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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

Drawing: Horses, Walter Foster

Drawing: Horses, Walter Foster

Genre: , Arts & Photography, crafts and hobbies

This is a fabulous book BUT its not for beginners, whatever the blurb says. Each illustration has just 3-4 “steps” although the shading and rendering of individual parts of the horse is covered in more detail separately.
I know when I first started painting I needed the more detailed step by step books, those with about ten steps. I found with less my paintings would go from looking like the illustrations more or less in the early stage, to nothing like. I’d be thinking “but how did they do that bit?” and found it frustrating.
I could follow this book easily now but as a beginner I know I’d have struggled and been discouraged.

I think focusing on specific parts of the horse, and the tips on shaping and shading really useful. I liked that the book covers different breeds, as a horse lover and former owner I know just how different a Shetland is to a Shire or an Arab, and if you want your horses to look real, not a generic blend of horse shape this is essential.

Overall its a brilliant book IMO for those with some drawing skills and a little confidence but it is NOT one for beginners. If you do buy it and don’t have that experience I think you need to practice drawing the parts of the horse, hooves, muzzles etc before tackling the whole horse.

Stars: Four, its a fabulous book, full of tips to help draw realistic equines, but I’ve dropped a star because I just don’t feel this is suitable for beginners despite the description.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Some insights into reviewing

The fabulous Mary Ann Marlowe asked me if I wanted to take part in a blog post she was doing about reviewers. She had some great questions and it made me think about what I’d been doing as a reviewer. Its something I fell into by accident but have gained great satisfaction from ( and a lot of wonderful books to read). I still buy books, still am a KU member and borrow books that way. I just love to read.
Maryann’s books:

Some Kind of Magic (Flirting with Fame Book 1) by [Marlowe, Mary Ann]




My review of Some Kind of Magic


A Crazy Kind of Love (Flirting with Fame Book 2) by [Marlowe, Mary Ann]





My review of A Crazy Kind of Love

Dating by the Book by [Marlowe, Mary Ann]





Coming 25th June 2019

How long have you been reviewing books? Why did you start?

Seems like ages, but its about six/seven years I think. I love reading, saw an ad on amazon forums for a reviewer for a blog reviewing supernatural reads. That lasted about a year before closing down, and in the meantime I’d found Netgalley ( Egalley ARC site) and started my own blog.

What’s your favourite thing about reviewing books?

I love to read, getting review books lets me indulge in my hobby. as a quick reader I couldn’t afford to buy all these books, although I still love to reread favourites.

How many books do you read in a year generally? How do you usually find books to read?

I read more than I review, with personal purchases, free books and KU reads. I don’t always review those, depends on time commitment but if I’ve received a book for review I always write review for that. I see it as my part of the bargain. Reviewing takes time, I do a first rough draft, then run through and correct it, adding more, taking bits out and correcting spellings, ( I can spell, I can’t hits keys in the right order!!) then save a copy and add to online sites. Although I often intend to review the other books life sometimes gets in the way.
I keep a spreadsheet with all review books listed and publication dates so I know when to post and where I’ve posted. I’m approaching 2,500 on the spreadsheet so as I only started this a year or so in to reviewing when I began getting more books, that sounds about right for the 2-300 a year reviewed.
I guess I read maybe 4-500 a year and review around 2-300. I’ve not done so many recently as I’m in temporary accommodation while my home is being renovated and its hard finding the right mindset to review.

