Tag Archives: non fiction

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Rough Magic: Riding the world’s wildest horse race by Lara Prior-Palmer #Brainfluffbookreview #RoughMagicbookreview

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I have to come clean – I requested this book because I was under the impression that it was a fantasy adventure, due to the title. For once, my trick of not reading the blurb tripped me up…

The Mongol Derby is the world’s toughest horse race. An outrageous feat of endurance across the vast Mongolian plains once traversed by the army of Genghis Khan, the Derby sees competitors ride 25 horses across 1000km, and it’s rare that more than half of the riders make it to the finish line. In 2013 Lara Prior-Palmer – nineteen, wildly underprepared and in search of the great unknown – decided to enter the race. Finding on the wild Mongolian steppe strength and self-knowledge she didn’t know she possessed, even whilst caught in biblical storms and lost in the mountains, Lara tore through the field with her motley crew of horses. She didn’t just complete the race: in one of the Derby’s most unexpected results, she won, becoming the youngest-ever competitor to conquer the course.

Lara makes an intriguing protagonist – in this painfully honest memoir of a tricky time in her life when she signed up for this most testing adventure on a fairly random whim, I get a sense of a very strong determined personality who is a work-in-progress. I liked the messiness of the characterisation. She is clearly someone not comfortable in her own skin – literally, as it happens. This gawky nineteen-year-old has been suffering with chronic stomach pains that no one has been able to successfully diagnose – and as the race wore on and many of the other competitors dropped away, it did occur to me that the reason why she managed to stick it out when so many others couldn’t, is simply that she’s used to being in constant physical discomfort and pain.

I say ‘simply’, but of course real life isn’t that simple. This book isn’t just about Lara’s gritted determination to complete – and ultimately win – a particularly gruelling horse race, it’s also about her take on the stunning scenery, the people in her life – and how comfortable she feels within herself. It’s striking that when in amongst other people, what falls out of her mouth is often crass and/or simply embarrassing. She mentions near the start of the book that she hasn’t many filters and at school she was in the habit of coming out with whatever was floating through her head at the time.

There’s a sense of her not really fitting in – not at home, or in her daily life and certainly not at the start of the race. By the end, however, it’s a different matter. The vets and race organisers begin to look upon her as a contender and there’s an implicit sense that there’s growing respect for her. Not that she mentions it – I’m not sure even now that she’s aware of how awed they were at her toughness and horsemanship. It’s striking that her main competitor pushed her horses really hard throughout, which eventually cost her the race. Mostly, Lara didn’t.

I’m conscious that I’ve written a great deal about the protagonist and not a whole lot about the race – it’s partly because I don’t want to stray into Spoiler territory, but also because I love the fact that while one thing is going on – the race – Lara is also busy growing up…

Her descriptions of her various horses, the varying weather and stunning scenery, along with her immediate reaction to it is masterfully done. This book pulled me in and held me throughout – I found it a fascinating, layered read that told me about so much more than a very challenging horse race. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys reading about true adventures.
9/10

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Sunday Post – 2nd June, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s been half term. I had the children to stay for the first three days, which was a treat as I haven’t had them for a while. It’s always enjoyable to be able to touch base with them and catch up on their doings. Sadly Himself was working throughout, but my sister and I took them out for a meal at our favourite Chinese restaurant. Other than that, they weren’t keen to go out and about, but seemed to enjoy relaxing in their rooms and reading.

I’ve also been catching up on a backlog of reviews and some paperwork. I also submitted my short story ‘How Vine Leaves Stuffed Nemesis’ to an anthology called Fight Like a Girl about battling women, after getting valuable feedback from my Writing Group on Thursday evening. Yesterday, Sally and I spent the day editing her book – we are now nearing the end of the first volume, which is exciting. Today, Himself and I will be tackling the garden…

Last week I read:
The Janus Stone – Book 2 of the Ruth Galloway mysteries by Elly Griffiths
It’s been only a few months since archaeologist Ruth Galloway found herself entangled in a missing persons case, barely escaping with her life. But when construction workers demolishing a large old house in Norwich uncover the bones of a child beneath a doorway—minus its skull—Ruth is once again called upon to investigate. Is it a Roman-era ritual sacrifice, or is the killer closer at hand?
This is one of those series that I’ve always promised myself that I’d tuck into – I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and am looking forward to the next one.

