, I felt closer to those trying to advise her and getting frustrated because nothing seemed to make a difference than to her and because even the wonderful adventure she lives in Scotland with Dan (who is great. Yes, another favourite of mine) seems to follow the usual pattern. The fact that the story is narrated in the third person helps readers get a bit more perspective and perhaps puts them in a privileged position to get a clearer picture of what is at stake, although events that happen later help move things along. And perhaps, the whole point of the story is to make us see that certain things can only get solved when we are brave enough to confront them, no matter what the likely outcome or how painful the process might be. So, yes, although I didn’t feel I had much in common with Tassie, and she wasn’t my favourite character, to begin with, she grew on me, and I felt sorry to see her go at the end.

Although some of the subjects are emotional (and yes, be prepared from some tears), the writing is fluid and dynamic, combining wonderful descriptions of places, people, and situations (some quite hilarious), with quiet moments of reflection and introspection, and the odd touch of magic. There is romance, of course, and although there is passion, this is not an erotic novel full of “hot” sex scenes (much to my relief, as I am not a fan), and most of what goes on take place behind closed doors, so those who prefer to get graphic and detailed blow-by-blow accounts will be disappointed. On the other hand, you have romantic locations, descriptions of gardens and home vegetable patches rides on horses, helicopters, leaking boats, and quite an array of weddings. As usual, those who want to know if the writing will be suited to their taste, are advised to check a sample.

I’ve already mentioned the ending, and as I said, things are solved in what I felt was a very satisfying manner, and I am not talking only about Tassie’s love life, but also about some of the other difficult relationships she and those around her have to go through. Not that it is an easy process, but this is one of the many beauties of this book.

In summary, I recommend this novel to anybody who enjoys romantic novels and is not looking for “hot” or erotic stories but prefers stories exploring complex relationship issues and providing good psychological insights into relevant topics. Fans of weddings and romances set in Scotland (the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Sky, real towns and spots) will particularly enjoy this novel, and for those who like some extras, the author is promising a tour of the locations (on Facebook and Instagram).

Thanks to the author for this wonderful book, thanks to Rosie and her team for all the support, and thanks to all of you, of course, for reading, sharing, commenting, and please, keep safe and keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview SHEFFIELD IN THE 1980S: FEATURING IMAGES OF SHEFFIELD PHOTOGRAPHER, MARTIN JENKINSON (IMAGES OF THE PAST) by Mark Metcalf, Justine Jenkinson (@MJIMageLibrary) (@penswordbooks) Inspiring pictures of recent UK history

Hi all:

This is one of those books that show the power of photography to convey events, moods and historical events.

Sheffield in the 1980s: Featuring Images of Sheffield Photographer, Martin Jenkinson (Images of the Past) by Mark Metcalf, Justine Jenkinson

Sheffield in the 1980s: Featuring Images of Sheffield Photographer, Martin Jenkinson (Images of the Past) by Mark Metcalf, Justine Jenkinson

The social, industrial and economic changes imposed on the Sheffield area during the 1980s are captured with remarkable clarity in this second Images of the Past book featuring the work of freelance photographer Martin Jenkinson (1947-2012). The former steelworker and adopted Sheffielder’s knowledge of his fellow citizens’ lives gave him a unique understanding, which he used to capture some incredible images of those troubled times.

In Sheffield in the 1980s the reader will find themselves drawn into remembering a decade of remarkable changes, some good but many for the worse. It was something that many northern England and Scottish cities experienced during this period, while at the same time, parts of south east England, especially the City of London, boomed. The gap between north and south became a chasm.

Jenkinson, who constantly sought ways to improve his skills, photographed people in their everyday lives at work and at play. However, where he excelled was his work with the trade union and labor movement in workplaces, on protests, demonstrations and pickets. His photographs in such situations create a political awareness that fills the page and forces the observer to seek to find out more.

So whilst some of the images in this book capture joy and laughter they also exhibit suffering. They provide a loud cry for social justice, a better world where unemployment is no more, poverty is swept away and everyone, black and white, male and female can enjoy a life where their talents are used for the collective improvement of all. Jenkinson’s photographs are about a world we still must aim to obtain.

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Images-of-the-Past-Sheffield-in-the-1980s-Paperback/p/16850

https://www.amazon.com/Sheffield-1980s-Featuring-Photographer-Jenkinson/dp/152676136X/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sheffield-1980s-Featuring-Photographer-Jenkinson/dp/152676136X/

https://www.amazon.es/Sheffield-1980s-Featuring-Photographer-Jenkinson/dp/152676136X/

About the author:

About Justine Jenkinson

Justine Jenkinson, Martin Jenkinson’s daughter, gave up her job as a HR personal assistant in the Civil Service in 2015 to run her father’s image library full time. This was to enable her to keep his legacy alive by continuing to contribute his images to publications and exhibitions. Justine is exploring her father’s archives to find images that haven’t been widely seen before, which will then be added to the Martin Jenkinson Image Library website. Twitter: @MJImageLibrary

About Mark Metcalf

Mark Metcalf is a freelance writer with a passion for football. His recent work includes the highly successful book Flying Over an Olive Grove: The Remarkable Story of Fred Spiksley, a flawed football hero and which is now being incorporated into a documentary film, set for release in 2020, on the early years of football. Mark is a regular contributor to the Big Issue North magazine and the various publications of Unite the union and for whom he has written a series of booklets on trade union greats such as Benny Rothman and Mohammad Taj.

About Martin Jenkinson

Martin Jenkinson was the official Yorkshire National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) area photographer during the period that included the miners’ strike of 1984/85. In addition to his NUM work, Martin was also commissioned by many other unions, notably the National Union of Teachers and the TGWU/Unite. A former steelworker, Martin combined his politics and belief in workers’ rights, equality and social justice with his passion for photography. He died of cancer aged 64 in June 2012.

My review:

I thank Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for providing me an early paperback copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

I worked in Sheffield and lived in the area for almost 10 years and had visited it on occasions as well before that, and although it was long after the 1980s (I arrived in the UK in the early 90s), I was familiar with Martin Jenkinson’s work, had seen some of his iconic photographs of the period, and could not resist the opportunity to sample some more. This was a particularly interesting and intense period in the history of the city, with the closures of many steel and cutlery manufacturing companies, the pit closures in the region, and with many strikes and much social unrest, that Jenkinson recorded in his work. It is impossible to look at his pictures and not wonder about recent events.

This book combines a great selection of images from the period with some background text, that rather than providing lengthy explanations about each image, is organised as an introductory write-up for each one of the sections. Although there isn’t much writing, the brief summaries offer a good overview to people who might not be familiar with the historic-social circumstances of the era and provide a solid context for the fantastic images.

