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Parasite? The Secret Diary of a Landlord

Synopsis

Get ready to learn what really happens behind closed doors.

Landlords have become one of the most hated groups in society. Parasites, they’re often called. And there’s a lot of them. The Treasury estimates there are almost 2.6 million landlords in the UK with around 5.45 million rental properties.

But the real life of a professional landlord is very different from what most people think. From burglaries and break-ins to drug raids, police warrants, crazy tenant antics, bailiffs, squatters, lawsuits, wrecked properties, interfering council officers, game-playing freeholders to moments of heartfelt joy and happiness, the life of a landlord is never dull. Especially when the government keeps moving the goalposts.

This explosive front-line exposé blows the lid off what it’s really like to be a landlord and the shocking reality of renting out a property. Hovering close to a nervous breakdown and likely suffering PTSD, the Secret Landlord exposes truths rarely shared. Stories that will grip you, move you and smack you in the face.

 

My review

As someone who rents out a holiday cottage I had an inkling of what to expect. It came as no surprise to find remarks such as how giving an inch means the tenant then proceeds to take a mile, and how from being a trusting person the author has turned into someone who will only trust people as far as they can throw them!

However, even as a pre-cynicalised landlord I was truly shocked by some of the events that came the author’s way. What seemed the worst was the council’s attitude. Councils need private landlords to help home disadvantaged persons yet seem to delight in making life as difficult as possible for the owners of the properties that they so desperately need. It emerges clearly in this book how much things are actually stacked against landlords: how easy it is for tenants to make unjustified trouble for them through official channels. It’s a true eye-opener. Yes, absolutely tenants need protection too, but responsibilities must be faced on both sides.

The author, who deserves a medal, ploughs her lonely and besieged furrow with determination, energy and, where it can be found, humour. And restraint. If I were to write my similar diary there’d be a whole lot more swearing going on!

It’s a lively, sensitive read, clearly presented without becoming too technical regarding the various legal issues that crop up, and engaging throughout. If you’re a landlord, considering becoming one, or simply fancy a different sort of book for a change then make straight for this one.

 

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Parasite-Secret-Diary-Landlord-ebook/dp/B08DTPYVFZ/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Parasite-Secret-Diary-Landlord-ebook/dp/B08DTPYVFZ/

Author bio

The Secret Landlord has been renting, refurbishing and selling properties across the UK for almost two decades. An award winning landlord, as judged by the National Landlords Association, The Secret Landlord has provided accommodation for hundreds of tenants from all walks of life.

Social Media Links –

www.thesecretlandlord.com

@landlord_secret

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Act 3: the art of growing older by Judy Reith and Adrian Reith

We re living longer, in better health, with higher expectations than any generation in human history. With an extra adult chapter to look forward to, what will you do? Who else could you be? How will you evolve the best plan for your life between 50 and 80?

Judy and Adrian Reith have decades of experience in helping people see hidden possibilities, clarify their goals and achieve life-changing results. In Act 3 they suggest practical steps to make your life more fulfilling as you age. From the ground up this book will help you identify and strengthen the four roots you ll need for a happy and successful third act. It illustrates how your attitude, purpose, relationships and values are keystones to a life without regret.

Act 3 gives tools and tips to help you focus on what matters, with chapters on Work, Home, Money, Health, Play, the World and Friends. You ll be inspired by original stories of those who have changed their lives after 50 and be able to re-imagine your future, and so get the life you want . . . at last.

 

My review

The synopsis above gives a very good summary of what the book is about, so all that remains is for me to assure you that this book is very well-written, informative and motivational. I’m in this particular Act of our lives so it’s all extremely relevant, as it will be for anyone who is 50 and upwards.

The tone is upbeat and encouraging. Straddling that 50 mark can be daunting, especially for women when it insists on dragging all the drama of menopause with it. Also around this time, frequently children are teetering on the edge of the nest if they haven’t already jumped, so you really do start to feel that your useful, productive phase is over and it’s going to be downhill all the way from here. Well, as this book joyously and emphatically tells us, the good news is that it isn’t. In fact, it may even prove to be the most rewarding time of your life. With the pressures removed of having to earn a living and putting children and/or other family members first, you can start to blossom, even if it’s unusual for a tree to bloom in autumn! The authors use the image of tree to work through various elements such as managing work, play and home.

