BOOK REVIEW - GIRL CODE : CARA ALWILL LEYBA

Rebel Editorial

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Seriously enjoyed this. I'm on a bit of a self development drive at the moment and reading as many books like this as I can, but this is one of my favourites by far. Maybe because it's written by a woman specifically for women, but it's just so empowering, and... nice! 

I've made a major shift in my life over the past year, distancing myself from people who bring me down, turning away from bitchiness and gossip and not engaging with haters. Instead I've surrounded myself with positive influences who support and encourage me, inspiring me every day to work harder and be a better me. I can't explain how much happier I am!

This book is geared towards female entrepreneurs or business women, and having been in an industry where women work together and SHARE without competition or judgement for the past year I can tell you that this book is right. We can be so much more when we work together. 

For non-entrepreneurs I do think it still applies though, it offers a lot of ideas on how to treat and be treated, attitudes and mindset, facing fears and being your own inspiration.

Only small criticism from me is the interviews that end each cjapter; they just got a bit repetitive for me. But otherwise I really enjoyed it and I LOVE the message

BOOK REVIEW - Why Aren't They Shouting?: A Banker's Tale of Change, Computers & Perpetual Crisis : Kevin Rodgers

Kevin Rodgers turned Deutsche Bank into the number one player in the global FX market. For many years Deutsche's FX business was the model for other ambitious banks and one of his bank's main sources of profit.

Given he helped create a multi-billion euro business it wold have been easy for Rodgers to have written a "Celebrity CEO" type book that simply recounted his successes. He has actually written a deeply insightful and honest book about his experiences, the mechanics of capital markets and the need for reform.

In the financial literature there are many great stories of investment banking heroes and villans or triumphs and disaster. There are also a great many useful technical books. "Why Aren't They Shouting?" is seemingly unique because it manages to both explain the mechanics of trading in an accessible way and also make it real, by drawing on his real life experiences.

The final chapter “Das Ende” contains an intelligent analysis of the problems of managing and regulating the highly complex organisations, that banks have evolved into. Whether you agree with his conclusions or not it will certainly make you think about the sector more clearly and challenge your assumptions.

This book is be particularly useful for both those who want a detailed understanding of FX markets or a broader understanding of markets and trading. I would strongly recommend it for anyone working in bank or a regulator, that does not have direct experience of working in the front office.

BOOK REVIEW - PHONE : WILL SELF

Phone is the witty and fast paced new novel from Will Self, a side-eyed look at the modern worlds of intelligence, warfare, and technology. The main focus is on Jonathan De’Ath, a spy known as ‘The Butcher’ to all who and know him, and his secret longterm lover, tank commander Gawain Thomas. The other thread of the narrative follows the recurring Self character Zach Busner, an aging psychiatrist, and his family, particularly his daughter-in-law Camilla and autistic grandson Ben. Self creates a riot of a ride, darkly comic and reference-heavy, in this novel about technology and life in the twenty first century.

The narrative hurtles full throttle in one direction, narrated by one character without room for pause, then screeches suddenly into a new point of view. This style - not unexpected to anyone aware of Self’s work - is unlikely to be to everyone’s taste, but it creates an obsessively-echoing and detailed novel full of parroting phrases and cultural references. Acronyms are written phonetically, making the proliferation of them in the modern day very apparent. The Butcher is a fantastic creation, a meticulous and twisted spook who ends up with a glaringly obvious Achilles’ heel, and his sections make for the most exciting reading. How his story has any connection to Busner, Camilla, and Ben is not apparent for much of the novel, but becomes apparent by the end in a satisfyingly fitting yet somewhat ambiguous way.

Phone will not appeal to everybody. However, its blend of exposing military and intelligence cover-ups, political and societal satire, dark comedy, and strangely intriguing characters is a success, leaving a novel that is an intense and unrelenting read, one that pulls the reader into its style and idiosyncrasies. Despite being a spook adept at hiding, Jonathan De’Ath is not easy to forget.

BOOK REVIEW - ED BALLS : SPEAKING OUT

By and large, I find politicians a rather scurrilous bunch. Too often, they're blessed with egos the size of a planet and once elected, they seem to be driven by ambition which will end to personal benefit, rather than political or public benefit. Occasionally, there's an exception to this sweeping generalisation and Ed Balls is an individual who seems to stand head and shoulders above many. The world of Westminster is the poorer without him.

