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David Bowie, Robert Dimery

David Bowie, Robert Dimery

Genre: Biography & memoirs. Non-fiction

I’m a child of the seventies, had the Bowie posters on my wall back in 72, much to dad’s horror. He never did approve of my musical tastes, Bowie, Queen, Slade ( mum gave them a pass as she liked Noddy, til she read about him bragging how many women he’d had sex with!)Alice cooper, T Rex, Mott the Hoople….many of them get mentions here and I enjoyed that.

I’m the typical average Bowie fan of the seventies, bought the records, followed the career, copied the man. I wanted to learn more about Bowie the person, how he began, how the music started, what inspired certain songs, his musical influences and connections, and the beginning felt like that.
Then it moved into areas that seemed to leave much of Bowie behind in favour of mentions of others and analysis of his music. His son barely gets a passing mention it felt, and yet he must have had a huge impact in his life. Looking after a child is huge, you can’t just flit off and leave them home alone for a coupe of weeks….How did he manage, was his son brought with him, left with others, did Angie look after him? Though given her issues that’s unlikely, but that’s the kind of thing I was curious about. The practicalities. How did he afford to continue, where did the money come from? Record companies I assume, but what were the strings?
I loved little snippets like him giving Mott the Hoople All The Young Dudes, and the interactions with Marc Bolan that the first part held and was sure this was going to be a book I’d love. If that kind of detail had continued, I would have loved it.
Later though I felt it became very in depth, too in depth on the wrong ( for me ) focus, citing people, people and yet more people, giving far more opinions about the music than the facts and snippets around its inception I would have loved, and I was lost. I didn’t know these specific people from the music world. I know nothing of labels, producers, directors, stylists, and all the back staff, I barely know what they do, have no idea who they are. They meant nothing to me other than how they affect Bowie. I had to keep tracking back working out where and why and how and I didn’t enjoy that.

I didn’t feel the book focused enough on Bowie himself and the reasons for the music, but more on how his rise grew through others, bringing those others into the book more than I wanted. I didn’t know them, wasn’t invested in their stories. That’s me though, and others will find just what they want from this.

Stars: Three. Bowie was a musical genius, and I don’t feel this book does him justice. Its got some interest to it, but overall he didn’t feel the focus to me, his life and influences was what I wanted, not the myriad of ancillary label people.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

Unlikely Angel, The Songs of Dolly Parton, Lydia R. Hamessley

Unlikely Angel: The Songs of Dolly Parton (Women Composers) by [Lydia R. Hamessley, Steve Buckingham]

Genre: Entertainment, Biographies & Memoirs

My bad, I didn’t fully read description, just Dolly, Biography and Memoirs…and as a Dolly fan I thought it would feature more of her life, her journey into music. It does do that to a degree, but is more focused on analysing the music and writing ( I was shocked she was so prolific – didn’t realise quite how many songs she’d written).

As a businesswoman too she was a shrewd lady, recognising that to get the music she wanted to make rather than the producers wanted her to do she needed to play a long game. She was clear sighted about where she was going eventually, but it took her several detours. I so admire her persistence, when so many others would have given up, and she deserves all credit for that, her hard work, sticking to her ideals.
I enjoyed the more personal sections, about Dolly and her life, her upbringing, imagining little Dolly touring the US in the van with her uncle, belting out songs from that tiny frame. I loved reading the inspiration for her songs, the people she was influenced by, but the rest wasn’t really a book I would have chosen if I’d taken the time to read properly. I’m not really interested in taking apart songs, analysing them, just in listening to them and a brief look at what inspired them.

For those who love that side of things, the technical dissection of her music then its perfect. Just not me. Another one of those reader taste issues, not a book writing issue.


Stars: Three, a good book for the right reader, but for me it was just OK.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Earth Almanac, Ted Williams

amazin link Earth Almanac: A Year of Witnessing the Wild, from the Call of the Loon to the Journey of the Gray Whale by [Ted Williams, Verlyn Klinkenborg]