The book is clearly a labour of love from Jenkinson’s daughter, and it includes a foreword by Helen Hague, a reporter who has worked at a number of local and national newspapers and was a personal friend of the photographer, a Tribute, written by Chris Searle, summarising Jenkinson’s career, and a number of sections that help organise the photographic content: Who We Are Exhibition (that was an exhibition at Sheffield’s  Weston Park Museum of Jenkinson’s work, which run from November 2018 to April 2019), Steel (that includes images of strikes, a section on cutlery and silver, one on retail and the public section [including images of women taking up various jobs  that were still an uncommon sight at the time], one on rail freight), Local Government (National and Local Government Officer’s Association [look out for David Blankett], SYCC and fare cuts [about increases to the public transport fares, hotly contested], the Manpower Services Commission [a new programme to fight unemployment, also hotly contested], Campaigns and Protests (People’s March for Jobs, Cutler’s Feast [where Margaret Thatcher was not particularly welcomed, but she went nonetheless], The Miner’s Strike [this is one of my favourite sections and many of Jenkinson’s iconic photographs are featured here], Eversure [a wonderful picture of a wedding couple visiting a picket at the factory where they both work],  the National Abortion Campaign, Sheffield Campaign for Access to Moorland, Sheffield Campaign Against Racism and Anti-Apartheid, Anti-Nuclear Protests, Sheffield Street Band), Sheffield & Its People (another great section including some pictures of Hillsborough Football Stadium that are impossible to look at without thinking about the later tragedy), a section referring to The Martin Jenkinson Image Library, and a final section of Acknowledgements.

This is not a nostalgic book about the Sheffield of the 1980s, although there are pictures of some very recognisable landmarks, but rather a book about certain aspects of the period and its people, and they show the concerns and interests of a man who had worked in the steel industry and suffered in his own flesh the changes brought by its demise. It’s not a book of pretty pictures, although there are some beautiful images, but that is not the aim. They are pictures that tell a story, and not always a nice one. As Helen Hague says in the foreword: ‘Martin Jenkinson had a gift for capturing the moment.’

The book is packed with black and white pictures chronicling a city and its people in an era of major political, social, and economic changes, and anybody interested in the 1980s in the UK will find plenty to enjoy and to make them think in this book. I know many writers find inspiration in images, and here they will have a field day. In case you want to get an idea of what type of images you might find in the book, you can check the Martin Jenkinson Image Library(here).

A fabulous book for lovers of photography with a social conscience, and for anybody interested in the recent history of Sheffield and of the UK in general.

Thanks to Rosie Croft and the team of Pen & Sword, thanks to the authors (and to Martin Jenkinson) for their great work, thanks to all of you for writing, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

 

 

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#BookReview Surrendered Stories by Kristin Fouquet (@KristinFouquet). Whimsical, touching and atmospheric stories and photographs

Hi all:

I bring you the review of a pretty special book. If you’re looking for something a little different and love black & white photos, this is your book.

Surrendered Stories by Kristin Fouquet
Surrendered Stories by Kristin Fouquet

Surrendered Stories with photographs by Kristin Fouquet

These four surrendered stories are accompanied by twenty-four b&w photographs. In “Cocteau’s Ransom”, two dognappers believe they’ve found the solution to their financial troubles until unexpected complications arise. A lonely young woman with employment issues finds her escapism in vintage films at “The Vestige”. When the Roussels “Return to Camp Bon Temps”, their annual summer fishing camp, it’s not all good times as their daughter cannot forget the previous summer. In “Margaux’s understudy,” an inexperienced home healthcare worker uses the past in creative ways to engage her wards.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Surrendered-Stories-photographs-Kristin-Fouquet-ebook/dp/B07QJDW11V/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Surrendered-Stories-photographs-Kristin-Fouquet-ebook/dp/B07QJDW11V/

https://www.amazon.es/Surrendered-Stories-photographs-Kristin-Fouquet-ebook/dp/B07QJDW11V/

Author and photographer Kristin Fouquet

About the author:

Kristin Fouquet writes and photographs from lovely New Orleans. She is the author of for other books of short literary fiction: Twenty Stories (Ranks Stranger Press, 2009), a collection of flash fiction and longer short stories, Rampart & Toulouse (Rank Stranger Press, 2011), a novella and short stories, The Olive Stain (Le Salon Press, 2013), a chapbook of flash fiction, short stories, a novelette, and Parisian Graveyard Postcards, and Surreptitiously Yours (Le Salon Press, 2016), a novella. Her photography has been widely published in both online journals and in print: magazines, chapbook and book covers, and CDs. She enjoys constructing photo essays. Her preferences are fine art photography, street photography, street portraits, and the occasional traditional portrait. You are invited to visit her humble virtual abode, Le Salon, at the web address http://kristin.fouquet.cc

My review:

I received a paperback review copy of this book from the publisher. That has not influenced my feedback.

I was intrigued by the description of this book, by the author’s previous work, and by the fact that this volume of four of her stories includes twenty-four of her own black and white photographs, which illustrate and create an aesthetic dialogue with the content and the feel of the stories. I was also intrigued by the title and my curiosity was answered as soon as I read the opening quote in this slim but handsome volume: A piece of writing is never finished. You just surrender. (Carter Monroe). I love this quote because, as I write as well, I am familiar with the feeling that a story is never quite as good as it could be, and it is never totally finished. In my opinion, though, these stories are perfect as they are.

The four stories are very different, but the images and the writing style turn this book into a unique experience.

I’ll share a few comments about each individual story, but I’ll try to avoid spoilers.

“Cocteau’s Ransom”, written in the third person, is a story of a couple who believe they’ve found a way to make some money by kidnapping a dog, but they have made a mistake (an understandable one, for sure, but still…) A fun and humorous story (although it might upset animal lovers).

“The Vestige” has a touch of nostalgia (in fact, at first I thought it was a historical piece but I soon realised I was wrong), plenty of atmosphere, lovely characters, and it is also a sweet and gentle love (?) story that will enchant fans of the cinema experience and enthusiasts of old movies.

In “Return to Camp Bon Temps” we meet Martine, a girl who’s deeply traumatised due to something that happened last summer.  The story, which is also narrated in the third person (all three first stories are), takes place in the summer camp where the members of her extended family meet every year, and each person has its own role to play. Martin, her father, is a larger than life character who seems to always get his own way, but things are not as they seem to be, and I loved the father-daughter relationship and their moment of truth.

“Margaux’s understudy”, narrated in the first person by a young woman who lands a somewhat odd first-job, has touches of the fairy and/or gothic tale (it made me think of Bluebeard), of old movies and movie stars of the golden era (Sunset Boulevard, for example); it includes fragments of diaries and quotes from plays; it is very atmospheric (and the photographs are gorgeous), and is a fairly whimsical but also touching love story and the story of an obsession. Oh, and one of its characters is a fabulous parrot called Ayo.