This book is a delight. It feels as though it's written from the heart, with no agenda to poke fun at colleagues or gloat over others misfortune. He comes across as a genuinely decent guy, not one from a privileged background, but with family, personal and political values that are at the heart of everything he does. I love his passion for Norwich FC, I enjoyed his insight into fiscal planning, banking and the Exchange Rate Mechanism. His intellect shines through, but he's also a guy with a sense of humour, compassion and empathy. He struggled to overcome difficulties with public speaking and he's open and honest about his feelings.

He's generous in his assessment and account of some events in recent years, not least his own recent defeat. It was unexpected and clearly hurt, but the measure of the man is that he's moving on and whilst I'm not a fan of dancing shows, I can understand how he was drawn into taking part in this ludicrous public show! Why not? It's another of life's adventures and it won't be his last.

The book is divided into chapters which follow various themes, making it both entertaining and interesting. His written style is easy going, and he tackles some complex matters in a way that's easy to follow. Some great insights behind the scenes and a darn good read. One of the best 'political' memoirs.

BOOK REVIEW - GREAT BUILDINGS : THE WORLD'S ARCHITECTURAL MASTERPIECES EXPLORED AND EXPLAINED (DK)

Dorling Kindersley have a well deserved reputation for producing reference books that are beautiful and stimulating. This guide to fifty-three of the World's greatest buildings is no different.

With full colour photographs and cutaway plans throughout, each building is shown clearly, in depth and with a good impression of its overall nature. Each building is pictured completely from a distance whilst something of its history and construction described in the text; each building is then examined in greater detail, in a photographic 'visual tour' which highlights and explains some of the more distinctive or important feature of each building. Those without great knowledge of architecture need not fear - all is explained simply and straight forwardly and in a way designed to help the general reader appreciate what makes each building special.

The buildings illustrated take us from the the earliest civilisations with the Great Pyramid in Egypt (around 2500 BC) to the MAXXI in Italy (built in 2010). Necessarily, this book is not a complete history of architecture, nor does it attempt to be. What it does do is illustrate some of the most iconic and important buildings still standing today. Memories of those that you might have visited are enhanced by being reminded of aspects of them and you might well gain an interest in going to those you haven't.

This is a book that is not only great to read or browse but also one that looks lovely and that you'll probably want to keep on your shelves for a good long time.

Recommended.

BOOK REVIEW - Volunteer : A Traveller's Guide to Making a Difference Around the World (Lonely Planet)

Are you looking for a more meaningful travel experience? Do you want to give back to the communities you visit, make a genuine connection with locals, meet like-minded travellers and build your skills?

International volunteering opens up all these opportunities and this book has all the advice you need to get you there.

Much more than just a resource directory, Lonely Planet'sVolunteer is packed with invaluable information and full-colour inspiration to get you planning your perfect short- or long-term volunteer experience anywhere in the world - whether it's monitoring sea turtles in Greece, helping set up handicraft businesses in Ghana or building community centres in Guatemala!

Inside Lonely Planet's Volunteer: A Traveller's Guide to Making a Difference Around the World:

159 organisations listed and reviewed
Opportunities on six continents, in 130 countries
Over 120 seasoned volunteers share experiences and top tips
Unique, user-friendly structure arranged by volunteering programme type
Fully illustrated with colour photographs of volunteers in action
Covers practicalities and raising money

Volunteering programmes included:

Conservation and wildlife
Agriculture and farming
Emergency and relief
Education and training
Authors: Lonely Planet

BOOK REVIEW - THE MEANING OF CRICKET : JON HOTTEN

Hotten loves cricket as I do. He was a very promising schoolboy player. His book is beautifully written and there are some jewels in its pages. The author regales us with facts about how much willow is used to make a bat, the type of willow, the legal width of a bat, the composition of the ball, the true length of a pitch when facing deliveries at over ninety miles an hour. He relates how the game is an obsession in India while in Ausralia it is embeded in the national psyche.

Hotten explains how cricket is an inscrutable game. It has very odd rules and conventions. It is a game that is seriously affected by the weather which is why it should never have been played here. In brief, as the author says, it is, like many of its adherents, eccentric. It is a game you love or hate, find mesmerizing or boring.

Hotten's book is also about the Gover Cricket School in Wandsworth, the various psychological aspects of the game, the numbers of people who watch the game and the cruelties of cricket. Regarding the latter, one error and you are out, one error and a batsman is not out. Apparently, suicide is not uncommon. It is 2.07% amongst Test players compared to an average of 1.07 in the general public.