 

The Switch by Justina Robson
In Harmony, only model citizens are welcome. A perfect society must be maintained. The defective must be eradicated. For orphans like Nico and Twostar, this means a life that’s brutal, regulated and short. But Nico and Twostar are survivors, and when they’re offered a way out of the slums, they take it. Unfortunately, no one told Nico the deal included being sentenced to death for the murder of one of Harmony’s most notorious gang leaders. Or that to gain his freedom, first he must lose his mind.
This was a delightful surprise that I found nestling amongst the library shelves, so scooped it up. I’m so glad I did!

 

The Whispering Skull AUDIOBOOK – Book 2 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud
In the six months since Anthony, Lucy, and George survived a night in the most haunted house in England, Lockwood & Co. hasn’t made much progress. Quill Kipps and his team of Fittes agents keep swooping in on Lockwood’s investigations. Finally, in a fit of anger, Anthony challenges his rival to a contest: the next time the two agencies compete on a job, the losing side will have to admit defeat in the Times newspaper. Things look up when a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co. to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who reportedly tried to communicate with the dead. Saunders needs the coffin sealed with silver to prevent any supernatural trouble. All goes well-until George’s curiosity attracts a horrible phantom.
The wonderful, creepy world invented by Stroud is just a joy – and though this is supposedly written for children, I am absolutely loving the quality of the writing and the layered characterisation.

The Art of Noticing: Rediscover What Really Matters To You by Rob Walker
Distracted? Overwhelmed? Feel like your attention is constantly being pulled in different directions? Learn how to steal it back. Accessible and inspiring, this book features 131 surprising and innovative exercises to help you tune out white noise, get unstuck from your screen and manage daily distractions. Make small yet impactful changes and bring focus to the things and people that are most important to you.
I look forward to having a go at some of these exercises during the summer holidays, when Life eases up a little…

 

 

Rough Magic: Riding the world’s wildest horse race by Lara Prior-Palmer
The Mongol Derby is the world’s toughest horse race. An outrageous feat of endurance across the vast Mongolian plains once traversed by the army of Genghis Khan, the Derby sees competitors ride 25 horses across 1000km, and it’s rare that more than half of the riders make it to the finish line. In 2013 Lara Prior-Palmer – nineteen, wildly underprepared and in search of the great unknown – decided to enter the race. Finding on the wild Mongolian steppe strength and self-knowledge she didn’t know she possessed, even whilst caught in biblical storms and lost in the mountains, Lara tore through the field with her motley crew of horses. She didn’t just complete the race: in one of the Derby’s most unexpected results, she won, becoming the youngest-ever competitor to conquer the course.
This gripping account of a young woman struggling to discover who she is while in the middle of a major test of endurance and courage kept me up and turning the pages far later than I should have.

Fields’ Guide to Abduction – Book 1 of the Poppy Fields’ adventures by Julie Mulhern
Poppy Fields, Hollywood IT girl extraordinaire, agreed to a week at the newest, most luxurious resort in Cabo. After all, what’s better than the beach when a girl is feeling blue? When Poppy is abducted, she’ll need all her smarts, all her charm, and a killer Chihuahua, to save herself in this new series from the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Country Club Murders.
Dead body #1 found in bed, with me. That was a shock.
Dead body #2 found in bed, not with me. That was a relief.
Dead body #3 died telling me I’m a lousy actress. I already knew that.
Dead body #4 died trying to kill me.
Dead body #5 died kidnapping me.
Dead body #6 died guarding me.
Dead body #7 was a really bad man.
Dead body #8 was an even worse man.
That’s a lot of dead bodies for a girl looking for a week’s relaxation in Cabo. And, I’m probably leaving a few out—math isn’t my thing. Unless I can escape the cartel, I might be the next dead body.
Poppy is a wonderful protagonist. Sparky and funny, with some battle scars of her own that make her sympathetic – and unexpectedly good in a crisis. I really enjoyed blowing through this one in one sitting…

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Art of Noticing: Rediscover What Really Matters To You by Rob Walker

