Saturday 29 June 2024

Guest Review: The Croucher A Biography of Gilbert Jessop By Gerald Brodribb

Review: Gilbert Jessop (1874-1955) was a cricketer who played for Gloucestershire and England. In his early days he was known for his fast bowling, but it was as a big-hitting batsman that he gained more fame, his crouching stance at the wicket earning him the nickname “The Croucher”. His most famous innings came in the fifth Test Match against  Australia at the Oval in 1902. Needing 263 runs to win, England were quickly reduced to 48 runs for 5 wickets on a rain-affected pitch when Jessop went out to bat. He decided to attack the bowling in his own inimitable style and scored 104 before he was finally out with the score at 187 for 7. His century was scored in only 75 minutes off 76 balls and, to this day, is still the fastest century in a Test Match by an England batsman. The match was still not over, but England’s tail end managed to accumulate the winning runs, with the last pair anecdotally “getting ‘em in singles” to give England a dramatic victory by one wicket.

Jessop’s childhood and his early career as a teacher before breaking into first class cricket with Gloucestershire and Cambridge University is outlined. As well as describing “Jessop’s Match” at the Oval in 1902, the book details his career with Gloucestershire for whom he made his debut in 1894. He took over the captaincy of the county from the great W. G. Grace in 1900, his performances often outshining the rest of the team. His cricketing career was effectively ended following the outbreak of the First World War, but he continued to play and be involved in golf. He also worked as a journalist and writer. At the end of the book is a short statistical section detailing his cricketing achievements, particularly his remarkable fast-scoring feats.

As an informative biography of one of the lesser-known cricketers of the so-called “Golden Age”, and having seen the bat that Jessop used in scoring his famous century in 1902 in the museum at Lord’s cricket ground, I found this to be an interesting and enjoyable book. It should appeal to all cricket lovers.

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Wednesday 26 June 2024

Guest Review: Sharpe’s Command by Bernard Cornwell

If any man can do the impossible it's Richard Sharpe . . .

And the impossible is exactly what the formidable Major Sharpe is asked to do when he's dispatched on an undercover mission behind enemy lines, deep in the Spanish countryside.

For a remote village is about to become the centre of a battle for the future of Europe. Sitting high above the Almaraz bridge, it is the last link between two French armies, one in the north and one in the south; if they meet, the British are doomed.

Only Sharpe's small group of men – with their cunning and courage to rely on – stand in their way. But they're rapidly outnumbered, enemies are hiding in plain sight, and time is running out...

Review: This is the 23rd book in Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series, but chronologically it fits in as number 14, taking the reader back to 1812, long before the battle of Waterloo. For anyone new to these books, the series follows the career of Richard Sharpe in the British army, from his time in India to the Napoleonic wars. A heroic deed led to his being promoted from the ranks to an officer, which has placed him in an awkward position, often disliked in equal measure by soldiers above and below him.

In this book, Sharpe and his band of riflemen are in Spain, having been sent to liaise with a group of partisans and establish the state of a bridge over the river Tagus at Almaraz and its defending forts. This bridge has become key to the success of the French war effort, as the crossing will allow two branches of its army to join together, making a formidable force. Sharpe and his men have to contend with more than the French in dealing with the bridge, principally is the leader of the partisans fighting with them or against?

I have seen a few comments from readers complaining about continuity errors in this book due to its having been slotted into the series. However, setting aside such considerations, I enjoyed this story for what it was - Sharpe and his chosen men doing their bit to defeat the French. It did feel slightly strange reading about characters who I know will die subsequent books, but it was good to see Sharpe again in his younger days and be reacquainted with the trusty Harper, the rest of the band and of course Sharpe’s wife Teresa. There is plenty of action as Sharpe and his small force cope with an inexperienced officer accompanying them as well as the French forces and a strangely unhelpful group of partisans. I hope that Bernard Cornwell still has more adventures to come for Richard Sharpe.

To order your copy now, just click here!

