Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: Girls who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World by Reshma Saujani

Reshma Saujani’s book Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World conjures up conflicting emotions for me, before I even turn a page. Part of me wishes this book didn’t need to exist and that there was no gender divide in coding.  Yet, the fact that this book does exist as part of Saujani’s mission to help tackle the gender gap in STEM also causes me to celebrate its very existence.

Book Review: Girls who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World by Reshma Saujani

The Fear – The Dark is Rising

“It was then, without warning, that the fear came.”

Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising

Oh! The beautiful opening chapter of The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, which I’m reading in a massive worldwide book group on Twitter,  has brought back all my inexplicable moments of nature fear – or just The Fear, as Will experiences.

Have you felt, The Fear?

Those times when you find yourself alone in nature and for some reason, your sense of awe and comfort switches immediately to a feeling of pagan animism about everything around you. As if you are so very trembling and small in the scheme of tall tree things.

Being alone in nature is something I am quite comfortable with, and actually sometimes really crave now that it’s virtually impossible to have. I did have some pre-dawn walks for a hour or so earlier this year when we were camping in the remote Flinders Rangers. My husband were still asleep in the tent and I went out by torchlight. There was a slightly similar experience to the one I’m about to tell. Perhaps because I had my dog with me, or because it was morning, or even because I grew up around this wild land, I felt awe, but not fear at the strange undersound I heard as I got closer to the hills.

 

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Watching the sunrise in the Flinders Ranges

 

There have been a handful of times when THE FEAR has involved not a wild place, but a known place, like it was for Will.

THe last time I felt it, I was feeling comfortable. It was July 2015 and I was outside our rural holiday cottage in Cornwall. A house full of my children and nephews, in-laws and husband asleep. I was outside at midnight with my astrobinoculars and camera taking night sky pictures.

 

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Cosy light from the room when my young children were asleep

 

Maybe it was because I was marvelling at the novelty of seeing the emerging waxing moon traversing the sky backwards and in reverse around in the northern hemisphere after so long in the southern hemisphere (link explains this if you’ve never realised that there are differences). So, things had been changing in a different way.

 

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Waxing crescent moon in Cornish summer skies

 

 

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Watching the moon travelling ‘backwards’ in the northern hemisphere – Cornwall

 

Anyway, for some reason, being out there in the dark, even after a long night of Summer light, turned, er,  well, frightening.

It began with a sound from the fields. The gardens were surrounded by tall hedges, puncutated by one small archway cut out with a gate, with fields beyond. The sound had a hint of human cough or maybe throat clearing, but un-animal enough to confuse my senses. It wasn’t a growl, and I’d lived rurally so it wasn’t a cow or sheep or fox sound. Or bird sound. It was just, unidentifiable. Odd. Weird.

Instinctively, in that moment, when my brain could have rationalised, it didn’t. The day spent exploring ancient nooks and crannies of Cornwall took over, and I, the I that might laugh at my reaction,  was gone. THE FEAR had me.

That sound, had set my heart thumping in a rhythm for running. And I wanted to run. I just left my bincolulars and camera on the tripod and ran across the lawns to the sliding door and clambered in to the dark of house and the comfort of the lounge. After a few moments, I realised I had left all my gear outside.  As I tried to slide open the door go back to get it, I tried to let the ridiculousness take over. It wouldn’t.

I forced myself, swearing in whispers,  to go back out and fumble to detach the heavy binoculars, fold down the tripod and pack away my camera in what seemed like an eternity spent in the now thick ominous darkness. It was somehow, one of the most bravest acts against myself.

And that, is The Fear. I’ve felt it only a handful of times.

If you have ever felt it, you will understand.

Just as Susan Cooper must have understood, when she wrote it for Will to experience.

Have you known, The Fear? I would love to hear your tales.

 

An Arthurian adventure awaits you – #TheDarkisReading

Starting 20th December – worldwide reading of The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

What could be more magical than reading (or re-reading as it is for me) one of the most imaginative and wonderful Arthurian children’s/YA novels ever written, starting when the book does, on Midwinter Eve?  (Midsummer Eve for us in the southern hemisphere!)

Well, how about reading it with a fellowship of other readers, just strangers bound together within the world of limited characters (Twitter) in a shared quest to wrangle and snatch moments in time to read together in the mad days of Yule?

If you have never read Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising, maybe it’s time. Published before I was born in 1973,  I feel like I grew up with it, even though I was in my 20s before reading it.  I only discovered it after studying Medieval English Literature and seeking out modern Arthurian stories.

If you have an imagination stirred by Arthurian tales, Celtic or Norse mythology, magic, standing stones, quests, good and evil, it’s time to read this.

Will Stanton, our 11 year old warrior awaits.

“You are the seventh son of a seventh son, Will Stanton. You step through time. One by one, the Signs will call to you. You will gather them and gain the power of the Light. You are the Sign-Seeker.”

More details about how to participate in the reading group in the post below from Julia Bird.

Hello to new visitors in search of #thedarkisreading, an unexpected Christmas delight. Read on! ******* ‘This night will be bad, and tomorrow will be beyond imagining…’ tweeted @RobGMacfarlane, posting a photo of a gift copy of Susan Cooper’s classic children’s novel The Dark Is Rising (1973). ‘A wonder!’ I replied ‘I reread it every Christmas too […]

via #TheDarkisReading: A Midwinter Reading Group — Julia Bird

Sometimes a Wild God by Tom Hirons

Sometimes a piece of writing rustles and stirs the dry leaves that fall too quickly on the pathways of our bustling lives.  Like an inexplicable breath of floral-perfumed warm wind, in the harsh bite of a winters day. Rewilding you from inside.

This is how it felt reading Sometimes a Wild God by Tom Hirons. You can read Tom’s poem here on his blog, but before you click…

…know that you will remember when and where you were when you first read this. You will learn that words conjured together even when read in the cold clinical light of a computer screen, can take you to a campfire in the wilderness where you huddle alone, reading words with only the flickering firelight and lamplight of the moon, with only the winking trail of the Milky Way as company.

Rewilding from the inside…. The blood red flower is the beautiful scarlet bloom of Australian native ‘Running Postman’ Kennedia prostrata.

Receiving the book was even more startling. It’s an odd thing to open a modern envelope, delivered by planes and wheels and inside find something that almost makes you think you can hear an ancient chant or drumbeat. A beautiful, tactile and totem-like book that feels like it was written and posted from deep in the wild forest.  Together on the page with the incredible art of Rima Staines which is itself another soul-trembling delight,  in this beautiful small book there is that alchemy of word and art in an ancient dance on paper.

The book is small and beautiful. I feels like something to be carried in a favourite coat pocket, a touchstone for breathing in the woods, feeling the old paths, when the yearning strikes. A thing to read to someone, or share because the length and format is perfect for doing just that.

I purchased a second copy, to be released into the wild. When the time and place is right to leave it there, a stranger will find it, just there on a bench or table or shelf. The note inside will ask for it not to be kept, and for it to be read, purchased if the reader has the means to, and most importantly, for the wild copy to be passed on to awaken someone else.