What is your typical process for deciding which books to review? For instance, do you go by what strikes your mood or make lists to tackle like homework? Do you accept requests to review from authors directly (and if so, how)?
What I read day to day is very mood dependent, and being in temporary accommodation has meant i don’t read so many of the intense reads, the complex ones as its hard to concentrate, and I’ve not felt in the mood for those.
I write reviews in the mornings, so if I’ve just finished a review book I won’t read another in that genre until I’ve written my review – found out the hard way that its easy to confuse two similar books when writing reviews, so now i keep only one of each genre in my head until review finished.
When choosing books I have quite eclectic tastes but romance figures heavily, whether its contemporary, suspense or fantasy. I try to research titles when i can, looking to see if I’ve enjoyed past books by an author, trying to find a sample to read or to see if other reviewers whose tastes I share have read it. I hate writing low star reviews, just means a book isn’t right for me, not that its a bad book, and that’s not always easy to get across. By researching first hopefully I avoid most of those. I spend anything from a couple of mins to twenty mins or so looking at each book request. Sometimes its clear pretty quick that I’ll love or loathe it but often its a case of thinking, does this sound right? Do I feel a connection/am I interested to see what happens. Existing books are easier, I can download samples, but many review books are months ahead of release, so unless I’ve read from that author before its a tough decision. Do I risk having to write a two star if I don’t like it, or conversely refuse it and miss a gem of a read….
I mostly get books via Netgalley now, but do have several authors who’ve contacted me over the years and I review their new reads – if they sound right for me. I used to open my blog for reviews but got so many requests that I simply couldn’t read them all, and the pre-choice research takes time too, so I now have a message that I don’t accept requests. I still get a few offers that way, and each gets looked at to see if its one for me.
What I hate is when I get requests such as one recently ” I see you reviewed xyz title, and wondered if you’d review my book?” Very often, authors haven’t really looked at what I review, nor is their book comparable to the one they quoted. In one case, about a month ago, the book offered for review was a contemporary romance, a short story of just 12 pages. I never read those, they just don’t work for me, ditto novellas unless they’re part of a series, and the book the author compared hers to was a full length fantasy suspense.
I do get constant requests to review “how to make a fortune with bitcoin/forex/day trading/how to lose a stone in ten days/how to write a bestseller/how to xxx” Those just go straight to junk. If an author can’t be bothered to see if their book fits what I read I’m not going to waste time on it, and these scam books are a particular hot button for me.

Do you review every book you intend to? If not, why might you choose not to review?
Occasionally I’ve chosen one that sounds perfect for me but I just can’t get through it, I’ve one like that right now. I’m at 20% and struggling to like the characters, the story, just can’t get into the book. Its one where its me not the book though, so rather than slog through and regret the time I’ve wasted I’ll return it to netgalley with a note that i couldn’t finish. I think over the years I’ve been with Netgalley ( 2012 joined, I just looked it up) I’ve returned maybe 15 books that way. I’ve also had a handful with formatting errors, where text too faint to read, too small, or has weird gaps and words that run into one. Reference books too, cookery, and gardening are ones I love, but don’t really work well as e-Books and I don’t really read on my pc or tablet.

If you give numeric ratings, what is your strategy for determining values? Are you stingy with 5 stars? Will you give a book 1 star?

A good book is 3-4, a great book 4-5, one I don’t really like overall but enjoyed parts will be 2-3. I rarely write one star, only if the book is really error ridden ( not formatting, but basic spelling and grammar, what I think of lazy editing), or in the case of two I one starred, they were complete rip offs of another popular book. Both of those had the exact same story outline in detail. They’d renamed characters and made some tiny changes but presented the book as something original when it wasn’t.
As an artist copyright really is important to me and I hate seeing folk trying to profit from someone else hard work.

What’s your opinion on authors reading reviews of their own books? When writing a review, are you concerned the author may read it? Does that ever influence your review?
When I’ve been contacted direct I always send a copy of review to author, I’m happy for them to read what I’ve written, its my honest opinion. Its hard when I thought I’d like a book and didn’t, but I try to stress in my summing up that book tastes are subjective, and though I didn’t enjoy it others will. It doesn’t influence my review – at least not consciously – as otherwise review ratings would become meaningless. I do find sending an author a copy of a two star review hard…but hopefully my initial weeding out and research prevents that happening often.

