Between Starshine and Clay by Sarah Ladipo Manyika, a review

Before Starshine and Clay by Sarah Ladipo Manyika was sent to me by the wonderful people over at the publishing house, Footnote. This doesn’t bias my opinion, but I thought you should know โ˜บ๏ธ

Between Starshine and Clay: Conversations from the African Diaspora by Sarah Ladipo Manyika

“Conversations with the African diaspora” is the tag line for this book, as Ladipo Manyika interviews and chats with people from across the continents. There were names here I was familiar with, such as Toni Morrison, as well as a lot of individuals I had never heard of before. But each and every person had a fantastic and gripping story to tell and I’ll now follow them eagerly in the future.

The individuals that Ladipo Manyika talks to are: Toni Morrison, Claudia Rankine, Xoliswa Sithole, Wole Soyinka, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Margaret Busby, Anna Deavere Smith, Willard Harris, Michelle Obama, Michael Hastings, Evan Mawarire, and Cory Booker.

This book touches on a lot of topics. From racism, to feminism, to colonisation, gentrification, and dictatorships. All of them talking about the individual impact, as well as the larger effect. I was absorbed in each persons story and whilst I feel like everything wrapped up well, I definitely want to do some more of my own research on each of these people and discover more of their work.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Research: 9, Authenticity: 8, Readability: 9, Personal Impact: 9, Intrigue: 9, Informativeness: 9, Enjoyment: 9, giving an average of 8.86 and a 4.5* rating.

Highlight here for content warnings: discussions of persecution, death, racism, xenophobia, confinement, colonisation, violence, genocide, war, hate crime, classism.

I loved being exposed to so many more individuals that I likely wouldn’t have heard of without this collection. I am definitely bumping this up to 5*! This is a perfect read for me in November (Non-fiction November to be specific) but I recommend it all year round!

Funny You Should Ask by John Lloyd and Sarah Lloyd, a review

Funny You Should Ask by John Lloyd and Sarah Lloyd is a book from the QI Elves that answers questions you never knew you even had. This is a fun and easy non-fiction read that has a solid audiobook behind it.

Funny You Should Ask by John Lloyd and Sarah Lloyd, Your Questions Answered by the QI Elves

This audiobook was such a fun experience, with sound effects added wherever appropriate, making it just that much more interesting vs simply someone reading out the written version. That attention to detail really added a lot to this read.

And for the book itself? Well there isn’t too much to say, given that it’s a collection of amusing and interesting facts, but I did enjoy it! It covers a wide base of topics that I enjoyed learning from and gave a fair amount of detail whilst keeping the sections short and sweet.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Research: 8, Uniqueness: 8, Readability: 9, Personal Impact: 6, Intrigue: 7, Informativeness: 7 and Enjoyment: 8 giving a score of 7.57 and a 4* rating.

I’m glad that I picked this one up, and I’m also glad that I have book 2 waiting on my audiobook shelves for me to dive into! Definitely a fun little listen whilst travelling or working!

Fake Law by The Secret Barrister, a review

Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies by The Secret Barrister, is the second book by this anonymous author I’ve read (the self titled The Secret Barrister being the first). A non-fiction title, by a currently serving British Barrister, explaining in more depth the truth behind those astonishing sounding news articles.

Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies, by The Secret Barrister

We see so many news articles, especially since the prominence of social media, announcing that the state has stopped deportation of a terrorist because he owns a cat, and that they refused to treat your dying baby. But what is the legal truth behind these inflammatory headlines? Surprising few of you, they don’t tell the full truth. They barely tell any truth at all.

This book was fantastic, if anger inducing. Secret Barrister (SB) touches on so many points that the right wing fanatics have attempted to weaponise to further their own aims. SB breaks these down and instead shows the truth of these events. The terrorist with a cat? The cat was mentioned in passing as showing their deep roots, with a partner and a house, in Britain. And they weren’t even a terrorist. The refusal to treat a dying baby? That’s because there were no available treatments left, and it is usual to confirm that with a court order. The media just saw that as clickbait and ran with it.

With so much of the British Justice system rooted in Royal courts and approvals, it was odd to be reading this over the dates of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, with the mention of the Queens Courts, which are of course now the Kings. Something that most likely won’t bother anyone not British/in the Commonwealth, but just a little jarring to read on the day of her death and the days afterwards.

