Pen & Sword TBR Pile: A History of Death n 17th Century England, by Ben Norman

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Paperback, 208 pages
Published November 23rd 2020 by
Pen and Sword History
ISBN:1526755262 (ISBN13: 9781526755261)

Delve into the world of the unorthodox burial in seventeenth-century England, including mass interments in times of disease, the burial of suicides, and the unconventional laying to rest of English Catholics.

Death was a constant presence in the lives of the rich and poor alike in seventeenth-century England, being much more visible in everyday existence than it is today. It is a highly important and surprisingly captivating part of the epic story of England during the turbulent years of the 1600s. This book guides readers through the subject using a chronological approach, as would have been experienced by those living in the country at the time, beginning with the myriad causes of death, including disease, war, and capital punishment, and finishing with an exploration of posthumous commemoration. Although contemporaries of the seventeenth century did not fully realize it, when it came to the confrontation of mortality they were living in wildly changing times. 

My Review

Thanks to Rosie Crofts at Pen & Sword for sending me a copy of this book. It is one of many that I am working my way through.

This book covers the ways people died, how they were buried and how they were remembered in 17th century England. It’s a very specific subject, and it’s rather fun to read about a single subject sometimes. Sometimes I like learning about specific subjects as well as wider ranging books. This one was fascinating.

Humans have a habit of thinking that how things are now are how things have always been. In life and death. But that’s not always true. And this is one of those ways in which things are the same and different. People still die, are disposed of and are remembered, and most are buried in consecrated ground.

People don’t die from the plague anymore, and rarely die in war, Catholics don’t get buried in ditches and people who complete suicide aren’t buried at cross-roads with a stake through the heart. We don’t hang criminals either.

Which is nice.

This book covers the various ways people died, how they acted on the deathbed, funerals, unusual burials and how people remembered the dead. It has some interesting photographs and extracts from primary documents, to illustrate the descriptions.

I found the writing easy to read. I read a large chunk in one sitting and then had to finish the last chapter some weeks later due to other commitments. I could pick up the thread fairly easily and get back right into the book.

If you want to read a different perspective on the turbulent years of the 17th century, and you’re interested in death, I recommend this book.

For my friend Nicky: There are some good tips on ancient gravestones you could follow up for photographing.

Review: Bound, by Vanda Symon

PUBLICATION DATE: 4 MARCH 2021 | ORENDA BOOKS | PAPERBACK ORIGINAL | £8.99

The passionate, young police officer Sam Shephard returns in a taut, atmospheric and compelling police procedural, which sees her take matters into her own hands when the official investigation into the murder of a local businessman fails to add up…

The New Zealand city of Dunedin is rocked when a wealthy and apparently respectable businessman is murdered in his luxurious home while his wife is bound and gagged, and forced to watch. But when Detective Sam Shephard and her team start investigating the case, they discover that the victim had links with some dubious characters.

The case seems cut and dried, but Sam has other ideas. Weighed down by her dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis, and by complications in her relationship with Paul, she needs a distraction, and launches her own investigation. And when another murder throws the official case into chaos, it ’s up to Sam to prove that the killer is someone no one could ever suspect.

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TBR Pile Review: Ashes of the Sun, by Django Wexler

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Paperback, 592 pages
Published July 21st 2020 by Orbit
ISBN:0316519545 (ISBN13: 9780316519540)
Series: Burningblade & Silvereye #1
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Hardcover, Goldsboro exclusive signed and numbered edition with sprayed edges, 550 pages
Published 2020 by Head of Zeus

Blurb

Long ago, a magical war destroyed an empire, and a new one was built in its ashes. But still the old grudges simmer, and two siblings will fight on opposite sides to save their world, in the start of Django Wexler’s new epic fantasy trilogy

Gyre hasn’t seen his beloved sister since their parents sold her to the mysterious Twilight Order. Now, twelve years after her disappearance, Gyre’s sole focus is revenge, and he’s willing to risk anything and anyone to claim enough power to destroy the Order.