Friday Faceoff featuring The Green Rider series by Kristen Britain

Review of Children of Blood and Bone – Book 1 of Legacy of Orïsha series by Tomi Adeyemi

Review of Within the Sanctuary of Wings – Book 5 of the Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan

Tuesday Teaser featuring The Switch by Justina Robson

Review of In Evil Times – Book 2 of the Imperials series by Melinda Snodgrass

Sunday Post – 26th May 2019

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

BRIGHTON FRINGE: An Adult Dr Seuss – The Warren: The Nest https://www.thereviewshub.com/brighton-fringe-an-adult-dr-seuss-the-warren-the-nest/
Circumstances conspired so that I was unable to watch this enjoyable show by Geoff, who is a member of my critique writing group – but I did have the pleasure of watching the dress rehearsal and loved it…

10 of the Best Poems about Women https://interestingliterature.com/2019/06/01/10-of-the-best-poems-about-women/ This is an interesting and eclectic mix…

When Your Story Hits Too Close to Home https://writerunboxed.com/2019/05/30/when-you-story-hits-too-close-to-home/ Interestingly, I was grappling with some of these issues when editing my friend’s memoir yesterday…

OTT: All the ways I will kill you if you dare to interrupt my reading https://thisislitblog.com/2019/05/30/ott-all-the-ways-i-will-kill-you-if-you-dare-to-interrupt-my-reading/ This is hilarious – I’d like to say that I wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing – but when I’ve got to a good bit in the book and you decide to crash in…

#Creative #Children #Writing #Friends, and a New #Publishing #Adventure https://jeanleesworld.com/2019/05/30/creative-children-writing-friends-and-a-new-publishing-adventure/ Such are the obstacles and roadblocks in the life of a writer – I am awed at the resilience and strength of writing colleague Jean Lee…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wondering week!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of NETGALLEY arc The Art of Noticing: Rediscover What Really Matters To You by Rob Walker #Brainfluffbookreview #TheArtofNoticingbookreview

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I have been struggling with stress and mild depression throughout this year. It’s badly affected my ability to sustain the relationships around me that matter, my physical health, my teaching and my writing. One of the more miserable aspects of this malaise is that I’m finding it very difficult to put in place anything that might help me out of this hole. I’ve fallen into patterns of behaviour that while initially helping me to flick into escape-mode, now over the longer term, are aggravating the situation – and through a sense of hopelessness, I am finding it difficult to wean myself away from them. So when I saw this book, I thought it might provide me with some ways to help myself at a practical, concrete level.

Distracted? Overwhelmed? Feel like your attention is constantly being pulled in different directions? Learn how to steal it back. Accessible and inspiring, this book features 131 surprising and innovative exercises to help you tune out white noise, get unstuck from your screen and manage daily distractions. Make small yet impactful changes and bring focus to the things and people that are most important to you.

And there’s the blurb – so the question is, are those 131 exercises really surprising and innovative? Can I envisage myself taking part in any of them, or a close alternative that would be a better fit for my own lifestyle and personality?

The answer to the first question is – yes. All the exercises are slightly off the wall and unusual, requiring a shift from everyday thinking – to the extent that some of them are used to help art students hone an alternative, original view of the world. Some of my favourites include the one inspired by writer Paul Lukas, who likes to discover the backstory of everyday objects in an activity he calls ‘inconspicuous consumption’, by asking ‘how did it get that way?’. I also like the exercise Brian Rea uses of making lists of immaterial things – such as the things he is worried about, memorable moments during a dinner party, the bars he visited when living in Stockholm. None of the above remotely appeal, but I’m attracted to the idea of making a list of the flowers blooming in my garden, along with the date when they first appeared, for instance. Another exercise I particularly like is making a glossary of unfamiliar vocabulary that exist within a specific expertise, by asking people for terms within their work life that don’t regularly come up in everyday usage.

There were a number of exercises that left me cold – one was to record a couple of minutes of activity on your smartphone and write a poem, or description of it, after viewing it repeatedly to ensure you absorb all the minutest details. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with it, it just didn’t appeal.

