Reviews, as promised :D

Two book reviews for you today, they’re not very long because it’s way too hot and muggy, and I’m still recovering from Paris.

Continue reading “Reviews, as promised :D”

Review: Eyes on the sky by Francis Graham-Smith

Published by: Oxford University Press

Publication date: 23rd August 2016

I.S.B.N. 9780198734277


Four centuries ago, Galileo first turned a telescope to look up at the night sky. His discoveries opened the cosmos, revealing the geometry and dynamics of the solar system. Today’s telescopic equipment, stretching over the whole spectrum from visible light to radio and millimetre astronomy, through infrared to ultravioletX-rays and gamma rays, has again transformed our understanding of the whole Universe.

In this book Francis Graham-Smith explains how this technology can be engaged to give us a more in-depth picture of the nature of the universe. Looking at both ground-based telescopes and telescopes on spacecraft, he analyses their major discoveries, from planets and pulsars to cosmology. Large research teams and massive data handling are necessary, but the excitement of discovery is increasingly shared by a growing public, who can even join in some of the analysis by remote computer techniques. Observational astronomy has become international. All major projects are now partnerships; most notably the Square Kilometre Array, which will involve astronomers from over 100 countries and will physically exist in several of them. Covering the history and development of telescopes from Galileo to the present day, Eyes on the Sky traces what happens when humankind looks up.

My Review

As regular readers will know, this is the second book this year that I’ve read about the history of telescopes (the first being Mapping the Heavens)  and I think the difference between them is one of degree. Eye’s on the sky is aimed at a more popular market but is still in-depth enough for the more knowledgeable reader. The focus is also slightly different, as a more specialised area – the development of full spectrum instruments rather than the full history of astronomy – is covered.

The book is fully illustrated and with a comprehensive ‘Notes’ section, for further reading. This is an easy to read book which follows a chronological and wavelength order. I really recommend it to astronomy enthusiasts.


Review: The Shining Woman by Marjorie Bowen

Published by: Endeavour Press

Publication date: 13th May 2016

I.S.B.N: 9781533249647


Now chiefly remembered as the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin has often been acclaimed as a prophetess of the emancipation of her sex — a woman who did much to smooth the way for subsequent female triumphs.

But Mary’s life beyond her Vindication – published in 1791, eight years before her death, by her friend Joseph Johnson — was plagued by poverty, misery, and despair, with only a few snatched moments of happiness to keep her going.

Born into a family of impoverished gentility, she spent her childhood as a drudge in her own home, subject to a drunken father and largely responsible for her four younger siblings.

Exposed from a very young age to the power men hold over women, and the scarcity of choice women have in submitting and obeying, Mary formed opinions of the equal rights of women that stayed with her for many years.

As an adult, her ability to make for herself a living through writing and hackwork went a long way towards affirming her beliefs, but she rapidly grew tired of the dullness of her life and longed for companionship.

But ideals and reality often do not coincide, as Mary discovered in her own relationships with men.

Hungry for affection and love, she entered into an affair with Gilbert Imlay and lived with him, having fallen deeply in love with him and knowing he could not be had on any other terms.

The two held significantly different outlooks on love, life, and matrimony. Mary’s letters to Imlay during the course of their relationship, and particularly after the birth of their daughter, Fanny, make clear the desperation with which she sought to hold on to him, long after he wished to wash his hands of her.

Two attempts to take her life likewise marked the despondency with which the affair had left her.

Mary subsequently lived with William Godwin; mentally exhausted and emotionally broken, she was lonely and eager for some imitation of the life she had led with Imlay.

Though Godwin had long been against the institution of marriage, Mary persuaded him into marrying her because she dreaded social ostracism and the brining of a second illegitimate child into a harsh world.

This attempt at returning to conventional societal norms only served to have certain doors permanently shut in her face.

Upon her death she left behind her two daughters, who, however unintentionally, followed very much in their mother’s footsteps, chasing unorthodox relationships and defying convention.

Death served as a release from the unhappiness and anguish that had dogged Mary’s footsteps from birth, leaving behind a legacy that spoke of a strong and proud feminist.

Marjorie Bowen was born in 1885 on Hayling Island in Hampshire. She and her sister grew up in poverty, but Bowen was eventually able to study at the Slade School of Fine Art and later in Paris. Her first novel, the violent historical ‘The Viper of Milan’ (written when she was 16) was rejected by several publishers, who considered it inappropriate for a young woman to have written such a novel. It went on to become a best-seller when eventually published.

Her total output numbers over 150 volumes with the bulk of her work under the ‘Bowen’ pseudonym. She also wrote under the names Joseph Shearing, George R. Preedy, John Winch, Robert Paye and Margaret Campbell.

Bowen died on 22 December 1952, after suffering serious concussion as a result of a fall in her bedroom. This book was previously published under the name George R. Preedy.

My review

This reprint is really showing its age, in the judgemental attitude of the writter and the lack of any analysis. This biography is interesting, admittedly and covers all the necessary details, however the use of direct quotes from surviving letters doesn’t so much support the narrative as weigh it down with repetition and lack of useful analysis or synthesis. There is no discussion of Mary Wollstonecroft’s obvious mental health conditions – if we use her letters as evidence she, and Eliza Wollstonscroft, we’re clearly suffering from depression or PTSD due to their abusive childhood. I had a mixed reaction to this book; I was engrossed by the fascinating life led by its subject but turned off by the authorial style.

If you want a quick lesson about Mary Wollstonecroft this book will provide details, but if you want depth and analysis there are better biographies available.


The library has moved


My local library has moved in to a new building, the ‘Immingham Hub’. I went for a visit yesterday, because I needed to print off some patterns I’d bought and wanted to make, but also to have a nose round.

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A couple of quick reviews

Evening all,

After a busy eight days I was absolutely exhausted and my depression was acting up, so today I have done nothing. I’m feeling much better this evening so I thought I’d write a couple of reviews. I’ve been updating my writers CV and my log of submissions. It’s quite sad, I’ve had a few letters published but nothing else, except for a piece in an anthology about writing, I have two whole sentences in it. I sent a couple of queries off to local papers today but I don’t expect to hear anything, I haven’t when I’ve emailed them before. I keep looking at my submissions log and I’m sure I’ve missed things out; I know I’ve sent queries to a couple of newspapers and to local magazines, I think I must have forgotten to log them. How silly of me.

But that’s enough of that, on to the reviews. Both these books came from and I’ve already given my feedback on that website. I usually wait and do it all at once but I was twitchy last night and needed to distract myself.Continue reading “A couple of quick reviews”

Review: ‘Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel’ by Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor


Published by: Little, Brown Book Group UK
Publication Date: 20th October 2015   
Edition: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780356504834
Price: £16.99


Night Vale is a small desert town where all the conspiracy theories you’ve ever heard are actually true. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.

Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked ‘KING CITY’ by a mysterious man in a tan jacket. She can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City before she herself unravels.

Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it.

Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: ‘KING CITY’. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures . . . if they can ever find it.

My Review

I love the Night Vale podcasts; the utter surrealism of the plot is perfect listening. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work so well in the extended format of a novel. While the plot has some merit, the writing is laboured and after a couple of chapters I found it dull.

I’m disappointed but have to give this one a 2/5

Review: ‘The Buddha Pill’ by Dr Miguel Farias and Catherine Wikholm


Continue reading “Review: ‘The Buddha Pill’ by Dr Miguel Farias and Catherine Wikholm”

May Reviews, part one

Hey, I’ve had a not so great few weeks, and have got behind with my reviews (sorry!) but to make up for it, here’s four book reviews.

Continue reading “May Reviews, part one”