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Book Review: Solomon, Pharaoh of Egypt by Ralph Ellis

Why are King David and King Solomon, the most celebrated kings of Judaic history, missing from the historical record? Among cultural and historical mysteries, this has always been among the most perplexing.   

 

This is a problem for both historians and Judaeo-Christian theologians, as the lack of any archaeological remains of the ‘United Monarchy’ of kings David and Solomon can only lead to the awkward conclusion that the Old Testament accounts are fictional.

 

The biblical King Solomon was famed both for his wisdom and extraordinary wealth, and adventurers have long hunted for his legendary mines – popularised through Victorian adventure writer H. Rider Haggard’s novel of the same name.

 

However, biblical historian Ralph Ellis believes that he has discovered the ‘intact’ tombs of kings David and Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and also discovered the true location of King Solomon’s mines.

 

In his new 360-page book ‘Solomon, Pharaoh of Egypt’, Ellis argues that archaeologists and adventurers have been looking in the wrong location. He reveals that there are significant similarities that suggest the Egyptian and Israelite royal lines in this era were one and the same. So kings David and Solomon were, in fact, Egyptian pharaohs who also ruled over Judaea and Israel.

 

This may seem like an outlandish suggestion – no less controversial than the author’s claims in Jesus, King of Edessa that Jesus Christ was a first-century warrior king – but Ellis puts forward a strong case that makes a lot of sense.

 

Ellis starts his enquiry by considering King David’s well known symbology:  the ‘Star of David’ and the ‘City of David’. His meticulous research then finds an Egyptian pharaoh — Pa-Seba-Khaen-nuit or Psusennes — who lived during the same era as David and whose name means “My Star Rises in my City”. The similarity is both striking and compelling.

 

Ellis then demonstrates that the ancestors, officials and children of Pharaoh Psusennes, share uncanny similarities with the equivalent members of King David’s royal court. Based upon this equivalence, Ellis believes that Psusennes is actually the biblical King David, while King Solomon was Shoshenq.

 

Psusennes and Shoshenq ruled Lower Egypt and Israel from their capital city at Tanis in the Nile Delta, so the primary capital city of David and Solomon was at Zoan (Tanis) rather than Zion (Jerusalem). And the Temple of Solomon would also have been at Zoan, rather than Zion.

 

Ellis also believes that this reassessment of history can explain the location of King Solomon’s Mines. At this time Egypt was divided between the kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt, with Upper Egypt paying tribute to Psusennes and Shoshenq to stop them invading.

 

After many decades, Upper Egypt was running out of resources to pay this tribute. According to Ellis, in desperation they turned to the buried wealth within the Valley of the Kings – the tombs of 18th dynasty pharaohs. This was the source of Solomon’s wealth.

 

He points out that the historical record shows the Valley tombs were looted at this time, and the mummies relocated. And many tomb treasures did indeed end up in Tanis, and are now proudly displayed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

 

That King Solomon’s Mines were merely the tombs in the Valley of the Kings may seem like an anti-climax, but Ellis says it is the most probable explanation. This is the reason why no archaeological excavations have ever uncovered an actual mine.

  

According to Ellis, the kings of the United Monarchy were pharaohs of the 21st and 22nd dynasties of Egypt. But by the time the Old Testament came to be written down, this Egyptian ancestry had been airbrushed out of the story, for political and cultural reasons.

 

The Israelites were now completely divorced from their true Egyptian history. But if the truth were known, then the mummies of King David, King Solomon, and the Queen of Sheba were discovered in Tanis, and they now reside in the Cairo museum.

 

Originally released some years ago, ‘Solomon, Pharaoh of Egypt’ has been fully updated and expanded to take into account recent discoveries.

 

This book is the fourth in the ‘Egyptian Testament’ series. It is well-written and easy to follow, with Ellis taking readers step by step through his thought-process and providing supporting evidence throughout. As with Ellis’ previous titles, while readers may or may not agree with his controversial conclusions, it is clear that a lot of original research and logical analysis has gone into this thesis.

 

Ellis’s theory is definitely quite a leap, and if proven it would rewrite history books and contemporary politics alike. But it certainly provides logical and plausible answers to some of the big, unresolved questions associated with this poorly understood biblical era.