What I appreciate is that Walker has taken pains to spread these exercises across the widest spectrum of interests and sensory input. There are exercises that appeal to our visual senses – like the above, for instance. There are exercises involving sound-mapping the surrounding environment, with some ingenious variations; exercises involving drawing or painting; and using modern technology to make short films of the day objects you touch every day. In short, whoever you are and whatever your particular strengths and inclination, I think you’ll find something in this book that you could use or adapt. And that was something else I really like – there is no sense in which Walker is at all dogmatic about any of the suggested exercises. He frequently suggests variations and at the end of the book actively encourages his readers to find different ways to put this approach in place.

These exercises are all designed to help us reset ourselves within our environment, so that we focus on the immediacy of existing in the way we’ve done for millennia – the way we’re designed to do. I will be campaigning for the hard copy edition of this book for my upcoming birthday, as the ebook isn’t a particularly friendly medium for browsing and flipping back and forth. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to reconnect with their surroundings in any way.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 7th May, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

The Art of Noticing: Rediscover What Really Matters To You by Rob Walker
34% Oliveros’s version of listening encompasses remembered sounds heard in dreams, even imagined or invented sounds. Elsewhere she referred to auralization (a term borrowed from architectural acoustics) as a kind of sonic corollary to the visual spin we tend to put on imagination. ‘Listening is a lifetime practise that depends on accumulated experiences with sound,’ she asserted, one that encompasses ‘the whole space-time continuum of sounds.’

BLURB: Distracted? Overwhelmed? Feel like your attention is constantly being pulled in different directions? Learn how to steal it back. Accessible and inspiring, this book features 131 surprising and innovative exercises to help you tune out white noise, get unstuck from your screen and manage daily distractions.
Make small yet impactful changes and bring focus to the things and people that are most important to you.

This book jumped out at me – I’ve been more than a tad stressed, recently and am trying to cultivate the art of mindfulness. There are a number of interesting exercises throughout this book – I just need to get a chance to put some of these into practice… In the meantime, it’s well written and informative without too much tech-speak – just enough to make it interesting. Review to follow.

My Outstanding Reads of the Year – 2018 #Brainfluffbookblogger #MyOutstandingReadsoftheYear2018

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It’s been another great reading year with loads of choice within my favourite genres, so I ended up reading 162 books with 125 reviews published and another 23 in hand. In no particular order, these are the books that have stood out from the rest in the best way. Some of them might not even have garnered a 10 from me at the time – but all those included have lodged in my head and won’t go away. And none of this nonsense about a top 10 – I can’t possibly cope with a limit like that.

The Stone Sky – Book 3 The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
The whole trilogy is an extraordinary read – a mash-up between fantasy and science fiction and sections of it written in second person pov. It shouldn’t work, but it does because her imagination and prose fuses together to make this more than a sum of its parts. See my review.

 

Hyperspace Trap by Christopher G. Nuttall
I like this author’s writing anyway and I’m a sucker for a well-told space opera adventure, so I read a fair few. However, something about this one has stuck – I often find myself thinking about those passengers on the space liner and the crew looking after them, while marooned by a malign presence. See my review.

 

The Cold Between – A Central Corps novel by Elizabeth Bonesteel
This is the start of a gripping space opera adventure with interestingly nuanced characters, whose reactions to the unfolding situation around them just bounces off the page. I love it when space opera gets all intelligent and grown-up… See my review.

 

The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet E. McKenna
This fantasy adventure is set in contemporary Britain with the protagonist very much hampered by his fae ancestry and trying to discover more about that side of his family. It gripped me from the first page and wouldn’t let go until the end, when I sulked for days afterwards because I wanted more. See my review.

 

Head On – Book 2 of the Lock In series by John Scalzi
This is such a smart, clever premise. The paralysed young protagonist is able to live a nearly-normal life because his consciousness is uploaded into a robot, when he pursues a career fighting crime. Science fiction murder mysteries are one of my favourite genres, when it’s done well – and this is a great example. See my review.

 

Before Mars – Book 3 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
This has been an outstanding series – and this tight-wound thriller is no exception. I love the fact that Newman tackles the subject of motherhood, which isn’t a subject that comes up all that often in science fiction. See my review.