Genre: non fiction, outdoors and nature

I love books like this and even though its about US nature and I’m in UK, it doesn’t matter, there are parallels and I found it easy to enjoy Ted’s wonderful way of telling about what he sees. There are quirky little illustrations that added to the story, and I loved the way it followed the seasons, each leading naturally to the next.
I’ve loved nature and outdoors all my life, my early years would see me taking solitary walks in the woods and commons close to where I lived. Thinking back how far I wandered at under ten years old its quite scary, but my friends weren’t as nature minded and often I was left to explore alone.
Reading Ted’s book brought back some of that joy, the fun in tracking snowy footprints, of finding the first primrose, of watching catkins turn to hazel nuts, seeing the horse chestnuts sticky burst burst into leaf. Careful and observant nature lovers see the day to day changes and enjoy the gradual transition of seasons. Spring was always my favourite, and still is but autumn fruits and winter melancholy, the call of passing geese on a cold frosty morning, the dead looking branches that are really just in deep winter slumber, have their own magic.
Its easy to see Ted’s love of nature from the way he writes, showing the reader little things often not noticed, that only nature lovers would see.
Books like this are ones best in hardback physical form I feel where the illustrations can be properly appreciated. I love my kindle but most non fiction reads doesn’t really transition so well I think, and seeing and flipping through these books to certain parts works best in real life, not ebook.

Stars: Five, glorious book charting the transition of US seasons but which can be appreciated worldwide by true nature lovers.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Photography Rules, Essential Dos and Don’ts from Great Photographers, Paul Lowe

Photography Rules, Essential Dos and Don’ts from Great Photographers, Paul Lowe

Genre: Crafts & Hobbies, Arts & Photography

Like many folk I love taking pictures with my phone. I do have a “proper” camera, albeit a few years old, but my phone is always with me for those spontaneous moments. I now have a phone with leica camera, and it has a host of selections that I have no idea how to use. I was kind of hoping there would be more nuts and bolts tips here, but this book really focuses ( hah, clever that!) on the actual subject, timing, framing and how to choose them.
There are pictures from other photographers and an explanation of what made them interesting, how the photographer would have viewed the subject, and I found those interesting. Its curious, what is it in a scene that makes us want to capture it? What I want to know is how to make that scene better, how to capture whatever it was that sparked my interest, and I didn’t really get that from this book. There were also a lot of images of photographers, which I found a bit strange, I can understand showing examples of their work to illustrate a point but not really why we needed a picture of them. I also felt much of the work was not really current. I know good images stand the test of time but I didn’t see much from recent times.

I was reading this on PC, and I feel this is one of those books that is best appreciated “in real life” as a physical book, not an electronic copy.
Maybe I would have been able to grasp more from the book that way, who knows, but though there were some tips I found interesting, overall this was just not what I was looking for.

Stars: Two. Not really what I was expecting or looking for. Maybe I’d have appreciated it more in a physical copy.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Kika & Me, How One Guide Dog Changed My Life, Amit Patel

Kika & Me, How One Guide Dog Changed My Life, Amit Patel

Kika & Me: How one extraordinary guide dog changed my world by [Patel, Amit]

Genre: Non Fiction, Biography and memoirs

Well, most of us know about assistance dogs now, but when I was a kid Guide dogs were quite new, and there was lots of fundraising to train them. They really are a life line for people and in this book we can see just how important they are for visually impaired people.
Kika really did give Amit a new life. I remember a lady mum worked for as a cleaner, her ex policeman husband was blind. This would be mid 60’s, he spent all day every day in his bed in their living room. The house was a typical mid terrace, and from what I recall there was no support for him. What an awful life he must have had, they didn’t have TV, he couldn’t read, there was no such thing as audio books. Once every couple of weeks a friend would take him out for a short walk. Horrendous life, and yet apart from his blindness he was well. Dogs like Kika allow folk to keep their independence.

I have very bad eyesight, rely on some pretty strong lenses, and possibly may lose my sight as I get older. I treasure being able to see, to be able to do what I want, be independent still. I loved reading about Kika, her training, her individualism, her fierce protectiveness for Amit. When he gives examples of times when she refused to move and help that came told him she was right, to move was dangerous, it showed me just how much trust he needed to put in her. To regain his Independence it was necessary, but its not easy.

It was an inspirational read, Amit could so easily have lapsed into depression, as he did in those first days, and that would have ruined not only his life, but his wife and parents too. It must have been so hard to pick life up again – he was so young, but his wife and parents were determined being blind would just become part of his life, not the defining characteristic. I really enjoyed his journey from emergency doctor, to blindness ( not that I enjoyed that bit of course) and how he managed to get out of the depression, how hard he worked, how first the long cane, and then Kika helped him become what he wanted, a functioning, useful part of society, a god husband and son, and ultimately a good father too. All that took so much work, its not an easy journey and I am so in awe of his strength and support from family. May he have a long and happy life ahead of him.

