This is what it sounds like – A Review

This is what it sounds like by Susan Rogers and Ogi Ogas

I love music of all types. I’ve never learned a musical instrument other than the recorder but I have always sung in choirs and operatic/musical societies. I generally have music on in the house and it might be the local pop station or it might be a classical symphony. My tastes are quite wide-ranging  so when I saw this book in the library it seemed like an obvious pick.

The author, Susan Rodgers, is a musical engineer who worked with Prince on Purple Rain as well as a range of other artists and then moved into Neuro-Science. In the book she explores how people react differently to music and some of the reasons for this.

A lot of the book is about her personal experience and that of her friends and the students that she has taught and I found much of it fascinating. It’s not a difficult read and the sections where she moves into the Scientific basis for why things happen are perfectly understandable to a non-Scientist such as myself. I loved the personal anecdotes as well as the nuggets of information such as how Frank Sinatra turned himself into the amazing singer that he was.

The book is divided into chapters that focus on one element of music such as melody, lyrics etc which makes it easy to read. I particularly enjoyed those two chapters as I think that it’s the melody and lyrics that attract most of us to any particular piece of music. I know in  my case, nearly all of the pieces I love, whether classical or popular have a melody line that I can easily sing along too.

In each of the chapters, she discusses various tracks of music that illustrate the points that she is making and one of the things that I loved is that all of the tracks are available on a website. It was really helpful to be able to click on each of the songs and see how it fitted into the point that she was making. The songbook can be found at

I’m not sure that the book actually gave me very many insights into why I like the music that I do or what it says about me, but it was certainly an enjoyable and fascinating read. As a non-specialist, I did learn a lot about how popular songs are created, how records are produced and how pop music in particular changes over time.

I would definitely recommend this for any one who enjoys popular music of any type and is interested in the hows and whys behind its creation.

This is the my second non-fiction book of 2023 and so it keeps me on track with my target of at least 6 non fiction books for the 2023 Non Fiction Reader Challenge


Journeys to Impossible Places – a review

Humans have always needed to explore. Over the centuries our desire to travel has had profound consequences including innovation, brutal conquest, trade, settlement and love. Travel has helped to create our culture, civilisation and forge the modern world. Our endless adventures are evidence of something fundamental: going on a journey is the essence of our species. Our desire to travel and explore helps to make us human.

This book details some of Simon Reeve’s travels into the most remote parts and inaccessible parts of the world. He together with his camera crew travels through the Tropic of Cancer, trying to follow the equator and then around the Indian Ocean.

I loved his accounts of the places that he travelled through and the people he met. He feels very strongly that the purpose of his journeys is at least partly to give a voice to some of the most isolated people on our world, to tell their story to a wider audience.

It’s a really uplifting book in many ways as he meets so many people who risk their lives to help Simon and his crew visit these remote communities. It was really humbling to read how little some people manage to survive on and still lead fulfilling lives. He is able to show you the reader what he sees in such a way that you feel that you are there too. I loved the way that he acknowledged how lucky he was to be able to visit these parts of the world that are close to what we might imagine paradise to be like.

It was also an incredibly depressing book as he sets out very clearly the damage that we are doing to our planet. The details of the plastic nurdles that now form a large part of the beaches in Hawaii were horrifying together with other scenes such as huge rubbish dumps just around the corner from somewhere that looked like it was paradise on earth. But maybe worse than the damage we are inflicting on our planet, some of which is through ignorance, were the accounts of the damage and harm we cause to each other. Places such as Sudan, Burma and Colombia where it was dangerous (and in one case, completely illegal) to film really came alive for me.

It’s a memoir as well as a travel book and he gives full details about his mental health issues as well as the problems he and his wife had conceiving their son. These parts interested me less and I possibly didn’t need quite so much detail about sperm health but his openness was a feature of the whole book and would have been less without it.

This was a fascinating read and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in travel or just about the amazing world we live in.

This is my twelfth Non-Fiction book so far in 2022 which means that I have achieved my Non-Fiction Reader Challenge this year. I’ve really enjoyed pushing myself to read books that I wouldn’t normally have looked at and will certainly continue to read non fiction into 2023. I’ve already got my next book sorted –

The Non-Fiction Reader Challenge is hosted at Book’dout and you can find the details of the challenge here

How have your reading challenges gone this year?

Taste by Stanley Tucci – A review #blogtober

I first saw this book in a book shop and thought that it looked quite interesting and then I began to see reviews and mentions on social media so decided to order it from the library. I’m so glad that I did as it was a really enjoyable read.

