Monday, January 28, 2019

The Ravenmaster

The Ravenmaster

My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London

By Christopher Skaife

Published by 4th Estate, 2018

This book is *exactly* what it "says on the tin" :-)

After a long and exemplary military career, Christopher Skaife applied to become a Yeoman Warder of Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London. He subsequently ended up becoming The Ravenmaster.

He debunks many of the myths which have grown up about the Tower and its ravens, but what he reveals about these incredibly intelligent and fiercely independent birds and their interaction with humans is even more fascinating and valuable in its turn.
This really is a superb book, a fascinating, side-splitting, sometimes heartbreaking description of his life and work, entwining folklore, history, natural history, science and the minutiae of his and the ravens' daily routines.

I found it absolutely riveting and I was really very sad when I reached the end. My only quibbles are 1/ that the US version apparently has a super cover photo of The Ravenmaster in his official dress uniform rather than the brooding and rather Edgar Allen Poe-esque cover designed for the British market, and 2/ that the few photographs are black and white, but these are very minor quibbles and in no way detract from the quality of the book.

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Monday, January 14, 2019



Special Forces Cadets Series Book 1

By Chris Ryan

Published by Hot Key Books, February 7th, 2019

Max is ...different. An orphan, living in a children's home, he watches, listens and learns. He observes the world around him, reading about and learning any skill he thinks will be of use one day.

Those traits, his quick wits and decisive actions save his life and the lives of his companions one day when on  a group mountain climb that goes badly wrong.

What he doesn't know is that he has been watched for a long time by a secretive and shadowy group looking for youngsters like him, who have specific characteristics, skill sets and mindsets, able to go into situations of extreme danger where adult soldiers could not go unobserved.

The selection course he is invited to go on is cut short when a group of terrorists storm a London school and hold the pupils hostage, and Max and his fellow recruits are thrown in the deep end during their first assignment.

I loved Chris Ryan's "Agent 21" series and seriously doubted whether he could better it. Judging by this gripping first book in a new YA series, he has definitely bettered it.
Can't wait for the next book!

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Nine Pints

Nine Pints

A Journey Through the Mysterious, Miraculous World of Blood

By Rose George

Published by Portobello Books, October 2018

This was a Christmas gift, and what an engrossing read it turned out to be. 

As a UK blood donor, I thought I knew a bit about the Blood Transfusion Service, but that was very far from the case. The story about how modern blood transfusion services operate in the UK and abroad makes sobering reading; here we are so used to volunteers giving their blood freely that it seems almost distasteful 
to think of donors being paid in other countries. 

Blood always has and always will evoke strong emotions.  From religious sects who refuse blood transfusions to cultures where menstruating women are exiled from their family homes during their "uncleanness", from the fear of blood borne diseases and the problems that life-saving transfusions of clotting factors can cause when contamination occurs, to the use of leeches in modern day medicine to counteract clotting and poor blood flow after surgery, this book contains something for every reader.

Fascinating, horrifying, gripping, terrifying in some parts and always utterly absorbing, this is well worth a read.

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