Non Fiction Reads.
Publication Date: Available Now from Harper Collins UK Non Fiction
An incredible memoir from one of the world’s most eminent heart surgeons and some of the most remarkable and poignant cases he’s worked on.
Grim Reaper sits on the heart surgeon’s shoulder. A slip of the hand and life ebbs away.
The balance between life and death is so delicate, and the heart surgeon walks that rope between the two. In the operating room there is no time for doubt. It is flesh, blood, rib-retractors and pumping the vital organ with your bare hand to squeeze the life back into it. An off-day can have dire consequences – this job has a steep learning curve, and the cost is measured in human life. Cardiac surgery is not for the faint of heart.
Professor Stephen Westaby took chances and pushed the boundaries of heart surgery. He saved hundreds of lives over the course of a thirty-five year career and now, in his astounding memoir, Westaby details some of his most remarkable and poignant cases – such as the baby who had suffered multiple heart attacks by six months old, a woman who lived the nightmare of locked-in syndrome, and a man whose life was powered by a battery for eight years.
A powerful, important and incredibly moving book, Fragile Lives offers an exceptional insight into the exhilarating and sometimes tragic world of heart surgery, and how it feels to hold someone’s life in your hands.
I read this pretty much in one sitting – an incredibly emotional, informative and really very addictive memoir here from Stephen Westaby, I now know more about the human heart than I ever could imagine that I would.
A true trailblazer but oddly for a man of this nature and genius not at all egotistical, he came across brilliantly and all the stories he told, all the people he saved and the ones he couldn’t will stay with me for a long long time.
Spanning many years and many innovations, “Fragile Hearts” puts life into huge perspective – just how much we rely on the heart to function well was something I had little understanding of, now I am literally going to be thankful for every beat. Doctors are the unsung heroes sometimes, this is the second medical memoir I’ve read (the brilliant “Do No Harm” from Henry Marsh being the other, which does for the brain what Dr Westaby does for the heart here and I can also highly recommend) and it is a fascinating world that we both see and don’t see.
I’m inclined to read more like this. I was utterly enthralled first page to last.
Publication Date: Available Now from Aurum Press
Source: Review Copy
In 1895 nine American heiresses travelled across the Atlantic and bagged themselves husbands and titles. Though this phenomena had been happening for many years, 1895 was undoubtedly the most successful one for the unofficial marriage brokers Lady Minnie Paget and Consuelo Yzanga, Duchess of Windsor. For the English gentlemen the girls married it was a way to sustain their land, houses and all of the trappings of aristocracy. For the girls, who came from new money and were therefore not part of the American social elite, marriage was a means to obtaining the social prestige they craved. The Transatlantic Marriage Bureau will romp through the year to tell the story of these nine women – the seasons, the parties, the money and the titles – always with one eye on the remarkable women who made it happen behind the scenes.
Julie Ferry covers a fascinating period of social history here, one to be honest I knew very little (nothing) about when I went into this. But I was utterly riveted by these American girls who left home to marry into the English aristocracy and by Minne and Consuelo who made it happen.
I can imagine anyone who watched and enjoyed Downtown Abbey as a fictional show would enjoy this book, which gives an insight into a time when rich girls propped up failing estates and bagged themselves a touch of class in the meantime. I found myself trying to wrap my head around the concept whilst being engaged all the way.
Money does not buy happiness and whilst some of these “arranged” marriages worked out, others brought heartache, the author does a good job of capturing the nuances, bringing to life the “gilded age” and telling it in a very accessible and interesting way.
Stretched my reading wings this one did, it really was an intriguing and faux glamorous period of time.
You can purchase The Transatlantic Marriage Bureau HERE
Publication Date: Available Now from Random House (Arrow)
The definitive account of the O. J. Simpson trial, The People V. O.J. Simpson is a prodigious feat of reporting that could have been written only by the foremost legal journalist of our time. First published less than a year after the infamous verdict, Jeffrey Toobin explores the secret dealings and manoeuvring on both sides of the case, and how a combination of the prosecution’s over-confidence, the defence’s shrewdness, and the Los Angeles Police Department’s incendiary history with the city’s African-American community, gave a jury what it needed: reasonable doubt. Rich in character, as propulsive as a legal thriller, this enduring narrative continues to shock and fascinate with its candid depiction of the human drama that upended the world. The People V. O.J. Simpson tells the whole story, from the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman to the ruthless gamesmanship behind the scenes of the trial of the century.
So like many I remember watching (parts of) OJ Simpsons murder trial, the case where it seems the majority of people believe he was guilty and got away with it. I was interested therefore to read this and see the entire picture so to speak, hopefully told without too much legal speak and I went in with my mind open to see what was what.
The book is excellent – it looks at every layer of the trial, the people within, the ups and the downs, where it all went wrong for the prosecution and gives a huge amount of insight into the US legal system and was interesting and fascinating throughout.
There were a lot of twists and turns within that most famous of cases – Jeffrey Toobin looks at them all, giving perspective and reality to the outward drama, his own professional insight into the nuances, the things that happened behind the scenes, the picture painted by the defence – there are a lot of facts in here that I had zero knowledge of before reading this book. I like the way Mr Toobin writes, he assumes intelligence in his reader but also allows for the fact that most of them will not be legal eagles, therefore this is a very accessible resource for anyone interested in the case.
