Review of The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife

My rating: 5 of 5 stars (more if they were available).
Genre: Non-Fiction – History – Animal Welfare – Military – Mythology

📖 Wow! What a book. I bought this as an impulse buy after watching the highly enjoyable “Inside the Tower of London” tv series on Channel 5. I had googled a few facts and stories from the show and up popped this book in amongst my search and I decided to give it a go, I am pleased to say I was not disappointed.

Cover – The Ravenmaster



✍️ Chris takes us through his life before the tower, at the tower and then of course the introduction to the ravens and their antics. The book is smart, funny and really insightful.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

According to Celtic legend, around here is also where the head of Bran the Blessed, the king of England in Welsh mythology, was buried. Bran means ‘raven’, and he’s supposed to have been buried not far from the ravens’ current enclosures, which seems appropriate.

👓 There are so many interesting tales in this book, but I particularly enjoyed all the myths and legends around both the tower and the ravens. I imagine Chris is a particularly interesting person to have a pint with, the stories he could rattle off!

👫 A lot of the stories are quite humorous where the clever ravens get up to some legendary Hijinx (occasionally at Chris’s expense). However, Chris also includes a chapter about the commemorative art installation for The First World War Centenary which saw the moat filled with thousands of poppies. I remember seeing this on the news at the time and it looked spectacular but reading Chris’s story regarding it choked up my throat and brought a tear to my eye! Bravo sir!

💭 Overall View: Hugely enjoyable book that would appeal to history readers, animal lovers, London tourists, military enthusiasts and so much more. Highly recommended.

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Review of Tees Valley Curiosities by Robert Woodhouse

Tees Valley Curiosities by Robert Woodhouse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Factual – Travel – History

📖 I was unsure whether to write this review or not but I really enjoyed reading this book and thought I should share that. I love to learn about local histories. I do this a lot when I travel so when I came across this little book I was quite excited to see what was around the Tees Valley area.

Cover – Tees Valley Curiosities

👓 This book focuses more on the interesting objects to be found in the region instead of places themselves. The book is really interestingly laid out. Each object has a history about it, details on how to access it, brilliant photographs and then snippets of stories of it appearing in the press or writings (often historical articles).

✍️ There are so many great objects but here are a few of my favourites:

• Darlington yards and wynds – All these wynds have interesting names but there is one with a bull carving. This is said to be linked to the Bulmer family, who at one time owned the nearby Bull Inn. The hostelry was probably named after the mighty beast known as the Ketton (or Durham) Ox that was bred by the Colling brothers at the nearby hamlets of Ketton and Barmpton.

o Reading this story made me want to find out more about the Ketton Ox. The ox was bred in 1802 by Charles Colling of Ketton, near Darlington.

o The beast, weighing 34cwt and 11ft around the girth, was taken around the country and exhibited at fairs.

• The Hitching stone – A former editor of the Northern Echo, W.T.Stead, often used it to tether his pony after travelling to his nearby office from the family home at Grainey Hill Cottage, Hummersknott. In 1880, Mr Stead moved to London to become editor of the Pall Mall Gazette and was drowned in the Titanic disaster of 1912.

o Stead is such an interesting character, he was the first editor to employ women journalists, he campaigned to get the age of consent raised from 13 to 16, he was imprisoned and of course, as listed above, he died on the Titanic.

o There is an interesting article on him here – https://web.archive.org/web/201204131…

👫 I think the thing that I enjoyed most about this book is that it prompted me to want to know more and more (as can be seen in the two examples above).

🗺 Are there any curios in your town? If so, I’d love to hear about them. 😊

💭 Overall View: A brilliant little book with a fantastic collection of interesting tales.

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Review of The Unmumsy Mum by Sarah Turner

The Unmumsy Mum by Sarah Turner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Non-Fiction, Parenting

Cover – The Unmumsy Mum

📖 The Unmumsy Mum writes candidly about motherhood like it really is: the messy, maddening, hilarious reality, how there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach and how it is sometimes absolutely fine to not know what you are doing.

✍️ Life with small children is an amazing, eye-opening wondrous thing. An adventure I am so thrilled to be part of. However, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows and Instagram worthy pictures. It’s hard work (and often tiring). This is what this book aims to capture, the difficult sometimes bizarre times that no manual covers, making you realise that hurrah – you are not the only one feeling this way or going through this.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

The calm and collected woman from Birth One failed to show up for Birth Two. She sent her twin sister instead, who was a bit of a moron.
James’s assessment of Jude’s delivery (which kind of erased the reigning ‘You did so well, babe!’ praise) was ‘You were mental. I’ve never seen anything like it.’
Throughout the labour I switched from hysterical to withdrawn. I sploshed into the birthing pool with the expectation of labouring serenely while submerged in water, but it was less than an hour before I ungracefully heaved myself out, demanding ‘something that works!’

👓 I genuinely laughed out loud whilst reading this book. I hadn’t followed the author’s blog or even heard of her work but I was recommended the book by a fellow mummy friend and what a good recommendation it turned out to be. It’s smart, funny, sassy and enlightening. Whilst reading I took pictures of paragraphs and sent them to mummy friends with LO’s the same age as mine who I thought were likely to be going through the same things too.