 

Solomon, Pharaoh of Egypt by Ralph Ellis (Edfu Books ISBN- 13: 978-1508498834) is available now, priced £4.78 as a Kindle eBook and £12.18 in paperback. Visit edfu-books.uk

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Book Review. Might Make You Smile, by Brenda Burling

It’s unusual for the terms ‘cancer’ and ‘light hearted’ to be connected, but as Might Make You Smile – a heart-warming new collection of true-life stories – shows, even the Big C benefits from a healthy dose of humour.

 

Written by author Brenda Burling and based on genuine anecdotes from people living with or recovering from cancer, Might Make You Smile is a far cry from the typical books about the disease, not only in its subject matter but also its focus.

 

As far as this reviewer is aware, it is the first title to cover the lighter side of cancer. It’s an excellent angle to explore as it gives the disease a human face by concentrating on real experiences.

 

Importantly, it also sends out a clear message that being diagnosed with cancer does not mean the end of the world.

 

The Essex-based author says she was inspired to write the book after listening to her friends’ own accounts of dealing with cancer.

 

Attending a local support group, Brafternoon, from among whose members many of the stories were sourced, she saw first-hand how beneficial it was for people to be able to share their experiences with others going through a similar situation.

 

Her hope in writing Might Make You Smile is that it will help others whose lives have been touched in one way or another by the disease, connecting them to a wider support network while putting a big grin on their faces in the process.

 

As Burling says herself of the positive impact of funny stories, “humour can be a weapon against disease” and, therefore, “shared humour is twice as strong”

 

The collection features nearly 50 true tales across 170 pages that inspire and amuse in equal proportion, ranging from embarrassing wig slips and make-up disasters, to errant nipples and even a stray prosthetic that results in a shark alert.

 

Each story is self-contained and is attributed, with only the subject’s first name given to spare additional blushes.

 

The first story – Nerf Attack – gets things started with a wincingly funny tale of a long-awaited, painstakingly-applied prosthetic nipple and a young boy with a rubber darts gun and a nifty aim. No spoilers, but the story ends with a very bemused surgeon.

 

The wry, sideways look at cancer and the more surprising potential side-effects of treatment and recovery continue throughout the book.

 

Some personal highlights include ‘A Night Out With Kylie’ – one of several stories about wig mishaps, with this one involving a particularly glam faux-thatch, nicknamed Kylie, ending up tangled in a friend’s bracelet; and ‘Green With Envy, Not So Much’, in which one particular lady accidentally goes out after painting on eyebrows using a shiny green eye-liner instead of the usual brown shade.

 

Another favourite is ‘Sherry, Love, Sherry’, about an attempt to soften the blow of a cancer diagnosis with a glass of Tio Pepe, thwarted by a barmaid’s lack of familiarity with fortified wines, while ‘Help, Shark!’ wouldn’t be out of place in a TV sitcom, with a woman going to extreme measures to cover up the fact that one of her prosthetic breast implants had freed itself from her swimwear while she was enjoying a seaside dip.

 

I must also mention ‘Pammies’, which brought a warm smile of shared joy with the grandmother who was keen to show off brand new prosthetics, aka ‘Pammies’, in a Baywatch-style red swimsuit.

Having seen close friends affected by cancer, the disease is a subject close to author Brenda Burling’s heart, and 10 per cent of net sales from the book will be donated by publisher Matthew James Publishing Ltd to the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity.

 

Might Make You Smile certainly delivers and would make a perfect gift for anyone who’s encountered the Big C or is looking for a little light relief in their life.

 

It’s the sort of book that you will dip in and out of for years to come, packed with lots of laugh-out-loud and feel-good moments, and it is positively crying out for a sequel.

 

Might Make You Smile by Brenda Burling (Matthew James Publishing Ltd) is out now, priced £7.99 in paperback.

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Book Blog Review. Refuting ISIS – Rebutting ISIS and Its ideological Foundations by Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoub

At a time of shocking violence and confusion the likes of which is unprecedented in the West, this timely book is essential reading for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

 

Written by one of the world’s most influential and respected Muslim academics, Refuting ISIS is the first book to defy ISIS intellectually and offers a frank and unequivocal rebuttal of the so-called ‘Islamic State’.

 

It is also a formal fatwā – an Islamic legal pronouncement made by an expert in Islamic law – that calls on Muslims to unite against the evils being perpetrated by extremists in the name of their religion.