Whilst being positive and cheering, the book does touch on the less appealing elements of aging such as death and depression, the former of which is definitely going to crop up at some point and the latter, whilst not quite as inevitable, will usually show its face from time to to time. The authors discuss these negatives in a business-like and reassuring way and then move on to positive coping strategies. The key thing to bring away is their advice of ‘forget regret’ by moving on and making plans to make the best of this most precious of limited resources: life.

Throughout this excellent, affirmative book there are little exercises to do, anecdotes to enjoy, advice to absorb and short summaries to emphasise the important issues raised.

I definitely feel more upbeat and inspired having read it. Like the rest of us, I don’t know how much time I’ve got left, but bring it on! I feel much more empowered now about living it to the full.

About the authors

Judy Reith has been a coach and parenting expert for twenty years. She draws on her professional training in child development, coaching and parent education to help thousands of parents, some of whom are also entering Act 3. She is the author of 7 Secrets of Raising Girls Every Parent Must Know; Be a Great Mum and Transform Living with Teenagers. Adrian Reith ditched a successful career as a writer and director in advertising to help people unscramble their mental spaghetti. Having re-trained as a coach he works with business and organisational leaders and individuals to help them make the most of life and work. He and Judy live together in Cambridge. @Act3Life

 

Buy the book here: www.amazon.co.uk/Act-3-Art-Growing-Older/dp/1783526998

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Frankie: the woman who saved millions from thalidomide by James Essinger and Sandra Koutzenko

Frankie: The Woman Who Saved Millions from Thalidomide

Thalidomide: patented in Germany as a non-toxic cure-all for sleeplessness and morning sickness. A wonder drug with no side-effects.

We know differently now.

Today, thalidomide is a byword for tragedy and drug reform – a sign of what happens when things aren’t done ‘the right way’. But when it was released in the 1950s, it was the best thing since penicillin – something that doctors were encouraged to prescribe to all of their patients. Nobody could anticipate what it actually did: induce sleeping, prevent morning sickness, and drastically harm unborn children.

But, whilst thalidomide rampaged and ravaged throughout most of the West, it never reached the United States. It landed on the desk of Dr Frances Kelsey, and there it stayed as she battled hierarchy, patriarchy, and the Establishment in an effort to prove that it was dangerous. Frankie is her story.

 

My review

This book will astonish you – and for many reasons.

What makes a particularly strong impression is the powerful yet non-sensational style in which it’s been written. It’s that very fact that makes the book more impactful. There are interviews with adults who were affected devastatingly in vitro by thalidomide, a detailed depiction of the general background to the thalidomide scandal as a whole – the way drug trials were conducted, the god-like status granted to doctors and the powerlessness of most women at the time – and a study and assessment of the long-term impact of the whole affair. The authors have clearly conducted a lot of research and used it to produce an informative, shocking and compelling book.

Frankie, the central figure of the book, emerges from this background as the book proceeds. She’s the lone voice in the wilderness for a long time, actively pressured by the drug company to stop holding things up. Her power, emanating from her position in the FDA and her unstinting devotion to doing what was the right thing, contrasts sharply with the role women generally played in the period, as mentioned earlier. She’s one of the pioneers in demonstrating that women are up to doing any task. Her courage and stance saved up to a million babies around the world from the destructive impact of thalidomide.

Dr Frances Kelsey’s story is inspiring and positive. It shows what one person can achieve, and that’s an important lesson to take out of the book. Stand up and be counted.

 

Purchase Links

https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/publication/frankie/9780750991919/

https://www.amazon.com/Frankie-Woman-Saved-Millions-Thalidomide-ebook/dp/B07PQV547Y

Author Bio –

JAMES ESSINGER is the author of non-fiction books that focus on STEM subjects and personalities, including Charles and Ada (The History Press) and Ada’s Algorithm (Gibson Square), the latter of which has been optioned for a film. He lives in Canterbury.

 

 

SANDRA KOUTZENKO is a bilingual writer whose work spans a variety of categories and topics, ranging from French poetry to English non-fiction, focusing on human nature and the conflict between its potential for greatness and its propensity for destruction.