 

Child I by Steve Tasane
I’ve been haunted by this book ever since I read it. It’s not long and the language is very simple. The little boy telling the story is bright and funny and not remotely self pitying. When I started reading it, I assumed it was set in a post-apocalyptic future – and then discovered that it was set right now and is the distilled experience of children from all over the world. And I wept. See my review.

 

The Wild Dead – Book 2 of The Bannerless Saga by Carrie Vaughn
This was the most delightful surprise. This is another murder mystery set in the future – this time in post-apocalyptic America once law and order has been re-established. I loved the atmosphere, the society and the above all, I fell in love with Enid, the no-nonsense, practical lawgiver sent to sort out the puzzle of a body of a girl that nobody appears to know. See my review.

 

The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah
As well as being a story of a family, this is also a homage to Alaska and a time when it was a wilder, less organised place. It isn’t one of my normal reads, but my mother sent me this one as she thought I’d love it – and, being my mum, she was right. See my review.

 

Fallen Princeborn: Stolen by Jean Lee
I’ve come to know the author from her amazing blog and was happy to read a review copy of her book – what I wasn’t prepared for was the way her powerful, immersive style sucked me right into the skin of the main character. This contemporary fantasy is sharp-edged, punchy and very memorable. See my review.

 

Eye Can Write: a memoir of a child’s silent soul emerging by Jonathan Bryan
This is another amazing read, courtesy of my lovely mum. And again, she was right. This is a non-fiction book, partly written by Jonathan’s mother and partly written by Jonathan himself, whose severe cerebral palsy locked him into his body, until he found a way to communicate with the outside world using one letter at a time. See my review.

 

Windhaven by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle
This remarkable colony world adventure is about a girl yearning to break into the closed community of flyers – and what happens when she does. I love a book all about unintended consequences and this intelligent, thought-provoking read thoroughly explores the problems, as well as the advantages of throwing open this elite corps to others. See my review.

 

Strange the Dreamer – Book 1 of Strange the Dreamer duology by Laini Taylor
I loved her first trilogy – but this particular book has her writing coming of age. The lyrical quality of her prose and her amazing imagination has her odd protagonist pinging off the page. See my review.

 

Battle Cruiser – Book 1 of the Lost Colonies series by B.V. Larson
This is just such fun. William Sparhawk is a rigidly proper young captain trying to make his way in the face of enmity from his superiors due to his family connections, when he’s pitchforked right into the middle of a ‘situation’ and after that, the tale takes off and buckets along with all sorts of twists and turns that has William becoming less rigid and proper… See my review.

 

Certain Dark Things by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia
That this author is a huge talent is a given – and what she does with a tale about a vampire on the run in a city that has declared it is a no-go area for the destructive creatures is extraordinary. Review to follow.

 

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
I’ll be honest – I liked and appreciated the skill of this book as I read it, but I didn’t love it. The characters were too flawed and unappealing. But it won’t leave me alone. I find myself thinking about the premise and the consequences – and just how right the setup is. And a book that goes on doing that has to make the list, because it doesn’t happen all that often. Review to follow.

Are there any books here that you’ve read? And if so, do you agree with me? What are your outstanding reads for last year?

Review of Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew P. Walker

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Given my husband’s diagnosis of severe sleep apnea and the difference the treatment from the sleep clinic has made to all aspects of his life, when I saw this book was available on NetGalley, I immediately requested it.

Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, and longevity. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don’t sleep. Compared to the other basic drives in life—eating, drinking, and reproducing—the purpose of sleep remained elusive. An explosion of scientific discoveries in the last twenty years has shed new light on this fundamental aspect of our lives. Now, preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker gives us a new understanding of the vital importance of sleep and dreaming. Within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Dreaming mollifies painful memories and creates a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge to inspire creativity.

Walker answers important questions about sleep: how do caffeine and alcohol affect sleep? What really happens during REM sleep? Why do our sleep patterns change across a lifetime? How do common sleep aids affect us and can they do long-term damage? Charting cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and synthesizing decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels; regulate hormones; prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; slow the effects of aging; increase longevity; enhance the education and lifespan of our children, and boost the efficiency, success, and productivity of our businesses. Clear-eyed, fascinating, and accessible, Why We Sleep is a crucial and illuminating book.