SB does a fantastic job a breaking down the law into something that regular civilians can comprehend, with citations added for those who wish to look into things in more detail. With his unique position of anonymity (he mentions his gender near the end of this book) it means that he can provide insight into how our courts are currently operating without having to pander to anyone.

I was already sceptical of these clickbait articles that we see everywhere on social media and in headlines, but Fake Law has solidified that scepticism. These articles always, either on purpose or through lack of legal knowledge from the reporters, miss out vital information that completely change the perspective.

SB uses some very high profile cases in his examples (Baby P and Jamie Bulger for example) which had a large amount of misinformation around them in the media. With these, and the other cases used (anonymised unless already in the public eye) the book is incredibly interesting. Learning more about these cases that I’ve been brought up with and have seen time and again on the news. But also just seeing how the British Justice system actually functions. Something that common folk don’t usually get to see.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Research: 9, Uniqueness: 9, Readability: 9, Personal Impact: 8, Intrigue: 9, Informativeness: 9, and Enjoyment: 9, giving an average of 8.86 and a 4.5* rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: misappropriation of the law, discussions of child death, child abuse, sexual assault, incarceration.

This is an absolutely fascinating book. Of course for those interested in legal proceedings around the world, but also for those who want to know just how badly the media manipulate information surrounding high profile cases. I’m very glad that I picked this up and I’m definitely going to be picking up any other books SB has or will publish.

Pompeii, a review

Pompeii by Salvatore Nappo is a guide to the historical archaeological site. It’s not the newest, having been published in 1998, but I still wanted to read it and doing so after I visited the site again seemed like the perfect time!

This book has actually been on my tbr since 1998… let me explain! This was gifted to my parents when we used to live near Pompeii (army childhood) and they just kind of… kept it. When I was about 22 we found this book, with some other Campania guides, again and so they were added to my tbr. And that’s why it took so long for me to read it!

Now of course, this is old so there are some issues there in missing information that has been discovered in the years since. However, I found that this was still surprisingly accurate and really interesting. As well as being open minded to sexuality etc in Pompeii, which was unexpected in a 20+ year old read but very much appreciated.

It goes through each and every named site within Pompeii, with photographs of the locations and the artefacts in the MANN (the national museum of archaeology in Naples) with explanations so that you can comprehend what you’re looking at. There are maps included for the overall site of Pompeii, as well as for each individual property, so you can understand how everything links to each other.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Uniqueness: 8, Readability: 8, Personal Impact: 8, Intrigue: 7, Informativeness: 8, and Enjoyment: 7 which gives a score of 6.57 and a 3.5* rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: Death, prostitution, slavery.

This is probably one that you won’t pick up, and I get that considering it’s niche and it’s old too. But I’m still super glad I read this. It was really interesting and I learnt a lot from it.

Have you picked up guide books about holiday places? Were they any good?

Living Planet, a review

Living Planet: The Web of Life on Earth by David Attenborough, is a republication of a title first published in 1984. It’s not just a reprint however. Attenborough has updated the book, firstly to represent the scientific developments that have come about over the past (almost) 40 years, and also to ensure that this book is actually different to the first. Attenborough went through and altered the examples of flora and fauna he used. He mentions instead less commonly known species, which I really appreciate as it means the “old” book is still worth reading in it’s own right as well as teaching me about more species!

But now onto the actual book. This is, if you weren’t aware, an environmental non-fiction written by a beloved Naturalist. The book is split into 12 separate chapters which all discuss different aspects of our planet. These all interlink with each other and culminate in a final chapter on how humans interact with this environment.

This first chapter was all about volcanism so I was obviously in my element here! I loved learning more about the ecology present at volcanic sites and about some species I’d never heard about before. It does also discuss volcanoes themselves, nothing new for me here but I still love reading about it (cause I’m a giant nerd ๐Ÿ˜‚).

Chapter two is all about frozen climates. I liked learning about the similarly evolved to penguins birds in the north (auks). I didn’t realise that the sea level would rise about 55m if Antarctica melted! I enjoyed the discussion on how the Inuit survived the harsh climate. Of course this section had a fair bit of discussion around global warming, a lot has changed.

The third chapter was on slightly less northern climes, this time focusing on northern forests. It was really interesting to learn more about the similarities across continents and also the slight differences that appear as you move towards the equator!