As I wrote this review I realised that if I had to come up with a possible theme that links all the stories, it would have to be “appearances can be deceptive”. In these stories, both characters and readers misjudge people and situations, and the twists and surprises come when we learn the truth.

These stories, mostly set in New Orleans, are perfect for reading during short breaks; they create an immersive atmosphere without going into excessive detail, and are ideal for people looking for an engaging interlude between long and demanding reads. I look forward to following this author’s career, and I’ll be sure to visit her website and learn more about her work as a photographer. A great collection.

Thanks to the author for her stories and photographs, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and always keep smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Non-fiction

#Bookreview A HISTORY OF TREES by Simon Wills (@WillsyWriter) (@penswordbooks) The perfect gift for nature. #non-fiction

Hi all:

Another different offering from me, and I think it will make a great gift:

A History of Trees by Simon Wills
A History of Trees by Simon Wills

A History of Trees by Simon Wills The perfect gift for nature lovers who enjoy amusing trivia, stories, and photographs.

Have you ever wondered how trees got their names? What did our ancestors think about trees, and how were they used in the past? This fascinating book will answer many of your questions, but also reveal interesting stories that are not widely known. For example, the nut from which tree was predicted to pay off the UK’s national debt? Or why is Europe’s most popular pear called the ‘conference’? Simon Wills tells the history of twenty-eight common trees in an engaging and entertaining way, and every chapter is illustrated with his photographs. Find out why the London plane tree is so frequently planted in our cities, and how our forebears were in awe of the magical properties of hawthorn. Where is Britain’s largest conker tree? Which tree was believed to protect you against both lightning and witchcraft? The use of bay tree leaves as a sign of victory by athletes in ancient Greece led to them being subsequently adopted by many others – from Roman emperors to the Royal Marines. But why were willow trees associated with Alexander Pope, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Samuel Johnson? Why did Queen Anne pay a large sum for a cutting from a walnut tree in Somerset? Discover the answers to these and many other intriguing tales within the pages of this highly engrossing book.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/History-Trees-Simon-Wills/dp/1526701596/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/A-History-of-Trees-Paperback/p/16232

Dr Simon Wills
Dr Simon Wills

About the author:

Simon Wills is a history journalist, wildlife photographer and genealogist who writes for many magazines. He is an expert adviser to the BAFTA award-winning ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ TV series and has also appeared on the show. He is a regular presenter at ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ Live, and other history-related events. Simon enjoys the meticulous research that’s needed to provide an authentic account of the past, but believes in telling a good story too, and reviewers have noted that he creates a very readable account.

You can follow Simon on Twitter @WillsyWriter or via webpage www.birdsandtrees.net

Simon’s latest publication is ‘A History of Birds’ featuring his original photos. This book is a bit like the TV programme ‘QI’, but for birds: lots of fascinating but true tales, told in an entertaining and informed way, and with many myths debunked. It’s the ‘back story’ to the birds in our everyday lives and covers everything from the ancient Egyptian belief that the Heron was the first animal created, to the arrest of a pigeon for plotting against the Indian Prime Minister in 2016.

His next book will be ‘A History of Trees’, due for publication in October 2018.

Simon’s well-received ‘Wreck of the SS London’ is the intriguing tale of the loss of a luxury liner in 1866. Only three passengers survived the disaster, and it left an indelible mark on Victorian society because the death toll was so heavy. It’s an intriguing story that is at times hard to believe. The unexpected twists and turns of real-life events open up the lost seafaring world of Victorian Britain.

Simon’s practical guide to photographs of our maritime ancestors, ‘Tracing Your Seafaring Ancestors’, reveals the stories behind the images. What rank is that Royal Navy officer? Did he work for P&O? When was this Royal Marine photo taken? Are they lifeboatmen? How can I trace the career of a yachtsman? If you enjoy old photos, like to analyse them, or have seafaring ancestors, then this heavily-illustrated book will keep you interested.

Shortlisted for the Mountbatten Maritime Literature Award, Simon’s novel ‘Lifeboatmen’ is a surprising but true story set in 1866. Lifeboatmen are famed for their courage, but what happens when things don’t go according to plan in the middle of a hurricane?

‘Voyages From The Past’ tells the true stories of passengers who travelled by ship from the 16th to the 20th centuries. Their first-hand accounts illustrate how life at sea has changed dramatically over the centuries. Each voyage is full of the amusing, tragic, or everyday anecdotes of real people – from smelly ship’s captains and crooked ship-owners, to pirates, rats and disease.

Simon also has a longstanding interest in the history of healthcare – working part-time as an information adviser to the NHS. When he’s not working, his interests include cycling, cricket, birdwatching, the theatre, and his dog, Max.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Simon-Wills/e/B00B5FUQ94

My review:

Thanks to Rosie and the whole team at Pen & Sword for providing me a hardback copy of this beautiful book that I freely chose to review.

I love trees and I can’t imagine living in a place with no trees at all, even if they are not in their natural environment, as is the case in cities. I’m not a connoisseur, although I’ve read some books that featured trees prominently and have enjoyed them, and this volume seemed the perfect opportunity to learn more.

This is a beautiful book that would make a perfect present for anybody interested in trees, in general, and UK trees in particular. It is a photographic book, but it also contains a wealth of written information about trees: factual and botanical data, historical events related to specific trees, folk and mythological stories about them, literary connections, etc. As the author explains in the introduction, due to the limits in the length of the book he could not include all British trees, and he selected the ones he felt were not only better known but had also the best tales to tell. Not that I had any doubt about it, but the author makes a good case for his choice of topic in the introduction: “Beyond their practical utility to us and our simple liking of them, trees form the great forests of the world, which are said to be the lungs of the planet. So trees, more than anything else, keep us alive” (Wills, 2018, p. vi).

The list of trees included in the book are: alder, apple, ash, bay, beech, birch, cherry, elm, hawthorn, hazel, holly, hornbeam, horse chestnut, lime, London plane, magnolia, maple, monkey puzzle, oak, pear, pine, poplar, rowan, sweet chestnut, sycamore, walnut, willow and yew.

This is a book one can deep in and out of as one fancies, or read it cover to cover. I often found myself picking it up just to have a quick look, and discovered an hour later that I was still glued to its pages and its wonderful stories. The original photographs are beautiful, and there are also well-chosen images from the British Library and the Welcome collection, as the author explains in his acknowledgements. The writing is supple and I’d dare say it will appeal to a large variety of people, because although it is not perhaps addressed at botanists or experts, it shares plenty of anecdotes and stories likely to interest most readers.

I had to share this ditty, because we’re in spring already and, well, one never knows:

The fair maid who, the first of May,

Goes to the fields at break of day,

And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree,

Will ever after handsome be (Wills, 2018, p. 67).

If you try it and it works, don’t forget to let me know!