Normally I don’t include all the blurb, as it tends to give too much away. However, in this case I feel it nicely sums up exactly what this book is about. This was not a comfortable read. My husband’s snoring used to be epic – not only was it shredding his ability to sleep deeply, it also properly mucked up my sleep, too. It is still a mess and has been for a number of years. I have become accustomed to living reasonably happily on somewhere between four and five hours of sleep a night, and therefore it came as a very nasty shock to discover that I am probably compromising my immune system as well, as increasing my risk factor of incurring a range of nasty illnesses including Alzheimer’s and cancer.

However, the good news is that in addition to providing the scientific reasons why sleep is so important to us, Walker also provides a range of suggestions and tips so that those of us with really poor sleep hygiene have a chance to sort ourselves out. If you are a snorer, or sleep next one, find it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep for the recommended eight to nine hours a night, then you need to read this book.
9/10

Sunday Post – 28th January, 2018

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I am now getting the hang of fitting in my extra Creative Writing class on Tuesday evening, which is now starting to feel like routine. That said, I can’t remember when so many students were absent with illnesses. I’m hoping the coming week will see everyone recovered and back attending the classes. On Thursday, my sister came shopping with us as Himself had the day off and then later she joined us for a meal in the evening. The wonders of technology had Himself and my son Rob, who is currently in the States, playing Bloodbowl together via their computers after our meal.

Yesterday was a special day I won’t forget in a hurry – I got to see my unborn granddaughter on screen in such amazing detail that I wept. My daughter decided to go for a gender scan and invited us grannies along, with the rest of the family. A magical experience. Today I shan’t be around much, because we are off to celebrate my lovely stepfather’s 70th birthday. We are taking him to one of his favourite restaurants and hopefully the rain and gloom will ease up sufficiently so that the drive is less slog in the mirk and more of an enjoyable drive in the countryside. In the meantime, I hope you all have a lovely day and that the weather is at least bearable, if not kind.

This week I have read:

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew P. Walker
Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, and longevity. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don’t sleep. Compared to the other basic drives in life—eating, drinking, and reproducing—the purpose of sleep remained elusive. An explosion of scientific discoveries in the last twenty years has shed new light on this fundamental aspect of our lives. Now, preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker gives us a new understanding of the vital importance of sleep and dreaming. Within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Dreaming mollifies painful memories and creates a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge to inspire creativity.

Walker answers important questions about sleep: how do caffeine and alcohol affect sleep? What really happens during REM sleep? Why do our sleep patterns change across a lifetime? How do common sleep aids affect us and can they do long-term damage? Charting cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and synthesizing decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels; regulate hormones; prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; slow the effects of aging; increase longevity; enhance the education and lifespan of our children, and boost the efficiency, success, and productivity of our businesses.

Yes… I know – this has to be one of the longest blurbs in history, but it also nicely sums up this entertaining and rather frightening non-fiction read. If you regularly don’t get between eight to nine hours of sleep a night and have kidded yourself it really doesn’t much matter than you don’t – then this book is required reading.

 

Keeper by Kim Chance
When a 200-year-old witch attacks her, sixteen-year-old bookworm Lainey Styles is determined to find a logical explanation. Even with the impossible staring her in the face, Lainey refuses to believe it—until she finds a photograph linking the witch to her dead mother.

After the rather disturbing read earlier in the week, this is just what I needed – lots of magical mayhem around a sympathetic protagonist and a completely dastardly villain. Great stuff! Review will be following in due course.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 21st January, 2018

Teaser Tuesday featuring Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew P. Walker

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Keeper by Kim Chance

Review of Netgalley arc We Care For You by Paul Kitcatt

Friday Face-off – The grass is always greener over the septic tank… featuring The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

My 2017 Reading Year – the Statistics

 

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Space Features of the Week (27 January) http://earthianhivemind.net/2018/01/27/space-features-week-27-january/ Steph brings another wonderful roundup of all that is going on – I love the idea of the Tesla on Mars and do check out that NASA video of the unfurling solar panels…

Chai Break: How positively have authors responded to your negative reviews? https://thisislitblog.com/2018/01/27/chai-break-how-positively-have-authors-responded-to-your-negative-reviews/ The bad behaviour of some authors when confronted by bad reviews is a frequent hot topic on book blogging sites, so I really enjoyed reading this more uplifting take on the subject.