 

Among other things, the fatwā forbids Muslims to join ISIS and to consider the terrorist group’s declarations null and void; declares that their self-declared caliphate is illegal, and entreats those within its ranks to defect.

 

It also states that it is the duty of every Muslim to fight ISIS, though it is important to clarify here that the author means doing so by supporting national anti-terrorism policy, not by literally taking up arms, as Islamic texts say in no uncertain terms that it is the duty of governments, not the individual, to wage wars.

 

Shaykh Muhammad, a descendent of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and ranked among the 500 most influential Muslims by Georgetown University, is a spiritual leader to many thousands of Muslims across the world.

 

He is, therefore, in a strong position to tackle the spread of religious extremism and is deeply concerned with the rise of ISIS, which he describes as “the most serious threat Islam has ever known”.

 

He is also worried about a growing “takfīr mentality” among young Muslims — declaring other, more moderate Muslims as non-believers — and what he sees as an increasing ignorance among Muslims regards the tenets and values of their faith.

 

This, he says, is not being helped by what he identifies as a scarcity of scholars who defend Islam “with wisdom and moderation” and the replacement of scholars with internet propaganda as the primary source of knowledge.

 

His book is a scholarly yet eminently easy-to-understand deconstruction of ISIS’s ideology, with the central argument that followers of ISIS cannot be considered Muslim.

 

Instead, according to the author, they are a gang of bloodthirsty thugs deliberately spreading fallacies and twisting religious scripture for their own sick ends. He labels them as ‘Khawārij’, or deviators, and outside the fold of Islam.

 

As the author explains in his preface, the majority of readers will not have the deep understanding of classical Islamic scripture required to categorically demonstrate why this should be the case, nor see how ISIS distorts the Holy Quran and Sharia Law to support their agenda.

 

His aim, then, is three-fold. Firstly, to stem the tide of Islamophobia by setting out the stance of Islam as a religion of peace, mercy and kindness. Secondly, to help inform Muslims who may be unsure of the true teachings of Sunni Islam with regard to the ideology of ISIS and its crimes. Thirdly, to help contribute to the downfall of ISIS by exposing it for what it is and reducing its membership.

 

Refuting ISIS proceeds through a series of carefully constructed arguments, proving step by step that “Islamic State” is neither Islamic nor a state, but rather a deviant group driven by “anger, hatred, and a thirst for power”.

 

Among the many things it clarifies, the book lays out why it is strictly forbidden to kill any non-Muslim within a Muslim country; why Muslims living in any non-Muslim country must abide by its laws and regulations; and why Islam’s teaching are in complete contradiction to the killing or torturing of women, children and civilians.

 

Originally published in 2015 to wide acclaim, this fully expanded second edition includes further elaboration on many important topics, such as the prohibition of burning human beings, the abolition of slavery, and Islam’s position towards minorities.

 

It also tackles new subjects such as the invalidity of excommunicating Muslim rulers for not applying certain aspects of Sharia Law, Islam’s position towards democracy, and the prohibition of destroying pre-Islamic monuments and sacred sites.

 

The author also outlines ways in which Western countries can play their part in the fight against extremism – for example, by entreating people to fully consider the repercussions of insulting Muslim belief under the banner of ‘freedom of speech’.

 

For Muslims, Refuting ISIS will provide the arguments they need to challenge extremist propaganda when encountered. It will also be of interest to Muslim parents whose children, Shaykh Muhammad believes, are especially vulnerable to extremist grooming.

 

For non-Muslims, this book will help educate them about Islamic law, highlight the common enemy, and reconnect the gulf between communities.

 

In light of recent horrific attacks, and the anti-Islamic backlash that spreads in the wake of such deplorable acts, it is impossible to overstate the importance of this book, which serves as the definitive word against ISIS and all it stands for.

 

Refuting ISIS by Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoub (Sacred Texts) is out now in paperback (£10.45) and Kindle (£7.21) editions.

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Book Review. Big Miracles: The 11 Spiritual Rules for Ultimate Success by Joanna Garzilli

Many people find themselves hoping for a miracle to transform their life, but this new guide by renowned intuition coach Joanna Garzilli has a simple solution: stop waiting, and go make those miracles happen!

