Tag: Books

The Tim Gunn Effect

A few years ago I was listening to a podcast called SoulFeed with Shannon Algeo, I think it was the Easter holidays and I was helping a friend moving roofing felt, 30 tonnes of it to be exact. Whilst waiting for him as I was driving us to the yard I was listening to the latest episode entitled “Tim Gunn: How to make it work”. Tim was a guest on the show and talked about his life and how he made it work. Shannon mentioned that he had a few books duly signed by Tim to give away. I thought I would try to win one, and although I am always positive about entering competitions I had resigned to the fact that I was in England and the show was in America, so the likelihood would be rather small. My positivity paid off, and Shannon sent me a signed book. I have a personal rule regarding competitions, and that is only to enter the ones I really want to win. I confess I have been very very lucky in the past due to this method and positive thinking, but that is a post for another day.

In his book “The Natty Professor” Tim talks about the fashion industry, some of the devious ways the production company tries to exploit designers, and of course, his incredible way of teaching and mentoring. Although only 272 pages, it is full of wisdom from the wise old sage.

I was chatting to AJ of A Petite Slice of Life about health tracking watches and mentioned that I do what Tim Gunn does when he is shopping online for non-essential items. He (and I ever since) put things in the basket that I would like, but rather than hitting the pay now button close the browser and return to it 24 or 48 hours later and see if you still want it. Most of the time I will click delete and quietly thank Tim for stopping me from wasting money on something I didn’t really need.

If you fancy listening to the podcast then here is the link.

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/tim-gunn-how-to-make-it-work/id977979288?i=1000364771733

The Natty Professor
Sage advice, make it work!

Reading Challenge – April Update

19 books read so far, and now 10 books ahead of schedule in 17 weeks. Happy about the result so far. April’s books were…

This book is not for the faint hearted at all. I found the whole thing quite disturbing that human beings can be so cruel. Do not get me wrong, it was a good book, just disturbing.

In July 1965, teenagers Sylvia and Jenny Likens were left in the temporary care of Gertrude Baniszewski, a middle-aged single mother and her seven children. 

The Baniszewski household was overrun with children. There were few rules and ample freedom. Sadly, the environment created a dangerous hierarchy of social Darwinism where the strong preyed on the weak. 

What transpired in the following three months was both riveting and chilling. 

In October 1965, the body of Sylvia Likens was found in the basement of the Baniszewski home, where she had been imprisoned. She was starved, beaten, burned and had the words “I am a prostitute and proud of it” carved into her stomach. 

Gertrude Baniszewski oversaw and facilitated the torture and eventual murder of Sylvia Likens. While she played an active role in Sylvia’s death, the majority of the abuse was carried out by her children and other neighbourhood youths. 

The case shocked the entire nation and would later be described as “The single worst crime perpetuated against an individual in Indiana’s history”


For my overseas readers, Leon and June are two people featured on Channel 4’s Gogglebox. It is an insane idea, but on Friday evenings at 9pm, we sit in front of the TV and watch ordinary people watch TV, listen to their reactions and general conversations. A little Orwellian, but very entertaining. Leon was a beloved member of the Gogglebox people who died at Christmas 2017. He and June were in our lounges each week, entertaining us with their madcap moment, Leon’s love of food and general opinion of everything that was going on in the world. Oh, he was also from Liverpool, so he endeared our hearts greatly with his scouse wit and his unfaltering love of June. When Leon passed away June decided to write about their lives as it was one of the things Leon said he would do.

As founding cast members of hit television show Gogglebox, Leon and June won the hearts of a nation with their warm humour and unending love for each other. When Leon sadly died at Christmas 2017, Gogglebox viewers were bereft, calling for a state funeral for our national treasure. In this touching memoir, she looks back at all of the laughter and love they have shared together; letting us in on the secrets to a truly happy marriage in this wonderful celebration of two lives well lived.

Together for 63 years, coming to terms with life without Leon has been a difficult process for June. But the many treasured memories of their marriage will never leave her. From when, aged 18, she first laid eyes on Leon at teacher training college in 1955; their journey to marry when their parents disapproved; happy recollections of 1960s Liverpool; to building a loving home and family together before finding fame as pensioners. Firm favourites of Gogglebox, they were loved for their gentle teasing, Leon’s cheeky gags and humorous rants, and June’s unerring patience and caring touch. 

Leon and June have experienced their fair share of highs and lows, but they always got through everything together. As Leon always said,

‘As long as June’s here, I’m all right.’


I had read the inside cover details of this book and just had to read it. The UK Government decides that all cars need to be autonomous and with that people no longer have full control. Chilling, especially since the current government had decided to outlaw diesel and petrol cars by 2030, so this is now only one step away from this book being fact rather than fiction.

Eight self-drive cars set on a collision course. Who lives, who dies? You decide.

The new gripping page-turning thriller from the bestselling author of THE ONE – soon to be a major Netflix series.

When someone hacks into the systems of eight self-drive cars, their passengers are set on a fatal collision course.

The passengers are: a TV star, a pregnant young woman, a disabled war hero, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife – and parents of two – who are travelling in separate vehicles and a suicidal man. Now the public have to judge who should survive but are the passengers all that they first seem?