Book Blurb – Taste is a reflection on the intersection of food and life, filled with anecdotes about growing up in Westchester, New York, preparing for and filming the foodie films, Big Night and Julie and Julia, falling in love over dinner and teaming up with his wife to create conversation-starting meals for their children. Each morsel of this gastronomic journey through good times and bad, five-star meals and burnt dishes is as heartfelt and delicious as the last.

After a blurb like that, how can anyone who enjoys food resist this book? Taste is part a memoir and partly a cookbook. It is Stanley Tucci’s homage to food and the importance that it has played in his life.

It’s mostly a chronological account beginning with his childhood memories of his mother’s cooking and watching cooking shows on TV. The memories of eating with his family and the meals cooked by his mother are obviously still incredibly vivid and you definitely get a sense of a family for whom shared meal times were so important.

The importance of food to his family when he was growing up has obviously stayed with him and the book details periods of his life and the meals he ate both in restaurants and later prepared by himself and his wife. The descriptions of the food are amazingly vivid and it is definitely difficult to read this without wanting to immediately go and eat an Italian meal.

Each chapter not only contains details of the meals eaten but some of the actual recipes as well including one for traditional English roast potatoes. I read the actual book rather than the audio version, but as you read, you can definitely hear Tucci’s voice and the passage where his wife cooks roast potatoes in the traditional way to the bemusement of her husband and in-laws really comes to life.

As a film actor, he’s travelled a lot and the book covers some of the different places that he has eaten as well as the company he ate with. One of the most memorable passages for me was the meal he describes in Normandy in the company of Meryl Streep. Unlike most of the food descriptions in the book, this one doesn’t tempt me at all!!

There is a lot of humour in the book even in the later chapters where he finds that he is suffering from oral cancer and was in danger of losing his sense of taste completely. It’s a very easy book to read and I would find that I sat down to read for a short time only to find that an hour had passed.

Stanley Tucci constantly makes the point about how important food and the sharing of meals is to so many of us. I love going out for a meal with my husband and we try to eat together as many nights as we can as that shared time is so special. I also love books where food plays a large part. Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti views food with the same love as Tucci and the novels have many descriptions of Venetian cuisine. Another series where local cookery is a an important part are the Bruno, Chief of Police books by Martin Walker which are set in the Dordogne and feature many mouth watering meals.

This is a brilliant read that made me immediately want to try the recipes as well as track down the TV shows and films that he mentions. If you enjoy celebrity memoirs or cookbooks, then this is certainly one to read.

This is my ninth book Non-Fiction book so far in 2022 so I’m well on track to hit my Non-Fiction Reader Challenge this year. The Non-Fiction Reader Challenge is hosted at Book’dout and you can find the details of the challenge here

Windswept – Why Women Walk ….. a review

Windswept (Why Women Walk) by Annabel Abbs

I was inspired to read this book after seeing it mentioned in a magazine article a while ago. The article mentioned the book in connection with Georgia O’Keefe, an artist who I have loved after seeing an exhibition of her work at Tate Modern a few years ago and as I also love walking, it seemed like the perfect choice for my next non-fiction read.

The book is a combination of memoir and biography as the author retraces the steps taken by a collection of notable women on their walks. The subjects include Gwen John, Nan Shepherd, Simone de Beauvoir and of course Georgia O’Keefe and all of the women broke with convention to go on solitary hikes into the wilderness. As Annabel Abbs walks in the steps of those women, she reflects on her own feelings and experiences and how they compare to those who have gone before her.

The book wasn’t quite what I expected as I didn’t realise that there would be so much of the author’s own experiences. At first, I found this a bit irritating as I wanted to learn more about the women she had researched. However, as I read on, I became just as interested in the author’s experiences as in her subjects.

Some of the chapters appealed more than others. I loved the chapters on Gwen John, Nan Shepherd and Georgia O’Keefe especially and was inspired to find out more about the life and work of Gwen John who I had heard of but knew very little about. All of the women found that they needed to escape and walk on their own to cope with their lives and find who they really were when not constrained by the roles expected of them. Each of them broke the normal rules of female behaviour by doing this. Walking, especially serious walking of 10 miles a day and more, for many years was the preserve of men. Women were expected to stay at home and by breaking these rules, all of the women exposed themselves to unwanted attentions. Walking alone exposed them to curiosity at best and sometimes outright danger. Sadly, one of the things that hasn’t changed in all this time is that women are still at risk when out walking as the recent murder of a primary school teacher on a canal path has shown.

