#Review – Eileen – The Making of George Orwell by Sylvia Topp – An Insightful book of their lives and her influence. @SylviaTopps @unbounders #Eileen #GeorgeOrwell #RandomThingsTours @AnneCater #Biography #BlogTour #non-fiction

Eileen – The Making of George Orwell
By Sylvia Topp
Rated: 4 stars ****

I am very pleased to present my review about Eileen, who, I knew so little about, until now, and it turns out she is a remarkably talented woman who does deserve credit and who really was the making of George Orwell, so he became the author we all know today.

About the Author

Sylvia Topp has worked in publishing since college, starting as a copy writer on medical Eileen Sylvia Topp Author Picjournals, then moving to freelancing editing at a major literary publishing houses. She was the long-time wife and partner of Tuli Kupferberg, a Beat poet who later was a co-founder, in 1964, of the Fugs, a legendary rock and roll band. Together Sylvia and Tuli wrote, edited, and designed over thirty books and magazines, including As They Were, 1001 Ways to Live Without Working, and Yeah! magazine. Sylvia joined the staff at The Soho Weekly Newsand later The Village Voice, before finishing her publishing career at Vanity Fair. Eileen is her first book. She lives in Kingston, Ontario.

Social Media Links –

Twitter – @sylviatopp

Publisher – Unbound

Eileen Cover

Blurb

In 1934, Eileen Shaughnessy’s futuristic poem, ‘End of the Century’, 1984, was published. The next year, she would meet George Orwell, then known as Eric Blair, at a party. “Now that is the kind of girl I would like to marry!” he remarked that night. Years later, Orwell would name his greatest work, Nineteen Eighty-Four, in homage to the memory of Eileen, the woman who shaped his life and his art in way that have never been acknowledged by history, until now.

From the time they spent in a tiny village tending goats and chickens, through the Spanish Civil War, to the couple’s narrow escape from the destruction of their London flat during a German bombing raid, and their adoption of their baby boy, Eileen is the first account of the Blair’s nine year marriage. It is also a vivid picture of bohemianism, political engagement, and sexual freedom in the 1930s and ’40s.

Through impressive depth of research, illustrated throughout with photos and images from the time, this captivating and inspiring biography offers a completely new perspective on Orwell himself, and most importantly tells the life story of an exceptional woman who has been unjustly overlooked.

Review

Eileen! Who on earth was Eileen in relation to George Orwell’s work? It is true to say, not much seems to be known about her, until now. This book will tell you who she was. This is a book that offers a completely new perspective on George Orwell and is insightful about his wife – Eileen.
Eileen was much more to George Orwell than just his wife. The book shows a rounded character build-up, so a real sense of her life and personality really does come through. It really is absolutely fascinating, especially since so little was known and yet she had such a positive influence on George Orwell’s life. I get the sense that a lot of research has been put into this book and not all of it, easily found. Eileen, at times seems a woman of complete mystery and other routes have to be taken to discover more about her, and other times, there are letters right there, about her life. There are great photos of the key people mentioned, placed in the middle of the book. There are letters and archive materials scanned into the book too. I love that this book is, built on research that is actually supported by the Orwell Estate and Orwell Society. Recent biographers of George Orwell seem to laud this book. 

So, why write a book about Eileen, the woman who would become George Orwell’s wife? Readers will partially find out in the very interesting foreword, expertly written by Peter Davison who is the editor of The Complete Works of George Orwell and will certainly know much more about her by the end. The book also debunks some myths about George Orwell being a self-made man. Eileen has to be able to have credit to what she did and this book sets out to give her recognition. She was much more than a wife to George Orwell, it would seem. She was a woman who did a lot and achieved a lot in her life and helped shape George Orwell to be the successful man he became.

The book takes readers right back to archived material and research conducted on her ancestry and then moves onto her school days in South Shields and how nowadays there is memorabilia from the school is now scattered around the world. It is interesting having a look at her school reports and also a poem she wrote.

The book, interestingly gives an insight into what people thought of George Orwell and whether he was suitable marriage material or not and the marriage itself and the problems and expectations.