The Difference Between Young Adult and New Adult…And Why It’s Important http://www.momwithareadingproblem.com/2018/01/difference-young-adult-new-adult-important/ This is a particularly gnarly issue if you have young teens keen to read anything they can get their hands on – and I agree with Lillian, it’s important.

Sandy Denny – Who Knows Where The Times Goes? https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2018/01/04/sandy-denny-who-knows-where-the-time-goes/ Once again, the marvellous Thom Hickey takes me to a place I didn’t know I wanted to go – from this haunting song, he transitions to a wonderful passage from the Old English writings of Bede, which then had me hunting for the translation… Magical and moving. I’m now going to be looking for the writings of Bede. Thank you Thom!

31 brand new animal species discovered by amateur naturalists – https://redpenofdoom.com/2018/01/25/31-brand-new-animal-species-discovered-by-amateur-naturalists/ This quirky blogger has an offbeat sense of humour and this item had me laughing out loud – and wishing that some of these names actually existed…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a wonderful week.

Teaser Tuesday – 23rd January, 2018

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew P. Walker

60% It is said that time heals all wounds. Several years ago I decided to scientifically test this age-old wisdom, as I wondered whether an amendment was in order. Perhaps it was not time that heals all wounds, but rather time spent in dream sleep. I had been developing a theory based on the combined patterns of brain activity and brain neurochemistry of REM sleep, and from this theory came a specific prediction: REM-sleep dreaming offers a form of overnight therapy.

BLURB: An explosion of scientific discoveries in the last twenty years has shed new light on this fundamental aspect of our lives. Now, preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker gives us a new understanding of the vital importance of sleep and dreaming. Within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Dreaming mollifies painful memories and creates a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge to inspire creativity.

Walker answers important questions about sleep: how do caffeine and alcohol affect sleep? What really happens during REM sleep? Why do our sleep patterns change across a lifetime? How do common sleep aids affect us and can they do long-term damage? Charting cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and synthesizing decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels; regulate hormones; prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; slow the effects of aging; increase longevity; enhance the education and lifespan of our children, and boost the efficiency, success, and productivity of our businesses. Clear-eyed, fascinating, and accessible, Why We Sleep is a crucial and illuminating book.

I am conscious that I hardly ever read non-fiction and when I saw this one on offer, given our recent, rather scary experience with my husband’s severe sleep apnea, I decided I wanted to know more about this subject. Now I do, I’m making strenuous efforts to get my own broken sleep rhythm back into some kind of order. This book is not just recommended – for those of you who don’t regularly get 7-8 hours sleep a night, this is required reading.

Review of EBOOK Are We Nearly There Yet? by Ben Hatch

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Ben came to talk to West Sussex Writers last year about tweeting and online marketing, as his guidebook has become an Amazon non-fiction best-seller. He seemed a thoroughly nice chap with an endearingly honest streak. I found his book online and loaded up on my Kindle as a summer read, to use it as a reward when I had written at least half of next term’s course notes…

are we nearly there yetIf you think writing a guidebook is easy, think again… A family’s 8,000 miles round Britain in a Vauxhall Astra. They were bored, broke, burned out and turning 40, so when Ben and Dinah saw the advert looking for a husband and wife team with young kids to write a guidebook about family travel around Britain, they jumped at the chance. With naïve visions of staring moodily across Coniston Water and savouring Cornish pasties, they embark on a mad-cap five-month trip with daughter Phoebe, four, and son Charlie, two, embracing the freedom of the open road with a spirit of discovery and an industrial supply of baby wipes.

I had expected a catalogue of mini-disasters, child-centred chaos and a certain amount of family tension – I’m a granny who spends a fair amount of my ‘free’ time looking after small grandchildren, so am only too aware of what an exhausting, messy job it can be. What I hadn’t expected, was the stark honesty with which Hatch portrays family life. He gave us an intimate history of his relationship with his wife and how they weathered a previous break-up, as well as an unvarnished account of the interplay between them, including the fights.