 

Social Media Links –

Twitter @TheHistoryPress

Instagram @TheHistoryPressUK

https://www.facebook.com/james.essinger  

https://twitter.com/jamesessinger

 

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‘Devon and Hell: Four Seasons by the Sea’ by Karen Wheeler: disasters, triumphs and an indomitable spirit

Blurb

One woman, one dog and a disastrous move to Devon. Throw in an estranged mother who has just been diagnosed with dementia and the result is a brilliantly written comic memoir with more ups and downs than the South West Coastal Path.

This is not your usual tale of ‘I moved to a chocolate-box cottage by the sea and lived happily ever after’. Instead, it is a powerful and gripping story of relocation – and a maternal relationship – gone wrong.

Ultimately this is an uplifting, feel-good story as Karen triumphs over adversity and finds new peace following the death of her mother.

 

My review

I’m a sucker for books with witty titles, and for ones by this wonderful author, so how could I resist Devon and Hell.

In this memoir Karen Wheeler leaves France behind after living there for eight years and buys the idyllic sounding Plum Tree Cottage on the Devon coast. Unfortunately, she discovers that there’s more to the cottage than meets the eye – lots of little eyes glistening in the darkness. Thus begins a difficult time when instead of moving in and making her new home, she has to tackle lawyers and various trade professionals to sort out the potential problem.

While she’s doing so, there’s more bad news. Her difficult mother, with whom the author has never had an easy relationship, becomes seriously mentally ill. Together with her brothers they deal with the wide-spreading fall-out of this.

Poor Karen begins to feel that the cottage is unlucky and one or two happenings seem to confirm that it is. However, she determinedly continues her work on it, and dealing with her mother, until momentous events bring her closure on her unhappy childhood and new hope for her future.

What you take away from this book is Karen Wheeler’s indomitable spirit. She never gives up, even when right up against the ropes. She retains a sense of humour and a pragmatic approach. She details her experiences in an enjoyable, accessible, honest way, able to present her own foibles as well as her many strengths.

She recreates the beautiful scenery of Devon in wonderful detail, making us feel like we’re walking along the sandy beaches with her.

It’s challenging in that we accompany the author through a difficult time of her life but we learn to respect and admire her, and rejoice that so much that’s positive emerges.

 

Author Bio

Karen Wheeler is a former journalist and national newspaper fashion editor who has successfully published five comic travel memoirs about her life in France, starting with Tout Sweet: Hanging up my High Heels for a New Life in France, which made it to #1 in Amazon’s travel writing book chart.

She wrote for the Financial Times for over fifteen years and is a former fashion editor of the Mail on Sunday. She studied Modern History at Kings College, London University and worked briefly at Sotheby’s art auctioneers before embarking on a career in fashion journalism.

During her career she has interviewed many of fashion’s top names including Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani and Calvin Klein. Her work has also appeared frequently in Vogue Japan, You magazine, the Daily Mail and Sunday Times Style.

Originally hailing from the north of England, Karen is one of the many ex-pats now returning to the UK – as she points out the food is much better here. She has run holiday cottages, knows the Farrow and Ball colour chart inside out, never turns down a glass of pink champagne and lives near Budleigh Salterton in East Devon with her boyfriend and her dog Biff.

You can read more about her life at www.toutsweet.net – the blog she started while living in rural France; and follow her on Twitter at @mimipompom1

 

Devon and Hell will appeal to fans of Eleanor Oliphant, as well as the armchair renovators who enjoy watching Grand Designs, Homes by the? Sea and Amazing Spaces and to the large number of Brits who are moving to the coast or taking ‘staycations’ in the UK. Devon and Hell is set in Lympstone, an aspirational and newly fashionable area of Devon, which was recently shortlisted in Penelope Keith’s C4 series, Britain’s Best Villages: Village of the Year 2017 and recently saw ?the opening of Lympstone Manor, by Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines.

 

Devon and Hell: Four Seasons by the Sea will be released in e-book format on 28th October 2019, £9.99, by Sweet Pea Publishing. The print version will be published in October 2020.

Purchase Link


 

 

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Charles and Ada by James Essinger

Charles and Ada: the computer’s most passionate partnership

The partnership of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace was one that would change science forever.

 

They were an unlikely pair – one the professor son of a banker, the other the only child of an acclaimed poet and a social-reforming mathematician – but perhaps that is why their work is so revolutionary.

 

They were the pioneers of computer science, creating plans for what could have been the first computer. They each saw things the other did not; it may have been Charles who designed the machines, but it was Ada who could see their potential.