Saturday 22 June 2024

Guest Review: The Dictionary People By Sarah Ogilvie

What do three murderers, Karl Marx's daughter and a vegetarian vicar have in common?
They all helped create the Oxford English Dictionary.

The Oxford English Dictionary has long been associated with elite institutions and Victorian men. But the Dictionary didn't just belong to the experts; it relied on contributions from members of the public. By 1928, its 414,825 entries had been crowdsourced from a surprising and diverse group of people, from astronomers to murderers, naturists, pornographers, suffragists and queer couples.

Lexicographer Sarah Ogilvie dives deep into previously untapped archives to tell a people's history of the OED. Here, she reveals, for the first time, the full story of the making of one of the most famous books in the world - and celebrates the extraordinary efforts of the Dictionary People.

Review: The sub-title of this book is “The Unsung Heroes Who Created The Oxford English Dictionary”. The author, Sarah Ogilvie, is a lexicographer who has worked as an editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The first edition of the OED was compiled between 1858 and 1928. The aim of its editors was to create a dictionary that not only gave the definitions of the words but also described how they originated and were used over time, using quotations from written sources to provide examples. During this period, the longest serving editor, from 1879 until 1915, was a former schoolteacher called James Murray. The editors realised that the task of tracing words from their earliest sources would require a huge input, so they requested volunteers from across the English-speaking world to send in examples of words and their use in quotations. This crowdsourcing project was made possible following the launch of the uniform penny post and the growth of the railways in the mid-nineteenth century.

There was a total of three thousand volunteers. This book describes a selection of these unpaid and unsung people and also provides biographical details of James Murray. Sarah Ogilvie was aided in her research by her discovery in the archives of James Murray’s address books which contained the names and addresses of these contributors. The book comprises twenty-six chapters which, unsurprisingly for a book about a dictionary, start at the letter A and end at the letter Z. What emerges is an eclectic mix of Victorian and Edwardian characters from across the globe. These people were mostly amateurs who were only too ready to contribute to an intellectual project at a time when many, especially women, were denied access to higher education. There were some unusual contributors, including the daughter of Karl Marx, three murderers and a number of inmates of mental institutions.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this book, but quickly found it to be a fascinating insight into both the process of compiling a dictionary and also the lives of a wide-ranging mix of the contributors. The author’s enthusiasm for her subject is evident throughout. I did find that a tome written by a lexicographer contained many long words that, ironically, I had to look up in a dictionary (including the word lexicographer: noun - a compiler of dictionaries). As an informative guide as to how a classic reference work first saw the light of day and an insight into some of the characters involved, I would recommend this book.

To order your copy now, just click here!

Wednesday 19 June 2024

Guest Review: Come Rain or Shine by Sarah Bennett

Juniper Meadows is home to much of his extended family, not to mention the many local businesses that operate on the estate, so there’s no time to sit back and enjoy the view. Juniper Meadows is a full-time job, and that doesn’t leave much time for romance…

Tasha Blake’s career leaves no time for romance either – much to her mother’s chagrin. Tasha’s sister Danni has kindly provided two grandchildren, but Victoria Blake is keen for more! When her job takes her to Juniper Meadows for an extended project, the slower pace of life, the beauty of the countryside and the warmth of the Travers family, soon has Tasha in its thrall, and the future Lord of the Manor Rhys Travers is rather easy on the eye too.

As the busyness of life on the estate sweeps Tasha and Rhys along, they are both able to ignore the secrets and silences that are growing between them. But when the future of Juniper Meadows hangs in the balance, loyalties and love are tested to breaking point. When the chips are down, can Rhys and Tasha see a future together, come rain or shine…

Review: This is the third book in the Juniper Meadows series from this author. Stories in this series are set on the Juniper Meadows estate in the Cotswolds. The exclusive hotel, once the ancestral seat of the Travers family, the farm and camp site are run by two generations of the current family, who now reside in the large farmhouse or elsewhere on the estate. Each book has focused on a particular member of the large, extended family, although all of them feature to a greater or lesser extent. Although the books in this series can be read in isolation, I would recommend reading them in order to build up a complete picture of this interesting family.