Read about the fascinating experiment to demonstrate how a batsman needs to read visual clues from the bowler in order to hit a ball travelling at over 80 mph. Relish the statistics that reveal Brian Lara's genius, and learn how today's cricketers look different and train differently.

The author says he became hooked on the game after reading Peter Roebuck's diary of his 1983 season with Somerset. Roebuck committed suicide in South Africa in 2011.

Cricket lovers will find much to enjoy in this delightful account.

BOOK REVIEW - Final Girls by Riley Sager

I've read a few psychological thrillers lately, but this one really had me transfixed. It moves along at a startling pace, and has you wondering what happened, right up until the final few chapters and its startling conclusion. 

Quincy and five of her friends from college, have gone up a cabin for their friend Janelle's birthday weekend. It's meant to be a weekend of fun; hiking, cooking, drinking and partying. However, it all seems to go wrong when they go for a hike up to a rock at the top of the hill. On the return they spot someone outside the cabin. He's around their age and claims to have broken down. They invite him to join them as night is falling. After getting ready for dinner and eating, the partying commences. So does the nightmare. All of Quincy's friends are murdered that night, leaving her the sole survivor of the Pine Cottage Massacre. 

A few years before Pine Cottage, two other women - Lisa who survived a college sorority mass murder spree, and Sam, who was the only person to escape with her life after a massacre at a motel - also endured and survived horrible massacres. As they were the only survivors of similar situations, the press nicknamed them "The Final Girls". 

Eight years after the event, Quincy still has no memory of what happened that night, and is suffering from repressed memory syndrome. She's managed to start afresh and runs a successful baking blog, lives with her boyfriend Jeff, and has a guardian angel in the form of police officer Coop. Sam went off grid and Lisa was living a nice life in a small country town. This all changed the day Lisa was found dead. Now only two final girls remain. 

None of them had ever met, until one day, not long after Lisa's death, when Samantha turns up out of the blue on Quincy's doorstep. Sam seems intent on making Quincy remember what happened at Pine Cottage all those years ago. Which makes Quincy wonder what she really wants, and whether she's hiding something? When the media breaks new details about Lisa's death, Quincy starts to try to untangle the messy web of what Sam wants and where she's been, Lisa's death, and what actually happened that grim night at Pine Cottage. 

Final Girls is an intriguing, twisty and utterly compelling novel. It's extremely well written, with the characters slowly showing more sides to themselves, which pulls you further and further into the book. It's written from the first person point of view, apart from the chapters which flash back to the day leading up to the massacre and the following police interviews, which are in third person. 

It's an easy, yet gritty and brilliant read, which will see you flying through the chapters wanting to know more about what happened at the cabin that night. I ended up second guessing each character along the way, with the many turns the story takes. By the end of the book I felt like I had had the rug ripped out from underneath me; there are more than a few gasp out loud moments. Highly recommended to all fans of dark and suspenseful thrillers. 

Available from Ebury Books on July 11 2017.

BOOK REVIEW - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF FIFA : David Conn

I’ve just finished The Fall of the House of FIFA and can thoroughly recommend it to anyone who needs a complete commentary of the state of the Federation over the last half century (albeit more detailed since the start of the 21st Century). David is a thoughtful journalist who has aggregated the publicly reported and documented chronology in an interesting and easy to digest way.

I was particularly impressed with the balanced reporting he afforded Blatter (interview in final chapter so won’t do plot spoiling). To that extent, the cover picture was a cheap shot over which I’m sure the author had no control.

As with all outsiders, he makes a comparison to his own childhood memories of World Cups in the 70s that included some of the contemporary protagonists, a love of football from an age of innocence that juxtaposes with the descent into decadence and corruption of those role models.

Horst Dassler doesn’t come out of this very well, but then any interview with Patrick Nally is likely to lean in that direction. Dassler didn’t invent bribery in sports but he lit the fire at the federative level in what would become intergenerational abuse of power.

If I can offer any criticism, it’s that it relies on the English language reporting quite heavily for reference and there is a small industry of FIFA-bashers that all work from roughly the same geography and the same agenda. Thomas Kistner of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung has been a particularly sharp thorn in the side of FIFA over the years as a for instance and has landed many stingers on Messrs Radmann and Abold as well.