I enjoyed the pictures, the stories, and I became convinced as I read the book that I’d like to read more of the author’s works, and I’d love to attend one of his lectures. Of course, he had me at the acknowledgements already, when he mentioned his dog, Max (oh, don’t worry; there’s a picture of him too).

“Finally, I would like to thank Max, to whom this book is dedicated, for allowing me to frequently stop his walk and take photos of trees. He’s very tolerant” (Mills, 2018, p. viii).

In sum, this is a beautiful, informative, entertaining, and amusing book that will delight all those who love nature, trees in particular, and who enjoy trivia, stories and photographs. Perfect as a present, for yourself or others, as an inspiration, and as a breath of fresh air. Enjoy!

Wills, S. (2018). A history of trees. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword White Owl.

Thanks to Rosie and Pen & Sword, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and keep reading and smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Reviews

#Bookreview #colouringbook UZBEKISTAN. AN EXPERIENCE OF CULTURAL TREASURES TO COLOUR by Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva (@penswordbooks). A beautiful gift

Hi all:

This is an unusual book for me to review, but it is so gorgeous and would make such a perfect gift, I had to share it with you. Of course, in my opinion books are always great gifts, but if you’re looking for a spectacular book that can be enjoyed as an art object, and if you are looking for something different for people who love colouring books, I bring you:

Uzbekistan. An Experience of Cultural Treasures to Colour by Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva
Uzbekistan. An Experience of Cultural Treasures to Colour by Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva

Uzbekistan: An Experience of Cultural Treasures to Colour by Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva.

From the blue and gold splendours of Samarkand to the holy city of Bukhara, the architectural heritage of Uzbekistan is simply extraordinary.

Over the 2,000 year history of the Silk Road, its fertile oases have attracted countless travellers and conquerors who have profoundly made their mark on human history, such as the conqueror Tamerlane or the scientist Ulugh Beg, who discovered the sundial. All have bequeathed an inheritance whose legacy can still be admired today.

By its geographical position, Ancient Uzbekistan was created from a melting pot of different cultures. Iran, the Eastern Steppes, Siberia, India and China have all added their own influences on the local arts. Over the centuries, due in many parts to the Silk Road, these exchanges have continued to grow. Cities such as Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent and Khiva became famous in the Middle Ages not only for their cultural wealth, but also for science.

In homage to this rich heritage, this book is a celebration of the arts and pictorial traditions of Uzbekistan. Photographs of architectural works, murals, ceramics, tapestries and ornamented textiles highlight the country’s cultural treasures, accompanied by short texts explaining their historical significance. On the right-hand page, the reader is given the opportunity to color in their own drawings based on the beautiful photographs provided.

https://www.amazon.com/Uzbekistan-Experience-Cultural-Treasures-Colour/dp/1526750198/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Uzbekistan-An-Experience-of-Cultural-Treasures-to-Colour-Hardback/p/15534

About the author:

The author was the daughter of the previous president of Uzbekistan, diplomat, philanthropist, and had been delegate of Uzbekistan to UNESCO for a number of years. She has run charities for children, worked to promote gymnastics in her country and has always promoted her country’s literary, historical, and cultural heritage.

http://www.lolakarimova.com/biography

My review:

Thanks to Rosie and the whole team at Pen & Sword for providing me a hardback copy of this gorgeous book that I freely chose to review.

This is not one of the usual books I review, but over the last few years I’ve become acquainted with adult colouring books through my mother, who loves them, and when I saw this one I realised this was something a bit different from most of the colouring books I’d seen. First, this is a hardback book, and it is not about a subject like flowers, or animals, or even a film. It is a book that promises “an experience of cultural treasures to colour” from Uzbekistan, and it does deliver. The book contains photographs of places, objects, ornaments, textiles… It is divided into distinct sections:

  • Architecture: with photographs of ancient temples, palaces, and modern mosques and other buildings, with brief explanations of the history and the significance of the building, in one page, and in the opposite page, the drawing to colour (in some cases of the reconstruction of the ancient building).
  • (Here I loved the winged horses and the beautiful geometrical ceiling decorations).
  • Ganch carvings. Intricate and beautiful, this section includes several pages of designs for free colouring, without corresponding photographs. In case you are not familiar with ganch carvings (I didn’t know the name but recognised it when I saw pictures), you can find more about it here).
  • Here, there are some deceptively simple and some incredibly detailed (like the one featured in the cover of the book). I’m a big fan of mosaics and loved this section.
  • Glazed bowls. If you love pottery, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one.
  • The textiles section includes some richly coloured woven carpets, amazing dresses (iroki embroidery) and gowns.
  • These are fairly recent and incredibly beautiful as well. Although there are some fairly modern in style, others make one think of the Arabian Nights.

The quality of the print, the paper, the colours, the selection of contents, and the sheer beauty of the book is a joy. It is perhaps such a pretty object that I am not sure that many people will dare to colour it and risk ruining it, but I can see it inspiring many, and also making many people wonder about the country and its history.

If you are looking for an unusual present for somebody who loves colouring book, or simply somebody who might appreciate a beautiful book about the arts, craft, and architecture of Uzbekistan, I’d recommend it.

Ah, and observe that Pen & Sword are offering a great discount on the book at the moment, if you buy it directly from their website (and the price is very reasonable nonetheless).

Thanks to Rosie, to Pen & Sword and the author for this wonderful book, thanks to you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and review, and always, always, keep smiling.

Categories
Book review Book reviews Non-fiction

#Bookreview FALLEN IDOLS: A CENTURY OF SCREEN SEX SCANDALS (IMAGES OF THE PAST) by Nigel Blundell (@penswordbooks) Great pictures and a reminder

Dear all:

I bring you another one of Pen & Sword’s books, one for those of you who love movies and photographs of the Hollywood of the Big Studios and its tarnished stars.

Fallen Idols. A Century of Screen Sex-Scandals (Images of the Past) by Nigel Blundell
Fallen Idols. A Century of Screen Sex-Scandals (Images of the Past) by Nigel Blundell

Fallen Idols: A Century of Screen Sex Scandals (Images of the Past) by Nigel Blundell (@penswordbooks) Great pictures, some amusing and some dark stories

It’s a scandal! How often we use that phrase and what a catalogue of sins it covers. That’s what this book is all about. It is literally a catalogue of sins – committed by some of the most celebrated names on the planet.

Within these covers are startling stories of scandals during a century when screen idols seemed to vie with each other in outraging public decency. It was an age when fan fever was at its height and an endless supply of shocking revelations emerged to fuel the frenzy.

Because of the perpetrators’ superstar status, the shame of exposure was often heightened, not only wrecking reputations but often harming careers and, at least, ensuring very public humiliation.

The lessons learned from these cases of celebrity scandal (though often, it seems, not by the celebrities themselves) is that the bigger the star, the harder the fall … and that deceit and intrigue so often turn hard-won fame into instant infamy.