👫 Whilst reading the book and laughing my husband actually made the remark, they need one of these for dad’s so I went online and found him one – Man vs Toddler, which I also highly recommend. Life is just so much more enjoyable when you can laugh about it. Even more so when you can enjoy it together and swap stories.

💔 Any Negatives: I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone pregnant or thinking about trying for children. It will probably scare them off but the book is meant to be light-hearted and taken in jest.
💭 Overall View: Make yourself a big bubble bath, grab a glass of wine and read this when your kids have driven you up the wall all day. It will make you feel so much better (and if it doesn’t you still have a bubble bath and wine – so it’s a win-win).

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At the time of reviewing this book it is on sale for £4.99 at Amazon (affiliate link): https://amzn.to/3r0Rrc4

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Review of Servants by Lucy Lethbridge

Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern TimesServants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is made up from a wide range of sources showing the history of servants and those that have spent life in service. The book includes not only those in service and their memories but also their employers. The book also includes various size households showing a vast array of living throughout the classes and ages.
One of the things I liked most about this book was the author’s writing style, incredibly interesting, informative but not patronising. All the source data provided was very clear but did not read like a PhD textbook!
This thing about this book is, it is really thought-provoking. You start to think that these roles in so many cases are still taken for granted: – cooking, cleaning, childcare, gardening, caretaking, nursing etc. Yet they are so critical. Obviously, there are some things in place now to help these roles (couldn’t live without my Dyson!). The book also does give you an appreciation for society and how it has evolved in the past 100 years or so.
Overall this is a very insightful and informative book and I would recommend to anyone that has an interest in social classes, Victorian history or even just a big Downton Abbey fan .

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Review of The Kings & Queens of Anglo Saxon England by Timothy Venning – Factual Book

The Kings and Queens of Anglo-Saxon EnglandThe Kings and Queens of Anglo-Saxon England by Timothy Venning
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After having my attention captured by the recent Vikings tv series I wanted to discover more about the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and those who ran them. I came across this book in a local book store and it seemed to cover a good deal.
My only complaints/improvements are it would have been nice for this book to have an index so that when someone is mentioned you could find them rather than needing to know the dates they ruled first. I would also have liked to have seen some family tree or hierarchical diagrams as sometimes with similar names being involved it became a bit confusing how each person was related.
However, those two little things aside, this book is a really great resource. Very well researched with a lot of information available.

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Review of Disgraceful Archaeology by Paul Bahn & Bill Tidy – 5 Stars

Disgraceful Archaeology: Or Things You Shouldn't Know About the History of Mankind!Disgraceful Archaeology: Or Things You Shouldn’t Know About the History of Mankind! by Paul G. Bahn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is like reading an adult version of Horrible Histories. It explores all the horrid, lurid and funny bits of history that the Victorians hoped to hide from the history books.
The authors’ writing styles are fun but still informative, not at all like a history textbook but something that can be read anytime or anywhere (although I will warn you, some parts really do make you laugh out loud). A few of the stories will have the male readers squirming uncomfortably too!
It’s a shame a lot of the material mentioned is locked away and un-visit-able. All in all a good fun read, for those not afraid to learn the real history of humankind in all its glory! Haha.

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Review of Viking Myths and Sagas by Rosalind Kerven

Viking Myths & Sagas: retold from ancient Norse textsViking Myths & Sagas: retold from ancient Norse texts by Rosalind Kerven
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I came across this book in an independent book store so had seen no recommendations or reviews to sway my judgement and I must say it wouldn’t have been a book I would have naturally browse for online. However for those that do come across this book, you are in for a real treat.
This is an excellent and informative book surrounding all the Viking myths and legends. The authors writing style is so excellent and at a perfect pace so that it truly feels like you are sitting round a fire at camp being told a story. I can also imagine this novel as a great inspiration source for writers in the same way Grimm tales are, being adapted and re-told into modern stories.
The range covered in this book is also exceptional, from all the places the Vikings travelled to, to the number of mythical creatures; gods, dragons, trees, trolls, all sorts.
All in all, an excellent, insightful and informative book that I am very pleased to have discovered.

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Review of Durham Murders and Misdemeanours by John Van Der Kiste

Durham Murders and MisdemeanoursDurham Murders and Misdemeanours by John Van der Kiste
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I came across this book while looking around the shelves of a lovely little independent bookshop. The range of cases in the book is intriguing and it is astonishing so many cases took place within a short distance of each other within a relatively short period of time.
The book is well researched as can be seen from the case file extracts and the witness statement extracts contained within this book. Yet John Van Der Kiste also manages to remind readers that these cases involve everyday people; miners, housewives, landlords and labourers. Not the monsters people often expect to find.
The most interesting case is that of Mary Anne Cotton “The West Auckland Poisoner”, as many as twenty may have died at her hand. The details researched are as amazing as the story itself. Sometimes fact is more bizarre than fiction. A very enjoyable read.

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