It is known that Orwell went to Catalonia and as well as addressing what he was doing there, readers will also see some of the extent of her work in their cottage, in helping Orwell on the road to becoming the author he became. What comes across is that she was a hard worker and also seemed quite devoted  to Orwell and did a lot, including making expensive and stressful trips to visit him in a sanatorium when he was terribly unwell.

Apart from having a positive effect on Orwell’s writing; Eileen typed and she also got review copies of books organised from his publisher. She comes across as being very supportive of him and his work. She also wanted him to be healthy after so much illness and tried to find a better home than the cottage to live in. I felt the writing gave her justice and her personality comes through.

The book moves on to a time in Morocco. There’s a real sense of what Morocco was like then and the experience they had. With secret letters to another for a time, I felt sorry for her and with all the sacrifices she was making. There does, however seem to be happier and better periods in their marriage, before and after this. It’s like they were bound together some way, no matter all their troubles and strife. It’s certainly interesting reading about what sort of marriage they had. 

It is interesting reading about what Eileen may have done to support the war effort and she seems to be a woman with substantial connections to important people and how she seemed to be becoming successful in her own-right, but even then, there is still a bit of bleakness and hardship to live through. I figure that there must be quite some strength of character in Eileen.

It is then, so interesting to see what influenced George Orwell to write both 1984 and Animal Farm and reading about his other works. It is equally interesting to read about how Animal Farm could have been such a different piece and perhaps, not quite so cleverly written or indeed in story form, if it was not for the influence of the extraordinary Eileen, who was also, it would seem, talented in her own right. Her influence on Orwell’s work, especially Animal Farm is hugely significant and I certainly had not realised until reading this book, for that to be the case.

The book has an epilogue about what happened at the end of Eileen’s life and what happened next. There are also eloquent letters she wrote. It is worth pointing out that after the index, there are lists upon lists of people’s names who have supported this book.

By the time you’ve finished this book, you will have learnt a lot and you will see why this book had to be written and why Eileen deserves recognition, I certainly think she does. This book is definitely worthwhile reading.

Eileen BT Poster

Happy World Book Day #WorldBookDay 2020 #Books #Bookish #CrimeFiction #Fiction #NonFiction #Kidslit #PictureBook #HistoricalFiction #History #Romance #Biography #ContemporaryFiction

Happy World Book Day 2020

Happy World Book Day and I hope that everyone is having a fabulous day, however you are celebrating. There are many author events going on around the UK in public and community libraries as well as schools. There are also lots of other bookish events too that can be participated in as you read for pleasure. There are also other ways you can participate in World Book Day, if you cannot attend an event, such as, curling up with a good book and leaving an author a review on Waterstones and Amazon.

Today I am attending a World Book Day Event to hear a talk by rising star Alison Belsham, author of The Tattoo Thief and then it will be my turn to host an event up here in Scotland too on Monday with Liz Treacher – author of The Wrong Envelope and The Wrong Direction.

I also have some great books in my review pile for both adult and children that are being published between this month and summer.

In the pile I am currently reading are fiction and non-fiction books. In no particular order of publication or review dates, look out for book one of a new series by Ben Kane – Made in Battle, Forged in War; Us Three by Ruth Jones (yes, the actor/writer from Gavin and Stacey and author of Never Greener); Eileen – The Making of George Orwell, Eileen was his wife, but not much is known about her, until now…; Paper Sparrows; A Conspiracy of Bones – the latest book by Kathy Reichs; I return to reviewing again for Lesley Kelly for her book Murder at the Music Factory – the latest in the health of Strangers series (read as a series or stand alone); I return to The Bobby Girls series to review the latest book – The Bobby Girl’s Secrets to see what the police volunteers are up to in their second and newest book.

I return to Janey Louise Jones children’s books to see what else Princess Poppy has in store now she has worked out how to save the bees. This time she is tackling plastic. I also will be reviewing for a charity Helping Hands who have had the Duchess of York on board to craete books  about how to tackle bullying, first days at school and strangers. There is a fantasy book to continue the series about Akra The Healing Stone, by Vacyn Taylor and a new book – Snow Child by a new author – Larraine Harrison.

This is just a few of the books sitting on my pile to date that you will start to see full reviews for soon. So, lots of books for you to look forward to exploring and to see what I think of. Coming up very soon are some children’s books and then an adult thriller that Lee Child and many other authors have a lot of praise for.