Infantino is not the total reformer, he is the guy that comes before the great reformation but nobody can predict when this will happen and who will lead it so for now he's in charge and he's got to make the best of what he has. Turkeys and Christmas comparisons to be added here! As Conn points out, history will not be kind to Havelange or Blatter for some good reasons. There are many people who should be grateful to them (and even Dassler) for what they achieved in making Football the mass employer and maker of dreams that it is today. I think Conn leaves the door open to future writers and for that this book is to be commended.

As for ISL … you had to be there, man.

BOOK REVIEW - THE 37TH PARALLEL : BEN MEZRICH

I picked this one up because I felt like I was in the mood for a non-fiction book that was not related to politics or social issues in ANY way. And I thought, "Hey, aliens. That seems like it's pretty unrelated to that kinda stuff."

Here's what this is not: A solid narrative that answers the question, "Do aliens exist?"

Early on it's pretty clear that this is more a profile of a guy who becomes more and more interested in the question and into finding evidence of little green men.

So I find myself wondering...do I believe there are little green men?

Let's start with the belief I had before I started the book.

There is probably some form of life out there somewhere. Intelligent or not I couldn't have said, but it seems likely that in a universe with so many possibilities, and so little of it explored by us, that there's something out there. It seems MORE likely that there's nothing, but far from impossible, if you ask me.

Yes, I think there's some kind of life out there somewhere, and I still think that after reading this. It seems more than possible, especially if you consider the possibility that there are shades to the universe that we can't perceive. 

Now, AFTER reading the book, what's changed?

Well...not much. 

I think the most likely explanation is simple. When you decide that there are aliens and start looking for proof, basically, anything unexplained that happens goes into the "aliens are real" bucket. A helicopter flying over a given spot, cattle mutilations, black SUV following you home. When you're on the alien thing, all that seems related to aliens. But if you were, say, manufacturing drugs, then you'd probably put all those same things as being related to that somehow because it's what you're worried about.

Or think about it like this. You start to feel sick. You start googling your symptoms. And then whatever comes up, you start thinking, "Hey, I HAVE felt fatigued in addition to that other stuff. And come to think of it, my mucus MAY be a different color than normal."

In short, when you decide on the answer and then start looking for the questions afterward, it shouldn't be surprising that you end up finding questions that lead to your answer.

However, there is one difference in how I feel about paranormal shit.

I do feel like I'm a person who is one good sighting away from becoming a complete nut. Whether it be Bigfoot or a UFO, if something pushed me to the tipping point where I believed in something supernatural, then I don't really see any other way of life other than being completely consumed by that thing.

Which is a realization I came to from this book. It's not a pity thing. It's not like I feel bad for someone who investigates UFO sightings. It's that I think I can empathize with the idea of believing in something that, to most people, seems very crazy, and I can empathize with the idea of having to move forward knowing that something so important and life-changing that I've experienced will be met with skepticism forever. And the frustration of seeing parallel stuff (religious stuff comes to mind...) that is equally bizarre and unproven, and yet a churchgoer is a pillar of the community. Meanwhile, I'm a total nut for having similar beliefs (I believe there's something intelligent up in the sky that visits us occasionally, performs strange acts, and then vanishes without a trace).

And for now, I suppose that my belief isn't that there are little green men out there, but that there are unexplained things going on, and it's good to keep an eye out. Not because I want to blow the lid off some conspiracy or something, but because that's a more interesting world to live in.

BOOK REVIEW - Doughnut Economics : Kate Raworth

Kate Raworth writes accessibly and persuasively about how some of the basic assumptions and prescriptions of neoclassical economics and political economy need to change for us to have a socially just, environmentally sustainable, and thriving economy. Attuned to the central role that images/diagrams play in how economics is taught and understood, she came up with her "doughnut," a way to reflect the embeddness of the economy within society and within the environment. The "doughnut" inspires us to think about thriving--within given limits. 

Raworth's "seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist" are the following:
(1) Change the Goal (from GDP to the Doughnut)
(2) See the big picture (from a self-contained market to an embedded economy)
(3) Nurture human nature (from rational economic man to social adaptable humans)
(4) Get savvy with systems (from mechanical equilibrium to dynamic complexity) 
(5) Design to distribute (from "growth will even it up again" to "distributive by design")
(6) Create to regenerate (from "growth will clean it up again" to "regenerative by design")
(7) Be agnostic about growth (from "growth addicted" to "growth agnostic")

Raworth cogently breaks down the failing of dominant economic theory and practice and weaves the history of the discipline into her narrative. Changing the way economics is taught at universities (and thus the mindsets of future business leaders and policymakers) is a tough task, but Raworth has the right passion and intellect. We should all hope that she succeeds.