What’s your philosophy about interacting with authors? Do you tag them on reviews? Follow authors? Chat with them?
I follow a few of my favourites who write series so I know when next due out. I chat with a handful via email, I probably ought to add tags to reviews but my non tech brain hasn’t quite got that fixed yet. I know how, its just more time though, looking up who to tag and adding it. Its something I need to work on…one day! I used to be FB friends with several authors until Amazon decided that friendship and reviewing were incompatible. Amazon can be pretty draconian about removing reviews. In the last year I’ve had that happen twice. 3,000+ reviews gone overnight. Both times I appealed, said I was open, honest about reviews, use my own name, don’t accept money or any free products except a copy of the book. They even regard things like author competitions where not just a book but a voucher is a prize, so I don’t do those now.
I’m really wary of falling foul of their rules, but as I’ve experienced, it happens really easily. there’s no communication, the first time I noticed when I went to add a book review and found I couldn’t, and that everything was gone, second time an author contacted me to say my review was missing although it had been there a few days prior. I was lucky getting them reinstated but I’ve no idea why they went in the first place?
Sadly their review rules now mean people still get products( free books are allowed, free products are not) free for review, but as its harder to find folk willing to take the risk producers now offer payment as well as free products. I know because I get maybe 100-150 requests to review products each week. The way they bend Amazon rules is reviewer purchases as normal, sellers then refund cost plus a small fee via paypal once review is up. Of course they want five stars and are unlikely to pay unless that’s what they get. So Amazon efforts to tighten up fake reviews have led to less reviews overall, but even more fake ones. IMO
I add my reviews to Amazon com and uk, goodreads and my blog, but of course its Amazon that’s what authors really want, so I’m very careful to stay within guidelines. I used to do B&N but their site is so temperamental I gave up some months back.

How do you think authors should interact with bloggers ? Do you want authors to read your reviews? RT links to them? Ignore them?
I’m happy for authors to do what they want, quote from reviews, read them, link to them, tag them. I don’t mind what they do, I write honestly so I don’t mind anything that helps sell books.

Have you ever received a response from an author after giving a bad review? If so, can you vaguely share what happened?
I hate low starring reviews but its necessary if I’m to be honest about how a book affects me. I have had one lady write to me about a two star saying she understood her book wasn’t for me, and she was pleased I’d made the point that it was a personal interaction with the story, not that it was a bad book. I still felt awful though, I know how hard authors work, and it must feel uncomfortable when someone doesn’t like your story. I paint, and of course there are folk that just don’t connect with my style, hate it. That’s how it goes but it still feels personal. I guess the art of growing a thicker skin is needed whether its books, art, anything you’ve created that others may have an opinion on.
I did get a lady email me to remove my review once. It wasn’t a two or three star review, but a four. It was her first book, and she was concerned because my four star review was showing first and a couple of five star ones were below it ( and reading them I suspect they were from friends, didn’t write much about the book itself just gushed…) . I was pretty astonished, to me a four star book is good. I thought hard but eventually removed it from Amazon, because I feel four stars is positive, and removing wouldn’t really make much difference. It stayed on GR and my blog. I felt an undertone from her in that what she really wanted was for me to make it five star rather than remove it, but for me a four was the right rating. I did tell her I wouldn’t usually remove a review, its an opinion from one reader, and I take time over writing them. I value them when I’m selecting reads, and I write honestly about how I feel as regards a story.
I also told her I wouldn’t review for her a second time ( but have just realised I can’t remember her name so in reality I may!) I’m still astonished by her request. I’ve been reviewing for maybe 7 or 8 years now and that’s the only time I’ve ever been asked to remove my review.

What advice do you have for authors who might get a negative review from you (or any blogger)?
See it as positive, its a balance, an opinion from one person. It may be that what that person doesn’t like is what makes it perfect for someone else. I’ve bought books for exactly that reason. Reading tastes vary so much, so not all books suit all readers even if brilliantly written. I hate Terry Pratchett, David Eddings, Neil Gaimon books, eldest son and millions of other readers love them. Perfect example, we both love Fantasy but different types of fantasy.
I tend to read a couple of high star reviews and a couple of low ones before choosing, so low stars help balance. If a book has a clutch of five stars but none really say anything except how wonderful it is I tend to get suspicious, ditto those where the reader has only reviewed this or a couple of books. I’m more likely to take note of a review from someone who’s reviewed lots of books.

Do you ever get any positive feedback from authors?
Yes, and I love it when authors take the time to say they like my review. Especially if I’ve picked up on a point they were making…its kind of hard to write what I mean, but that sort of undercurrent, seeing that someone isn’t all bad, connecting with a book on a personal level and knowing that there’s been a lot or research to get details right. That sort of thing. ( Pet hate: The Horse Whisperer. I took that to read in hospital not knowing what it was about – I just love horses and that connection appealed. Of course I should have read more, I was in to have most of my left leg amputated! I can tell you from experience getting back to riding after amputation is nothing like it was portrayed in that book, there are things there that are simply not physically possible ( continuing with a cracked limb socket, been there and it won’t stay on, climbing a fence and mounting – tried that too when i fell off out in woods, can’t do it) and made me really annoyed to read.