I of course thank all the authors, publishers and blog tour organisers for all these amazing opportunities to review and of course I thank just as equally, the readers of my blog as without everyone, my blog couldn’t exist.

@Wildpressed @saralread @LoveBooksGroup #Lovebookstours #CoverReveal #Historical #History

The Gossips Choice
Cover Reveal

I am excited to present the cover reveal for Gossip’s Choice. Read on to learn a bit about the author and what it’s all about.

The Gossips Choice - Front cover v2

About the Author

Gossips choice sara read (1)Dr Sara Read is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University. Her research is in the cultural representations of women, bodies and health in the early modern era. 

She has published widely in this area with her first book Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England being published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013.

She is a member of the organising committee of the Women’s Studies Group, 1558-1837 and recently co-edited a special collection produced to celebrate the group’s 30th anniversary. 

She is also the co-editor of the popular Early Modern Medicine blog. With founding editor Dr Jennifer Evans, Sara wrote a book about health and disease in this era Maladies and Medicine: Exploring Health and Healing, 1540-1740 (Pen and Sword 2017). 

Sara regularly writes for history magazines such as Discover Your Ancestors and History Today. In 2017 she published an article ‘My Ancestor was a Midwife’ tracing the history of the midwifery profession for Who Do You Think You Are? magazine in 2017. She has appeared on BBC Radio 3’s Freethinking programme and is often to be heard on BBC Radio Leicester and BBC Radio WM.

Follow Sara on Twitter @saralread

Blurb

“Call The Midwife for the 17th Century” 

Lucie Smith is a respected midwife who is married to Jacob, the town apothecary. They live happily together at the shop with the sign of the Three Doves. But sixteen-sixty-five proves a troublesome year for the couple. Lucie is called to a birth at the local Manor House and Jacob objects to her involvement with their former opponents in the English Civil Wars. Their only-surviving son Simon flees plague-ridden London for his country hometown, only to argue with his father. Lucie also has to manage her husband’s fury at the news of their loyal housemaid’s unplanned pregnancy and its repercussions.

The year draws to a close with the first-ever accusation of malpractice against Lucie, which could see her lose her midwifery licence, or even face ex-communication.

#Review of The Coronation by Justin Newland – 4 star historical and fantasy #JustinNewland @matadorbooks @LoveBooksGroup #BlogTour #fantasy #history

The Coronation
by Justin Newland
Rated: 4 Stars ****

With thanks to Kelly at LoveBooksGroup for inviting me on the blog tour for The Coronation by Justin Newland. After reading The Old Dragon’s Head and reviewing it last year, I thought I would give this one a try.


About the Author

The Coronation Justin Newland Author Photo 071018 (1).jpgAfter a long career in I.T., Justin’s love of literature finally seduced him and, in 2006, he found his way to the creative keyboard to write his first novel.

Justin writes secret histories in which historical events and people are guided and motivated by numinous and supernatural forces.

His debut novel, The Genes of Isis, is a tale of love, destruction, and ephemeral power set under the skies of Ancient Egypt, and which tells the secret history of the human race, Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

His second is The Old Dragon’s Head, a historical fantasy and supernatural thriller set during the Ming Dynasty and played out in the shadows the Great Wall of China. It explores the secret history of the influences that shaped the beginnings of our times.  

He is currently working on a novel set in East Prussia during the Enlightenment in the 18th Century which reveals the secret history of perhaps the single most important event of the modern world – The Industrial Revolution.

Justin does books signings and gives author talks in libraries in South West England. He has appeared at many Literary Festivals, including Bristol, Weston-super-mare and Exeter. He regularly gives interviews on BBC local radio and local FM radio stations.

The Coronation Front Cover (1)

Blurb

It is 1761. Prussia is at war with Russia and Austria. As the Russian army occupies East Prussia, King Frederick the Great and his men fight hard to win back their homeland.

In Ludwigshain, a Junker estate in East Prussia, Countess Marion von Adler celebrates an exceptional harvest. But this is soon requisitioned by Russian troops. When Marion tries to stop them, a Russian Captain strikes her. His Lieutenant, Ian Fermor, defends Marion’s honour, but is stabbed for his insubordination. Abandoned by the Russians, Fermor becomes a divisive figure on the estate.