 

British-born, Los Angeles-based Garzilli counts numerous celebrities among her high-powered VIP clients, and her new book Big Miracles: The 11 Spiritual Rules for Ultimate Success for the first time brings her highly sought-after advice within reach of everyone — promising to help readers achieve their goals and transform their lives simply by listening to their inner guiding voice, or ‘Spirit’.

 

The author’s backstory is fascinating. As a deeply sensitive child, she had many unanswered questions and her life fluctuated between working in the highly corporate, success-driven environments of advertising and seeking spiritual voyages of discovery, including extended periods of time living with remote tribes in various parts of the world.

 

Interweaving her techniques and teachings with motivating personal stories, Joanna’s book, already an Amazon bestseller In the USA, may well convince even the greatest spiritual sceptics to give her teachings a try.

 

The author writes from the heart, and her candid descriptions of her youthful unhappiness and some ill-advised life choices help readers to appreciate how embracing her spiritual side helped her to make miracles happen in her own life.

 

She explains how anybody has the power within themselves to replace worry, anxiety and depression with peace and true happiness; trade self-doubt for self-acceptance; shed insecurity and find true fulfilment.

 

Joanna’s key message is that we should listen to our true wants and desires rather than try to stifle these, because by doing so we only set ourselves on a path to frustration and unhappiness. Whether that end goal is greater wealth, a fitter physique or a fulfilling romantic life, it should not be viewed as selfish, greedy or superficial – as long as it is what our spiritual self truly desires.

 

We are all spiritual beings, she says, and we need to recognise when we have become ‘spiritually misaligned’ and take active steps to correct this, by following a series of spiritual ‘rules’ to achieve success.

 

The 11 Spiritual Rules set out in the book can easily be applied by any reader. The first rule is simply to ‘align with Spirit’ – this being the name that Joanna gives to our inner voice, the guiding force that wants each of us to achieve our greatest potential.

 

The author begins by helping readers to identify signs of misalignment, which can come in many forms. For example, it could be manifested in a feeling of ill-health, envy of others, or simply an overall sense of personal discomfort.

 

Through a series of simple exercises such as keeping a ‘Miracle Diary’ to record feelings, sensations and ‘signs’ – she guides readers towards their own awakening, though Joanna warns to be prepared for some deep, and often painful, soul-searching  before settling on the right life path.

 

Once this misalignment is clear then the reader can get to work addressing the fulfilment of their goals, with Joanna setting out  a range of easy-to-follow techniques that she herself has applied to her own life in order to find the success, happiness and balance that previously proved elusive.

 

These are laid out as the rules, and include such prescripts as ‘Commit to Your Breakthrough’, ‘Forgive Mistakes’, ‘Believe in Your Ability’ and ‘Accept Responsibility’.

Joanna eloquently explains how to nurture a connection to Spirit, and build on this new connection to manifest those real-life miracles, breaking free of self-imposed boundaries and tapping into your own divine guidance, intuition and energies to make things happen.

 

The author sets every reader a challenge — to question their life and understand the tools needed to improve it — and you can’t but help feel the momentum and be inspired into a positive, go-getting frame of mind.

 

Big Miracles will appeal to anybody who feels frustrated, unhappy or stuck in a rut, and is an excellent, inspirational read for those who recognise the power of the inner self and want to access a series of practical steps to silencing the inner critic and unleashing the full force of their creativity and potential.

 

Big Miracles: The 11 Spiritual Rules for Ultimate Success by Joanna Garzilli (HarperCollins) is available now, priced £11.58 in paperback, £15.90 in hardback and £8.99 as an eBook. Visit joannagarzilli.com.

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Short Story Prize for aspiring writers’ fairy tales

The National Literacy Trust and Bloomsbury Publishing are calling on budding children’s fiction writers to recreate a classic fairy tale, with the chance to have their work published.

The Short Story Prize 2017 is set to unearth brilliant new talent in children’s writing across the UK.

The writing competition challenges unpublished authors to capture children’s imaginations with a short story that gives a well-known fairy tale a modern twist. Entries should be between 2,000 and 4,000 words, aimed at children aged 8 to 12.

The top 10 stories will be published in an eBook anthology by Bloomsbury, the renowned publishers of titles by J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman and Louis Sachar. The 10 winners will also receive £200 each.

This year’s competition, which follows the success of the New Children’s Author Prize 2015 and the Poetry Prize 2016, will be judged by representatives from the National Literacy Trust and Bloomsbury Publishing.