We also got the expected small children moments, though Hatch manages to keep parental sentimentality well and truly in check. The children came across as bright and articulate – and often more than a tad hyper, probably on account of all those chocolate buttons they were being fed to persuade them to be good…

While I was aware that Ben’s father, Sir David Hatch, had been suddenly diagnosed with cancer just before they set out on their five month adventure, I hadn’t expected the very moving recollections of Ben’s boyhood and his relationship with his father, who died while they were still on the road. It was poignant and rich as Ben’s sharp, honest prose sliced to the heart of how he felt, also wrestling with the prospect of his daughter disappearing off to school once the trip ended. So what this book is all about, is family life. About a couple of bright, intelligent people haunted by the sense that they were not fulfilling the promise of their youth, but instead had somehow become other people. In the middle of looking at museums, grading hotels for child-friendliness and coping with tantrums while always being in public – I got the sense that Ben and Diane discovered a lot more about families than how many chocolate buttons it takes to make a four-year-old sick.

If you are remotely interested in family life, get hold of a copy of this book. It packs far more a punch than the light-hearted cover conveys.
9/10

Review of Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

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This book, published in 2011, was recommended to me by my son when he came to stay for Christmas. I’ll give you due warning – if you are looking for an easy, lightweight read then leave this one on the pile and come back to it when you are ready to give your grey matter a thorough workout.

Experimental psychologist Daniel Kahneman has won a Nobel prize for his work on Prospect theory – but that is only part of the work he has done in a long career examining how the human mind operates. I found the font downright unfriendly as it’s far fainter and close packed than my middle-aged eyes want to tackle, but I soon discovered that this was a deliberate ploy. Kahneman has noticed that we respond to problem solving in largely two ways that he calls System 1 and System 2. Our System 1 is the normal default setting that mostly responds to the multitude of decisions that confronts us in our daily lives – it is quick, often providing an answer in less than a second; instinctive – System 1 will take clues, often inappropriately, from our surroundings and is also influenced by our emotional state. While Kahneman is at pains to emphasise System 1 works very well in a large number of situations, every single one of us make some major mistakes that can have life-changing consequences by relying too much on our System 1 reflexes.

System 2 is the type of thinking we employ when we come up against a problem that we identify as too difficult for our System 1 to process. System 2 is slower, more measured and less prone to be affected emotionally, although we should all be aware that our thinking fast and slwosurroundings have far greater impact on our mindset than we realise. Kahneman discusses a set of experiments where the participants sat in a room and answered questions about how willing they were to help friends and/or people they didn’t know. When dollar signs were displayed across the screensavers on the computers, participants were noticeably less generous – even though they didn’t consciously notice the screensavers. But Kahneman also characterises our System 2 mental processing as being lazy – it is reluctant to engage. One of the things that nudges it to work is when the font is difficult to read…

Much of his most productive experiments were conducted with his collaborator and friend, Amos Tversky, now dead. Kahneman is more than generous with attributing a great deal of the credit for his achievements to his partner – and you get the sense that this book is, in part, a tribute to Tversky.

Kahneman’s prose, is very clear and if he uses any kind of jargon connected with his studies, he is at pains to fully explain exactly what he means. And the unfriendly font and measured writing style delivers some head-swivelling discoveries. For instance, when questioning patients who had just undergone a painful medical procedure, their recollection didn’t hinge on the duration of the procedure at all. Patients judged their experience on the peak pain levels (which they were asked to evaluate on a scale 1-10 every 60 seconds) and how much they were suffering when the procedure came to an end. So one patient who endured the procedure for twenty-five minutes felt more positive than another whose surgery lasted eight minutes, because that patient’s pain level right at the end was still significant. Ah, you’re thinking – that was because the second patient was in greater pain during the shorter operation. No – both patients reported the same pain levels… And this isn’t a one off finding – when recalling similar episodes, the duration is something that most people don’t recall effectively and so don’t factor in when recalling their experiences. Although, I’m hoping that particular experiment won’t be repeated any time soon, as those patients enduring the longer procedure had their operation deliberately extended.

So does the book measure up to the back cover hype? The answer is – yes it does. And if you are thinking of dabbling in the stock market, making any large purchases, or have a crucial decision to make regarding your health, then read this book first. In fact, I think I’m going to have to get my own copy, just in case…
9/10