Links:

Paperback:

https://www.amazon.com/Fallen-Idols-Century-Screen-Scandals/dp/1526742144/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Images-Past-Fallen-Century-Scandals/dp/1526742144/

e-book:

https://www.amazon.com/Fallen-Idols-Century-Screen-Scandals-ebook/dp/B07NJ5PMV2/

Author Nigel Blundell
Author Nigel Blundell

About Nigel Blundell

Nigel Blundell is a journalist who has worked in Australia, the United States and Britain. He spent 25 years in Fleet Street before becoming an author and contributor to national newspapers. He has written more than 40 books, including best-sellers on crime and royalty. He co-wrote the Top Ten exposé Fall of the House of Windsor, which first revealed the so-called ‘Squidgygate’ tape and the infidelity of both Princess Diana and Prince Charles. His other factual subjects have included military history, celebrity scandals, and ghosts and the paranormal.

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Images-of-the-Past-Fallen-Idols-Paperback/p/15651

My review:

Thanks to Rosie and the whole team at Pen & Sword for providing me a paperback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

A while back I read and reviewed a book in the same series ‘Images of the Past’, called The British Seaside, and I enjoyed the combination of the wonderful images and the informative and humorous text, fairly light on reading but high on entertainment value. In this case, the same is true, even with the serious subject and the unavoidable reflections on how times don’t seem to have changed so much, although now we get to hear about many of the details that in the past would have remained hidden from the general public.

I’ve always been fascinated by the history of cinema, and Hollywood, from its beginnings to now, although times have changed somewhat, and tinsel town is not what used to be (if it ever was). I have watched documentaries and read magazines about the industry, particularly about the era of the big studios, when everything seemed more glamourous and shiny than our everyday lives.

This book looks, mostly at past scandals, from the early history of Hollywood to some more recent ones, but does not include the XXI century, and although some of us, who grew up watching reruns of classics, will remember many of these stars (and some have become icons, like James Dean or Marilyn Monroe), to the youngest generation most of them will sound like ancient history. Only Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, and the TV preachers are still alive, and although their controversy remains alive, it seems to have been dwarfed by most recent scandals.

This is not an in-depth study of any of the cases, but rather a quick survey with a few details of the biographies and circumstances of some of the stars, whose lives became as well-known and exposed to the public attention as that of their characters. Despite that, although I thought I was familiar with the majority of the actors and actresses the book talks about, I discovered I didn’t know many of the details, perhaps because they were not discussed at the time or have been revealed later, and many of the pictures were totally new to me (and I thoroughly enjoyed them, especially those showing the stars when they were young). I am sure, though, that experts or true fans of these actors and actresses will not learn anything new, but I enjoyed the combination of text and pictures (and I particularly relished the introduction, which offers interesting insights into the effects of some of these scandals, like the Hays Code, that went beyond the content of the movies and affected the personal lives of the stars as well), that makes it ideal as a present for people of a certain age who enjoy celebrity magazines of the time, and also for the younger generation who might not have been exposed to these stories and the old-fashioned notion of celebrity and stardom.

It is impossible to read this book without comparing many of these scandals to some of the recent ones. The big studios spent a lot of money on lawyers, on keeping the press at bay, and of course, power has always talked. Thankfully, some of the things that were considered normal practice at the time have now become unacceptable and are the subject of legal procedures.

To give you a better idea of the content, there are fourteen chapters, each focused on one of these stars: Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, Jean Harlow, Errol Flynn, Grace Kelly, Lana Turner, Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Elvis Presley, Roman Polanski, Joan Crawford, Rock Hudson, Jim Bakker & Jimmy Swaggart, and Woody Allen.

I thought I’d share a couple of the quotes I’ve highlighted, so you get some idea of what to expect. Here, referring to James Dean:

“The star of East of Eden and Rebel without a Cause was bisexual and had affairs with actresses Pier Angeli and Ursula Andrews but when asked if he was gay his reply was: “Well, I’m certainly not going to go through life with one hand tied behind my back!” (Blundell, 2018, p. 8).

In the chapter about the TV preachers Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart (a fascinating phenomenon that seems pretty unique to the USA), it explains that Swaggart confessed and apologised to his congregation and the viewers of his TV channel the first time he was caught with a prostitute. But the second time, he truly spoke his mind:

“This time, rather confessing to his congregation, Swaggart brazened it out with the rebuff: ‘The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business’ (Blundell, 2018, 143).

In sum, this is a fun book for people who love anecdotes and to peep into the lives of the Hollywood famous, especially those from the era of the Hollywood big studios. If you want a brazen and amusing book, with its dark moments and plenty of pictures to get the conversation going, or are looking for a present for somebody who loves movie memorabilia, I recommend it.

Blundell, N. (2018). Images of the Past. Fallen Idols. A Century of Screen Sex Scandals. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword.

Thanks to Rosie, Pen & Sword, to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling!

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE GREAT WAR ILLUSTRATED 1918: Archive and Colour Photographs of WWI by William Langford & Jack Holroyd (@penswordpub) (@penswordbooks) #Bookreview #MilitaryHistory

Hi all:

I bring you today the review of a book by one of my favourite non-fiction publishers, Pen & Sword.

The Great War Illustrated 2018 by William Langford & Jack Holroyd
The Great War Illustrated 2018 by William Langford & Jack Holroyd

The Great War Illustrated 1918: Archive and Colour Photographs of WWI by William Langford & Jack Holroyd. A must have for scholars, researches, and WWI enthusiasts.

The final book in a series of five titles which graphically cover each year of the war. Countless thousands of pictures were taken by photographers on all sides during the First World War. These pictures appeared in the magazines, journals, and newspapers of the time. Some illustrations went on to become part of postwar archives and have appeared, and continue to appear, in present-day publications and TV documentary programs – many did not. The Great War Illustrated series, beginning with the year 1914, includes in its pages many rarely seen images with individual numbers allocated, and subsequently, they will be lodged with the Taylor Library Archive for use by editors and authors.

While some of the images in The Great War Illustrated 1918 will be familiar, many will be seen for the first time by a new generation interested in the months that changed the world for ever.

https://www.amazon.com/Great-War-Illustrated-1918-Photographs/dp/147388165X/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Great-War-Illustrated-1918-Photographs/dp/147388165X/

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Both military miniatures enthusiasts and history buffs should be fascinated by its 1,000 black-and-white photographs and section of color plates… This 517-page book’s imagery and the writers’ narrative combine to succeed in fostering understanding of the events pictured and the global scope of the epic conflict which climaxed 100 years ago.” (Toy Soldier & Model Figure)

About the Editor

Roni Wilkinson has worked in printing and publishing for fifty years. His published works include five fictional titles, a newspaper cartoon strip, and Dark Peak Aircraft Wrecks One and Two, the top-selling guides to aircraft crash sites in the Peak District National Park (co-authored with Ron Collier). He is best known as the respected series editor and designer of the ground-breaking Pen & Sword Battleground guidebooks, of which there are now over 120 titles. He was also instrumental in the creation and development of the popular Pals series. Now semi-retired, he is actively researching and writing historical works, fictional and non-fictional, as well as contributing articles to magazines and writing reviews. He lives in Barnsley with his wife Rosalie.