It's rare when someone has the vision + the brains + the charisma to 1) challenge received wisdom, 2) offer a fully-formed alternative, and 3) explain it clearly & succinctly. I read about 30 "business" books a year cover to cover (have to for my work), and this is the most jaw-dropping one I've read in a long while. Whole-heartedly & whole-braintedly recommended.

BOOK REVIEW - Urban Cowboy : Magnus Walker

Magnus Walker is one of life’s originals. Serial entrepreneur, fashion designer, TV presenter, motivational speaker and one of the world’s most prolific Porsche collectors, the dreadlocked, tattooed hoarder of individual creativity is a very modern incarnation of idiosyncratic success.

Raised in the grim, urban decay of Thatcher’s Britain, Sheffield-born Magnus Walker left school with just two O levels and drifted for several years before buying a one-way ticket to America. Now, 30 years and three successful businesses later, by following his instincts, rejecting convention and pursuing his passions Magnus has succeeded against all the odds.

Here, for the first time, is the full story of his journey from a Northern steel town to the bright lights of Hollywood, from a boy with little hope to an anti-establishment hero. Along the way we’ll witness his potent combination of inspiration and graft, discover his motivations and his ambitions, and come to understand his philosophy and the keys to his success.

Inspiring and exhilarating, URBAN OUTLAW is a compelling tale of succeeding through pure instinct and determination by a man who was brave enough to follow his own path.

Magnus has got a lovely, easy to read conversational style. I would have liked him to expand on his track and racing days a bit more which were dismissed with a single paragraph. Perhaps his modesty prevented him.
I loved his story, very inspirational.

BOOK REVIEW - The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions : Jason Hickel

For decades we have been told a story about the divide between rich countries and poor countries. 

We have been told that development is working: that the global South is catching up to the North, that poverty has been cut in half over the past thirty years, and will be eradicated by 2030. It’s a comforting tale, and one that is endorsed by the world’s most powerful governments and corporations. But is it true?

Since 1960, the income gap between the North and South has roughly tripled in size. Today 4.3 billion people, 60 per cent of the world's population, live on less than $5 per day. Some 1 billion live on less than $1 a day. The richest eight people now control the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world combined.

What is causing this growing divide? We are told that poverty is a natural phenomenon that can be fixed with aid. But in reality it is a political problem: poverty doesn’t just exist, it has been created.

Poor countries are poor because they are integrated into the global economic system on unequal terms. Aid only works to hide the deep patterns of wealth extraction that cause poverty and inequality in the first place: rigged trade deals, tax evasion, land grabs and the costs associated with climate change. The Divide tracks the evolution of this system, from the expeditions of Christopher Columbus in the 1490s to the international debt regime, which has allowed a handful of rich countries to effectively control economic policies in the rest of the world.

Because poverty is a political problem, it requires political solutions. The Divide offers a range of revelatory answers, but also explains that something much more radical is needed – a revolution in our way of thinking. Drawing on pioneering research, detailed analysis and years of first-hand experience, The Divide is a provocative, urgent and ultimately uplifting account of how the world works, and how it can change.

I cannot recommend this book more highly. An absolute must for all those curious about how the world got to be where it is today. Infinitely readable, and packed full of eye-opening facts about development, this book really helped me to rethink how poverty and inequality came to be. But better still, by taking us on a journey through the logic of colonialism and conquest, we come to understand the precipice of our own civilization and the threat of climate change. Hickel offers us hope by telling the story not only of what a better world might look like but how we might get there. Totally unmissable!

BOOK REVIEW - Chaos Monkeys : Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine - Antonio Garcia Martinez

I’m not a techie - I use a minimal amount of my smartphone’s many capabilities and survived the introduction of major technology into my chosen career with a bit of luck and much help from friends and colleagues – but I am interested in the business of technology. That’s to say, how the introduction of electronic technology has transformed industries I’ve known and worked in and how it has introduced new businesses I couldn’t have dreamt of when I began my working life. I know (or knew) little about Silicon Valley, other than an awareness that it’s the home of mega-companies such as Facebook, Google and Apple. So this ‘insider’ exposé, from a man who had worked his way up the ladder from launching his own start-up company to holding a prominent role at Facebook, seemed like the ideal place to commence my education.