 

But what were they like? And how did they work together? Using previously unpublished correspondence between them , Charles and Ada explores the relationship between two remarkable people who shared dreams far ahead of their time.

 

My review

I’ve only recently discovered this talented author so it’s a real pleasure to review another of his books.

Most people have probably heard of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace in relation to computing but perhaps don’t know about their collaboration. Both are fascinating, gifted people, and in Ada’s case definitely flamboyant, so writing about these two innovators is a huge undertaking. However, James Essinger is easily up to the task. He gives an engrossing insight into their lives, how their paths crossed, how their interests coincided, and how and why they formed such a ground-breaking partnership.

The author has done an immense amount of research which, coupled with his obvious admiration of and enthusiasm about Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, makes for a captivating read.

 

Purchase Links

Author bio

James Essinger was born in Leicester in 1957 and has lived in Canterbury in Kent since 1986. He was educated at Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys, Leicester, and at Lincoln College, Oxford, where he read English Language and Literature. He spent much of his time between 1981 and 1983 teaching English in Finland before working in public relations in London and then in Canterbury. Since 1988, James has been a professional writer.

His non-fiction books include Jacquard’s Web (2004), Ada’s Algorithm (2013), which is to be filmed by Monumental Pictures, and Charles and Ada: the computer’s most passionate partnership (2019) His novels include The Mating Game (2016) with Jovanka Houska, the film rights of which have been optioned, Rollercoaster (2019) and The Ada Lovelace Project (forthcoming in 2020).

Social Media Links – https://www.facebook.com/james.essinger  

https://twitter.com/jamesessinger

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Writing Fiction by James Essinger: stimulating and thorough

Writing Fiction – a user-friendly guide

‘Writing Fiction is a little pot of gold… Screenplay by Syd Field for film, Writing Fiction by James Essinger for fiction. It’s that simple.’

William Osborne, novelist and screenwriter

Writing Fiction – a user-friendly guide is a must-read if you want to write stories to a professional standard.

It draws on the author’s more than thirty years of experience as a professional writer, and on the work and ideas of writers including:

  • Anthony Burgess
  • Joseph Conrad
  • George Eliot
  • Ken Follett
  • Frederick Forsyth
  • Dan Harmon
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • David Lodge
  • Norman Mailer
  • John Milton
  • Ben Parker
  • K. Rowling
  • William Shakespeare
  • Martin Cruz Smith
  • R.R. Tolkien

 

The twenty-four chapters cover every important matter you need to know about, including: devising a compelling story, creating and developing characters, plotting, ‘plants’, backstory, suspense, dialogue, ‘show’ and ‘tell’, and how to make your novel more real than reality.

Also featuring special guest advice from legendary screenwriter Bob Gale, who wrote the three immortal Back to the Future movies (1985, 1989 and 1990), and novelist and screenwriter William Osborne, whose many screen credits include the co-writing of the blockbuster Twins (1988), this highly entertaining book gives you all the advice and practical guidance you need to make your dream of becoming a published fiction writer come true.

 

My review

This is a very positive, stimulating book for anyone who loves to write, even if they’re still only in the dreaming stage.

The author takes us through all the aspects of writing that we need to know about – everything from what fiction actually is, to how to create rounded characters, show versus tell, devising an interesting story line and so on. If you can think of something you want to know about, then you can be sure of finding it dealt with in this book.

The author refers to fifteen famous writers, from Shakespeare to J K Rowling, and not just novelists but also dramatists and screenwriters, to illustrate the points he’s making and to act as inspiration. James Essinger is an established author himself and he’s really speaking from the heart and genuinely sharing his mastery of the craft of writing with us.

The style is modest, lively and witty. He hooks the reader’s interest from the very start and keeps your attention all the way through. There’s a very useful summing-up section and some enlightening appendices. This book a breath of fresh and very informative air in its genre.

Purchase Links



Author Bio –

James Essinger has been a professional writer since 1988. His non-fiction books include Jacquard’s Web (2004), Ada’s Algorithm (2013), which is to be filmed by Monumental Pictures, and Charles and Ada: the computer’s most passionate partnership (2019). His novels include The Mating Game (2016) and The Ada Lovelace Project (2019).