Close to death, Fermor dreams of the Adler, a numinous eagle entity, whose territory extends across the lands of Northern Europe and which is mysteriously connected to the Enlightenment. What happens next will change the course of human history…

 

Review

The book is set in 1761 and takes readers back to a time long since past of Prussia and their king and countess and invasions from Russia. The book mixes history with fantasy pretty well to tell a mysterious tale of a numinous eagle and the Great Enlightenment. It is an interesting read that takes readers into times long since gone. 

The mix with earthly things and places and fantasy is good with very good characterisation. This seems to be what Justin Newland specialises in and does it rather well, having read both The Old Dragon’s Head and now, The Coronation.

The chapters are nice and short as the world between what was real and what is fantasy is created.

As the war goes on, there is also Marion Grafin- Von Adler’s life that is written about as her life goes on in parallel, which is where the fantasy and a spiritual journey is. It makes for pretty good reading. There are also some subplots that keeps the story moving along and to keep readers engaged. There are also good, references to Glasgow in Scotland and people such as James Watt, who were important during the Enlightenment period of time and indeed, their achievements are still with us today in some form or another. So, this, although is a fantasy, does have a grounding in reality too.

If fantasy and/or history is your thing, then give The Coronation a read. It would certainly appeal to readers of those genres.

The Coronation blog tour

 

Love books Logo Blog Tours

 

Review of A Year Without Summer – One Event, Six Lives, a World Changed by Guinevere Glasfurd @GuinGlasfurd @TwoRoadsBooks #AYearWithoutSummer #RandomThingsTours #BlogTour #Review #Historical

The Year Without Summer
By Guinevere Glasfurd
Rated: ****

I am delighted to be closing this wonderful blog tour of A Year Without Summer. One Year, an exploding volcano that has far reaching implications than just its vicinity. It is worth reading and also find out which characters from history, you recognise. The intertwining of people’s lives and a volcanic eruption makes for intriguing reading.

Year Without Summer BT Poster (1)

 

About the Author

A Year Without Summer Guinever Glasfurd Author Pic (1)

 

Guinevere Glasfurd was born in Lancaster and lives near Cambridge with her husband and daughter. Her debut novel, The Words in My Hand, was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa First Novel Award and Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and was longlisted in France for the Prix du Roman FNAC. her writing has also appeared in the Scotsman, Mslexia and The National Galleries of Scotland.

Blurb

1815, Sumbawa Island, Indonesia:
Mount Tambora explodes in a cataclysmic eruption, killing thousands and causing famine, poverty and riots. Lives, both ordinary and privileged, are changed forever. Sent to investigate, ship surgeon Henry Hogg can barely believe his eyes. Once a paradise,
the island is now solid ash, the surrounding sea turned to stone. But worse is yet to come: as the ash cloud rises and covers the sun, the seasons will fail.

1816:
In Switzerland, Mary Shelley finds dark inspiration. Confined inside by the unseasonable weather, thousands of famine refugees stream past her door. In Vermont, preacher Charles Whitlock begs his followers to keep faith as drought dries their wells and
their livestock starve. In Britain, the ambitious and lovesick painter John Constable struggles to reconcile the idyllic England he paints with the misery that surrounds him. In the Fens, farm labourer Sarah Hobbs has had enough of going hungry while the
farmers flaunt their wealth. And Hope Peter, returned from Napoleonic war, finds his family home demolished and a fence gone up in its place. He flees to London, where he falls in with a group of revolutionaries who speak of a better life, whatever the cost.
As desperation sets in, Britain becomes racked with riots – rebellion is in the air.

For fans of David Mitchell and Andrew Miller, The Year Without Summer tells the story of a fateful year when temperatures fell and the summer failed to arrive. It is a story of the books written, the art made; of the journeys taken, of the love longed for and
the lives lost. Six separate lives, connected only by an event many thousands of miles away. Few had heard of Tambora – but none could escape its effects.

The Year Without Summer Cover (1)

Review

Firstly, I do enjoy a bit of creativity, so the layout of the title and sub-title captured my attention on such an otherwise, quite stark cover. It intrigues me, as does the hard-hitting blurb.