Antonio Garcia Martinez quit his PhD studies in Physics to earn some lucre working for Goldman Sachs. His job was to model prices for credit derivatives (he explained this but I’d have to say it flew way over my head). After becoming disillusioned with banking he used his skill set to set up a new technology company in the field of advertising and after it’s sale to Twitter he took up a role within the Facebook hierarchy. By this stage he’d developed some expertise in linking data streams (e.g. Facebook’s own knowledge of it’s members and their personal internet browsing history) with which he hoped to leverage monetisation of the business through the improved ability to supply a more focused advertising approach. Well, that’s my own interpretation/understanding of what he was trying to achieve – in truth, one downside of this book is that there is a lot of technical language here with dozens of acronyms thrown in for good measure and consequently I’m sure his own one-liner on this would be much more colourful.

Aside from this, there is a good deal of interesting insight here. For instance, how new technology businesses are typically funded and how the entrepreneurs are ultimately rewarded for their efforts is explained in some detail. Also, the way in which online advertising has become increasingly targeted to individuals is brought to life. This is good stuff and it’s interspersed with the account of the author’s own life and experiences, though there’s not a lot on Martinez’s life outside of work simply because there wasn’t much life outside of his work. It’s clear that if you’re going to be a success in Silicon Valley then work is your life! There are some humorous moments too, but in truth these are few and far between.

Possibly the most interesting section for me was where he lifted the lid on the culture inside of Facebook. For instance, I didn’t know that meals were (and maybe still are) provided free to all workers - either as purely benevolent act on the part of the company or possibly to remove a reason for workers to head home or outside of the workplace for their next refuelling stop. And in the eager push to land new projects mantras such as ‘done is better than good’ and ‘perfect is the enemy of good’ were thrown about with abandon. 

Overall I enjoyed my time with this book. I do think that the tech-savvy reader/listener will extract more than I was able from this account but there was certainly enough here for non-techies like me too.

BOOK REVIEW - Seven Wonders : Ben Mezrich

In the last moments of his life, mathematical genius Jeremy Grady manages to hide a secret message for his twin brother, Jack, an anthropologist and adventurer. Jeremy had been working on research data sent from the field by Jack, a man obsessed by the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, who could have had no idea that it would prove his brother's death warrant. Jeremy uncovered in the data clues that could change mankind's entire view of human history, a map to the past. It is up to Jack to chase the clues, following the map around the globe, while working always to uncover the identity of the people who cut down his quiet and reclusive twin brother.

Seven Wonders, as the title suggests, presents a thriller ride around not just the Wonders of the Ancient World but also their seven modern counterparts, such as the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio. At each of the sites, a clue is hidden, left in the distant past, indicating that there is far more to the modern Wonders than meets the eye. But as Jack and his team of student helpers move backwards and forwards between the continents, they slowly start to unravel a riddle and conspiracy that could change the future of the world. Jack is joined early in his quest by a struggling academic and botanist Sloane Costa, who has just discovered traces of something rather odd below the stage of the Colosseum in Rome. But all the time they are watched and followed by someone with immense power and wealth who is just waiting for the right moment to strike.

It is difficult to imagine how any more action could have been squeezed into the pages of this relatively short thriller. There is no time for Jack, or the reader, to draw breath from beginning to end. Thousands of miles are covered with ancient and modern Wonders rushing past us as Jack and the others risk their lives and escape by a knife's edge time after time after time. Jack is modelled upon an Indiana Jones figure (an action academic with a love of archaeology but little regard for preserving it), but even Indiana Jones would have worn himself out on this one.

The premise of the mystery is an intriguing one and I was quickly hooked by the excellent opening chapters, with the promising character of Jeremy Grady. However, by halfway through I had been exhausted by the pace and the number of ancient secrets revealed and I couldn't wait for it all to be resolved, any which way. My patience was exasperated further by a couple of errors that I found hard to overlook, as well as the irrelevance of Jack's assistants and the implausibility that a struggling academic such as Sloane could have persuaded her institution to fund all of these flights. Likewise, the messages coming out of the baddie seem confused - certainly their agents have trouble understanding what they are supposed to do. Despite this, though, the baddie did intrigue me and their chapters were my favourites. Jack and Sloane, on the other hand, are so busy in the novel that barely a moment is spent on letting us get to know them and neither felt believable.