Chasing rumours of a fabled city protecting a powerful artefact, Gyre comes face-to-face with his lost sister. But she isn’t who she once was. Trained to be a warrior, Maya wields magic for the Twilight Order’s cause. Standing on opposite sides of a looming civil war, the two siblings will learn that not even the ties of blood will keep them from splitting the world in two.

My Review

Warning, there will be spoilers.

I have both my very pretty hardback special edition, and the paperback edition. The hardbacks are gorgeous and I do tend to collect 1st edition hardbacks, signed if possible, but for everyday reading. paperbacks are easier. Yes, I break the spines, that’s why I have multiple copies of books. I got a really solid god and black bookmark with my Goldsboro Books edition, so I haven’t dogeared the pages in this one.

The Rosie Synopsis

The blurb isn’t accurate. Gyre’s sister Maya was taken by the Twilight Order when she was five; in the process Gyre lost his eye. A year later their mother died of grief and their father stopped caring for Gyre. In the years that have passed Gyre has left home, joined the rebels in Deepfire and has been hunting for a way to bring down the Order and the Dawn Republic, whom he blames for destroying his family.

Gyre falls in with a mysterious thief named Kit, who is working for people with very deep pockets and a desperate need for a specific artefact hidden in the vaults of Deepfire’s dux. The mission to retrieve the item turns disastrous after the rest of the rebels are betrayed, so Gyre and Kit seek out the clients in order to ask for a second chance.

Maya has been raised by the Centarch Jaedia for twelve years, barely remembering her birth family. She is a good little agathia – a student training to become a Centarch, a skilled used of a type of magic called daiat, power drawn from the sun.

When Maya and another agathia, Tanax, a scout called Vos and Arcanist Beq (a sort of an engineer of magical artefacts) are sent to Deepfire on a mission for the Council of the Order, to collect a very powerful artefact, things go badly wrong. It doesn’t help that Tanax is the protégé of the Dogmatist factions’ leader, and that he believes Maya has been sent to foil the mission.

Maya and Beq realise there is something very bad happening in the city and that the dux, Raskos is corrupt, but how corrupt shocks them. And the corruption goes all the way the the Council. In an expedition into the city, the pair meet the rebels, accidentally, and then are drawn into Raskos’ plans. In anger, Maya exposes the duxes corruption, meets her brother in battle and then gets arrested for treason.

Then things become complicated. As the siblings realise that they are on opposite sides and the people calling the shots are not what they seem, their individual paths meet at the Leviathan’s Womb, where horrific monsters guard a construct that could destroy everyone.

The Good

The worldbuilding, the characters, the plot. It was all good.

It’s a big book so I read it in stages, usually a couple of hundred pages at a time, with a week or so’s break in between. It was a really easy book to read, and to get lost in. But I got a bit overwhelmed if I spent too long there so I had to put it down and rest. The world is very vivid, from the dank tunnels of Deepfire to the glory of the Forge (the baths sounded amazing!), to the cold of the Splintered Mountains, it was glorious.

The main characters are Gyre and Kit, and Maya and Beq, who are also romantically inclined towards each other. The relationships progress differently, as Kit is very forthright, and Maya and Beq are incredibly inexperienced. Those two are adorable. The romance isn’t a driving factor in the plot, but an incidental part of the character’s development and individual stories. The real drivers are family love and revenge. Gyre wants revenge for the destruction of his family, Maya wants to defend her mentor/pseudo-mother Jaedia from accusations of treason, they both don’t kill each other twice because they love each other.

The story is told from Maya and Gyre’s perspectives, in alternating chapters, denoted by a mask or a burning sword. That was really helpful as the change of perspective could have been confusing. I enjoyed seeing events from both sides, through their different beliefs and perspectives.

The plaguespawn, dhakim and ghouls are really quite awful creatures, but for a part of the novel you get their perspectives as they travel with the main characters. The war between the ghouls and the Chosen was much more complicated than humanity is allowed to know or believe, and the Order are complicit in keeping people ignorant. They also control what pieces of ancient technology left over from the war that ordinary people are allowed to use. Their control of the Republic has driven some people into desperate straits but they refuse to take responsibility, while the ghouls and dhakim straight up hate humans and prey on the weak. They’re more honest about their predation, and don’t hide behind words.

