This is not a sex book but a book about sex. Isabel Losada brings her unique blend of humour, curiosity and honesty to the still-taboo subject of sexuality and pleasure. This is a brave, funny and often vulnerable quest to find out how we can make our sex lives better. On behalf of all women, a slightly terrified Isabel begins with a women's workshop where she has to get naked; she journeys through the first international conference on clitoral stroking; is informed of eleven different forms of orgasm (ten of which she hasn't had); and endures Kegel exercises and mystical sensations with tantric masters.
So, a book about sex. That, I can manage. But a book about female sexuality? Terrifying. Apart from a very brief encounter as a teenager, my experiences of sexual intimacy with a woman have been non-existent, and as a fully fledged homosexual it's really not something I know all that much about. Mercifully, I couldn't have asked for a better guide than Isabel Losada - and "Sensation" follows Losada on a journey of discovery through varied experiences - some bizarre, some eye opening, but all told with warm humour and a complete lack of judgement - the author is keen to learn and to impart her findings to the reader with an openness and honesty that shatters any potential awkwardness that the reader (well, me) may have initially felt when picking up such a book.
Isabel's journey takes in Tantric Sex, Clitoris Stroking, Yoni Healing, Tantric Massage, Light Beams, Kegels, and Pelvic Floors amongst others, exploring pleasure and the female sex in intimate and intricate detail. Losada's skill as a writer ensures that the reader feels like they're on a journey of discovery right there with her - and her combination of openness and warm wit makes one feel comfortable no matter the situation they're encountering. If you are at all tempted to discover the complicated beast that is female sexual pleasure then this is a great way to dive in - and Losada a marvellous guide. On the other hand, if you have no great interest in female sexual pleasure, but are nonetheless keen to read an involving, warm and hugely funny tale of different people, different cultures and deals with intimacy not only in terms of sex but also in relationships and humans in general. Why are we so afraid to talk about sex? I don't know - but I'm bloody glad that Isabel Losada has and I hope many, many people follow her lead.
Suzanne Spaak was born into an affluent Belgian Catholic family and married into the country's leading political dynasty. Her brother-in-law was the prime minister and her husband Claude was a playwright and patron of the painter Rene Magritte. In occupied Paris she mingled with the cultural elite including Colette and Jean Cocteau. But Suzanne was living a double life. Her friendship with a Polish Jewish refugee led her to her life's purpose. When France fell and the Nazis occupied Paris, she joined the Resistance. She used her fortune and social status to enlist allies among wealthy Parisians and Church groups. Under the eyes of the Gestapo, Suzanne and women from the Jewish and Christian resistance groups 'kidnapped' hundreds of Jewish children to save them from the gas chambers.
I love to hear tales about the French Resistance - I find them endlessly fascinating. Whilst here in Britain we were determinedly fighting a war against the Germans, they never landed on our shores in any number - whereas just a few miles away across the channel, parts of France were under occupation from the Nazi soldiers. The fact that a resistance existed shows the sheer bravery of the French people - teaming together to save innocents who the Nazi party had deemed suitable for the death camps. They risked their lives, yes - but also those of their families, friends and societies around them in order to help people and bring an end to the oppression that the war brought.
Suzanne Spaak was part of that Resistance, but she's a woman who's name has, until now, mainly been lost to the depths of history. She's a fascinating subject for a biography - going from a life of glamour and luxury through to entering a life of danger, not only joining a resistance organisation, but personally harboring children in her own home. It's a story that takes a turn to dark routes full of betrayal and danger - and Suzanne is a strong and vital voice at the centre of her own narrative. Anne Nelson bring Suzanne's life and the lives around her to life with a breathtaking vividness - she's clearly done huge amounts of research in order to bring this tale to the page, and it serves as an incredible tribute to the life of a woman who was complicated, intriguing, and utterly inspirational - an it's wonderful to see her life recreated in such a readable and interesting manner as has been done in "Codename Suzette". Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
Author Jim Harrison was a beloved writer, a muscular, brilliantly economic stylist with a salty wisdom. He also wrote some of the best essays on food around, earning praise as “the poet laureate of appetite” (Dallas Morning News). A Really Big Lunch, published on the one-year anniversary of Harrison’s death, collects many of his food pieces for the first time—and taps into his larger-than-life appetite with wit and verve.
Jim Harrison’s legendary gourmandise is on full display in A Really Big Lunch. From the titular New Yorker piece about a French lunch that went to thirty-seven courses, to pieces from Brick, Playboy, Kermit Lynch Newsletter, and more on the relationship between hunter and prey, or the obscure language of wine reviews.
