February 2021 round up

February is the second month of lockdown 3 in England. The weather for the first few weeks has been cold and/or wet so ideal to catch up on some reading and these fabulous books took me all over the world and back in time.

Historical fiction :

A Beautiful Spy by Rachel Hore, The German Heiress by Anika Scott, Things We Didn’t Say by Amy Lynn Green, While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart


Flappy Entertains by Santa Montefiore, A Family Reunion by Patricia Scanlan, The Other Daughter by Caroline Bishop, Space Hopper by Helen Fisher, Saving Missy by Beth Morrey, Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession, The Village of Lost and Found by Alison Sherlock, A Wedding in the Country by Katie Fforde, Ellie and the Harp Maker by Hazel Prior and Old Bones by Helen Kitson

Non fiction:

The Domestic Revolution by Ruth Goodman, When Harry Met Minnie by Martha Teichner, What the World Needs Now – Bees! by Cheryl Rosebush

Thank you to the authors and publishers for keeping me busy during lockdown. If you haven’t seen a review for one of the books on this review blog yet, it will be appearing in the next two weeks.

The Domestic Revolution by Ruth Goodman @omarabooks @lovebooksgroup

Thank you to Kelly and Meggy of Love Books Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book. Regular readers of my blog will know that I don’t review many non-fiction books, but as the granddaughter of a coal miner this one appealed to me.


A large black cast iron range glowing hot, the kettle steaming on top, provider of everything from bath water and clean socks to morning tea: it’s a nostalgic icon of a Victorian way of life. But it is far more than that. In this book, social historian and TV presenter Ruth Goodman tells the story of how the development of the coal-fired domestic range fundamentally changed not just our domestic comforts, but our world.

The revolution began as far back as the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, when London began the switch from wood to coal as its domestic fuel – a full 200 years before any other city. It would be this domestic demand for more coal that would lead to the expansion of mining, engineering, construction and industry: the Domestic Revolution kick-started, pushed and fuelled the Industrial Revolution.

There were other radical shifts. Coal cooking was to change not just how we cooked but what we cooked (causing major swings in diet), how we washed (first our laundry and then our bodies) and how we decorated (spurring the wallpaper industry). It also defined the nature of women’s and men’s working lives, pushing women more firmly into the domestic sphere. It transformed our landscape and environment (by the time of Elizabeth’s death in 1603, London’s air was as polluted as that of modern Beijing). Even tea drinking can be brought back to coal in the home, with all its ramifications for the shape of the empire and modern world economics.

Taken together, these shifts in our day-to-day practices started something big, something unprecedented, something that was exported across the globe and helped create the world we live in today

My thoughts:

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read this fascinating book. Ruth’s writing style is excellent, the book is informative but also in a friendly way, rather than a boring factual textbook style.

The book looks at what the UK used for fuel before coal, and how the changes happened, primarily in London, then across the country. As coal use increased, the design of our houses, what we ate, how we cleaned all changed – hence the title of domestic revolution.

I’ve visited the National Coal Mining museum near Wakefield and went underground to see what the conditions were like for my grandpa and his family, but this book explains why so many people were needed to mine for coal, to provide heat, hot water and hot meals.

The book also reminded me about the old Aga that my grandparents had, explaining how it would work, allowing different types of cooking could happen simultaneously. I remember being equally scared and fascinated at the age of 4 when my grandpa made my toast with an open flame and toasting fork rather than the electric toaster we had at home.

I look forward to reading more of Ruth’s books. If you enjoy history and enjoyed watching Ruth’s programmes and/or the ‘Back in time’ series with Sara Cox on BBC2, then I recommend reading this book.

Author Bio:

For the first time, shows how the Industrial Revolution truly began in the kitchen – a revolution run by women. Told with Ruth’s inimitable wit, passion and commitment to revealing the nitty-gritty of life across three centuries of extraordinary change, from the Elizabethan to the Victorian age.

A TV regular, Ruth has appeared on some of BBC 2’s most successful shows, including: Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, Wartime Farm, Tudor Monastery Farm, Inside the Food Factory and most recently Full Steam Ahead, as well as being a regular expert presenter on The One Show. The critically acclaimed author of How to Be a Victorian, How to be a Tudor and How to Behave Badly in Renaissance Britain.

Brain Tools for Teens by Malin Gutestam

Thank you to Love Reading for the opportunity to read and review Brain Tools for Teens. I am the mother of two teenagers and I also work for a social mobility charity working to encourage students to aim high for their futures, so I was keen to read this. This was published by Hjärnskap last month.