The book starts with a series of beautifully written letters between Emmalina and Henry in 1815, when Henry is a surgeon upon the Beneres – a ship out on the high seas. They practically set the scene of the times, a bit like looking at letters from ancestors.

The book then changes to 1816, where the chapters really begin, cleverly named after the main characters – John, Hope Peter, Charles, Henry, Mary, Roisin and Sarah. The book then transports readers to and fro from 1815 and 1816 in a succinct way.

This is a sumptuous period piece. I don’t mean big dresses and corsets. I mean that it is as richly character driven as it is setting driven as the story tells one of on land and at sea. There are all walks of life within these pages. There’s a romance, the returning from war, there’s a preacher trying to preach sermons wherever he could, there’s an author and artists too.

Then… an eruption! There is a volcano exploding that will change the course of life.

This was a period of time that I had heard of, but was still a bit unfamiliar with, not so much the people within the story, who did exist, but the actual Tambora volcanic explosion, so that was interesting.

There are writers, such as Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein and artists too that come into this story, one of the main reasons I was drawn to it. I was intrigued as to how they would fit into this story, plus I really like John Constable’s art. John, being John Constable, trying to show off his work of art at an exhibition at Somerset House. Those unfamiliar with Constable’s work, he was born in Suffolk and painted (in my opinion) beautiful landscapes, such as The Haywain, Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, Cornfield and many more… It is interesting reading his part of the story, you get a feeling of his mood as people study his paintings, but then also go onto Turner’s (whom I equally like) and when the subject of a volcano erupting would be right up Turner’s street, when it is reported in the newspaper. It is also all put into context with what was happening elsewhere, such as Byron leaving Britain for Switzerland and one would think, giving up Newstead Abbey (visit if you haven’t already). As for Mary Shelley, it is interesting reading how she is trying to write and finally comes up with a tale to tell.

There are also tales to tell around the mill and other interesting characters, each life different to the next.

The story goes at a reasonable pace as the words etch onto the page like the paper is a large canvas, now filled with well-known names and historical times all weaved together to create, what is a pretty good yarn. There’s all manner of life to be found in this book.

Do take time to acquaint yourself with the Afterword. It tells of the far-reaching consequences and the real-life devastation caused by the Tambora volcanic explosion. It also tells a little more about the people who are characterised within this book.

#Review of The Minotaur’s Son & Other Wild Tales – A moving book with lots of humour, covering all the genres in short stories @kevinansbro #TheMinotaursSon #NewRelease #ShortStories #FlashFiction #Fables #HistoricalFiction #Fiction #Fantasy @BookTasters

The Minotaur’s Son
& Other Wild Tales
By Kevin Ansbro
Rated: 4 Stars ****

 

About the Author

Kevin Ansbro was born of Irish parents and has lived in Malaysia and Germany.

He was educated at Hamond’s Grammar School in Swaffham, and at the Norfolk College of Arts and Technology in King’s Lynn.

Kevin also has a background in karate and kickboxing and has travelled extensively – particularly in the Far East.

He is married to Julie, and currently lives in Norwich, England.

Click below for Kevin Ansbro’s website and social media.

Website
Twitter
Facebook

Blurb

“Once the evening’s entertainment was over the Minotaur, as naked as Nature intended, clumped into Pablo Zapata’s bar…”

A baby with a passion for theoretical physics…

A winged nymph who exacts terrible revenge…

A stolen coin that releases a wish-granting genie…

And where else would you see Ginger Rogers learning the Ali shuffle, or a humble fisherman making friends with Poseidon?