Have you met or become friends with any of the authors you’ve reviewed? If so, how has that changed your relationship with reviewing in general?
Never met any, have become in a lose way, online friends with a few but I try to keep friendship and reviewing separate. Having said that I’d find it hard to do if any of my longtime real-life friends wrote a book….

What’s the best thing that’s ever happened as a direct result of your decision to review a book?
Nothing really specific. Getting such a variety of reads is a bonus, I simply couldn’t afford to buy all the books I want. I used to be an avid library user, but I’ve eyesight issues that make printed text difficult to read and a whole book is impossible, so ebooks came at the perfect time for me. I can alter text size, fond, boldness etc.

One Million followers, How I Built a Massive Social Following in 30 Days, Brendan Kane.

One Million followers, How I Built a Massive Social Following in 30 Days, Brendan Kane.

One Million Followers: How I Built a Massive Social Following in 30 Days by [Kane, Brendan]

Genre: Business and Investing,  Nonfiction (Adult)

Like many of the (cough) slightly older generation I’m not altogether au fait with how the internet works. I use social media, blog about art and books, but actual publicity? Nope, my growth is just something that happens, I’ve little idea on how to influence it, so the title of this book intrigued me. 30 days – I could do that…couldn’t I?

Well, the answer is no. I could if pushed spend 30 days promoting my site but without substantial financial input that wouldn’t get me too far. Its not really clear from the title but this book is aimed at growing followers by spending money. Admittedly there’s lots of info on how best to do that, where to place it for maximum use, but I suspect most folk like me just don’t have a spare few thousand lying around to use on promotion.

I was expecting advice on how to make sites more relevant, how to make them attractive to visitors, pull then in that way and thus followers would be ones to stick around, but most of this appears to be about Getting the followers, not keeping them. A kind of Blunderbuss effect, throw a site in front of millions of folk and hope some click Follow. TBH one million people who don’t read books or are not interested in art, wouldn’t help me even if I spend money I haven’t got on getting them.

Its interesting reading in parts, bogged down in others, and I found myself skipping fairly huge chunks of it. It didn’t really tell me much I didn’t already know, and wasn’t really relevant to me as a small blogger.
If you’ve a biggish company with a promotional budget, I suspect you’ll find lots of helpful information here, but my little blogs don’t really compare to the sites of Taylor Swift, Rhianna, MTV et al, and without substantial inputs of money most folk aren’t going to achieve anything like one million followers.

Stars: Three, some parts were interesting to read but most just not relevant to the average small site owner.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

Old English Medical Remedies, Mandrake, Wormwood and Raven’s Eye, Sinead Spearing

Old English Medical Remedies, Mandrake, Wormwood and Raven’s Eye,  Sinead Spearing

Genre:  Health, Mind & Body , History

I’m kind of conflicted about this review. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting, which was actual historical remedies and then a discussion on individual issues from them in the light of today’s knowledge.
I’m fascinated by old ways, remedies that were surprisingly effective, gained from acute observation of patient, remedy and effects mixed in with what seems to us much weirdness, gathering herbs on certain days, standing in certain position, using different coloured materials and of course the ever present evils of the day….What I got was an intensely interesting read, but which was much more like an academic treatise, at times pretty hard going for a hobby historian like myself.
I think that really needs to be made clearer in the description as I can see from reviews several others felt the same.

I really enjoyed the remedies and discussions when they cropped up, learning about how many are finding their way into modern medicine. The discussion too on why practices that seem so irrelevant to us now, with our science knows all outlook, things like times, days, colours, that are all set down so precisely were so important and not the side dressing they appear.
It reminded me of the way I read years back that so many recipes called for “the water of a man-child” and that seems sexist. Did they really think male urine was somehow stronger, more special? No, but the penis naturally allows urine to remain sterile longer while female urine can get skin contamination more easily as its gathered. Simple but important stuff. They may not have know why, but observation and records will have shown them that male urine was more effective.
Then too we now have a whole school of theory based around bio-dynamics, incorporating moon schedules for planting etc.