Chapter four was on jungle environments in Asia, Africa, and South America. I’ve been in the South American rainforest and it was so cool to read Attenborough talking about some animals and birds I was able to see in real life as well as their companions on different continents!

For the fifth chapter it was all about the grasslands and the animals that developed there. That naturally then lead to discussions on how colonisers massacred many species when moving into these areas, despite the native populations being able to maintain equilibrium for centuries. It’s interesting to see how these species develop the same characteristics separately from each other across the planet.

Chapter six was about desert environments across the planet, super interesting to learn about the different adaptations in the different variations of desert and the Tassili paintings are amazing and the evidence they give us is invaluable! I can’t believe I’d never heard of them before.

Chatper seven now and this chapter was on the creatures that spend their time in the sky. I loved Attenborough explaining how the flight mechanics of birds is so similar to that of airplanes. I also had no clue that little butterflies could be swept so high up into the sky! And now I really want to go in a hot air balloon and experience that world for myself!

Sweet Fresh Water is chapter eight, this chapter was all about the life that’s supported by rivers and lakes. I *really* am not keen on aquatic life (phobia level not keen) so this wasn’t my favourite chapter, but it was super interesting and I loved learning more about otters, beavers, and birds that utilise the rivers and lakes.

Chapter nine was on The Margins of the Land and as someone who’s studied (a little) about mangroves at university, I found learning about their environments and revisiting them really fun. These creatures that live in the margin worlds are able to tolerate such a vastly changing environment that it’s fascinating to learn about them.

Chapter ten was “World’s Apart” talking about island nations and landmasses with uniquely evolved species. I loved learning about this unique adaptations from places like New Zealand and Hawai’i to remote atolls barely touched by humans. I also appreciated the discussions on how humans impacted these environments when they reached them, both from European colonisers but also the people who first reached these land masses.

A fascinating but (for me) deeply disturbing section: Open Ocean is the eleventh chapter. Despite this chapter being filled with my phobias, it’s still so incredibly interesting to learn about. Especially the comparisons between “similar” environments on land, and also the various adaptations of the deep. But I can’t lie, I’m glad the fish-y sections are over!

The final, twelfth, chapter was on new worlds, all about how humans have altered the species around us for all of our existence. 10,000 years ago all the way up until now. I enjoyed learning more about the ancestral changes (which were bigger than I’d expected) but also appreciated the discussion about the havoc we’re wrecking on our planet in the modern day.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Research: 10, Uniqueness: 9, Readability: 10, Personal Impact: 8, Intrigue: 8, Informativeness: 9, Enjoyment: 10, giving a score of 9.14 and a 5* rating!

I’m so glad that I deeply enjoyed reading this book and I definitely want to pick up more of Attenborough’s non-fiction in the future. Have you read anything from David Attenborough? Or even watched his documentaries? I highly recommend them!

Super Volcanoes, a review

Super Volcanoes by Robin George Andrews was gifted to me last Christmas by my wonderful, recently passed, Mother-in-Law. If you don’t know me: hi! I have an MSc in GeoHazards and love volcanoes! So it was, of course, the perfect present. And I was so excited to delve in.

This book was bloody fantastic. It is wonderful, insightful, hilarious, and a well-written account of volcanology throughout Earth and into our Solar System. I adored reading out extracts to my partner as I read through and I’m hoping to get him to pick it up one day! And I’ve already sent over a copy to the wonderful Kari from Kar-ing for Books, she’s read it, and she loved it too!

The humour in this book is completely British (Kari is from the US and vouches for this point!) and so goddamn stupid at points, but always in a very fun way. It helps in stopping this book from becoming one of those non-fictions that are dull to read and you stay entertained through every page.

This book is written so well, it’s written in a manner that includes the science and doesn’t talk down to the reader, but at the same time it’s also completely accessible. At first I thought that I might be biased, given this was my area of study, but Kari has agreed with me, and she studied Law so definitely a different realm! But don’t get me wrong, I still learnt stuff from this book! Things that I had never heard of before and that I found fascinating (Ol Doinyo Lengai anyone?), so not only can those who’ve never studied GeoScience enjoy this, but also those who have!