I am a big fan and reader of mystery thrillers but I can suspend my sense of disbelief only so far and with Seven Wonders I had exceeded my limit very swiftly indeed. However, there are entertaining elements - it is very exciting in places - so if you're after a beach or plane read this may do enough.

BOOK REVIEW - The Festival Book : Michael Odell

Which festival is right for you? What should you wear? What should you pack? How much glitter could you possibly need?

With the answer to every festival questions, The Festival Book is your go-to survival guide. It is packed full of hilarious anecdotes, a guide to the very best festivals on offer and tips and tricks to get you festival ready. And if you want to learn to play the nose-flute or attend a wedding conducted by a priestess called Glenda, well, that’s all here too.

With sections on:

A Short History of Festivals – from the Pilton, Pop, Folk & Blues Festival (now more commonly known as Glastonbury) to the revival of the communal rock festival experience in the 90s.

Festival Tribes – You’re looking for self-improvement? Latitude offers drama classes and qualifications. More interested in food? Try Wilderness. Forest walking, foraging and wild swimming more your thing? Green Man’s the one for you.

Festival Fashion – Florals, leather, a onesie, full fancy dress – all will do, but don’t forget your wellies! Includes a fool proof packing list with everything you’re likely to forget.

Anecdotes - From getting married at Glastonbury, to being diagnosed with trench foot, to being attacked by a cow – it’s all here!

Tips and Tricks – How to get in for free, how to find your way back to your tent in the dark and a bluffer’s guide to legendary performances (you remember Oasis in 1994, right?) 

Full of great photos and funny anecdotes. Highly recommend!

BOOK REVIEW - Spitalfields : Dan Cruickshank

The streets that comprise Spitafields have been witness to conflict, religious and civil, inward migration, industrial success and failure and severe poverty. Cruickshank has resided in the neighbourhood for many years. In his book he relates the story of the area from Roman times to the present day, explaining who lived there and the nature of their lives.

He tells us about Huguenot weavers who moved in after the Great Fire of London, Jewish immigrants, the slum alleys when Jack the Ripper was committing his crimes, and how the Spitalfields of the 70's changed from a war damaged area of semi-derelict houses to the lively community it is today. In essence, Cruickshank has written a history of England in miniature. He is an architectural historian and tv presenter.

The author has taken ten years to write this account. In the 70's he helped form a Trust to stop the obliteration of the still thriving buildings. This book arose out off the work of that Buildings Trust. He bought an early 18th century house in Spitalfields over forty years ago, repaired it and then lived in it. There are other books about Spitalfields buildings but none that place them in the context of England 's history.

Important events and people have shaped the development and history of Spitalfields. Its location next to a Roman road which helped connect London to the rest of the country, ensured the area played an important part in the nation's history. Ermine Street passed along what is now Bishopsgate to Lincoln and York. Among the major events witnessed by Spitalfields are: the Reformation, the Civil War of the 1640s, and immigration waves from around 1670 that transformed the area. The people who were key players in the development of our culture included; Shakespeare, Bacon and Mary Wollstonecraft. They lived or worked in the area or near to it.

Cruickshank explains how the Huguenots , the Irish, Jews and Bangladeshis who invented the curry house turned the area into a thriving merchant's quarter by the 18th century. Less desirable characters like Jack Sheppard and Jack the Ripper also operated in the area. Defoe, Dickens, Booth and London all observed and wrote about the area. An early form of a trade union also emerged in Spitalfields. Philanthropists began to help those in poverty. These included Quakers. Bodies like the Mechanics' Institute were established to encourage self-improvement.

The book has four Parts. These cover things such as : Roman Times, the Reformation, Tudor Times, Late Stuart and Georgian Spitalfields, the Huguenots, Crime and Riots, Radicals, Poverty up to 1914, the Silk Industry, Soup Kitchens for the poor, Body Snatchers, the Victorian era, Jews, Fever and Cholera, Slums and Slum Clearance, the People of the area, the Great War, the period 1918 to 1945 , and post-war Recovery. There is an epilogue, an appendix about the occupants of houses in Elder Street, notes, pictures and a bibliography.

The author clearly loves Spitalfields. He says that places like it are more than real-estate opportunities. As this book went to print the fate of the area hangs in the balance. It is now viewed as a prime development opportunity. These will transform the area's appearance and its way of life. Its 2000 year history is threatened. This book therefore could turn out to be Spitalfields valediction.

This would be a tragedy for areas like Spitalfields are repositories of our past. Ironically, those like Cruickshank who have worked to reclaim the area have in doing so made it very desirable, particularly given the skyrocketing London land values.