 

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust said:

“Exciting and inspiring literature is vital to our work, so we are delighted to be working with Bloomsbury Publishing for the third year to uncover new children’s writing talent.

“For decades, fairy tales have been used to help children and adults better understand themselves and the world around them. We can’t wait to see how aspiring authors will give the magical stories we love a modern twist, while supporting our work to help more children fall in love with reading.”

 

Ian Lamb, Head of Children’s Marketing and Publicity at Bloomsbury Publishing said:

“Bloomsbury are delighted to once again partner with the National Literacy Trust on a competition that looks to discover the talent and imagination of undiscovered writers. Short stories are often a key way for young people to get into reading and we cannot wait to read the wonderfully twisted submissions.”

 

Emma Cox, winner of the New Children’s Author Prize 2015 said:

“This is a magical opportunity to grasp with both hands – how fabulous to write a twisted, wicked modern take on a fairy tale…. I’d say don’t doubt yourself: enter this competition. Have faith in the talent that you have, throw in a bit of luck, some powerful magic and support the wonderful work of the National Literacy Trust. Set yourself achievable targets, start scribbling ideas down now, carry your story in your head wherever you go … it’s a wonderful experience, and if you’re one of the 10 winning writers you will have created your own happy ever after. Just think of that.”

The launch of the Short Story Prize 2017 comes after a new national celebration of creative writing was announced earlier this month. National Writing Day on 21 June 2017 encourages people to put pen to paper and unleash their imagination”.

First entry is £30 (subsequent submissions £15). The competition closes at midnight on 25 June 2017.

All proceeds will help the National Literacy Trust continue its work to tackle low literacy levels in deprived communities across the UK.

Find out more literacytrust.org.uk/shortstories

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Blog Book Review: Be With Me, It’s C  by Avril Chester

Inspiring, touching and innovative, this collection of poetry by breast cancer survivor Avril Chester sees the author express her hopes and fears through the written word, and encourages others to do the same.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, aged 37, Avril found herself faced with many new things to process: perplexing medical terms, yo-yoing emotions and physical changes.

 

It’s no surprise then, as she herself admits, that she struggled to open up to others about her emotions and experiences during diagnosis and treatment. Unexpectedly, however, she found solace in writing, working  through the floods of thoughts and feelings in the form of short poems instead.

 

Avril says she noted down some of the poems during anxious daytime moments, others during long sleepless  nights, and found the act of writing to be a hugely calming activity, helping her to focus her mind, communicate with her friends and family when she didn’t feel like talking, and to keep a record of how far she’d come.

 

Here she has gathered them together in a short volume that tugs at the heartstrings even as it reminds readers of their own inner strength in fighting the ‘Big C’.

 

A key element to Be With Me, It’s C is that it is designed to help others ‘write out’ their own thoughts, fears, feelings and hopes, whether in the form of poetry, prose or just simple scribblings. To this end, each left-hand page is blank, and the paper has been tested to ensure it won’t blot or smudge when closed.

 

This is a short collection, running to just 44 pages, but it covers a lot of territory, with the poems dealing with every aspect of coping with the disease, which as the author notes has a mental as well as physical impact.

 

From the initial panic of finding a suspicious lump  to struggling to feel feminine and attractive when losing one’s hair, all these experiences are used as grist  for the literary mill.

 

The author’s bravery in dealing with her predicament is evident in each word and on every page. While some of the works are entirely original poems, others are pointed pastiches of famous pieces of poetry and music.

 

For example, The Night Before Christmas has been reworked to reflect the dichotomy between festive cheer and a looming mastectomy, which actually happened for the author in December of 2015, while Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise is cleverly adapted and inspires with the fighting words ‘I will not be broken, I will live to soldier on’.

 

Other iconic wordsmiths who receive this treatment, to excellent effect, include William Wordsworth and Shakespeare.

 

It’s inspirational stuff, and the poems are clearly deeply biographical and heartfelt, reflecting the deepest thoughts and emotions of a woman who has been through extremely challenging times but has emerged triumphant.

 

Be With Me, It’s C would be a thoughtful gift for anybody facing a similar situation, or for those around them, who will of course have their own anxieties and questions about what their loved ones are going through.

