Tag Archive | non fiction

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

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

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

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

 

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