Jim Harrison is probably best known for his 1979 novella Legends of the Fall. You may not have read it, but you'll probably have seen it - a handsome young Brad Pitt wandering the plains of Montana sticks in the mind somewhat. Aside from this book though, Harrison wrote a range of fiction books, and huge amounts of poetry - but "A Really Big Lunch" focuses on his love for food and his adventures as a roving gourmand. Harrison died in 2016, but this book is a wonderful tribute to the man - it's full of life, humour and an easy intimacy that draws the reader in and thrills them with descriptions of wonderful food and wine, as well as beautifully chosen prose.
I don't think there could be any better epitaph than "He live life to the full" - and it's clear that this was the case with Harrison. "A Really Big Lunch" is full of essays that convey an infectious and almost inspiration desire for fun, food and fine wine through prose that's unbelievably enjoyable - salty and rude and like hearing fantastic tales from a naughty but beloved Uncle. The lunch of the title is the feature of a fantastic essay about a 37 course lunch Harrison once partook in - 11 hours of grazing on dishes that varied from a simple soup through to a a hare cooked in port wine inside a calf's bladder - all accompanied by 19 different types of wine. It rather sets the tone for the rest of the essays - they're packed full of excess and some foods that even a voracious eater like myself wouldn't dream of eating - but Harrison's lust for life and living makes them all wildly exciting and interesting - his wit pushing the reader through even the most horrific of meals.
Of course, a life of excess isn't all that healthy, and Harrison's meditations on his deteriorating body certainly take on a bittersweet quality in the aftermath of his death. However, this collection of wonderful essays serves as a brilliant tribute to a great man - my face ached from grinning at the writing and my stomach hurt from pangs of envious humour. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
In the mid seventeenth century, England was divided by war and bloodshed. Torn apart by rival factions, father opposed son and brother met brother on the battlefield. But while civil war raged on cobbled streets and green fields, inside the home domestic life continued as it always had done. For Ann Fanshawe and her children it meant a life of insecurity and constant jeopardy as she and her husband, a Royalist diplomat, dedicated their lives to the restoration of the Stuart monarchy.
In this uncertain world, Ann's 'receipt book' was a treasured and entirely feminine response to the upheavals of war. These books were a feature of women's lives during this period, when there were few doctors to be found, and were full of life-saving medical knowledge that had been gleaned from mothers and friends. Remarkably, Ann's morocco-bound book full of scraps of ink-stained paper has survived to this day.
Lucy Moore is a historian, educated in Britain and the United States, with a degree in history from Edinburgh University. She's got a long and varied bibliography as a writer - including a rather fantastic history of the Roaring Twenties. In "Lady Fanshawe's Receipt Book" she moves onto the fascinating world of Civil War England - with Lady Fanshawe's writings providing a brilliantly insightful glimpse into one of the most turbulent times in British History.
Lady Ann Harrison was born in 1625, and was an intelligent child, loving French, needlework and riding. Born to a Royalist family, she married her second cousin, Richard Fanshawe, in 1644. They were a Royalist family - loyally supporting the King in a period where a Civil War resulted in the execution of a King and a state of Interregnum. Fanshawe is best known for writing a Memoir - full of recollections of life with her husband, and an intriguing record of what I find a particularly fascinating time in British History.
Lucy Moore has chosen not to focus solely on the memoir though, and instead has accessed Lady Fanshawe's Receipt Book for a far more intimate and immediate glimpse into the life of an intelligent, passionate and driven woman. Combining the two sources, Moore brings Fanshawe to startling life - with the personal nature of Fanshawe's writings enabling Moore to broadcast her voice loudly into the 21st Century - with the reader being allowed a glimpse into Fanshawe's friends, family, loves, and losses. I've recently become hugely interested by the English Civil War - a period of time that I often find rather overlooked, despite the way it shaped world history for ever. The fact that Lucy Moore chooses to focus on a woman in this period makes it doubly interesting - the drive of this woman to support her family and husband despite it threatening both her life and those of her children is quite remarkable, and the remarkable lengths that Lady Fanshawe went to in order to maintain a level of normality and domesticity for her family in a time that was both hugely turbulent and incredibly dangerous for the family. A remarkable woman brought to dazzling life by Lucy Moore - "Lady Fanshawe's Receipt Book" is a read that will transport the reader to a very different time indeed - but place them in the company of a woman whose strength, intelligence and drive will provide a very safe pair of hand for the reader indeed. Many thanks to the publisher for the copy.
Former soldier Rob Langdon was working as a security contractor in Afghanistan when he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death in a case that would have been ruled a clear miscarriage of justice in the British legal system. His sentence was commuted to 20 years in jail, and he served his time in Kabul's most notorious prison, Pul-e-Charkhi, described as the world's worst place to be a westerner.
Rob was there for seven years, the longest sentence served by a westerner since the fall of the Taliban, and every one of those 2,500 days was an act of extraordinary survival in a jail filled with Afghanistan's most dangerous extremists and murderers. In 2016 Robert was pardoned and returned to Australia.