Stars: Five, a fantastic, inspirational read of a real life experience.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Man Behind the Tudors, Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, Kirsten Claiden-Yardley

The Man Behind the Tudors, Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, Kirsten Claiden-Yardley

Genre: History, Non-fiction (adult)

I’ve read many books set in the Tudor period, set from the perspective of the Kings or Queens of the time. I’ve always wondered what drives the men ( and women) behind the scenes, the ones who have real power but need to keep on the right side of the Royals. Its a dangerous place to be.
Thomas Howard is one such man, well known in the context of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard but not really for himself. This book takes us from his childhood to his death in his eighties.
In an age where kings changed, loyalties changed, even religion changed that’s an incredible thing for a senior courtier to successfully wade through for so long. Many innocent people lost their lives on little more than the king’s whim, paranoia, gossips and hearsay. That Thomas managed to not only survive that but thrive in it, settling his family down, expanding his personal and family wealth and position is amazing to me. He was clearly a very clever man, but one able to walk that thin line between respect and honesty to his king, and telling him what he needed to know, doing what needed to be done for king and country.
I liked that the author explained where he’d sourced material, where it made it clear what was fact, backed up by primary evidence and what was speculation.

I found it an interesting read but….very much like a text book to read. Very date, people and places heavy, where I prefer a little more of the personal side, to really feel as if I know the main character.
Its just a different style of reading to that which I normally choose, and there is so much going on, so many people, so many changes, alliances, marriages and deaths, and remarriages, that I found it difficult to keep up. That’s all a personal issue though, nothing to do with the book. It never pretends to be anything other than an account of Thomas Howard’s life, but more an issue of my expectation.

Stars: Three, an excellent account of Thomas Howard’s life, very detailed but just a little too heavy for me personally to enjoy more.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Before and After, The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, Judy Christie, Lisa Wingate

Before and After, The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, Judy Christie, Lisa Wingate

Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children's Home Society by [Wingate, Lisa, Christie, Judy]

Genre: biography and memoirs

I loved Lisa’s Before We Were Yours, a heartbreaking story, and after publishing it she was contacted by people who until they read it didn’t realise they were part of the huge scandal, the selling of children. What an awful thing to learn.
Lisa decided to research more into the real stories, the awful business Tann ran, stealing children and selling them as orphans…..over 5,000 children stolen, often to a tailored description of the child wanted. We saw in the first book how those poor kids were taken, treated so harshly, how many of them died, and those that survived were treated as part of a for profit business by Tann. Its a horrific story, shocking how easy iot was for her to get away with it, how many people must have suspected even if they didn’t know, just what was going on. The poor kids too, taken from parents they loved, and treated as objects, no thoughts to how they felt, just how much money they would fetch. Families split up, so not only did they lose parents but siblings too.
Its makes heartbreaking reading, some of these real life stories, but at least many of those folk who’d always felt “outside” their families now have a sense of understanding why, and some were able to trace siblings. I still find it hard to get my head around the scale of the business, how it went on for so many years. As Edmund Burke says “All that is needed for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing.”
Its a hard story to read at times, but with moments of lightness when things go right, and hopefully shining a light on this atrocity will help prevent future ones. Those children though, will never get that time with their parents back, had their lives changed irrevocably. They may have had good lives, but it still wasn’t the life they were meant to live. I had to read this in sections, it was just so emotional in parts.

Stars: Three, an emotional read, the story behind the story. I had to read in stages, I found it incredibly moving and I just kept thinking “what if?” what if someone had said something when it first started. We can’t change the past though, only hope it influences the future.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Mindful Artist: Sumi-e Painting: Master the meditative art of Japanese brush painting. Virginia Lloyd-Davies

Mindful Artist: Sumi-e Painting: Master the meditative art of Japanese brush painting.

Virginia Lloyd-Davies

Genre: Arts & Photography, Crafts & Hobbies

I’ve always loved the “less is more” approach of oriental paintings. I struggle with the concept, and fiddle too much, and that loses the lovely light serenity of these works. This books shows me some of where I’ve been going wrong and has some simple exercises to get started along this way.
I enjoyed too the focus on mindful painting, ensuring you are in the correct way of thinking, relaxed, not rushed, that enables such simple but harmonious works. I can see that’s something I haven’t paid attention to enough in the past. I had noticed in my art that seasons and my mood influences what I paint and the results, but haven’t tried to consciously influence my mood. That’s something worth trying in future.

I quickly learned another reason my attempts have been massive fails. I have good watercolour paints, brushes and paper, but they are not correct for this type of work, and as the basics are inexpensive I’ve ordered a few brushes, a couple of pots of ink and some rice paper to try once more, and of course this time I’ll pay attention to my mood, my consciousness.

Its a beautiful book, simple and effective and one that’s well worth any artist taking a look. I have it as an e-book, but I think as for so much non fiction practical books a physical copy would be better, and of course allow me to really savour those gorgeous illustrations.