I have always loved this book, so decided to read it again. I just find it a shame that all movies made from it are set in the USA, when it was originally set in Surry southwest of London.

They came from outer space — Mars, to be exact.

With deadly heat-rays and giant fighting machine they want to conquer Earth and keep humans as their slaves.

Nothing seems to stop them as they spread terror and death across the planet. It is the start of the most important war in Earth’s history.

And Earth will never be the same.


Being a country boy, having worked on farms, and love all things animal I decided to read about Julian’s life as a Vet. He is a partner at the original practice of James Herriot (real name James Alf Wight)

Star of Channel 5’s television series The Yorkshire Vet, Julian Norton has written a warm and evocative memoir of his life and the animals and people he has met along the way.

Just as happy calving a cow, treating a dog with cancer or tending to the overgrown teeth of a rabbit, Julian’s passion for his work shines through on every page.

From his first thoughts of becoming a vet through his training and the pressures and challenges faced by vets on call, through the terrible times of the BSE crisis in the 1990s and Foot and Mouth in 2001, dealing with unexpected exotic pets, and handling excitable humans, too, Julian has seen all sides of the veterinary world.

Sometimes sad, often funny and always warm and compassionate, his tales bring to life the world of the working vet and the highs and lows he faces daily.

Reading Challenge – March Update

Well, I have managed 14 books in 13 weeks, 7 ahead of schedule and only 16 to go to complete the challenge. At this rate, I should have read about 55 by the end of the year.

This month’s books were:

What do you do when the doctor says you could die at any moment? Well…after you’ve made a cup of tea, of course.

Nathan James is young, successful and has the world at his feet. Unfortunately, he’s also about to die—which ruins things somewhat. And now he’s staring imminent death in the face, Nathan is having to rethink some of his life choices very hard.

This means embarking on a hectic journey of self-discovery that includes, amongst other things, losing his dignity to an inescapable bean bag, suffering screaming nightmares about a monstrous potato, and getting up close and very personal with a bipolar donkey.

All of which is fine, but then Nathan falls in love with a charming girl called Alison, which is a really stupid thing to do. Because how can you give your heart to someone when it might be about to stop?

From Nick Spalding, the bestselling author of Fat ChanceBricking It and Mad Love, comes a comedy about dying—which is easy—and living, which is most certainly not.


‘Thinking Betty was in the bath Graham was watching a late-night programme on Channel 4 called Footballers with Their Shirts Off when she unexpectedly came in on the trail of the hairdryer.

“I didn’t know you were interested in football,” said Betty.’

No one must ever find out that Graham is ‘not the marrying sort’. Certainly not his wife, or his mother. As sex, blackmail and fanatical tidiness take over the West Yorkshire parish of Alwoodley, an unlikely caper unfolds.


A skewering of the American underbelly by the New York Times bestselling author of Seven Deadly Sins and You’re Making Me Hate You

The always-outspoken hard rock vocalist Corey Taylor begins America 51 with a reflection on what his itinerant youth and frequent worldwide travels with his multiplatinum bands Slipknot and Stone Sour have taught him about what it means to be an American in an increasingly unstable world. He examines the way America sees itself, specifically with regard to the propaganda surrounding America’s origins (like a heavy-metal Howard Zinn), while also celebrating the quirks and behaviour that make a true-blue American.

Balancing humour, outrage, and disbelief, Taylor examines the rotting core of America, evaluating everything from politics and race relations to family and “man buns.” By continuing the wave of moral outrage begun in You’re Making Me Hate You, Taylor skewers contemporary America in his own signature style.


Arthur C. Clarke, the creator of one of the world’s best-loved science fiction tales, revisits the most famous future ever imagined in this NEW YORK TIMES bestseller, as two expeditions into space become inextricably tangled. Heywood Floyd, a survivor of two previous encounters with the mysterious monoliths, must again confront Dave Bowman, HAL, and an alien race that has decided that Mankind is to play a part in the evolution of the galaxy whether it wishes to or not. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


When Kendra first visits her ailing grandmother, Ella has only one request: that Kendra writes her story down, before she forgets…

In 1937, seventeen-year-old Ella’s life changes forever when she is sent to spend the summer on the beautiful Île de Ré and meets the charismatic, creative Christophe. They spend the summer together, exploring the island’s sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, and, for the first time in her life, Ella feels truly free.

But the outbreak of war casts everything in a new light. Ella is forced to return to Scotland, where she volunteers for the war effort alongside the dashing Angus. In this new world, Ella feels herself drifting further and further from who she was on the Île de Ré. Can she ever find her way back? And does she want to?

From the windswept Île de Ré to the rugged hills of Scotland, Sea of Memories is a spellbinding journey about the power of memory, love and second chances.

Reading Challenge – Feb Update…

Since my last post of the books I had read so far, I have managed to finish another three in February, now a total of 9 read from my 30 challenge and am 4 ahead of schedule. It will be interesting to see what I finally finish with. This is the last three in February. Warlight so far has been the biggest disappointment, it felt as though the author, who I respect greatly, had lost his way. The story seemed disjointed and unremarkable. It is a shame really as I enjoyed The English Patient immensely.