I found fascinating the research now done on intention of thought, where research was done on stands of human DNA, one group were asked to hold the vial while maintaining a heightened state of emotional positivity, the second asked to mentally intend to unwind the strand of DNA and the third group asked to do both. There was a marked difference in the first two groups compared with the third, with that one showing material change. It lead to a conclusion that focused intention could produce a material change, a small study but certainly food for thought, and one that could explain why intention was regarded as so important.
We’re so quick to dismiss what doesn’t fit our current science theories that we often dismiss old words, and yet as shown on the MRSA antibiotic, we could be losing valuable cures. Just because there seems no science base, no logic doesn’t mean a theory or remedy in invalid. I remember my shock years back when my PC/IT son told me about water being research for computer chips as water has a memory…I still find that hard to take 😉

Its a fascinating read, but so intense and academic that I found it hard at times, and I’ve skimmed through, reading sections that catch my eye. Its certainly a read I’ll dip back into for sheer interest, and its very clear the author has a real knowledge and passion for the subject. I had convinced that what she wrote had been thoroughly researched and checked, and wasn’t just an opinion of hers, but something gleaned from thorough analysis of the texts available.
For me though a read that was a bit lighter, or a better description so I knew what to expect would have made me happier.

Stars: 4, a great read for anyone interested in old remedies and the history of why they were so used.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers


A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind, Shoukei Matsumoto

A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind, Shoukei Matsumoto

A Monk's Guide to a Clean House and Mind by [Matsumoto, Shoukei]

Genre: Health, Mind & Body , Religion & Spirituality

I like to read books about other cultures and religions, and thought this sounded interesting. Its a quick and easy read, very slanted towards monks and temple life but with some parallels that apply to everybody.

I do find when I’ve had a mammoth blitz on the house that I feel better, that I get pleasure from seeing a clean room so I can understand the ethos about taking pride in cleaning, in doing a job well. I think the message I got from it was that and also give a task your full attention, don’t let your mind wander but focus and appreciate what you are doing as an important task. Its not just cleaning a floor, but making the home smell good, appealing to visitors, a place you can take pride in and focusing your mind while doing so lets some of the other clutter in there go, relaxes us. Well, that’s the way I read it 😉 and it does make sense to me.

I made a note about this part that resonated with me. “Adherence to the past and misgivings about the future will fill your head, wresting your mind from the present. That is why we monks pour ourselves heart and soil into the polishing of floors. Cleaning is training for staying in the now. Therein lies the reason for being particular about cleanliness.” Sometimes we’re so busy looking ahead, to whats yet to come but which can change and looking to the past which we can’t change that we don’t appreciate today. Its time we’ll never get back so enjoy it.
When early in the book he is talking about Buddhism, and not harming other creatures he explains by keeping the temples clean they avoid insect and other infestations which they would then need to deal with, so its easier to keep to their beliefs by preventing it happening in the first place. My agnostic cockney gran used to say “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” so clearly that transcends countries and religions.

I am going to try to take on some of the things I’ve read, make cleaning a regular schedule instead of my current ad-hoc when-I-feel-like-it one…and to focus on what I’m doing wholly instead of letting my mind wander. Like most of us I could do with some calm so its well worth trying.

Stars: 5. a short but very interesting book. Mostly centred around monks and temples it never the less has an ethos we can bring into our own cleaning regime.


ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and publishers


Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood by Chris Yarrow

Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood
by Chris Yarrow

Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood by [Yarrow, Chris]

Genre: Biographies and memoirs, Outdoors and Nature

Its taken me a while to review this as its not a kindle ARC, but an Epub, and I have issues reading on a PC, but finally got through it.
Its a really interesting read, detailing a family’s progress from first idea, searching for the right wood, purchasing and of course building a home and business from it.
I enjoyed reading about their day to day struggles, with not just Nature but Those (nominally) In Charge. The Officials who make the rules, but don’t always realise the one size doesn’t fit all, and things like soil type can vary within a few hundred yards, therefore growing some kinds of trees, while it may be in Local Plans, just won’t work.