About the authors:

Jack Holroyd has had a lifelong interest in military history and has given valuable input into many Pen & Sword publications. He has authored two other works of non-fiction (SS Totenkopf France 1940 and American Expeditionary Force: France 1917–1918 ) and also one work of fiction (Lost Legend of the Thryberg Hawk), all of which are published by Pen & Sword. When Jack isn’t researching military topics he spends his time cooking, reading poetry and gardening.

William Langford has been employed in printing and publishing for fifty years. His works for Pen & Sword include: The Great War Illustrated 1914; Great Push – The Battle of the Somme 1916; Somme Intelligence and They Were There! 1914.

My review:

Thanks to Alex, Rosie and the whole team at Pen & Sword for providing me a Hardback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Despite my interest in the topic, and although I have read some books and watched some movies on WWI, I am not very knowledgeable about it, and I am more familiar with WWII, which feels (and is) much closer. I recently read and reviewed, another one of the books published by Pen & Sword, which explored a historical topic through pictures from the period, and I found it a great way of learning about the era by bringing it to life.

When I saw this book, the last in a collection of five volumes, one per each year of WWI, I was curious. Although I had seen pictures from WWI, they were mostly of soldiers, who had posed in uniform for their families, or political figures, and when I think about war photography, I think of WWII, the Spanish Civil War and later conflicts. This particular volume contains over a thousand photographs, including some in colour, maps, and drawings, of the various campaigns of 1918. The authors explain that some of the images are well-known (I was only familiar with some of the politicians, well-known figures, like T. E. Lawrence and Wilfred Owen, and some of the royals), but they had never been presented as a full collection or in an organised manner. The images are numbered and people interested can obtain copies from the image library in the Taylor Library Archive, and that makes this book a great reference for scholars and other people looking for visual documentation from the period.

The volume is divided into eight chapters: 1) Zeebrugge and Ostend Raids – Naval War, 2) The German Spring Offensives –The Kaiserschlacht, 3) Salonika, Mesopotamia, Palestine, 4) The Italian Front, 5) Battles of the Aisne and the Marne Rivers, 6) Americans at Cantigny, Château-Thierry, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, 7) Battle of Amiens – The Hindenburg Line – Advance to Victory, 8) Some Consequences of this Global War. Although the big protagonists of the book are the photographs, the text guides us through the campaigns, including also the original captions from newspapers, the citations for the medals they received, and some observations that help us understand the sequence and the consequences of the events.

Although I knew that in WWI there had been a lot of destruction (of lives, animals, and buildings) because of the use of weapons unknown until then, the impact of seeing pictures of towns and cities completely destroyed, of mustard gas attacks, tanks, planes, aerial pictures, dead soldiers and civilians, and famine is overwhelming. And the stories… From inspiring bravery to incredible cruelty (or perhaps it was just a strong sense of duty, but what would make a commander launch an attack two minutes before the armistice was due, resulting in thousands of dead men on both sides is beyond my comprehension).  As I read some of the captions of the pictures and the stories behind some of the photographs, I could imagine many books and movies inspired by such events and individuals (and I am sure there are quite a few, but not as many as there should be).

I marked pages containing stories I found particularly touching, inspiring, or almost incredible, too many to mention, but I have randomly chosen a few of them to share as a sample.

The caption to a picture of plenty of smiling men brandishing their knives in page 222 explains that they are Italian soldiers of the elite Arditi Corps ‘the Caimans of the Piave’. ‘They numbered around eighty and were trained to remain in the powerful currents of the Piave for hours. Carrying only a Sardinian knife –the resolza – and two hand grenades, they acted in a communication role between the west and east banks of the Piave.’

There is a picture on page 260 of a worker with the Y.M.C.A. serving drinks to American soldiers on in the front line, and it says that one centre at a railway site served more than 200000 cups of cocoa to soldiers each month.

The book also remembers civilians who died, like those working at the National Shell Filling Factory in Chilwell that was destroyed on the 1st of July 2018, with 134 civilians dead and 250 injured.

There are stories that are the stuff of movies, like that of The Lost Battalion, the 77th Infantry Division, cut off by the Germans for five days, who were eventually relieved, but had by then lost half of the men.

Or the one of Corporal Alvin C. York ‘–later sergeant – at the place where he systematically began picking off twenty of the enemy with rifle and pistol. As an elder in a Tennessee mountain church at the beginning of the war, he was a conscientious objector, but then changed his mind to become the most efficient of killers.’ (405) He took the machine gun nest, four officers, 128 men, and several guns.

There are amazing feats by men of all nations and horrific devastation as well. The last chapter serves as a reminder of the heavy price imposed on the losing side and the consequences derived from it. The peace would be sadly short-lived, as we all know, and some of the issues of sovereignty that seemed to have been solved then would resurface once more a few years later.

In sum, this is a book for people interested in WWI (the whole collection is) at a personal level, invaluable for researchers, as it provides a good reference to a large body of archival images, and it is packed with bite-sized information that will provide inspiration to many writers and scholars. Another great addition to Pen & Sword military catalogue and one that I thoroughly recommend.

Thanks so much to Pen & Sword and to the authors, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, REVIEW, to always keep reading and smiling, and to NEVER FORGET. 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog The Third Reich in 100 Objects: A Material History of Nazi Germany by Roger Moorhouse (@Roger_Moorhouse) (@penswordbooks) Great images and fabulous writing. #History #Photography

Hi all:

I bring you another book by Pen & Sword, and I think this one will be of interest to many people.

The Third Reich in 100 Objects by Roger Moorhouse

The Third Reich in 100 Objects: A Material History of Nazi Germany by Roger Moorhouse  (Author), Richard Overy (Author, Foreword) A Fantastic Book, didactic, entertaining, and moving. Great images and fabulous writing.

Hitler’s Third Reich is still the focus of numerous articles, books, and films: no conflict of the twentieth century has prompted such interest or such a body of literature.

Approaching the canon of World War II literature is a challenge for a general reader but the 100 objects approach is a novel and accessible presentation.

This is a compelling, frequently shocking and revelatory guide to the Third Reich that has been collated and presented by two of the world’s leading World War II historians.