Social Media Links – https://www.facebook.com/james.essinger  

https://twitter.com/jamesessinger

 

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The Last Landlady by Laura Thompson: a serving of social commentary, history and memoir to be lingered over

Summary

Award-winning biographer Laura Thompson pays homage to the English pub through the remarkable story of her grandmother, the first woman in England to be given a publican’s licence in her own name

Laura Thompson’s grandmother Violet was one of the great landladies. Born in a London pub, she became the first woman to be given a publican’s licence in her own name and, just as pubs defined her life, she seemed in many ways to embody their essence. Laura spent part of her childhood in Violet’s Home Counties establishment, mesmerised by her gift for cultivating the mix of cosiness and glamour that defined the pub’s atmosphere, making it a unique reflection of the national character. Her memories of this time are just as intoxicating: beer and ash on the carpets in the morning, the deepening rhythms of mirth at night, the magical brightness of glass behind the bar… Through them Laura traces the story of the English pub, asking why it has occupied such a treasured position in our culture. But even Violet, as she grew older, recognised that places like hers were a dying breed, and Laura also considers the precarious future they face. Part memoir, part social history, part elegy, The Last Landlady pays tribute to an extraordinary woman and the world she epitomised.

 

My review

This book is a beguiling mix of social commentary, history and memoir. The figure of the author’s landlady grandmother provides the central figure around whom the gentle decline of the English pub in the last quarter of the twentieth century.

The book begins with the landlady, Violet, and pubs in their heyday. Pubs were busy, welcoming, friendly places. As a child during that era I went to pubs with my parents and had lemonade and a pack of pork scratchings and happily soaked up the noise and smoke of my surroundings. As a teen I was in clubs and organisations that met in pubs, and the same as a student. Back home on Christmas Eves back home we’d all pack into a pub for a drink to mark the occasion.

During this time our landlady in the book struggled to get a grip with decimal money and dreadfully undercharged her customers, which is both touching and generous. She is somehow an emblem of timelessness, of continuity and dependence in a changing world.

Because it was changing. The large pub chains barged in and started doing food. When I was in my twenties on Friday lunchtime the whole office I worked in, and everyone else’s, went to the pub. Pubs now did ploughman’s lunches and other basic food. Some, anyway. Our landlady resisted the change for as long as she could, as did many others. Pubs were there for drinks, not food. Things slowly morphed into pubs becoming pretty much restaurants with a bar attached. I remember feeling quite sad at how our local pubs at home changed with this development. The atmosphere was different. From not going too far wrong with serving a drink, suddenly the proprietors had more to worry about. Would people complain about the food, the service, the length of time it took to cook it, the décor? An air of subservience emerged that these days has run riot with endless feedback and over-entitlement on the part of consumers.

We see our landlady slowly diminishing, yet never losing her dignity, along with the pub but she fights it all the way. She’s a fascinating figure, who eventually accepts that times are changing and so moves grudgingly but gracefully with them.

I enjoyed this book not just because of the superb writing and interesting subject, but also because I’ve witnessed this sanitising, character-destroying evolution of the pub. This book brings back lovely memories of a more honest, down-to-earth times, of genuineness, which the landlady personifies. It’s a wonderful read.     

The author

Laura Thompson won the Somerset Maugham award with her first book, The Dogs , and wrote two books about horse racing while living in Newmarket. Her biographical study of Nancy Mitford, Life in a Cold Climate, appeared in 2003 (re-issued 2015) and was followed by a major biography of Agatha Christie. A Different Class of Murder: The Story of Lord Lucan was published in 2014, and 2015’s Take Six Girls: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters was recently sold to television. She lives in Richmond.

 

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How Not To Write Female Characters by Lucy V Hay: inspiring advice

How Not To Write Female Characters

Female characters. When fifty per cent of your potential target audience is female, if you’re not writing them in your screenplay or novel? You’re making a BIG mistake!

But how should you approach your female characters? That’s the million-dollar question … After all, women in real life are complex, varied and flawed. Knowing where to start in creating three dimensional female characters for your story is extremely difficult.

So … perhaps it’s easier to figure out how NOT to write female characters?

Script editor, novelist and owner of the UK’s top screenwriting blog www.bang2write.com, Lucy V Hay has spent the last fifteen years reading the slush pile. She has learned to spot the patterns, pitfalls and general mistakes writers make when writing female characters – and why.