I think in the UK we can get OTT over planning, obsessional almost over control, and Chris and Anne find this again and again. They want what ostensibly the planners want, to return a woodland to a working woods, to look after, to protect, to encourage healthy trees, but sometimes – as I’ve found myself – officials are too ready to land Tree Protection Orders on trees that just don’t need it. Rules and regulations get in the way of practicality and doing whats right for that woodland, not necessarily whats right on paper or proscribed in Local Plans.
I really felt for them when they came up against officials and locals determined not to listen to their plans, convinced they were out to ruin the land. Somehow though they work through, and I loved the successes and the descriptions of the working wood, and that gorgeous house.

It gave me lots to think about, opened my eyes to the many things that can be done with woodlands. I wish I’d been able to do something along these lines when younger.
I’ve always had a love of nature, enjoying growing things and seeing them mature, and trees of course can take a very long time to reach maturity, but there are ways of making money from younger trees while encouraging mature ones for future generations.
It’s not just wood that’s harvested, but leaf mulch, charcoal making, school trips and education, cafes and woodland walks, basket and hurdle making, so many things not just planks and logs from trees.
Of course we also get the benefit of plants and fungi that flourish in healthy woodland, the animals, birds and insects that depend on the trees in all states from young to rotten, and of course they way trees clean the air.
I love the keeping of old crafts, of the way woods were used in the past, I feel we do let so much old knowledge go in the quest for modernisation. The UK has a centuries long forestry heritage, and I’d like to play a part in keeping that.

Its not all fun and games though, trees take a lot of work, and though I’ve only four acres of land it seems there’s always tree limbs need pruning, sapling thinned out to encourage strong growth and dead trees to be felled – only yesterday, 30th December, we had to remove two silver birches in danger of falling into the road. It natural progression that trees age and need to be managed, but its expensive if like me you can’t do it yourself. Its been entertaining read of Chris and Anne’s struggles and successes, and anyone interested in doing something along these lines will learn much for the book.

Stars: five, a practical and entertaining read, with careful dollops of gentle humour to balance.
Arc supplied for review by Netgalley and Publishers


My Journey, A Victory Over Cancer Through Alternative Methods, A Book That May Save Your Life, Valarie Hendriks

My Journey, A Victory Over Cancer Through Alternative Methods,
A Book That May Save Your Life, Valarie Hendriks

My Journey: A Victory Over Cancer Through Alternative Methods by [Hendriks, Valarie ]

Genre: self-help, health, mind and body

Having had cancer myself 22 years ago, stories like this interest me and I’ve always had an interest on complemetary and alternative medicine.
I think its a very long time though since a book has made me as angry as this one.

Its a dangerous book IMO, that suggests conventional treatment kills, that  current treatment is basically a stitch up between doctors getting paid by treatment, drug companies wanting to make money, that the medical profession as a whole are ignoring these simple and inexpensive cures. She posits that alternative treatment cures, and the book is full of sweeping statements that have no data or available research to back them up, though plenty of info from the makers of each. No bias there then.
Its presenting these statements, opinions and speculations as fact that angers me, and I feel its very dangerous for those who are desperately hoping for a cure.
I know I searched hard when I was undergoing treatment, to see what I could be doing to help myself, and back then its was all Sharks Cartilage, Apricot Kernels and coffee enemas that were the holy grail of alternative remedies. ( Coffee enemas feature here too…)

There were times when we agree, she promotes healthy eating and looking after your body and I feel that’s very true, we need to ensure our bodies can cope with what we want, give them the tools to fight off abnormalities. Its a common sense approach that a physically strong body should respond better to whatever treatment, whatever illness were dealing with.
She’s a strong promoter of God and Prayer, for me its Positive thinking – I’m not a non believer, but I’m not sure if its god that’s who I believe in, but it helps to think there’s someone, something greater than us who can push our health in the right direction.
I did find the religious pushing, the constant cheeriness, exhortations to Smile, group hugs, the use of Lots Of Capitals and Exclamation Marks were trying after a while!!!!
Its a tone that didn’t work for me though, but it’s just a personal thing and will be fine for others.