 

Buying the book will also help benefit research into the disease, with at least 10 per cent of the money made from the sale of each book going  to Breast Cancer Care.

 

The most important thing about this collection, however, is how it demonstrates clearly the cathartic power of the written word, and provides encouragement for others to do as Avril did, whether it is for public consumption or kept strictly private.

Be With Me, It’s C by Avril Chester (Gibson Publishing) is out now, RRP £6.99 in paperback. 

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Blog Book Review: Jodie and the Library Card by Julie Hodgson

Book-loving children and teens will find it hard to tear themselves away from this fantastically bitter-sweet tale of friendship, growing up…and time-hopping adventures.

In the first of what looks set to be a series of adventures for time-travelling bookworm Jodie Broom, author Julie Hodgson takes us on a thrilling hop skip and jump through history, seen through the eyes of a smart and engaging young heroine.

 

Jodie is 12 (“nearly 13!”) and in many ways she is like most young girls growing up in 2017 – she loves music, books, and hanging out with her friends.

 

But Jodie Broom is growing up in 2075 and in this future books have been banned for over 50 years.

 

There are no physical books, no newspapers; everything is consumed electronically – even food and music are simulated versions of the real thing. Robo-nannies are on childcare duties, and anybody found in possession of ‘real’ books faces stiff punishment.

 

Thankfully, Jodie is given a library card that allows her to venture into the past  – setting the scene for a rollicking adventure and bring back some precious books to store in a secret hiding place.

 

But when her stash of contraband books is discovered, Jodie faces the wrath of teachers and parents, and the excitement steps up a gear as she and Pacman attempt to outsmart the authority figures.

 

Jumping through time zones at will, the pair meet a new friend, Kai, and all three set off on a challenge involving an intriguing cast of characters including Attila the Hun, and a kindly, bearded man who absolutely denies being an off-duty Santa Claus (as Jodie and her friends strongly suspect).

 

The book has moments of high tension, particularly when the youths make the somewhat unwise decision to zap themselves back to the deck of the Titanic.

 

And it’s a page-turner that doubles as a handy history lesson. From the Blitz to Portugal’s Carnation Revolution, the book visits pivotal moments in history, sneaking interesting facts and information about historical events into an addictive read.

 

Jodie and the Library Card has already picked up a string of awards – including a New Apple Award for Excellence, Readers’ Favourite Book Award and Wishing Shelf Book Award – and it’s not hard to see why.

 

In Jodie, the author has created an engaging, likeable and believable character for her target nine to 12-year-old audience, while the travels through the fourth dimension grip from the get-go.

 

That being said, parents picking up the book out of curiosity may well find themselves quickly drawn into the action, and learning a thing or two in the process, and it’s easy to imagine the book playing out on the silver screen.

 

With several more Jodie Broom books in the pipeline, this promises to be the start of something very enjoyable – and should inspire armies of young readers to appreciate the importance of books.

 

Jodie and the Library Card (Lulu Books) by Julie Hodgson is out now in paperback, priced £5.38. Visit jodieandthelibrarycard.com

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Blog Book Review: An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles by Paul Spencer Sochaczewski

Victorian scientist Alfred Russel Wallace has been dubbed the ‘the forgotten naturalist’ and for over 100 years has been in the shadow of his more celebrated peer, Charles Darwin.

 

In recent years, however, there has been renewed interest in the work of this pioneering and exceptional figure, co-credited alongside Darwin with the theory of evolution by natural selection, and An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles will do much to drive forward this Wallace renaissance in the public’s mind.

 

This fully revised and expanded edition of the book, first published in 2013, offers the reader a unique mix of meticulously-researched biography, travelogue and contemplation of contemporary conservation and human rights concerns — with a healthy dose of boy’s own adventure thrown in for good measure.

 

‘Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes,’ as the old proverb goes, but author Paul Spencer Sochaczewski has gone much further to get under the skin of Wallace, retracing his steps across South-East Asia in a 40-year odyssey that took him far off the beaten path in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

 

As such, this is far more than a dry, academic examination of his subject. Instead, the wild, often contrary and above all, extraordinary, mind of Wallace is vividly presented to the degree that you sometimes feel he is alongside Sochaczewski on his travels.