Charlatans and shapeshifters, lovers and leprechauns, ghosts and office creeps are just some of the characters that Kevin Ansbro brings to life in this volume of short stories. His tales span the globe and range from the wickedly funny to the sad and deeply unnerving. With his perceptive take on human failings, his vivid imagination and his glorious grasp of language, Ansbro’s thought-provoking stories will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

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Review

This is an excellent book to read all the way through and then later to dip in and out of. Kevin Ansbro takes readers on a journey through these “Wild Tales” from space to many countries on earth again. You will enter different ages from as far back as the Ancient Greeks to the days of the Raj, to war times to the present day. You will meet mermaids, Greek Gods, a talking cat and many other creatures and of course humans too, including the intrepid author of this book – Kevin Ansbro. You are in for a real treat. These are tales of humour, trepidation, emotion and have great twists. To write short stories is as skillful as writing a novel and Kevin does them well. There is something in there for all sorts of people. The construction of these short stories are very good, including the endings, which was very pleasing.
I recommend people give them a try. I certainly very much enjoyed the majority of them. There are stories that I am sure will suit most tastes as Kevin Ansbro has skillfully covered all  genres.

Below I have written a little bit about most of the short stories, leaving some for readers to also discover too.

First you’ll meet a mermaid, a talking cat and its owner – Jacob in Sirens. Then it is off to space to meet Captain Chuck Montana of the Galaxy Ship Orion in Chuck Montana and the 22 Century to learn what the Lurgians are. Back on earth there is a 60th birthday celebration, but things don’t exactly go as planned in Doth Thou Thinkest Me a Fool. There is also a story later on that returns to the space theme. It’s a thought-provoking story called Extinction. They are well-written and Sirens is a great way to start this book as it pulls and tugs the intrigue of this book a bit further.

You’ve got to Be Careful What You Wish For in Brighton when it comes to octogenarians – Horace and Ethel and a promise of 3 wishes that will be granted. All is mysterious and just might give them exactly what they want, but there’s a twist in this cautionary tale.

Cache en Pleine Vue or in English – Hiding in Plain Sight in the little French hamlet of Culbiso holds gossip and secrets. Madam Pettier harbours the greatest secret of all as she isn’t exactly what you would expect.

Well, what can I say, except, it’s a Fait Accompli when readers meet Charles Remington and Veronica Meyer. Everything seems like it could be too good to be true.

In The Minotaur’s Son, you meet the mythical creatures and it comes with a warning, not to take things for granted. You certainly wouldn’t want to mess with strong female, Isadora.

The Show Off really made me smile. It features Kevin Ansbro, the author of this book. Quite unusually so, for a book of this type. It has you willing him on to do well at the book talk and it has the happiest, most amazing of endings.

A Matter of Honour is set during the Crimean War and the aftermath is realised of how PTSD can really affect someone and a family. It is written sensitively, with a rawness but also, I felt with care and with such emotion that comes from a certain truth.

Meet Yara – a Maharaja’s Concubine in 1932 – the days of the Raj in The Concubine and the Postman She is nothing ordinary. There are lessons those men who are greedy could learn and beware of a curse. Read to find out about how a postman comes into this story and what happens. It may surprise you.

The Fable of the Fisherman’s Hat brings back Isadora with her husband Demetrius and also mermaids in the sea. It has adventure and trepidation and nothing will seem as it once did.

The Leech takes readers to Japan and the people creating prosperity for their economy. It isn’t just a story for Japan though, some of the themes of recognition for those who make a difference are world-wide and as a result, has thought-provoking qualities.

Dorothy in Oz is a different perspective on her re-telling her story. I enjoyed this because, of course, who would believe you when you tell people a scarecrow etc talked to you and you had to click your red heels 3 times to get home.

Meet a Leprechaun in Ireland (of course) in Pot of Gold. This has a human and ecological tale within it, which is incredibly relevant for today and especially in farming.

Waiting for Ryan is a bit of a love story between two different cultures – Ryan from England and Mishti originally from India. Set in present times, they meet in Thailand, just before the well-reported tsunami that occurred there. There’s enough of a hook to keep wanting to read to see if the couple will ever see each other again, especially since time moves on and Ryan also returns to England.

Pantheon is just incredibly funny. Who can this mysterious man be at Christmas time? Well, it is up to authors, a pop star, a soul singer, a dancer and a boxer to ponder.
Meet Dickens and Hemingway, Shakespeare, oh and Oscar Wilde gate crashing a conversation and then add David Bowie into the mix and Ginger Rodgers and Muhammad Ali, it makes for a surreal but hilarious tale.

With thanks to Kevin Ansbro for supplying me with an e-book copy of his book and for agreeing to me reviewing.

The Minotaur's Son and other Wild Tales cover 2