What made me cross too was her constant pushing of certain manufacturers, her constant stating of her opinions and online finds as facts – ie Citing a case quoted by the inventor of the hot sandwich, how within one week of eating a “hot sandwich” every day – that’s basically habanero peppers, garlic and organic butter on organic bread -the tumours in both his (patients) colon and liver had disappeared. (loc 2670)
Kelley Eidem, inventor of this sandwich also has a hub page – “how I cured stage 4 cancer in two weeks for less than the cost of a night at the movies.”
Hmnn now – do I think that’s true? Is there details of the person who was cured? Is there any form of backing data, facts, real people coming forward who have been cured by this method? Is there really a huge conspiracy against this and similar treatments by the whole medical profession and drug companies, ensuring we still get ill just to keep them in jobs? They’re not perfect, they’re human and make mistakes but to take things that far is something I can’t feel is right.
Then she goes on about how awful chemo is, ( true – but sadly necessary for lots of us), how more people die from the chemo than the cancer – again no backing data, and a quick sentence sneaked in among the heavy pushed alternative remedies tells us she had treatment of Rituxan – but that’s OK because “Rituxan is not chemotherapy. Rituxan is a type of antibody therapy….”
Well, that’s true to an extent, its what the makers say, but its certainly conventional treatment for certain cancers, and not one of the natural vitamin supplement or coffee enemas she’s so fond of. Chemotherapy is just that to me, therapy made from chemicals, from research of all kinds, some of which are man made and some found in nature. Rituxan is certainly that, so to suggest her cancer was cured solely by alternative methods is a little stretching things. Rituxan is actually made by fusing part of a mouse body with part of a human antibody, not quite a simple therapy.  There are deadly remeies in nature too, arsenic, cyanide, lead, so many things that are “natural2 can also kill. Its not nature good – man-made bad. Both have points for and against

Maybe the treatment in US is very different to UK, but when I underwent chemo some 22 years back I had a battery of tests, x-rays, CT and MRI scans, blood tests, urine tests both before, during and after to ensure that my body was able to cope with the chemo, that it would help, not hinder recovery. My chemo was tailored to me, not a blunderbuss of “might help” chemicals. She kind of suggests in US they throw that sort of treatment at a patient without all that monitoring, thus the many that she says die from the treatment not the disease, and I find it hard to believe it would vary so much from UK/rest of the world in US.
I’m just so angry that she derides conventional treatment, makes these sweeping statements about how her research has shown that more people die of chemo effects after they’ve been cleared of cancer, that having chemo is akin to a death sentence, that with the right combo of vitamins, coffee enemas, using Bentonite clay inside and outside the body, massages, special saunas, fasting on juices for up to 14 days at a time etc you can be cured ( and the power or Prayer, she’s a great fan of God’s help – and that’s good for her but not for everyone.)
When people are diagnosed, especially when the chances of living are minimal, then its natural to look for something we can do ourselves, and this book just takes me back to those sharks cartilage days. I worry that people will only see the alternative remedies as the cure, and not the very real conventional treatment she had.
Spurning data backed, tested and verified results of conventional treatment in favour of those alternatives could mean the difference between life of death. If anyone is going to do that don’t just rely on one person’s words, check facts, look up some of the science, look for results, for real people that have undergone what your doing.
I’m not saying blindly accept what is offered conventionally, you should ask questions there too, what, how, why am I having….Its your body, you are the one taking the risk so look very carefully.

What I can say is don’t be disheartened by this book, don’t feel its all one way or the other, that if you don’t follow this regime, if you go with conventional treatment you are going to die.
I have been cancer free for 22 years now, after an amputation and two rounds of experimental chemotherapy. By the time my tumour was diagnosed it was very big, very advanced, I was lucky it hadn’t spread. My chances of surviving were assessed at just 15%.
Ididn’t have lots of alternative therapies, I did put my trust in the doctors who treated me having asked them and received answers to my questions. I didn’t go for healthy eating all the while – I tried as much as I could but didn’t always feel like eating anything, never mind swallowing a battalion of supplements. I couldn’t have afforded them in all likelihood anyway, nor the special saunas and as for coffee enemas, well, I’d have to be very convinced they work.