Two years have passed since Danny Lynch saw the beast that would alter his life forever…

and now, a string of mysterious drownings has brought him to a new town by the ocean.

But there is more to the creature than Danny could ever have imagined.

And the secret to destroying it may rest in discovering the secrets of a colony that disappeared without a trace four-hundred years earlier.


The story of fourteen-year-old Nathaniel, and his older sister, Rachel. In 1945, just after World War II, they stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings’ mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing, excusing nothing? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn’t know and understand in that time, and it is this journey—through facts, recollection, and imagination.


To the spaceship Discovery, floating in the silent depths of space since David Bowman passed through the alien ‘Star Gate’, comes Heywood Floyd on a mission of recovery. What he finds near Jupiter is beyond the imaginings of any mere human.

Reading Challenge – Feb

As you will know, and if you don’t, take yourself off to a darkened room and a laptop and read my blog, god-damn-it. Only kidding! I set myself a challenge of 30 books to read this year, so far I have managed 6 and I am part way through far too many to mention, but here are the ones I have managed to read up to now.

Sequel to SCOUSE GOTHIC. Gothic/fantasy thriller set in present-day Liverpool. 
The same characters from Scouse Gothic return and find that their pasts and present continue to become further intertwined. Vampires and mortal co-exist and discover that the boundaries between friends and family, good and evil becomes even more blurred. 
Included are maps of Liverpool marked with references to the text, illustrations and recipes based on characters and events in the story.


Based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—a love story in the midst of atrocity.

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.


Life can be difficult – even when you’re dead. 

Lathom lies awake. His nights are plagued by nightmares and his days by hallucinations and cravings for blood. Worse still he’s stone cold sober all the time – immortality has its drawbacks. 
Melville has decided to put his past behind him and live for the future – unfortunately, his past has other ideas. 
Peter is worried that his research might create human vampires – and also that he may already know one. 
Frank ponders how to make an omelette without breaking your favourite egg. 
And Sheryl wonders if it’s unnatural for vampires to live together. Perhaps, love isn’t all you need – perhaps all you need is blood.


A new edition of one of the best-selling and best-loved books of recent years, with a new introduction by the author. The publication of Wild Swans in 1991 was a worldwide phenomenon. Not only did it become the best-selling non-fiction book in British publishing history, with sales of well over two million, but it was also received with unanimous critical acclaim, and was named the winner of the 1992 NCR Book Award and the 1993 British Book of the Year Award. Few books have ever had such an impact on their readers. Through the story of three generations of women — grandmother, mother and daughter — Wild Swans tells nothing less than the whole tumultuous history of China’s tragic twentieth century, from sword-bearing warlords to Chairman Mao, from the Manchu Empire to the Cultural Revolution. At times terrifying, at times astonishing, always deeply moving, Wild Swans is a book in a million, a true story with all the passion and grandeur of a great novel. For this new edition, Jung Chang has written a new introduction, bringing her own story up to date, and describing the effect Wild Swans’ success has had on her life.


The Pope is dead.

Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election.

They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals.

Over the next seventy-two hours, one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.


From the ocean, it rose.

Every fourteen months it appears on a secluded beach in a small town just before dawn.

One morning during his daily run to the beach, Danny Lynch witnesses the strangest and most incredible thing he’s ever seen.

A dark, man-like figure emerges from the ocean, stands for just a few moments on the beach, and then retreats back to the surf.

Danny’s perspective on the world changes in an instant, and as the only eyewitness to this event, his mission now is to convince anyone who will listen that what he saw was real.

But with only a vague photo and a dubious story, that task is proving almost impossible, and his only hope may be in finding a mysterious woman who was at the beach earlier that morning, and who may hold the terrifying secret that could cost Danny his life.

What did Danny see? And why is he in danger?


So far so good with my challenge, and I am three books ahead of schedule. One of the current books I am halfway through is Warlight by Michael Ondaatje, set in the decade after WWII. It is a little odd, but enjoyable. I read some reviews and it really does divide the readers, some find it a ramble of thoughts, but I cannot see what they are moaning about, it is written like a memoir, so it will ramble, but there are correlations throughout. I loved The English Patient, both book and film, and when I saw this was was drawn to it. It was in my shopping cart for weeks on end, as I thought it would drop in price, and in the end, I yielded to its allure. Then again, any book in a book shop has a big allure.

I love the feel and smell of a book, especially brand new ones, and very old ones that have a heady lived-in smell. I am sure that if you like your books like me you will understand my ramblings. If heaven exists, then for me it would have to be an enormous library with comfy sofas, good coffee and deafening silence. Void of screaming children, people, mobile phones, or any distraction from the words in the books. Oh! and an automatic food bar, so I could eat too. Maybe a knitting section with an abundance of yarn and patterns, after all, I would need some form of exercise LOL. But this is heaven so I would not have to worry about exercise really or getting fat etc., as that is all sorted out on arrival. So there it is my heaven, a place to read, knit, drink coffee and eat without getting fat. Fingers crossed I am right!

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