The photographs gathered by Roger Moorhouse and Roger Moorhouse include Pervitin, Hitler’s Mercedes, Wehrmacht toilet paper, Hitler’s grooming kit, the Nuremberg courtroom, the Tiger Tank, fragments of flak, the Iron Cross and, of course, the Swastika and Mein Kampf.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Third-Reich-100-Objects-Material-ebook/dp/B0761TQX82/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Third-Reich-100-Objects-Material-ebook/dp/B0761TQX82/

Hardback:

https://www.amazon.com/Third-Reich-100-Objects-Material/dp/1784381802/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Third-Reich-in-100-Objects-Hardback/p/13559

Author Roger Moorhouse
Author Roger Moorhouse

About the author:

I was raised in Hertfordshire and ‘enjoyed’ an unspectacular career at Berkhamsted School, before being inspired to return to education by the East European Revolutions of 1989. Thereafter, I enrolled in the School of Slavonic and East European Studies of the University of London in 1990 to study history and politics. I graduated with an MA in 1994 and have since studied at the universities of Düsseldorf and Strathclyde, cunningly avoiding gaining a Ph.D. at either.

I began my writing career working for Professor Norman Davies. I collaborated with him on many of his recent publications, including Europe: A History, The Isles: A History, and Rising ’44. This working relationship culminated in 2002 with the publication, in three languages, of a co-authored study of the history of the city of Wrocław (the former German Breslau) entitled Microcosm: Portrait of a Central European City.

2006 saw the publication of Killing Hitler, my first solo book. An account of the numerous attempts on Hitler’s life, it was a critical and commercial success and has been published in numerous other languages, including German, Spanish, Chinese, Italian and Japanese.

My most recent book – entitled Berlin at War – is a social history of Berlin during World War Two, which was published in the summer of 2010. Based on first-hand material such as unpublished diaries, memoirs, and interviews, the book gives a unique “Berlin-eye view” of the war. It has been well-received, with positive reviews in most major publications. Writing in the Financial Times, Andrew Roberts said of it that: “Few books on the war genuinely increase the sum of our collective knowledge of this exhaustively covered period, but this one does.”

My new book, published in August 2014, is The Devils’ Alliance, a history of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, one of the few remaining unexplored areas in the history of World War Two. It is published to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Pact’s signature, in August 1939.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Roger-Moorhouse/e/B001H6N0AI/

Twitter:

 

My review:

Thanks to Alex and the rest of the team at Pen & Sword for providing me a hardback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I have always been fascinated by antiques and collectibles, not so much for their monetary value, as for the stories (and the History) behind the objects. As museums prove, objects can make us feel closer to other cultures and eras, creating a tangible reminder of lands and times distant from ours. Some objects might have an intrinsic interest (they are made of valuable materials, or by well-known artists), others are interesting because of their owners (kings, queens, or famous historical figures, like writers, inventors, artists…), and others because of what they represent. Although no objects are good or bad in their own right, they become infused with meaning through the use they are put to, and they can make us feel all kinds of emotions, from delight to abject fear.

In this book, the author has collected a hundred objects to give us, as the subtitle states, ‘A Material History of Nazi Germany’. And he achieves his aim with flying colours. The author is an expert on the period and has written many books about Hitler and Nazi Germany, and although I’m sure different people would have chosen differently, the selection he has put together gives the reader a good understanding of all aspects of life in Nazi Germany. We find personal objects, both of the Nazis (from Hitler’s paint box and his moustache brush to medals, decorations, and death cards) and their victims (the well-known Judenstern [the yellow star Jews had to wear), a forced labourer’s ‘Work Card’, or Sophie Scholl’s Matriculation Card [a member of the White Rose resistance movement]), objects that illustrate everyday life under the regime (ration cards, a gas-mask, the devaluated German banknotes, Hindenburg Lights…), examples of propaganda (The Schattenmann [the shadow man, a warning against talking about military secrets], a variety of posters including one for the propaganda anti-Semitic film Der Ewige Jude, the Great German Art Exhibition Catalogue, and the many imposing buildings), objects directly related to the war, including weaponry (planes, tanks, bombs, even the V-2 Missile) and documents. Each object is accompanied by a brief note (around a page or so) explaining its origin and putting it into context.

Richard Overy’s introduction sets well the project of the book and its author and emphasises the importance of image for Hitler and his party. This becomes increasingly evident as one progresses through the book, where there are ample examples of uniforms, symbolism (like their use of runes, the swastika, and the German eagle), badges… The writing is both informative and compelling, and it varies to suit the nature of the object. Sometimes it is descriptive and fairly neutral, but at others, it is impossible to read without feeling grief, sadness, and/or anger. The book has the advantage of not following a narrative thread, whereby it is easy to read in fits and starts, and readers can pick and choose the objects they are interested in, or go through them all, as I did. If we read it from beginning to end, the objects form a chronological history of sorts, as we start with objects that reflect the beginning of the regime, and eventually get to weaponry and documents from the very end of the war. The last object is Göring’s cyanide capsule, so you get the idea.

There were objects I was familiar with, and others that I knew about but had never seen (for example, the iron bed of a psychiatric asylum, that, as a psychiatrist, I found particularly moving and horrifying), and some that were complete surprises, like a Hitler Elastolin Toy Figure, the Mutterkreuz (a cross given to mothers who had 4 children or more. The author summarises it thus: It signified, in effect, the politicisation of the German womb, [Moorhouse, p. 109]), or the very cute ‘Goliath’ miniature tank (sorry, but there are some lighter moments as well. In case you feel curious, you can check it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goliath_tracked_mine). What I was more impressed by, apart from the quality of both, images and writing, was the way these disparate objects and the narrative behind them managed to give me a good sense of what life was like at the time, without having to read tonnes and tonnes of pages full of dry information. This book illustrates well the power of images. I have read plenty of books set on that era and watched many movies that take place in the same historical period but seeing the real objects helped me feel closer to the action, the people, and the events than I had ever before.

I recommend this book to people interested in the history of the period who are not big experts on it and don’t want an exhaustive account of battles and events. I also recommend it to anybody thinking about writing a book about the era, or people who design sets or work sourcing props or designing backdrops and objects for theatre, television or film. There is plenty of material to inspire numerous productions, and it is all collected in a single, easy-to-read, and well-indexed volume, with notes that facilitate further research tasks. Another winning volume published by Pen & Sword.

A quick note: my version of the book is a hardback copy, but I’ve checked the e-book version and the images are as good as those in the print version (although depending on the use you are thinking of giving it, you might consider what suits you best, as there’s little difference in price between the two versions, but this varies depending on the store).

Thanks to Pen & Sword and to the author for this outstanding book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling!

 

 

Categories
Guest author post

L.W. Smith. Military, prisons, death, mediums, Australia, photography…

Hi all:

As I told you last week I’ve decided to dedicate a few posts to share the works of other authors bloggers whose blogs I have already recommended but I’ve realised I haven’t yet talked to you about his books. And no time like now.

Today I bring you an Australian blogger who fascinates me for his versatility, and the great variety of topics he covers in his blog. If you haven’t checked Laurie Smith, I advise you to do it as soon as you can. And here he is!