This is a remarkable read - a surprisingly compelling tale that initially grabs the reader by opening with a vivid retelling of how the author killed a man in self-defense. This leads to a tale of prison life that is far stranger than one could ever imagine in fiction - unpredictable, dangerous, wild, and seemingly unescapeable.
Langdon himself is a compelling lead - admirably strong and macho in prison, but open and honest with the reader about his state of mind and the emotions that drove him to survive. His way of writing is straightforward and blunt - no flowery language but a direct style that conveys his tale with a startling immediacy.
A heart stopping story of survival and strength - "The Seventh Circle" transports the reader to Afghanistan's most notorious prison and puts them through a grueling, strenuous ordeal - but one told with skill and humour that makes it absolutely worth the effort. Thanks to Allen & Unwin for the copy.
A young woman moves into a Paris apartment and discovers a storage room filled with the belongings of the previous owner, a certain Madeleine who died in her late nineties, and whose treasured possessions nobody seems to want. In an audacious act of journalism driven by personal curiosity and humane tenderness, Clara Beaudoux embarks on The Madeleine Project, documenting what she finds on Twitter with text and photographs, introducing the world to an unsung 20th century figure. Along the way, she uncovers a Parisian life indelibly marked by European history.
When Clara Beaudoux moved into an apartment in Paris, she was informed that she extra storage available elsewhere in the building. Accessing the storage, she found it full of the previous tenants belongings and, with their loves ones permission, she began to explore the contents, sharing her findings on Twitter and fascinating thousands with the mementos and snapshots of a woman's life in the 20th Century. This book collects those Twitter posts, along with some additional information regarding the author's journey to meet those who knew Madeline.
Telling the story through the Twitter posts is an interesting choice - it makes is a speedy read, and also a modern one - despite Madeline's story taking the reader back to the Second World War. It moved me rather unexpectedly - and the joy of using the Twitter snippets is that both the reader and the author can be genuinely surprised by new discoveries as they come along. Madeleine's life is a fascinating one, and and Beaudoux treats it with immense care and respect - the two seeming to form a friendship through the ages as the discoveries continue. Looking into the life of someone deceased is always tricky - but Beaudoux is careful never to be too intrusive - discoveries instead coming organically and with the blessings of Madeleine's loved ones - turning what could have been a ghoulish intrusion into a read that's uplifting, hopeful, and filled with a fierce kind of joy that left me smiling long after turning the pages. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
In this sweeping global survey, one of Britain's most distinguished journalists and media commentators analyses for the first time the state of journalism worldwide as it enters the post-truth age.
From the decline of the newspaper in the West and the simultaneous threats posed by fake news and President Trump, to the part that Facebook and Twitter played in the Arab revolts and the radical openness stimulated by WikiLeaks, and from the vast political power of Rupert Murdoch's News International and the merger of television and politics in Italy, to the booming, raucous and sometimes corrupt Indian media and the growing self-confidence of African journalism, John Lloyd examines the technological shifts, the political changes and the market transformations through which journalism is currently passing.
It takes a lot to surprise me when it comes to books - given my line of work I've read a lot, and consider myself fairly up to date when it comes to politics and culture in general.
However - Journalist and Author John Lloyd has compiled a fascinating and shocking book that explores journalism on a global scale. Far reaching and broad in scope overall, the chapters hone in on individual countries and explore the past and present of journalism in each one. Lloyd supplies the reader with a huge amount of information, but his skill is such that it never becomes overwhelming - he writes with a style that urges the reader to keep turning the pages, no matter how depressing the facts conveyed may be to some. What's rather remarkable is that this book about the dark state of journalism in many places, manages to be a shining beacon of quality journalism. Illuminating and immensely readable, Lloyd conveys his words with skill and urgency in this book that serves as both a source of fact and an alarming alert to the need for quality journalism in the modern day world. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
My mother, my family and Judaism are nested inside each other. I am Jewish and always Jewish; it's analogous with family, however hard it is, and however strained, it can never be disavowed... I remain, as my therapist put it, 'enmeshed', all tangled up in the family hoard. This book has been both a continuation of my conversations with them, and an attempt to untangle myself.
This is Joanne's account of coming to terms with her brother's suicide and through that process, the entirety of her family life. In Small Pieces Joanne explores her childhood, her Jewishness and her mother's death as well as that of her brother.
The life and family Joanne describes is a complex combination of conflicting influences - both scientific and literary; Jewish and humanist impulses; and middle America and North London settings.
Joanne Limburg is a British writer and poet based in Cambridge. She's published several volumes of poetry, and her debut novel was published in 2015.
Grief is a journey. That's what we're lead to believe at least, an unpleasant journey which no one wants to face, but one we're all sent on at various point during our lives.