In How Not To Write Female Characters, Lucy outlines:

•WHO your character is & how to avoid “classic” traps and pitfalls
•WHAT mistakes writers typically make with female characters
•WHERE you can find great female characters in produced and published content
•WHEN to let go of gender politics and agendas
•WHY female characters are more important than ever

Lucy is on a mission to improve your writing, as well as enable diverse voices and characters to rise to the top of the spec pile.

 

REVIEWS FOR LUCY V’S WRITING ADVICE:

‘A timely guide to creating original characters and reinvigorating tired storylines. ‘
– Debbie Moon, creator and showrunner, Wolfblood (BBC)

‘Lucy V. Hay nails it’
– Stephen Volk, BAFTA-winning screenwriter: Ghostwatch, Afterlife, The Awakening

‘Packed with practical and inspirational insights’
– Karol Griffiths, development consultant and script editor, clients include ITV, BBC, Warner Brothers

‘A top-notch, cutting-edge guide to writing and selling, not just practical but inspirational. Lucy’s distinctive voice infuses the entire journey. Quite brilliant. Here’s the woman who’ll help you make things happen.’
– Barbara Machin, award-winning writer & creator of Waking the Dead

‘Delivers the stirring call to arms that writers must not only write, but take their work to the next level themselves, making sacrifices and taking risks if they want to see their stories on screen.’
– Chris Jones, Filmmaker, Screenwriter & Creative Director at the London Screenwriters Festival

‘Writing and Selling Thriller Screenplays is a must-read for any writer, producer or director looking to create (or in the process of creating) a thriller production. It could also be immensely useful for those generally curious about the genre or looking to learn more.’ – Film Doctor

‘Lucy V Hay explains what a script reader and editor’s role in filmmaking, tells you to work on your concepts and that dialogue is the last thing to work on in her new book.’ – Brit Flicks

 

My review

This is a short and snappy writing guide in which Lucy delivers lots of advice and guidance for all writers from wannabe to well-established. There’s something for everyone to think about, take on board and implement. It’s not just for novelists, but for screenplay and script writers too.

There are useful periodic ‘In a nutshell’ summaries that reinforce the point that’s just been made, and those help the information sink in, whether it’s about focussing on good writing, overdoing it with a Kick Ass Hottie or how much agency to allocate to your female characters.

I guarantee you’ll come away from this book with some new ideas and approaches for your own writing.

 

Author bio

Lucy V. Hay is an author, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. Lucy is the producer of two Brit Thrillers, DEVIATION (2012) and ASSASSIN (2015), as well as the script editor and advisor on numerous other features and shorts.  Lucy’s also the author of  WRITING AND SELLING THRILLER SCREENPLAYS for Kamera Books’ “Creative Essentials” range, as well as its follow ups on DRAMA SCREENPLAYS and DIVERSE CHARACTERS.

 

Social Media Links –

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Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness: honesty, courage and healing

Synopsis

When Joe Harkness suffered a breakdown in 2013, he tried all the things his doctor recommended: medication helped, counselling was enlightening, and mindfulness grounded him. But nothing came close to nature, particularly birds. How had he never noticed such beauty before? Soon, every avian encounter took him one step closer to accepting who he is.

The positive change in Joe’s wellbeing was so profound that he started a blog to record his experience. Three years later he has become a spokesperson for the benefits of birdwatching, spreading the word everywhere from Radio 4 to Downing Street.

In this ground-breaking book filled with practical advice, Joe explains the impact that birdwatching had on his life, and invites the reader to discover these extraordinary effects for themselves

 

My review

There’s a Chinese proverb that says: A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.

This is wonderfully relevant to this book, not only because it reflects the joyous magic of our feathered fellow inhabitants of this planet, but because it can be applied to the author too. Joe Harkness does not offer this book as the only solution to anxiety and other mental health issues, but it worked in his case and he wants to tell us about it. He has a song that he wants us to listen to.

Bird Therapy is as enchanting as it is unusual. It’s a very unique book, powered by honesty and courage. It’s not easy to admit to suffering from mental illness and one has to admire the author for doing so. He also reveals his own early blunders when bird watching and so as well as sharing his story of healing, he also shares tips and tricks about dipping into the wealth of beauty and intelligence that birds display to us. Patience and perseverance are key to both recovery and discovery.    