 

As we learn, Wallace was as much a force of nature as a devotee of the natural world. Born into financial hardship at a time when the rigid social hierarchy presented significant barriers to advancement for those without pedigree or capital, he was effectively a self-made man. His achievements are even more impressive considering Wallace left school at the age of 13.

 

The sheer magnitude of his intellectual curiosity and genius for new insights, combined with a staggering amount of good old-fashioned pluck, led him to venture to the Amazon at the age of 25 without any money or backing, any grasp of the native languages or, indeed, having any experience of overseas travel at all.

 

Wallace’s four-year Brazilian adventure was followed by his eight-year sojourn in Southeast Asia, which resulted in his classic book The Malay Archipelago.

 

By the time of his death in 1913 he had been hailed far and wide as the UK’s greatest living naturalist, while author G.K. Chesterton went so far to describe Wallace as one of the two “most important and significant figure[s] of the nineteenth century.”

 

As Sochaczewski explains, at first he followed Wallace’s path more by accident rather than design, arriving in Sarawak, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo, after joining the United States Peace Corps in 1969, before taking up an advertising job in Singapore.

 

Once he realised the parallels, however, he threw himself into his physical and intellectual quest with gusto, having many memorable escapades in the process such as venturing through seldom-visited rain forests on the look-out for birds of paradise, finding new species with over-excited botanists, getting acquainted with orangutans or searching for tiger magicians or mythical giant cannibal tribes, to name but a few.

 

He uses these experiences as a frame to introduce Wallace’s many interests and contributions to human understanding, not only in the fields of biology and evolution, but also many other disciplines such as geology, ecology, climatology, humanism and even, in his later days, spiritualism.

 

Each chapter of the book follows a theme. Creationism vs evolution,  Why Boys Leave Home, Women’s Emancipation, Animal Intelligence, Our Need/Fear Relationship with Nature, and Environmental Challenges are all covered in thoughtful detail — and each could be read as a fascinating piece of long-form journalism in its own right.

 

And despite his clear admiration for Wallace, Sochaczewski is not afraid to point out the perplexing contradictions in his character, such as on matters of slavery, the Western definition of the “savage,” and colonialism, where at various points he is either staunchly of his time or far ahead of it.

 

The author, a noted conservationist and the former head of communications at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), also uses his (and Wallace’s) experiences to make trenchant comments on contemporary issues such as the replacement of British colonialism with ‘brown-brown colonialism,’ abuse of human rights, and the ongoing destruction of habitat.

 

Further depths to these musings are added by the judicious inclusion of extracts from Wallace’s own papers and journals, as well as conversations with local people. The reader is spoilt for perspective and context, coming away with a well-rounded impression of the man and his world, both then and now.

 

The final chapter provides the author’s take on the lingering Darwin-Wallace Controversy, which still rages to this day over which man deserves the main credit for the key concept of the ‘survival of the fittest’.  Many readers may come away from this feeling that Wallace not only has the better claim, but was morally the superior as well.

 

Fitting for an examination of one of life’s most ardent collectors, An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles is packed with collected anecdotes, reminiscences and fun facts.  It has been widely praised by many VIPs active today in the study of nature and conservation, and it’s clear to see why.

 

There are two equally engrossing narratives to enjoy — Wallace’s and Sochaczewski’s — and with a shared brio for discovery that’s utterly engaging and infectious, you’ll reach closer for the passport with every page. Highly recommended.

 

An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles – Campfire Conversations with Alfred Russel Wallace (Didier Millet Pty) by Paul Spencer Sochaczewski is published on April 24, priced £16.95 in paperback and £7.95 as an eBook. Visit Amazon UK

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Cityread London announces its 2017 programme and partnerships

Cityread London, which is featuring Elizabethan thriller Prophecy by S. J. Parris (HarperCollins) as its 2017 title, will be celebrated with a month long programme of events including a specially commissioned immersive theatre production at the Charterhouse, a talk by S.J. Parris at Lambeth Palace Library, a 1000 book giveaway at The Golden Hinde, Tudor foodie events including a history of gin workshop and a medieval feast as well as historical and author focused events across Greater London, Reading and Slough.

 

Prophecy is a gripping Elizabethan spy thriller, focused on the plot against Elizabeth to put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne. Set in 1583 its protagonist is the real life shadowy Giordano Bruno, an Italian “monk, scientist, philosopher, and magician” and excommunicated heretic.