Publisher: Windmill Books (15 Jun. 2017)

BOOK REVIEW - Modern Baker : A New Way to Bake by Melissa Sharp & Lindsay Stark

Who are the authors? Melissa Sharp is the owner of Modern Baker, an Oxford-based organic bakery producing natural products using whole foods. Lindsay Stark is an artisan baker, also part of the Modern Baker family.   

What's it about? Modern Baker will transform the way you bake, giving you the essential knowledge needed to create positively good-for-you breads and cakes. Featuring 120 recipes including loaves, buns, cakes, biscuits and bites, the bakes are all designed to promote gut health using easy baking methods and natural ingredients. 

Recipes we love: Chocolate Chip Sourdough Cookies, Savoury Pesto and Walnut Sourdough Buns, Multiseeded Sourdough.

Good book for: Those who love to create bakes that promote good health and taste amazing. This is also a brilliant baking book for anyone looking to cater for good gut health. 

Published by Ebury Press and Available Now.

BOOK REVIEW - The Spider Network by David Enrich

The Spider Network: The Wild Story of a Math Genius, a Gang of Backstabbing Bankers, and One of the Greatest Scams in Financial History

This is a fascinating in-depth look at the people behind the Libor financial scandal. In particular it examines how Tom Hayes, one of the only people jailed for his part in the rate-rigging, came to be involved. Hayes, of course, is intent on appealing his sentence, so it remains to be seen if the outcome for him will change.

First up, it's important to note that I didn't know much of anything about trading, derivatives or Libor before I started this book. I'm also one of those readers who flushes out half of all knowledge attained as soon as I finish a book. But I still enjoy the journey for some reason.

Enrich does well to make a difficult subject accessible. I wouldn't say it's an immediately compelling read. It's not a page turner, more of a slow burn of interestingness (I know words, me). There aren't twists and turns so much as a deepening of understanding, a realisation as the book goes on as to how many people were implicated in the scandal and how so many got off completely scot-free.

The author worked closely with Hayes, which I think makes Hayes somewhat sympathetic as a result, but only because you understand him more, not because he's painted as completely innocent. 

This is a man who may or may not be on the Asperger's Spectrum (and armchair diagnosis while reading a book would suggest he could be) but very clearly takes the wrong course of action for his own benefit, over and over again, steamrollering over friends and colleagues. I say friends - but of course he didn't have any genuine ones apart from his wife. 

Ultimately, it's the tale of a man who determined to earn as much as he could for both himself but also his bosses. His bosses authorised what he did multiple times. Firms fought over this man precisely because of what he did with Libor! He never stopped to think of the consequences but he also never hid what he did, not really. That's why there was so much evidence against him. He thought he was doing his job, because the sector is/was so corrupt that earning as much as you could any way you could, was his job. I don't exactly feel sorry for him, but he is obviously just one piece of the network manipulating Libor.

An enjoyable read, if you like complex stories about sectors you don't fully understand!

BOOK REVIEW - Inhale, Exhale, Repeat by Emma Mills

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat: Mindfulness, focus and inspiration in one day

We’re all living faster, working harder, and often so busy we forget to take a moment to sit back, close our eyes and just, breathe. Yet this hectic lifestyle can get us down, making us lethargic, stressed and burnt out. So how to break the cycle?

Inspired by traditional eastern lessons of meditation and mindfulness, neuroscience and insights from literature, Emma Mills offers fresh and simple tools to keep our minds healthy, from that early morning coffee through to the moment you climb into bed, without having to invest in expensive detox courses or far-flung retreats. She guides the reader through a course of a single day, with easy tips, meditations, recipes, literary recommendations and practical takeaways that can be completed in a matter of minutes.

So just inhale, exhale, and repeat – and let a sense of calm and focus transform your day.

Perfect for beginners and experienced meditators alike, this inspirational handbook is a valuable tool to help us navigate our frantic modern world with some sanity. It offers a fresh collection of simple strategies for every part of your day, starting the moment you wake up right through until bedtime. From paying yourself one genuine compliment a day, to tasting your food one bite at a time, these practices encourage a more accepting and peaceful way of being. A skilful psychologist, Mills guides the reader to recognise thoughts and feelings, and then to unfold or defuse them as necessary. It is a life- affirming, powerful read. So just inhale, exhale, and repeat – and let a sense of calm and focus transform your day