Andrews also isn’t afraid to tackle the unknowns in this field. Aspects of the science which are still being debated about and discussed. There is so much that we still don’t know, about both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial volcanoes. When he tackles these aspects he speaks to so many experts from all sides of each argument, getting all of the points of view (within reason) about these unconfirmed theories. And whilst he does provide his own opinion (given he’s a GeoScientist himself), he makes it clear that the other arguments are valid and have their own points and that we need more evidence to have any conclusions.

On CAWPILE’s non-fiction scale I rated this: Research: 10, Uniqueness: 9, Readability: 9, Personal Impact: 10, Intrigue: 10, Informativeness: 10, and Enjoyment: 10 which gives a score of 9.71 and a 5* rating!

This is one of my favourite ever non-fictions, and at least vies for top spot. It’s such an amazing book and one that I’m so excited to introduce to all of my family and friends! If you’re even vaguely interested in volcanoes throughout our solar system, and the environments and people they impact, I highly, highly recommend this book.

The Five, a review

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold is a non-fiction book about the women who were murdered by Jack the Ripper. Instead of focusing on the murderer, however, we focus on the women. Their lives. Their histories. And how they ended up in the slums of London.

Hallie Rubenhold is a historian, so this is very well researched, with endless references at the end of the book (which I love!) and I can’t even imagine just how many hours went into researching this book.

Mary Ann Nichols. Annie Chapman. Elizabeth Stride. Catherine Eddowes. Mary Jane Kelly.

These are the women who came from middle class comfort, from the slums, from Sweden, with families that loved them, or being totally alone in the world.

I loved this book. So so much. We really delve deep into these women’s lives and the lives of their families. We learn exactly how all of them ended up living in their destitute situations and how they were making their living.

These women are often all portrayed as prostitutes and sex workers. Of course there is nothing at all wrong with this, but in Rubenhold’s research she could only find evidence that one of the women worked in this profession. It seems as though the Victorian’s couldn’t imagine a women living in the slums and not being “morally reprehensible” and so they decided that they all must be prostitutes.

Whilst in the modern day we know (or at least I hope you do) that there is nothing wrong with being a sex worker, it’s simply factually incorrect to state that this was these five women’s linking factor. That isn’t why they were murdered. They were women who unfortunately were deemed as easy targets. They weren’t able to find a bed for the night. They were homeless on the streets.

As you can see, I’m pretty passionate about this after having read this book. And I read this months ago! I really do recommend that you pick this up. It reads very well so should be perfectly accessible to those who aren’t keen on non-fiction books usually and is utterly fascinating to just learn about the day to day life of various women in this time period.

CAWPILE isn’t the best measure for non-fiction books (or at least it wasn’t in 2021, G has updated it for 2022) so I just wrote in the scores to give this book a 5 star rating! But I did make a note to give “enjoyment” a 10/10 score.

This is a fantastic read and in my opinion totally worth the hype that it suddenly got all over bookstagram. I hope you do pick this up and I hope you enjoy it!

No Place to Hide, a review

No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald isn’t exactly a hyped book. But when I spotted it going for free at my old work, I couldn’t resist it. It’s all about Edward Snowden’s NSA leak which is something I’ve wanted to learn more about.

This was incredibly interesting. Greenwald is actually the journalist whom Snowden worked with to release the data, meaning that we get a full rundown of the events. We learn who Greenwald was prior to all this (and a little bit about Snowden too), and how Snowden got in contact with him in the first place. We learn about how Greenwald’s husband was impacted, as well as Greenwald himself. And all of this is on top of what we learn about the leaks themselves.

Greenwald isn’t great at tech, he makes that clear through a few anecdotes of Snowden struggling to get him to use encrypted methods of communication. However, this means that we get some pretty basic and easy to understand explanations of the information that he’s included in this book.

One thing I will never get over is the ridiculous PowerPoint presentations that had been used by the NSA. Now PowerPoint is a great tool, but why was a government organisation using the old rainbow WordArt effect? ๐Ÿ˜‚

I did try and run this through CAWPILE, but in 2021 there wasn’t a non-fiction rating available so I was basically just trying to make it equal my actual rating! So. I gave this book a solid 4 star rating.

If you’re at all interested in this topic, I think this is a really great book to fill up and I’m glad I’ve got this on my non-fiction shelves!

Q: Have you read self-help books?