The Not-So-Good

Who were the Chosen, why did they have advanced technology while 400 years later people are playing with scraps? And how long do I have to wait for book two?

The Verdict

Excellent fantasy, sprawling world, engaging characters. Highly recommended.

Review: What the world needs now: Bees!, by @cherylrosebush @freshly_press @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours

Blurb 

Inside the sprawling forests of Ontario, Canada lives a  friendly black bear named Melly. One of Melly’s favourite  things to do is EAT! And many of the delicious fruits she  snacks on wouldn’t grow without the help of some very  important little forest creatures. 

What the World Needs Now: Bees! explores the vital role  busy, busy bees play in helping plants to grow the food  people and animals love to eat.

A message from the Author:

As you might have seen on IG, our UK Shopify online store is now open for business: www.Environmentalkids.co.uk.  We are really proud of our set up in the UK. All books in the series are printed in and shipped from the UK, which means we can pass along shipping savings to the customer, and the books have the lowest carbon footprint possible.

100% recycled paper, biodegradable lamination, vegetable-based inks and carbon-balanced printing we use, and now more than ever, these are books you can feel REALLY good about buying.

Continue reading “Review: What the world needs now: Bees!, by @cherylrosebush @freshly_press @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours”

Queer TBR Pile Review: When The Tiger Came Down The Mountain, by Nghi Vo

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Paperback, 128 pages
Published December 8th 2020 by Tordotcom
ISBN:1250786134 (ISBN13: 9781250786135)
The Singing Hills Cycle #2

“Dangerous, subtle, unexpected and familiar, angry and ferocious and hopeful. . . . The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a remarkable accomplishment of storytelling.”—NPR

The cleric Chih finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover—a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty—and discover how truth can survive becoming history.

Nghi Vo returns to the empire of Ahn and The Singing Hills Cycle in this mesmerizing, lush standalone follow-up to The Empress of Salt and Fortune.

My Review 

In The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Chih hears the stories of the Empresses life and that of her loyal companion. In this, Chih is up in the mountains, riding mammoths and being chased by tigers. Tigers who are able to turn into humans.

In order to save their life, and that of their human and mammoth companions, Chih tells a story about an earlier human Scholar who meets a tiger who can become a human. The tiger queen interrupts and corrects the story repeatedly.

This is another story within a story, although more accurately it’s two stories in a story as the tigers tell their version of events and the humans write it down for ‘correction’. And to save their lives. As Scheherazade tells stories to save her life, so Chih tells the story and listens to the tigers’ story in the hopes that the sun will rise and help will come with it.

I should have finished this a month ago but stuff got in the way and really, I rushed from reading the first book to reading this one and it was a bit too much of a change in pace and setting for me. However, this afternoon, after I walked Ezzie, had teas and then waited for the shopping delivery, I picked up this book. The last two thirds flew by in an hour. It was most inconvenient for the shopping to arrive early for a change, but I went back to the remaining pages, gripped with anticipation. How would Chih save them?

Obviously, I’m not going to tell you how, but Chih and the rest are saved, and the tigers leave. There’s a love story in the story within the story, and seeing things through the eyes of the tigers was fun, because they obviously have different priorities to humans.

I enjoyed the evocative descriptions, and the cultures and mythology of the civilisation of the books, which are clearly based on broadly east Asian, possibly more specifically Chinese and Mongolian, history, culture and mythology. I can’t wait to see what Chih gets up to next.