This story centres on Rhys Travers, heir apparent to the family title, and a newcomer to the estate, Tasha Blake. Tasha has been sent by her boss to work undercover as the estate’s camp site manager and report back to him on activities within the family business as a whole. However, she is surprised to find herself welcomed into the family as more than an employee, and realises that she is forming a relationship with Rhys. She also discovers that she enjoys the job and the slower pace of life in the country. Being suspicious of her boss’s motives, Tasha is unwilling to report to him, but the problem remains of how to explain to Rhys and his family that she has been deceiving them. It looks as though she is in a no-win situation and may lose both her new job and man she has come to love.

I am really enjoying this series from Sarah Bennett; her books are always full of warmth and romance coupled with interesting characters and real-life situations. In this story, it was good to see the character of Rhys brought to the fore. He has struggled with the knowledge that he will one day inherit the estate, with the attendant responsibilities, and employing someone to take some pressure off him was a great idea. I wasn’t sure that I liked Tasha to begin with but she grew on me as the story progressed. She had her own problems of course, her mother with her strange ideas being one of them. I’m already looking forward to the next book in this series and wondering who will take centre stage.

To order your copy now, just click here!

Saturday 15 June 2024

Guest Review: Broadly Speaking By Stuart Broad

Stuart Broad is the ultimate competitor - someone addicted to the pressures of Test cricket, the big occasions and being thrust into the heat of battle.

For over seventeen years, he's left it all on the field. A multiple Ashes winner and World Champion, Broad was integral to some of the greatest England teams of all time. His awards and achievements, however, don't tell the whole story. He has always been a cricketer of more than mere numbers. Broad's passionate and spontaneous behaviour has mad him a fan favourite. No other player feeds off the crowd quite like he does.

In his autobiography, Broad shares the moments from the game which have made him and those that almost broke him. What's clear, however, is his unwavering belief in his own ability to become one of the best ever.

Candid, entertaining, and refreshingly honest, this book reveals the personal side of a true cricketing great.

Review: Stuart Broad was a professional cricketer who played for Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire and appeared in 167 Test Matches for England, as well as numerous One Day and Twenty 20 Internationals. He announced his retirement just prior to the end of the final Test Match in the 2023 Ashes series against Australia. This is his autobiography, written with the assistance of the journalist Richard Gibson.

The book covers his childhood, starting with his premature birth, weighing in at just 2 pounds 2 ounces, and his first couple of weeks of life in an incubator, before growing into the 6 foot 6 inches fast bowler who took 604 wickets in Test Matches. The story finishes with the 5th, and final, Test against Australia, when it appeared he had written his own script for how he wanted to finish. Although an autobiography, with the author’s personal reflections on his life in cricket and on what the future may hold, the timeline jumps around and the chapters are interspersed with ones describing the five games in that 2023 Ashes series.

With numerous colour photographs and a section at the end giving his career statistics, this is an interesting, although brief, autobiography by one of the more colourful characters in cricket. It should appeal to all lovers of the game.

To order your copy now, just click here!

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Guest Review: Island in the Sun by Katie Fforde

Dominica. A beautiful remote island where the sun shines and the living is easy.

And where Cass goes to photograph a rare stone carving as a favour to her father.

With her is Ranulph, a deeply attractive, much-travelled journalist, who offers to help Cass with her quest.

But Dominica has just been hit be a severe hurricane, and Cass and Ranulph are spending all of their time helping the local community.

Cass knows she must not fall in love with him… He is just looking out for her. He’s being kind.

There is no way he could be even the slightest bit interested in her. Could he?

Review: I have read, and loved, a number of Katie Fforde’s books and when I saw that her latest one had just been published, I automatically purchased a copy. The cover promised a trip to an exotic island location and romance for the woman pictured on a gorgeous beach. I quickly learned that this book in fact features two islands - a remote rocky one off the coast of Scotland and the Caribbean island of Dominica, which is the main location in the story. The latter is in an area with which I am not familiar, and I looked forward to my visit.