Brain Tools for Teens – a Practical Actionable Guide to Improve Your Mental Wellbeing and Learning.

Have you ever thought about …?

  • Why nothing seems to stick in your memory when you study?
  • Why you feel unfocused and stressed?
  • Why it is hard to balance school work and spare time?

Brain Tools for Teens is written in a warm and engaging manner, speaking directly to teenagers, using a combination of personal stories, evidence to aid understanding of the issues, and includes more than 160 practical and realistic tips for implementation of strategies.

You may find brain Tools for Teens helpful if you are;

  • a teen in need of tools to feel more in control of your health and learning
  • a parent looking for new tools to support teens in challenging times
  • an educator looking for a resource to promote teen mental wellbeing and reduce stress
  • someone working with teens in search of new tools to help teens navigate this changing world

 Here is exactly what you will get in Brain Tools for Teens;

  1. The Teenage Brain:  How your brain works and how to take care of it.
  2. Focus:   Attention, multitasking and how to focus.
  3. Sleep:   Why sleep is a vital tool for learning and mental health.
  4. Physical Activity:   The benefits of movement for performance and creativity.
  5. Down Time:   Different breaks and how breaks can increase performance.
  6. Connection:  How positive connection promotes health and learning.
  7. Play:   How play creates inner motivation and is beneficial to learning.
  8. Time-in:   Simple and accessible tools to manage stress and feel calm.
  9. The Learning Brain:   How learning works and how to boost your learning.
  10. Stress:   What stress is and how some reactions to stress are beneficial.
  11. Where do you go from here?   A simple strategy to keep checking in.
  12. To Parents and guardians:   How we support and encourage teens.

Brain Tools for Teens is colorful, has a structured layout, lots of constructive illustrations and simple summaries. It also contains inspiring stories of teens and young adults who have created new well-functioning habits in their lives. You can choose to read just the chapter that feels most pertinent to you or read the book cover to cover. It is a practical actionable guide you can come back to when you need to.

Create and add to your own toolbox for mental wellbeing and learning. Buy the book and start reading today!

My thoughts:

I have only seen a PDF copy but I was very impressed by the content, layout and ideas. The book is written for teenagers, to explain how important it is that they mix up their studies with exercise, socialising, sleep, etc. The book explains all the science behind the suggestions and features reports from students about how they discovered they needed to make changes. Lots of common sense ideas, especially about the impact of mobile phones on sleep and studying.

There is a section at the end with advice for parents and teachers. This appears to be a useful book for all ages.

Author Bio:

Malin Gutestam is passionate about providing science-based tools that optimize brain health and learning for teens and young adults. Her interest in the brain and learning has also led her to become speaker, coach and author. 

A secondary school teacher in Sweden for the past 20 years, she has been teaching Physical Education, Entrepreneurship, Ways of Working and Learning, Pedagogical Leadership and Health Pedagogics to16-19-year-olds. Malin´s curiosity led her to become a tutor in PBL (Problem Based Learning). She has also co-founded a health project with focus on physical activity and learning for teens, developed a course for learning to learn strategies as well as the course Young Brains which was run as a pilot study. Malin has run many workshops for teachers on the connection of physical activity and learning and co-created learning materials for brain breaks and values.

Malin loves to give talks and run workshops about how brain science can be applied to create better conditions for learning, better brain health and more creative processes and share them with high school students, college students, parents, teachers or business professionals.

In 2016, Malin Gutestam was awarded The Helge Prize, a Swedish scholarship for teachers, which led to the publication of the Swedish version of Brain Tools for Teens. 

She holds an MA from Örebro University and a postgraduate certificate in Neuroscience in Leadership from Middlesex University (focusing on the next generation of leaders) as well as a Brain Based Coaching Certificate from the Neuroleadership Institute.

Malin’s greater mission is to contribute to an education where students can learn, grow, thrive and pursue their passions. She believes that now more than ever do we need the creativity, compassion, skills and knowledge of today´s teens to find new ways of solving the problems of today.

Visit Malin’s website https://www.braintoolsforteens.com/ for free learning resources. Malin also shares research, tips and ideas about brain health and learning for teens and young adults on Instagram @braintoolsforteens. 

Plant Magic by Dr. Greg J Kenicer @thebotanics @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours

Thank you to Kelly at Love Books Tours and The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh for a gorgeous copy of this book. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.


An informative and entertaining look at why plants have been used in magic and what that tells us about people and plants in a post-magic world.