Non-Fiction TBR Pile Review: The Dark Fantastic – Race and the imagination from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games

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Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 21st 2019 by
New York University Press
ISBN:1479800651 (ISBN13: 9781479800650)

Reveals the diversity crisis in children’s and young adult media as not only a lack of representation, but a lack of imagination

Stories provide portals into other worlds, both real and imagined. The promise of escape draws people from all backgrounds to speculative fiction, but when people of color seek passageways into the fantastic, the doors are often barred. This problem lies not only with children’s publishing, but also with the television and film executives tasked with adapting these stories into a visual world. When characters of color do appear, they are often marginalized or subjected to violence, reinforcing for audiences that not all lives matter.

The Dark Fantastic is an engaging and provocative exploration of race in popular youth and young adult speculative fiction. Grounded in her experiences as YA novelist, fanfiction writer, and scholar of education, Thomas considers four black girl protagonists from some of the most popular stories of the early 21st century: Bonnie Bennett from the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, Rue from Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, Gwen from the BBC’s Merlin, and Angelina Johnson from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Analyzing their narratives and audience reactions to them reveals how these characters mirror the violence against black and brown people in our own world.

In response, Thomas uncovers and builds upon a tradition of fantasy and radical imagination in Black feminism and Afrofuturism to reveal new possibilities. Through fanfiction and other modes of counter-storytelling, young people of color have reinvisioned fantastic worlds that reflect their own experiences, their own lives. As Thomas powerfully asserts, “we dark girls deserve more, because we are more.”

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Autism TBR Pile Review: Stim – An Autistic Anthology, edited by Lizzie Huxley-Jones

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Hardcover, First Edition, 216 pages
Published 2020 by Unbound
ISBN13: 9781783529025

Around one in one hundred people in the UK are autistic, yet there remains a fundamental misunderstanding of what autism is. It is rare that autistic people get to share their own experiences, show how creative and talented and passionate they are, how different they are from media stereotypes.

This insightful and eye-opening collection of essays, fiction and visual art showcases the immense talents of some of the UK’s most exciting writers and artists – who just happen to be on the spectrum. Here they reclaim the power to speak for themselves and redefine what it means to be autistic.

Stim invites the reader into the lives, experiences, minds of the eighteen contributors, and asks them to recognise the hurdles of being autistic in a non-autistic world and to uncover the empathy and understanding necessary to continue to champion brilliant yet unheard voices. 

My review

When Lizzie was hawking this book around Twitter, trying to get enough backers on Unbound, I asked to be put on the list for a gifted copy – that is, I was too poor at the time to support the book but if someone paid for an extra copy for someone without funds then I would be in with a chance of getting one.

I did, and I’ve been meaning to read it for a while, but blog tours and my job got in the way. But in the last few days I’ve managed to get up to date with the blog tours for March and have some breathing room so I read Stim.

I laughed, I cried, a lot, I enjoyed the stories and the art work, it was so refreshing to read other peoples’ experiences of life and see my own reflected back. People from many places and with different support needs. The only thing they had in common was a diagnosis of autism/Asperger’s Syndrome/ASC/ASC/whatever we’re being labelled as these days.

This is a weighty little book, nice texture to the pages, right size for carrying around. I love the cover, it’s not overwhelming or too bright. The resources at the end might be useful for a reader who isn’t autistic.

Autistic people are quite capable of telling their own stories, whether in words, pictures or gestures, and this book shares some of them.

Cover Reveal: A Chance Encounter, by Rae Shaw

A Chance Encounter

Julianna Baptiste, a feisty bodyguard, finds her new job tedious, that is until her boss, the evasive Jackson Haynes, spikes her curiosity. Who is behind the vicious threats to his beautiful wife and why is he interested in two estranged siblings?

Mark works for Haynes’s vast company. He’s hiding from ruthless money launderers.

His teenage sister Ellen has an online friend whom she has never met. Ellen guards a terrible secret.

For eight years their duplicitous father has languished in prison, claiming he is innocent of murder. The evidence against him is overwhelming, so why does Mark persist with an appeal?

Keen to prove her potential as an investigator, Julianna forces Mark to confront his mistakes. The consequences will put all their lives in danger.

Pre-order Link

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08X1PN4VH

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08X1PN4VH

Continue reading “Cover Reveal: A Chance Encounter, by Rae Shaw”