This story centres on Cass, who is at a crossroads in her life and unsure which direction to take, her decision influenced in part by her parents’ wishes and expectations. When her famous photographer father asks her if she will travel to Dominica to take a picture of a petroglyph, she jumps at the chance. It is hoped that a photograph of the petroglyph will help win a competition, the prize money from which can be put to good use on the island. She is to be accompanied on the journey by her father’s friend, Ranulph. Unfortunately, Dominica has just been hit by a hurricane, and things are rather chaotic when the pair arrive. Their time is spent being useful in any way they can in the clear-up operation. Attempts to find and record the petroglyph are hindered by conditions on the island, but also by a rival keen to win the competition himself. During the process, Cass reveals an artistic talent that she has kept hidden thinking her parents would not encourage her to follow this path. She also becomes increasingly infatuated with Ranulph, but is unsure how this older man feels about her.

Although I enjoyed this tale, I can’t say that this would be my favourite book from this author. It was not her usual cosy romance. I found it interesting to learn a bit about Dominica and the effects a hurricane could have on a community like this. I was conflicted by Cass; on one hand she seemed really immature, but then she stepped up and did some really brave things when she was needed. Ranulph was a likeable character, but he didn’t treat Cass very well at times. My favourite characters were the locals the pair met during their time on the island. While I think that fans of Katie Fforde will enjoy this story, I wouldn’t recommend it as typical of her work to those new to her books.

To order your copy nowm just click here!

Saturday 8 June 2024

Guest Review: Unruly: A History of England’s Kings and Queens By David Mitchell

Think you know your kings and queens? Think again.

In UNRULY, David Mitchell explores how England's monarchs, while acting as feared rulers firmly guiding their subjects' destinies, were in reality a bunch of lucky sods who were mostly as silly and weird in real life as they appear today in their portraits.

Taking us right back to King Arthur (spoiler: he didn't exist), David tells the founding story of post-Roman England right up to the reign of Elizabeth I (spoiler: she dies). It's a tale of narcissists, inadequate self-control, excessive beheadings, middle-management insurrection, uncivil wars, and at least one total Cnut, as the population evolved from having their crops nicked by the thug with the largest armed gang to bowing and paying taxes to a divinely anointed king.

How this happened, who it happened to and why it matters in modern Britain are all questions David answers with brilliance, wit and the full erudition of a man who once studied history - and won't let it off the hook for the mess it's made.

Review: David Mitchell is a comedian, actor and writer who also studied history at Cambridge University. This book is his version of the history, and his interpretation of the personality, of the monarchs that ruled the land equating roughly to present day England from the period following the withdrawal of the Romans in the 5th century up to the end of the Tudor dynasty at the beginning of the 17th century.

Most of England from AD 43 had been part of the Roman Empire, and was known as the province of Britannia. Following the withdrawal of the Romans, tribes from north-western Europe, such as Angles, Saxons and Jutes, began to settle the land and rule specific regions. The leaders of these regions were usually the ones with the biggest armies who were prepared to use them in order to claim allegiance from their neighbours. These leaders came to be referred to as kings and England was divided into various kingdoms which came to dominate at different times, with the kingdom of Wessex eventually becoming dominant. Eventually, in the 10th century, one of their kings Athelstan styled himself Rex Anglorum, or King of the English. This was notwithstanding the fact that another series of invaders, the Vikings, had taken over large parts of the north of England, and indeed in subsequent years Anglo-Saxons and Vikings vied for the kingdom of England. Eventually, the last Anglo-Saxon king was replaced as a result of an invasion by Normans. From that point on, monarchs of England were given regnal numbers.