I’m glad that whatever worked for her did, but whether it was the conventional treatment or the alternative that worked who knows?
I’m all in favour of complementary therapy, something many cancer hospitals offer, all in for helping ourselves, of trying to wrest some form of control of our illness, not let it take over our lives, but Cancer is unpredictable – we can do a lot to help ourselves by way of avoiding unhealthy lifestyles, by ensuring we eat and drink sensibly, look after our bodies, and sometimes it regresses for no known reason. It just isn’t as simple as she makes out and I worry she’s putting out a dangerous message.

Stars: One, sorry, I’m sure Valarie put her heart and soul into writing this book, I’m sure she strongly believes what she’s written but that doesn’t mean alternative is best or that conventional kills.
If you want to go the alternative route talk to your doctors, research for yourself what actual results have been verified, not just someone saying “xyz people have been cured by….” Don’t get fooled by smoke and mirrors

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Sweet, Savory, and Free, Insanely Delicious Plant-Based Recipes without Any of the Top 8 Food Allergens, Debbie Adler

Sweet, Savory, and Free, Insanely Delicious Plant-Based Recipes without Any of the Top 8 Food Allergens, Debbie Adler

Sweet, Savory, and Free: Insanely Delicious Plant-Based Recipes without Any of the Top 8 Food Allergens by [Adler, Debbie]

Genre: Cooking, Food & Wine , Parenting & Families

I’ve been lucky in my family, my children have never had allergies that are a serious issue. My daughter was brought up on goat milk as she reacted against cows milk, but she outgrew that by around two years old.
She became a strict vegetarian at nine, so food labeling and ingredients became a normal part of life for us. Its amazing what gets tucked into the most innocent of foods, and we found animal based gelatine crept into so much.
Then her third child was born with multiple allergies, cows milk, goat milk, soya, wheat, eggs, and she was advised to avoid meat and fish at weaning plus all nuts. It meant sticking strictly to label reading again, and I found 20 years on manufacturers still putting in things that to my mind weren’t necessary. Orange ice lollies, the juice kind, we were amazed they have dairy in them. Why? Its not needed.

For anyone in that situation, or indeed anyone concerned about what exactly we’re eating this book is perfect. I doubt it’s for those who claim “intolerance” but eat those foods “on a good day”, they don’t have the determination to change what they eat, just to inconvenience others….
Allergies are serious, life threatening, not a choice issue.

If I was starting my family again I’d use this book as a key element of family nutrition. Its not full of weird recipes and ingredients everyone is unfamiliar with, but favourite ones that Debbie has carefully researched, so they can be reproduced from ingredients that are both healthy and non allergenic.
It does mean changing the whole way of looking at food and ingredients though. I’ve always done what I think of as “clean” eating, making most of out meals from scratch, not buying ready meals. That’s how I was brought up, and it wouldn’t be difficult to change that to this way of eating.
Debbie’s done all the hard work, and though the initial food lists look daunting they’re not and I’m sure it would soon become second nature to use these instead of what we ordinarily have in the cupboard.  It’s a simple matter to swap the usual ordinary flour, sugar, fat etc to one of those she recommends. That way you can still use your old favourite recipes, just make them better for everyone.
Its not all dry nut-roast, lentil burger and meat free loaf stuff either, but recipes that really do sound mouthwatering and attractive.
I remember when Brennan ( the grandchild mentioned above) was one, the challenge to find a recipe for a cake that was egg, dairy,wheat and soya free. Even the hospital swap lists didn’t really deal, advising those with wheat allergies to swap with soya, the same for dairy. If you’re allergic to them all they didn’t have an answer. Fortunately Vegan recipes helped me source a chocolate cake recipe, that was tasty and satisfied the Birthday Cake remit. If we’d had this book though, we could have varied his diet so much more, with food the whole family would enjoy.

If my children were young I’d definitely use this as a daily eating guide and change my pantry ingredients. With the internet its pretty easy to source most foods now, and the ones in here can mostly be found in big supermarkets now anyway. Its just ingredients to hand and mindset that really needs changing, and I’m sure after a few weeks it would become second nature.

For personal preference I think conventional print format is better for recipe books ( in fact most non fic books). It makes browsing and choosing what to cook so much easier I find. As I’ve now eye issues and can’t read them though, I’m thankful of the e-book versions.

Stars: Five, the book to give anyone as a new home gift. Packed with mouth watering healthy recipes.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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