Frieda von Richthofen in particular gave up everything in 1912, a home, husband and three children to go on an walking adventure with her lover, the author DH Lawrence. This is the first of the walks that the author covers as she retraces Frieda’s steps through Germany and over the Alps into Italy. We get more details about the author’s own experiences than Frieda’s as Frieda doesn’t give much information in her own memoirs but Annabel Abbs tries to recreate the routes taken and find some of the places where not only Frieda and Lawrence but each of her subjects stayed.  

As well as details about the historical walks and her own thoughts, we also get a fair amount of the Science behind walking and the benefits that walking in the countryside, along rivers or up in the mountains can bring to you. There are many mentions of the mental health benefits of walking in areas such as this compared to urban areas and all of the women in this book certainly found that the act of walking for miles and miles had a beneficial effect on them. There were one or two places where I felt that the heavy emphasis on finding yourself and inner harmony was a bit overwhelming but I’m sure that other people will find that more interesting.

The landscapes that the women chose to walk in are very varied. We travel from the great European rivers, over the alps and Scottish Munros to the Texan desert and each one of these presents its own challenges and has its own rewards. I loved the Georgia O’Keefe chapter most, partly because of how the desert inspired the artwork that I love but also because this was a landscape that is totally alien to me. I loved being transported to the empty expanse of the desert and trying to imagine what that emptiness would feel like.

I really enjoyed reading this book and finding out about these different women and where they walked. It has certainly inspired me to take my walking a bit more seriously and venture further afield than I presently do.

The Non Fiction Reader Challenge is hosted by ShelleyRae at Bookdout and details can be found here This is the fifth non fiction book that I have read in 2022 so I have definitely achieved my aim of reading more non fiction this year 😃

Islands of Abandonment – a review

Blurb from Goodreads:
Investigative journalist Cal Flyn’s ISLANDS OF ABANDONMENT, an exploration of the world’s most desolate, abandoned places that have now been reclaimed by nature, from the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea to the “urban prairie” of Detroit to the irradiated grounds of Chernobyl, in an ultimately redemptive story about the power and promise of the natural world. 

I saw an article about this book in a newspaper and was intrigued by the idea. I love ruins and have spent many hours poking around ruined castles etc so a book about abandoned places really appealed. I’m so glad that I read it as it was truly excellent as well as being eye-opening.

The book is about those places that humans have touched and then for various reasons abandoned. One or two are actual islands but most are areas, some remote, that humans have largely given up on. Cal Flyn has visited 12 of these places around the world and looked at how nature has gradually reclaimed the land.

When she began the research for the book, Cal Flyn expected it to be a book of darkness where she visited the worst places in the world. However, she found something very different. “In fact, it is a story of redemption: how the most polluted spots on Earth can be rehabilitated through ecological processes.”

The book is split into four parts with a different focus in each one.

The first part which is the longest is centred on four sites in Europe where humans used to live and have now moved away. The author starts in her home country of Scotland but then moves to Northern Cyprus, Chernobyl and Estonia. I was astonished at her findings in this section especially in the section on the abandoned collective farms in the old Soviet Union. As the farms were abandoned when the Soviet Union fell, nature returned. Acres of land were reclaimed and the hypothesis is that this has created a huge carbon sink which is partly counter-balancing the loss of forests in Brazil and elsewhere.

The second is places which haven’t quite been abandoned completely and covers Detroit and Paterson New Jersey. Here people are still living although in much smaller numbers than previously and nature is again, taking back its territory.

In part three, she covers places where humans have left a huge impact on the land which still persists today. The chapter on the botanical garden in Tanzania was especially thought provoking.

The final section is called Endgame and looks at places where humans have practically destroyed the environment. This section is the bleakest as she looks at how badly we have polluted some areas beyond all hope of repair. But even here, nature is fighting back.

I was engrossed by this book and fascinated by the author’s findings. It was quite an easy read, there is some Scientific background but this is perfectly understandable by a non-scientist such as myself. The text is enhanced by photographs of most of the sites but in actual fact, her descriptions are so vivid that you could easily manage without them. The writing is often almost poetic as she wanders around those derelict and abandoned sites.

Climate change is a constant presence in the book but her findings are more optimistic than might have been expected.

“Time is, after all, the great healer. The question is: How long does it need?. Then, How long have we got’. It may not be long”

It is a book of hope that maybe not all is lost. Despite everything that we do to harm our world, Nature still fights back.

I am so glad that I read this book and recommend it to anyone with any interest in how we impact our environment.

This is the third book towards my Non Fiction reader challenge hosted by Shelley Rae at Book’dout