With chapters on subjects as diverse as Witchcraft, Curses and Blessings, Divination, the Plants of Faery, Hallucinogens, Divine Plants in the Christian and Pagan traditions and a Plant Bestiary, Greg Kenicer’s book is an erudite and informative look at how and why various plants have had a role in Europe’s supernatural and magical traditions.

Individual entries look at particular plants combining botanical analysis with historical examples and anecdote to explain exactly why each plant came to be used in this way. Considerations of dangers and actual efficacy cast light on how modern science is now re-examining the uses of many of the plants and how the evolution of the plants themselves has been influenced by our use of them.

Whether Foxglove or Mandrake, Hawthorn or Aspen, Rowan or Oak, St. John’s Wort or Bird Cherry, Plant Magic  shines a bright and fascinating new light on dozens of familiar plants.

My thoughts:

As a child we often discover the fictional magic of plants in books such as the Magic Faraway Tree and the folklore stories about Robin Hood etc. Plants have been used for centuries to make medicine and food, but also to make enemies ill or to kill them.

This book is a reference book to explain how the wide number of plants have been used for food, medicine and pain, from trees, to fungi, from herbs to ferns.

I live in Oakhurst, named after the Oak trees growing in the area. I was fascinated by the amount of information about how Oak trees were the symbol of Zeus, and linked to Merlin the wizard. I wasn’t aware that acorns were used to make love potions.

There is a section at the back of the book about Mystery Plants, such Laughter Leaf and Was Wak trees. These are plants that have featured in stories such as the Arabian Nights and this book explains how the stories may have evolved.

A fascinating book, looking at folklore, legend, botany and science. I’ve enjoyed dipping in and out of the pages, learning more about the plants in our garden and those seen on our daily dog walks.

Author Bio:

Dr. Greg J Kenicer is the author of Plant Magic.  He is also a botanist and a lecturer at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. He is an expert in the evolution and diversity of peas and beans but the fantastical relationship between plants and people is where his heart really lies.

Buy Link 


The Better Half : On the Genetic Superiority of Women by Sharon Moalem

Today I’m pleased to share a review for a non fiction book on my blog. Thank you to Penguin UK for a digital proof copy via NetGalley – apologies for the delay in reading and reviewing.

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

An award-winning medic and scientist makes the game-changing case that genetic females are stronger than males at every stage of life

‘A powerful antidote to the myth of a “weaker sex”‘ Gina Rippon, author of The Gendered Brain

Here are some facts: Women live longer than men. They have stronger immune systems. They’re better at fighting cancer and surviving famine, and even see the world in a wider variety of colours. They are simply stronger than men at every stage of life. Why? And why are we taught the opposite?

Drawing on his wide-ranging experience and cutting-edge research, Dr Sharon Moalem set out to understand why men are consistently less likely than women to thrive. The answer, he reveals, lies in our genetics: the female’s double XX chromosomes offer a powerful survival advantage.

Moalem explains why genetic females triumph over males when it comes to resilience, intellect, stamina, immunity and much more. And he calls for a long-overdue reconsideration of our male-centric, one-size-fits-all view of the body and even of how we prescribe medications – a view that still frames women through the lens of men. 

Revolutionary, captivating and utterly persuasive, The Better Half will make you see women, men and the survival of our species anew.

My thoughts:

This book was published back in April 2020 in the UK, at the start of Lockdown. I had a dip in my ability to concentrate and read mostly ‘light fiction’ full of uplifting stories. However, as a female in the middle of a global pandemic, I really should have read this because I now appreciate that my body may be more able to fight Covid-19 than those of the males in our house.

This was an interesting read. Admittedly I didn’t fact check the science but I did understand the majority of it, with my A level science and medical underwriting knowledge. My major concern was discovering that women are much more at risk of autoimmune conditions (a cousin has MS) and that many medicines haven’t been tested on women, so the dosages are based on men..

Definitely worth a read, to see why the X and Y chromosomes mean that we have different health issues and the risks to be aware of.

Author Bio:

Sharon Moalem, MD, PhD, is an award-winning physician-scientist and geneticist. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Survival of the Sickest and Inheritance, an Amazon Best Science Book of the Year, among other books. His work brings together evolution, genetics, and medicine to revolutionize how we understand and treat disease, and his clinical research led to the discovery of two new rare genetic conditions, and to his discovery of a first-in-class antibiotic which targets ‘superbug’ infections. His books have been translated into more than 35 languages.