David Mitchell has provided a comprehensive and humorous account of the kings and queens of the various dynasties that ruled England during the twelve centuries described in the book. Although nominally following the line of the eldest male, he describes how quite often the succession was a result of an individual with even a slight claim seizing power by the time-honoured method of imprisoning or killing (sometimes both) rival claimants. Family trees of the various dynasties are provided, showing just how interrelated the royal families were. The introduction of various statutory institutions, such as Magna Carta and parliament, in an attempt to curb the power of the monarch are also described. The book contains illustrations of several of the monarchs, and there is a section at the end with suggestions for further reading.

David Mitchell, in the acknowledgements section, states that he wanted to write a book about kings and queens that was both funny and fascinating. In this, I feel that he has succeeded. I learnt a lot, particularly about the period before the Norman conquest because, for me, the teaching of history, as well as regnal numbering, began at this point. I also found the book extremely funny, with many laugh out loud moments. I liked the way the author used comparisons between historical figures and events with contemporary situations. I should add a warning that, for a book on history, there is a lot of strong language. As an entertaining, if sometimes irreverent, and highly informative read, I would thoroughly recommend this book.

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Thursday 6 June 2024

May 2024 Reading Wrap Up

 Honestly May was SUCH a blur from beginning to end. I did try to do Bout of Books and tried to vlog it but I didn't do blog posts and I didn't really even manage to read that much so...

What I DO know is that I enjoyed everything I read in May and that's what really counts isn't it?!

All audiobooks

Wednesday 5 June 2024

Guest Review: Date with Justice by Julia Chapman

The Dales Detective Agency is on the brink of closure.

Samson O’Brien has returned to his position as an undercover operative for the Met in London, and his relationship with sleuthing partner Delilah Metcalfe is under pressure.

Their troubles are only multiplied when an ecologist is found dead and the finger of blame is pointed firmly at Delilah’s older brother, Will.

It seems an open and shut case. An argument over an ecology report for planning permission which got out of hand, with Will known to have a hot temper. But Delilah won’t accept he’s guilty and neither will Samson.

Dropping everything, he returns to Bruncliffe to help prove Will’s innocence. But as the two detectives start digging, they unearth more than they bargained for and soon realize that the price of justice can be very costly indeed.

This is the ninth book in Julia Chapman’s Dales Detective series, which is set in the beautiful Yorkshire dales. The books follow the fortunes of the Dales Detective Agency, run by Samson O’Brien and Delilah Metcalfe in the small market town of Bruncliffe. Delilah also runs the Dales Dating Agency. I have been following this series from the start and have loved reading about Samson and Delilah’s exploits as well as getting to know the locals in the town, with their many and often amusing foibles. Each book can easily be read as a standalone, but they make a wonderful collection when read in order.

In this story, the detective agency is struggling. Samson has returned to his job working undercover for the Metropolitan police in London and his working patterns are making his long distance relationship with Delilah somewhat strained. He is seriously considering whether to make a permanent move back to his home in Bruncliffe. However, when Delilah’s brother, Will, is accused of murder, Samson drops everything to hurry north and work on the case. It soon becomes apparent that clearing Will of the crime may well implicate someone else who Samson and Delilah consider a friend.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this ninth instalment in this series and can recommend it to lovers of cosy crime and/or the Yorkshire dales. This was quite a mystery, so well written that I struggled to solve it just as much as Samson and Delilah. As usual, the pair were assisted by the people of Bruncliffe and, of course, Delilah’s faithful hound Tolpuddle the Weimaraner. It has been rewarding watching the relationship between Samson and Delilah grow as this series has progressed, waiting with anticipation for each new book to be released. I felt for Samson in this story, as he struggled to make a decision on his future with so many factors to consider.

To order your copy now, just click here!

Monday 3 June 2024

June 2024 TBR: Pride Month Reads

 Well May came and went didn't it so now it is the mid point of the year, the time to read with Pride and take stock of the reading done in the year so far. With that being said, here's everything I want to read during Pride month. You know I won't get through it all, because I just don't these days but I like having a nice selection to choose from. 

June Releases

20th June

Nonfiction Reads

Pride Reads

Holdovers from last month