I came to this book already a bird-lover. I keep all sorts of poultry and have many exotic birds too. Our French farm is home to at least 64 different species of wild bird. However, my respect for birds and the wonder they arouse have both increased after reading this book. It’s impossible not to absorb some of the author’s gratitude and reverence towards these marvels of nature.

This is a book that will stay with you for a long time, and perhaps alter your way of thinking about both mental health and the bounties and healing power of nature permanently.

 

About the author

Joe Harkness has been writing a Bird Therapy blog for the last three years. In 2017, he had articles published in The Curlew   and Birdwatch  magazine, as well as recording three ‘tweets of the day’ for BBC Radio 4. He is employed as a Special Educational Needs teacher and  has worked in the youth sector for nine years. He lives in Norfolk.

@birdtherapy

 

 

 

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Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer: a gruelling story of self-discovery

Synopsis

The Mongol Derby is the world’s toughest horse race. A feat of endurance across the vast Mongolian plains once traversed by the people of Genghis Khan, competitors ride 25 horses across a distance of 1000km. Many riders don’t make it to the finish line.

In 2013 Lara Prior-Palmer – nineteen, underprepared but seeking the great unknown – decided to enter the race. Driven by her own restlessness, stubbornness, and a lifelong love of horses, she raced for seven days through extreme heat and terrifying storms, catching a few hours of sleep where she could at the homes of nomadic families. Battling bouts of illness and dehydration, exhaustion and bruising falls, she found she had nothing to lose, and tore through the field with her motley crew of horses. In one of the Derby’s most unexpected results, she became the youngest-ever champion and the first woman to win the race.

Told with terrific suspense and style, in a voice full of poetry and soul, Rough Magic’s the extraordinary story of one young woman’s encounter with oblivion, and herself. LARA PRIOR-PALMER was born in London in 1994. Her aunt is Lucinda Green, a legendary rider and one of the UK’s best-ever equestrians.  Lara studied conceptual history and Persian at Stanford University. In 2013, she competed in the 1000-kilometer Mongol Derby in Mongolia, sometimes described as the world’s toughest and longest horse race. Rough Magic is her first book.

 

My review

This is an exhilarating account of a very exciting and gruelling race told in a very memorable way. Almost lyrical at times, the writing is also as brutal as the race itself.

It’s hard to believe the narrator is so young. This is such an incredible undertaking for anyone, let alone someone just out of school, to undertake. From drifting indecision, Lara Prior-Palmer becomes incredibly focussed and tackles the various problems and difficulties in signing up for and funding her participation in the race.

The race itself is recounted in a fascinating way. As well as discovering the scenery, the author discovers a lot about herself. She tells it as it is, at times not showing herself in her best light but a test like this is pushing her to the limit. Her admiration for the animals she rides really shines through because to her they are the stars of the show, although I think the reader is more impressed by this tenacious young lady.

It’s an unusual and gripping memoir, thoroughly enjoyable and absolutely one to read.

  

MORE ADVANCE PRAISE FOR ROUGH MAGIC

“Rough Magic is (Prior-Palmer’s) chronicle of the experience, and if her debut as an author is half as strong as her maiden effort in racing, it will be well worth the read.”  HuffPost

“Rough Magic is the most entertaining memoir I’ve read in years. It’s thrilling, hilarious, unexpected, and ultimately breathtaking. I loved every minute of this wild ride.”  Abbi Geni, author of The Wildlands and the award-winning The Lightkeepers

“Prior-Palmer’s style is a fascinating mix of pep and poignancy. A really terrific story by a spirited new voice.”  Sara Baume, author of A Line Made by Walking

“In Rough Magic she possesses Annie Dillard’s brilliance for noticing, laced with a wild and glistering humour. If an intellect can be said to be elemental, this is it.”  Josephine Rowe, author of A Loving, Faithful Animal

“This debut memoir is a brilliant literary exploration of loneliness and an exhilarating, funny, soulful account of how one young woman, against all odds, won a truly extraordinary race.” Kristen Radtke, author of Imagine Wanting Only This

“As fast-paced as the swiftest Mongolian race horse, Lara’s searingly honest account of her astonishing rise from hopeless underdog to Mongol Derby Champion leaves grit in your teeth and dust in your hair. I laughed, I cried and I felt every bruise. I was riveted till the last word and left with lasting daydreams of Mongolian horizons.” Felicity Aston, author of Alone in Antarctica