For author Joanne Limburg, it's a journey she was sent on by the suicide of her brother - an unexpected event made even harder by the fact that he was the other side of the world from Joanne and her Mother at the time, meaning that her journey became both literal as well as mental. Tie into that thoughts and recollections of family life, as well an exploration and examining of the Jewish faith (something exacerbated by Joanne's brother having been cremated before they could arrive in America.
It would be easy for this to be a miserable, brutal read - with the author truly allowing the reader full immersion into her thoughts. As you may imagine, they're often raw - full of the rage, shock and despair that comes from such a horrific situation, but these are balanced well throughout, and Limburg is measured enough to not overwhelm the reader. Balancing the blackest moments of grief with touching, immediately relatable recollections and family moments allows Limburg to play with light and shade far more effectively that one may imagine given the subject matter, with a skill that prevents the reader from feeling too overcome by the situations depicted.
This is a book about death - both the journey from it and the journey to it, and one in which the subject is examined to an intense degree - with snippets of conversation and poetry that proved both haunting and enlightening to me.
I've experienced grief, but I certainly wasn't expecting to feel quite a strong a connection to the author as I did here, and I think that's due to her voice throughout the book - one clearly marked by pain, but always clear, relatable, and at all times original.
I won't say that this is an uplifting read - but I don't think that's the point of it at all. It's a fascinating exploration into a situation that, sadly, we'll all find ourselves in some variation of during our lives. Limburg has a unique and immensely gifted voice, and her willingness to convey immensely personal situations allows her to explore and ruminate on her subject matter, whilst her clear talent as a writer ensures that this book is always readable - and rewarding even at its toughest points. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
Writers’ relationships with their surroundings are seldom straightforward. While some, like Jane Austen and Thomas Mann, wrote novels set where they were staying (Lyme Regis and Venice respectively), Victor Hugo penned Les Misérables in an attic in Guernsey and Noël Coward wrote that most English of plays, Blithe Spirit, in the Welsh holiday village of Portmeirion.
Award-winning BBC drama producer Adrian Mourby follows his literary heroes around the world, exploring 50 places where great works of literature first saw the light of day. At each destination – from the Brontës’ Yorkshire Moors to the New York of Truman Capote, Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin to the now-legendary Edinburgh café where J.K. Rowling plotted Harry Potter’s first adventures – Mourby explains what the writer was doing there and describes what the visitor can find today of that great moment in literature.
Where writers write is something that has always fascinated me - as someone who is remarkably easily distracted, I'm longing for the days when I can have a shed at the bottom of my garden in which to write, unconnected from the outside world. Different things work for different writers though, and Adrian Mourby explores this to fascinating effect in "Rooms of One's own" taking the reader on a journey through studies, dining rooms, hotels, cottages and gardens in order to explore where some 50 well known authors spent time composing their works
This is no mere reference guide - Mourby travels to each place, and provides the reader with background on the area and writer, as well as personal insights and anecdotes that make for hugely entertaining reading. It's not a huge volume, but Mourby's style is such that he manages to convey large amounts of information without the reader ever feeling like they are being preached to - and as such, I came away full of facts and with a rather weighty list of places I need to visit.
Mourby doesn't just describe these places - his real life interactions with them truly serve to bring them to life for the reader, and as such this is a valuable little book that should really be treasured for providing huge amounts of insight without the reader having to go anywhere at all! Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
Oscar-nominated Charlotte Rampling most recently appeared in hit ITV drama Broadchurch, the BBC’s London Spy and HBO’s Dexter, and the feature film 45 Years.
Her career has spanned popular entertainment and arthouse cinema, having starred in English, French and Italian films from 1966’s Georgy Girl (opposite Lynn Redgrave), to films with French director François Ozon, including 2003’s Swimming Pool.
Having shied away from biographies and autobiographies (“too personal”) Rampling has now written Who I Am, an intimate self-portrait via reminiscences, translated from the French it was originally written in.
The characters that Rampling has played on screen over the years - from the shallow, vain Meredith in Georgy Girl through to the distracted, pained Kate in 45 years, are filled with a sense of mystery - Rampling's intelligence always shining through in order to instantly add layers of depth and intrigue.
Here, that intelligence is used to good effect in a memoir that is exquisitely written and filled with fascinating glimpses and moments from a life that is just as intriguing as one may imagine when looking at an image of Rampling.
No standard celebrity memoir here - instead moments from Ramplings life are conveyed to the reader through snatches of conversation and memory, as Rampling wrote this with Christophe Bataille, a well known French writer. The "stream of consciousness" style may be off-putting to some - and at times it had me wondering if I truly would be learning anything about Rampling when reading. However, on reflection, recollections of the author's Father and revelations about the early death of Rampling's sister prove to be both intriguing and haunting. This isn't a book to read to find salacious gossip or recollections of a celebrity lifestyle - but instead moments of a fascinating life seen through the mysterious eyes of one of our greatest actors. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.