L. W. Smith

L. W. Smith
L. W. Smith

Writing gritty, adult crime based novels seemed like a natural extension to Laurie Smith’s working life. Retired now after a life of working in the military, prisons, police and security he believes that he has something to write about and says, ‘You can’t be immersed in prison life, then work the streets as a copper without picking up the feel of crime and criminals. These experiences transfer easily to my books, set mainly in Queensland they add a local flavour not found in most novels of this genre.’

Laurie arrived in Australia as a boy from England in 1961 and lived in Sydney for a while before moving to Queensland. After joining the army he was stationed back in Sydney for two years before going to Vietnam. He felt drawn to Kings Cross, Sydney’s notorious red light district. This is where his first novel, Mountain of Death was born. He writes the Death series as L W Smith.

Retired now he fills his time when not writing another novel in his Death series, with photography, blogging and travel. He lives with his wife Lorelle on their rural hideaway in south-east Queensland.

Here his unmissable blog:

http://laurie27wsmith.wordpress.com/

And now his books!

Mountain of Death
Mountain of Death

Mountain of Death

Ten years on the inside can change a man. It changed Jack Hardy, it made him meaner. He knew his first step outside the gates would be the hardest, what he didn’t count on was coming up against someone from his past who brings mean to a whole new level. Everybody enjoys a big payday, none more than Hardy. They called him Hardman in Sydney’s Kings Cross and not just for his disposition. You have to start somewhere and he cut his teeth as a strip club bouncer and thief. A chance encounter brings Eddie Barnes, a Melbourne jockey on the run, into his life and along with a U S serviceman on R&R from Vietnam they pull off an Army payroll. Success breeds confidence and going on the run isn’t part of the deal. Neither is falling in love. Jack’s journey will take you on the road, along the way it’s a mixed bag of sex, violence, pain, loss and death culminating in an orgy of destruction on the Mountain of Death.

From the first page you’ll be drawn into Jack’s world. Stand next to him in his cell as he mulls over his failures and triumphs. There are the women he’s used and those that have used him for their own ends. Feel the excitement mount as he nears the end of ten long years inside where every waking moment could have been his last. Now all he wants is the woman he loves and his three million dollars. All good reasons to be happy, yet he knows that the minute he walks out of the front gate he’ll be the target for anyone with the guts to take him on. He’s left a trail behind him of those who have tried and failed. His journey will take you down dark alleys where you’ll feel knuckles striking flesh, into prison remand yards where a kick in the balls is the least of your worries. You’ll find yourself in dingy strip clubs and grubby flats, tasting the sweet delights of willing female flesh, and good scotch whiskey. Or in the middle of a shootout where bullets don’t discriminate, they kill. This is not a book for the weak of heart, so I suggest you bring along a supply of arnica cream for the bruises and a couple of shots of penicillin – you may need both.

http://www.amazon.com/Mountain-Death-Book-1-ebook/dp/B007N66TRM/

Valley of Death
Valley of Death

Valley of Death

Drug addicted, abused and homeless, no one seems to care what happens to street kids in Fortitude Valley. When an underage girl is found dead from an apparent heroin overdose Detective Annie Leeson puts her reputation, career and life on the line to find answers.

So what do you do when your worst nightmares become a living reality? When people from your past aren’t who you think they are. Who can you trust? More importantly, who are you?

Constable Annie Leeson is hard, smart and sexy. A young woman who lives her life with lusty abandon and if she can’t talk her way out of trouble, she’ll fight. She has a good job, relationships and wealth and can handle most things the police force throws at her. It’s difficult enough being a woman and bi sexual in the job. So if you don’t want her in your face then don’t gossip about her adopted dad, Homicide Detective Johnny Leeson. The mail van robbery and his sudden retirement posed more questions than answers. The only downside to life is her dreams and they bring with them more questions than answers. Why do they terrify her? Who are the people in them, and where is her real father?

Fortitude Valley is an inner Brisbane riverside suburb steeped in crime, sex and violence a magnet for the good time crowd. It also attracts the homeless, mentally ill and runaways who fall prey to predators of all ages. Drug dealers ply their trade in the clubs and back alleys and the innocents don’t stay that way for long. Street kids and drug users are not high on society’s list of endangered species. They are seen as a blight, a nuisance something to be ignored. Annie can’t ignore them and when a girl is found dead of an apparent heroin overdose, it brings up frightening connections to her own life. The questions pile up and so do the bodies. She becomes caught up in a perverted web of child abuse, pornography and murder, run by men whose only aims are lust and profit. Who can you trust when those in positions of power do nothing?

Rod and Grace Davis, friends of Detective Johnny Leeson when he was alive, are her only link to the past and she turns to them for help. Lives and reputations are destroyed and she discovers that there is more to love than raw sex. No one she cares about is safe, and driven by her dark past she treads a path that leads only one way – downhill.

http://www.amazon.com/Valley-Death-Book-2-ebook/dp/B00A6QR8A8/

River of Death
River of Death

River of Death

A young woman’s body is found hanging in an abandoned shipping container, at Pinkenba, near Fortitude Valley. This is Detective Senior Constable Simon Fynch’s first case and it’s nearly his last. DSC Annie Leeson, from Brisbane Homicide is assigned to the investigation. When the next body washes up on the shores of the Brisbane River, they find themselves on the hunt for a killer with a bent for the mythological and the bizarre. He has a preference for red haired, green eyed victims, and if they’re pregnant it’s a bonus. On a downward spiral he strives to find his perfect, pure woman and if she doesn’t exist, then he’ll make her. Refined, charming and sadistic he’ll keep killing until he reaches his goal.
If one killer isn’t enough another is on the run from Sydney’s Long Bay Jail and heading north to Queensland. He’s cold, brutal and someone from Detective Annie Leeson’s past. Annie may have hardened and matured since Valley of Death but her relationships are still in turmoil. Old friendships are reignited, new friends are made. Loved ones move on and new lovers fill the emptiness in her life, while she juggles work, relationships and motherhood. Her daughter, Susan is the cornerstone of her life and the centre of her frustration. A gifted child, she has a ‘special friend’ who keeps her company, much to the annoyance of her mother. Killers aren’t Annie’s only problem, her reputation is brought vividly into the spotlight again. Will it affect the investigation, more importantly will it put Susan’s life at risk?
River of Death will keep you reading as the breadth and scope of the killer’s reach unfolds. No one is safe from either killer as they are drawn together by a common bond. Understaffed and overworked the police at Fortitude Valley put everything into tracking down a monster, despite the toll wrought on them.

There are true horror stories out there and they aren’t about vampires and werewolves. We have made these creatures up, to hide the obvious fact that we are the monsters.

http://www.amazon.com/River-Death-L-W-Smith-ebook/dp/B00JAXRZYW/

Thanks so much to Laurie for always sharing the most wonderful content on his blog, thanks to you all for reading, and please, like, share, comment and of course CLICK!

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