I’ve not purchased any myself, but my mum likes to buy me them sometimes as presents, especially when I was younger. This is one of those books!

A book from the late naughts that talks about health and beauty, when I delved back into this I wasn’t expecting much. I was expecting some decent advice, along with some questionable content and a lack of representation. I was pleasantly surprised!

This book has genuinely good health advice, there’s representation in the girls they photographed, and the makeup and hair sections make a point of also providing ways of looking after Black hair and Black skin. It’s not perfect by any means but it’s definitely better than I’d expected!

Image ID: Be Beautiful by Alice Hart-Davis and Molly Hindhaugh laid flat ona white background. Above the book is “growing” spelt in scrabble letters , around the book are generic beauty items like nail polish, makeup brushes, and a balck skirt with roses

September Reading Wrap Up

This has been a helluva month!!

Not only have I been moving things down in dribs and drabs to my new home 100 miles away with my partner (thank you dad for all the driving), but I also did 10+ interviews for various jobs, and I’m moving job as well! And on top of all of that? I prepared for possibly the most ridiculous BookTube thing I’ve ever done (announcement tomorrow) and read a load!

But you’re here for the books, so let’s dive in!

First up is Cathy’s Book by Stewart, Weissman, and Brigg which has arguably been on my tbr for around a decade at this point. I’ve finally read it!!

The Maleficent Seven by Derek Landy was my next read, chronologically, a short story following one of the side characters within the Skulduggery world. I loved the backstory that we got for them!

Sticking with the Skulduggery Pleasant theme I finished up the Armageddon Outta Here anthology by Derek Landy, I’ve been slowly reading this as the stories slot in with the main books so this has taken a few months. Glad to be able to tick this one off!

Going for a rare bit of Sci-Fi here, next I picked up Paradox Lost by George Mann which is a Doctor Who book, the last of 3 that I own. This was probably my least favourite of the three, but I did still enjoy it!

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold was absolutely amazing. This is a non-fiction read about the women who were murdered by Jack the Ripper. It looks into their history, their lives, their families, and their situations. It’s a very well written book and I recommend it to anyone.

The Last Stand of Dead Men by Derek Landy was the “actual” Dead Famous Readalong book for this month, and it was a damn good one! Possibly one of my favourite rereads so far? (not including the first book #obvs)

I can’t believe that it took me this long to pick up Sabriel by Garth Nix but I absolutely fell in love and I need more in this series right away!! This is a book about death, a theme I love, which also has fantastic character development and a really interesting magical system! Someone should’ve made me pick this up sooner!!

Finishing up a book I’ve been reading for a few months now, I finished Labyrinth by Kate Mosse finally on the 18th September. This was a really interesting historical fantasy, I like how the two time periods were woven together and I’m looking forward to reading more books in the Languedoc series.

The big one. It’s finally done!! War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is finally finished!! Me an Olivia did a big final push to get through this before the end of the month. I have to say that the end chapters were… uninspiring to say the least. Tolstoy was just talking at the reader as though his points are 100% factual and correct, even though they’re opinion, and having a privileged white man whine on at you for however long isn’t enjoyable. I did, however, really enjoy the fictional parts of the story and fell in love with Natasha, Pierre, Mary and Andrew! I just wish we had a bit more of a conclusion to the story!

And my final read of the month was The Cauldron of Life by Caroline Logan, the second book in The Four Treasures series. I adored this book so so much, the found family dynamic is beautiful and I love the character development. The plot pacing is fantastic and I am so ridiculously excited to read more in this series! I could live on books like these!

And there you have it, my September reads! Just a few ๐Ÿ˜‚ I managed over 3000 pages this month (only including the parts of W&P etc that I read within September) which is pretty decent, and hopefully I can continue that in October! Although… somehow I’m doubting it #busy

What’s your favourite book you read in September? I can’t choose between The Five, Sabriel, and The Cauldron of Life!!

Sticking on the theme of finishing big books, I finished War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy! ๐Ÿ˜ฑ The momentus day itself being the 28th September 2021. I’ve been reading at least one chapter of this every single day since the 1st January this year!!

Then I had a DNF. After trying to read Double Cross by Malorie Blackman for 10 days and instead sinking myself into a massive slump, I decided to put it on hold. This was a reread for me, and to be honest I just couldn’t bring myself to read about teens /f.wmng

Onto more positive notes,