Stars: Five a fabulous practical book, for both painting and relaxation techniques. When my supplies arrive I’ll be trying out the exercises here and hopefully improve upon my past attempts at painting in this style.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Edit Dec 3rd. My rice paper arrived a few weeks back, brushes last week and yay, inks yesterday ( just black, couldn’t afford colours yet) so I’ll be playing later today hopefully. Hopefully I’ll have some pics to add to my review soon.

Ancient Egyptian Myths, Gods and Pharoahs, Creation and the Afterlife. Catherine Chambers

Ancient Egyptian Myths, Gods and Pharoahs, Creation and the Afterlife. Catherine Chambers

Genre: Non fiction (Adult), History

The pyramids….who hasn’t been fascinated in their creation, the how and why Egyptians came to create them. They were incredibly elaborate decoratively, but the construction uses mathematical calculations we thought were discovered in the 1600s. Clearly the Egyptians were centuries ahead of modern day man in that way.
The Gods and Goddesses, the myths and legends that grew up around them fascinated me as a child and reading this wonderful book brought back much of that magic. Its a very dense read, Catherine fully explores all elements surrounding the Gods, the changing names, how they came about and why. It’s illustrated too with wonderful photos of surviving artifacts. It amazes me that we can still have things thousands of years old, I like to imagine someone carving one of these little objects, putting their heart and beliefs into it, and that carries through to today even though the creator is long gone.

Its a wonderful read but I have it on PC as an epub read, and for me that’s hard going, and the reason its taken so long to read. Its very full of information that can’t jst be skimmed but needs time to absorb and appreciate, so I’ve been reading a little every now and then, mulling over the content when not reading. My youngest grandson has just being learning about Egyptian history and we’d recently talked over some of the things I found in this book. It was good to have a wider and more complete source than an 8 yr old primary school text 🙂
I think that as with most non-fiction books it would be better in physical form. I love my kindle but undoubtedly some books need to be “old school” print to get the best from them. If I had this book as a physical one I’m sure I’d be dipping in and out of it constantly.
Even though this society is thousands of years past its still a fascination for so many of us, and this book really fleshes out so many of the myths I know on the periphery, and goes into detailed information as to how and why they may have originated.

Stars: Five, a fabulous read, but would be best on physical book form.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Nature Tonic, A Year in My Mindful Life, Jocelyn de Kwant

Nature Tonic, A Year in My Mindful Life, Jocelyn de Kwant

Nature Tonic by [Kwant, Jocelyn de]

Genre: Crafts & Hobbies , Outdoors & Nature

I’ve always loved Nature, loved to be outside, enjoying plants, trees and wildlife.
I was interested to read this book, as I think many of us have forgotten just how restorative nature can be. We live in a rushed world, dominated by clocks, timetables, schedules and maybe taking a step back and appreciating what Nature does for us, ruled by her own timetables of night and day, seasons, where each day is a fresh new start can really help us.
Studies have shown how depression is helped by natural light, and I think this book goes that step further, in encouraging us to look around, see whats surrounds us, how it works, how seasons change, even times of day bring variations in nature. Some plants open at night, others during day, and others only in full sun.

There are daily tips, suggestions on what to do each day to encourage the reader to focus on their surroundings. I think that’s great, sometimes we’re overloaded with advice, see the challenge of adding something new into life as just too much, haven’t the time, don’t know where to start. All those excuses, where in this little book all we need to do is just take one step, do one thing a day. There’s no pressure, its nothing more than simply looking, smelling, thinking.
For example there’s a section on trees, suggesting studying different leaves, pick one and identify it, look for baby trees around a mature one, look at bark patterns of different trees and perhaps draw some. Nothing that can’t be done in just five minutes if wished, but which can be expanded to take however much time we want to spend on the task.
I think for all of us this book is great at reminding us how nature goes on, year after year, without interference. It reminds us of our roots, our food, whats really important in life. (Tip: Its not just 9am at the office) work will be done and gone, what seems all important now and is causing so much grief and pressure will pass, but Nature is always there. Finding our place, fitting in to the world around us, feeling part of it is humbling but also uplifting, and its that uplift of spirits that so many of us need.

Take a few minutes out of your day to look around at nature for a week, see how much better you feel at the end of it. Then buy this book, and follow the suggestions, it’s really worth it, especially if you are depressed and maybe need that little help of the daily tips to get started. In keeping with the simplicity of the text there are numerous simple illustrations that fit perfectly.

Stars: Five, a really helpful book, whether you’re a nature lover or just looking for a way to get through the daily grind, and lighten your thoughts and stress.
Arc via Netgalley

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