“Epic Continent” by Nicholas Jubber

Thanks to John Murray Press and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

This is a pretty cool idea for a book. The author goes on a personal odyssey, visiting the locations from some of the great European ‘epics’ – myths, legends, literature and folklore, whilst exploring his own life and the impact these tales still have on cultures and people today. What an awesome premise for a book.

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“The New Silk Roads” by Peter Frankopan

Thanks to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

This review is terribly late. In my defence, I was approved for it a good while after publication date. I also own both editions of The Silk Roads (the children’s version is absolutely fabulous) and bought the audiobook too so I hope I’ve made it up to Professor Frankopan.

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“They Were Her Property” by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers

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Thanks to Yale University Press and NetGalley for providing me with an Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

This is an important book in a much-overlooked topic. All too often in historical writing we see white women being given a free pass when it comes to their culpability for the horrors of slavery. This book seeks to set the record straight and change our assumptions about antebellum women slave-owners.

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“Salt on Your Tongue” by Charlotte Runcie

 

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Thanks to Canongate and NetGalley for the review copy. 

I’m beginning to wonder if Canongate are even capable of publishing a bad book. 

Salt on Your Tongue by Charlotte Runcie is a wonderful exploration of women and the sea. Interspersed with Runcie’s personal experiences as a woman and her relationships with women in her life, in particular her grandmother, are writings about myths, folkore and superstitions linked to the sea as well as history, art, religion, literature, culture and the natural world. There is a Scottish focus for much of the book, particularly the East Coast of Scotland. I grew up in the Highlands of Scotland very close to the sea and have always felt its lure. Some of my ancestors were fishermen and many relatives both current and distant still live by the sea. The author explores other coastal settings in Scotland familiar to me such as Skye, the Scottish Islands, Edinburgh, and the coastal regions around Fife as well as other settings around the UK and the world.   Continue reading ““Salt on Your Tongue” by Charlotte Runcie”

Progress update!

Well I’ve made some more progress and i’m now about 70% of the way through Anna Karenina. Levin finally managed to snag Kitty (HOW? That poor woman) and Anna and Vronsky are currently gallivanting around Italy being generally awful. I’m still trying to find Anna’s personality in between the lines but thus far my search has been fruitless, if you come across it, please let me know.  I’ve been reading some essays about how this book is supposed to be a work of sublime genius but I’m just not feeling it. I know male authors of the 19th century seemed to relish writing about  ‘pure’ women being knocked off their pedestals (Thomas Hardy, I’m looking at you) but perhaps it’s just too depressingly true even now for me to read without judging. I’m still rooting for poor Alexei, can someone just give him a hug please? It’s interesting how he has been portrayed unsympathetically in past film and television adaptations (with the exception of Jude Law’s portrayal in the Joe Wright version) as he seems an all-round good guy to me.

I also had a quick read of The Lost Sisters by Holly Black, a short novella from Taryn’s (Boooo) point of view. I enjoyed The Cruel Prince but felt it was a just a smidge overrated and the characters felt a little too familiar to anyone who has read their fair share of YA novels e.g. feisty female main character who loves swords and hates dresses and an awful dickhead Prince who will inevitably end up having a heart of gold. Perhaps I was suffering from Fae overload when I read it earlier in the year as I know it’s much beloved in YA circles. Despite all that I am very much looking forward to The Wicked King when it comes out next year. I’m giving it 100 pages before Jude and Cardan bang.

I’m also still slogging through The Rise of Athens by Anthony Everitt. I think I’m onto my third library renewal now for this one which says it all really. I don’t know how the history of one of the world’s most fascinating cities can be so crushingly dull. Xerxes is just about to invade so that might spice things up.

Overall feeling a bit meh about my current reading list although I know I’ve got some great looking books on my To Read list. Next year is shaping up to look pretty great too, particularly looking forward to King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo and Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner so roll on 2019!

“A History of Torture in Britain” by Simon Webb

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Thanks to Pen & Sword and NetGalley for the advanced reading copy.

Anyone who has taught History knows that nothing excites young learners quite as much as descriptions of medieval torture, this book certainly provides that in spades. This book follows a largely chronological account of the history of torture in Britain, up to and including the recent past. It covers the differences between torture methods utilised in Scotland and England, and torture suffered by those in more far flung parts of the British empire such as India and Kenya. It is perhaps easier for readers to feel less outraged by the distant past than the more contemporary accounts of torture and I certainly found the book more difficult to read as I progressed through it.

The author provides detailed accounts of a variety of different torture methods, and the vivid descriptions made me wince more than once. The accounts of torture suffered by slaves in the West Indies makes for particularly grim reading. The book is written in a chatty, accessible style which might not appeal to more academic readers, but I enjoyed it for the most part. I’ve noticed a trend in recent years for non-fiction historical books to adopt a more casual style. Whether or not that is a good thing is an argument for another day, but it certainly makes for an easier read for most and would appeal more to the casual reader. My only real critique of the writing style would be the author’s almost criminal overuse of exclamation marks. This was distracting and sometimes seemed inappropriate in the context given.

The first half of the book is stronger, it begins to lose it a little towards the end where the author begins to wax lyrical about modern torture and the slightly naïve suggestion that torture is a thing of the past, if only that were true.

Overall this was an interesting and engaging read. It provides vivid descriptions of a variety of different torture methods used past and present throughout the British Isles and doesn’t fail to confront the very real horrors perpetuated by the British Empire throughout history.