 

HarperCollins have printed 7,000 branded copies for Cityread which are available via libraries across London where reading groups and book clubs will be reading the books alongside locally organised events. OverDrive are sponsoring the festival for a third time, and readers can borrow the Prophecy ebook for free from their local library and read via the OverDrive app.  In addition a Quick Read about life in Elizabethan London by Rupert Colley has been specially commissioned as part of the History in an Hour series and will be distributed free of charge via libraries and prison reading groups for adults who struggle with reading.

Click here to below to hear a sample of the book

 

Audible, the world’s leading provider of spoken audio entertainment first sponsored Cityread London in 2016 and is again confirmed as sponsors for 2017.

J. Parris said:

“I’m thrilled that Prophecy has been chosen as London’s CityRead for 2017 and really excited to take part in this fantastic programme aimed at bringing old and new readers together. I hope readers will enjoy discovering Tudor London through the book and the events, and perhaps realising that it’s not as far removed from our own world as we might imagine.”

 

Anthony Hopkins, President of the Association of London Chief Librarians said:

“Cityread presents a special time of the year where London’s libraries get together to promote a book for Londoners and deliver a range of activities in our libraries. We are looking forward to working again with Cityread and to another successful year.”

 

Andy Ryan, Director of Cityread London said:

“Cityread is London’s huge, exciting, interactive, annual citywide book group.  Take part by picking up a copy of Prophecy from your library, bookshop or from the Golden Hinde on 31 March – we’ll be giving away 1000 copies.  Join in a library book group, chat about it to a friend., or tell us what you think on Twitter and Facebook.  Throw yourself into the sights, feels and tastes of London 1583 by taking part in our performances, supper club, gin tasting and book handling events.  Codpieces optional.’

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Blog Book Review. A Practical Guide to Your Human Rights and Civil Liberties by Dr Michael Arnheim

With the UK entering a new phase in its dealings with Europe, this comprehensive and clearly-worded guide will be a great help to people trying to understand their rights in the wake of the Brexit vote.

 

Written by experienced Human Rights barrister and noted author Dr. Michael Arnheim, A Practical Guide to Your Human Rights and Civil Liberties takes a broad look at all aspects of human rights and liberties for UK citizens.

 

There is no shortage of books on human rights, but where this title differs is that it not only covers the Human Rights Act but the whole span of human rights, including Magna Carta and the Common Law, which embody fundamental rights that are often ignored or misinterpreted.

 

In straightforward prose that avoids complicated language, and which succinctly explains the meaning behind the common legal jargon, the book clearly structures its content to be easily accessible and highly practical.

 

The first chapter outlines where British citizens’ rights actually come from, including the Magna Carta, natural rights, acts of parliament including the Human Rights Act and the powers held by bodies under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

 

The second chapter, “A Fistful of Fallacies,” exposes the ”politically correct”  hype surrounding human rights put out by the civil rights “lobby” and also shows how to recognise and react against ‘judicial supremacism’ – that is, judges interpreting the law with their own agenda in mind.

 

The remaining chapters address specific rights, many of which are in practice enjoyed primarily by special interest groups, such as terror suspects, asylum seekers, illegal immigrants and even convicted killers – at the expense of law-abiding members of society.    These include the Right to Life, the Right to Freedom of Expression, the Right to Privacy and the Right to a Fair Trial. The last chapter is a lively Socratic Dialogue in Q&A format.

 

Arnheim, the author of 19 books including two previous books on human rights, looks at the subject from the perspective of those who might find themselves accused of human rights breaches as well as of those making such allegations. 

 

Likewise, the book recognizes that both parties in a human rights dispute have rights, how different human rights can clash, and also provides winning strategies for human rights cases in court as well as how to avoid such a case ending up in court in the first place.

 

By so doing, it’s likely to be a huge help to law students and legal professionals but will also appeal to the ‘man on the street’ looking to gain a better understanding of where they stand in relation to the sovereign powers at home, at work and in public places.

 

Arnheim, a Sometime Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge, has an enormous amount of experience in the field, and his straight-talking (though never dumbed down) approach to our rights offers an excellent and valuable go-to resource.

A Practical Guide to your Human Rights and Civil Liberties by Dr Michael Arnheim (Straightforward Publishing) is available now in paperback, priced £10.99, and as an eBook priced £4.99.

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