Truth is stranger than fiction. Having read this I can see why the jury went with an acquittal, yet am still with the majority of people in my own beliefs. To say this was an interesting real life drama would be to put it very mildly. However Mr Toobin never loses sight of the fact that right back at the beginning of it all, two innocent people lost their lives and despite all the bells and whistles that came afterwards, to date nobody had been brought to justice for that terrible act. This, as much as anything, should not be forgotten.
Highly Recommended for anyone interested in this case or indeed in real life cases generally. Well written and informative.
You can purchase “The People V OJ Simpson: The Run of his Life” HERE
Publication date: Available now from Killer Reads
Source: Review copy
25-year-old Megan Henley put her five-year-old daughter to bed one evening and switched on her laptop. A Facebook ‘friend request’ seemed to be genuine. There were a few common friends and very similar interests, so Megan accepted.
With that one simple act, she changed her life forever. In her words: ‘looking back on it, it was as if I had opened my front door to a stranger, as if I had thrown away every precaution I’d ever put in place, as if I had freely given access to my whole world – all because of some naïve belief that it was ‘just’ a friend request on a social media site.’
Who Are You is actually a truly scary tale – my heart goes out to Megan Henley who went through this and it does prove the point that truth really can be stranger than fiction.
I won’t go into too much about it as you are better living it as it unfolds, but it speaks to the inherent danger of giving almost automatic trust to someone you meet online. We all do it. In Megan’s case it led to horror and heartache as she came under the control of a manipulative liar who controlled her through fear..
I did find the narrative a little dry on occasion and often sat there open mouthed as she believed yet another unlikely thing – but to be honest, like she points out at the end, prior to these events she would not have considered herself to be gullible and indeed does not come across that way, so who knows how any of us would act under these circumstances.
It was an interesting and often difficult read, a cautionary tale of our time.
Recommended for fans of true story drama
Publication Date: Available now from Randomhouse/Windmill books
The story of one of America’s most notorious wrongful convictions, that of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who spent eighteen years in prison for a crime he did not commit and now the subject of the hit series Making a Murderer. But two years after he was exonerated of that crime and poised to reap millions in his wrongful conviction lawsuit, Steven Avery was arrested for the exceptionally brutal murder of Teresa Halbach, a freelance photographer who had gone missing several days earlier. The “Innocent Man” had turned into a cold blooded killer. Or had he? This is narrative non-fiction at its finest and the perfect companion read for fans of Making a Murderer.
Having had two crime writers and lawyers debating the Steven Avery case recently on my blog (you can see that article HERE ) and having watched the controversial “Making a Murderer” documentary on Netflix, I was very interested to read this book and get another insight.
It should be noted that this book concentrates for the most part on the original wrongful rape conviction and only slightly on the later murder case – so if you are hoping for more on the case featured in MAM then this will not necessarily satisfy although there are some thoughts on that in here.
I found this fascinating – the original conviction, whilst touched upon in the documentary, is looked at in a lot more detail in “The Innocent Killer” – as such, this is a great companion read to the show and to the many social media discussions going on in the wake of the latest developments.
Michael Griesbach, the writer,is a prosecuting attorney for the Manitowac County Prosecutor’s Office which makes things interesting and he puts his points across well and in a highly informative lay fashion which helps garner understanding of the real issues behind this case. There are points raised that you may not have heard before and overall it was a very engaging read.
I’m not sure it adds that much to the discussion but it does give pause for thought on some of the issues and it is entirely successful in making you give due consideration to any original feelings you may have had after watching the show. In that respect I would definitely recommend it. I would also recommend it if you like true crime and especially if you are reading to hear different viewpoints and opinions.
You can order “The Innocent Killer” HERE.
Publication Date: Available Now.
Source: Review Copy
Finding the Rainbow is a fascinating and honest insight into a world that most would find difficult to understand, and many would be quietly thankful not to need to. McGrath tells the story of her battle to conceive and carry a baby, with unrestricted honesty, leaving the reader in no doubt as to her thoughts and feelings, and the courageousness with which she deals with a very difficult period in her and her husband’s lives. This emotive account draws attention to some of the otherwise unknown aspects of infertility and miscarriage, whilst still leaving room for humour, happiness and philosophy.
Going into “Finding the Rainbow” I was (and am) a happy parent of 3 gorgeous children, none of whom I had a single iota of an issue with conceiving. Fertility for me was a non issue and like a lot of us, if something is not bang up in our lives we do little more than pay lip service to the fact that others struggle – feeling sympathy of course but perhaps not empathy and definitely with no real understanding of how tough, raw and physically demanding it can be to want something so much, that comes so naturally to everyone you know yet be unable to achieve it yourself.
Rachel McGrath’s book is an eye opener – both heart wrenching and heart warming, she speaks with eloquence and honesty about her struggle, the effects it has had on both her and her loved ones, the seemingly endless journey and the lows and occasional highs along the way. It is both fascinating and inspiring, evokes a true emotional response because these are true emotions coming off the pages in waves – for me there was a quiet confidence behind the narrative that ultimately, no matter the outcome, everything would be ok.
It did bring me to tears, but it also made me smile – a pure read with a devastating subject matter, I have a far far greater understanding of the issues involved and have also come to understand with far more depth the range of feelings that go along with those issues – the fear, the hope, the true battle which is acceptance and forward motion and the author has put this all in here, using the beauty and power of words to get it all across.
A book that deserves to be read widely, I definitely recommend it – not just for women, or just for women that have fertility problems – but for anyone at all who has ever faced in their life a seemingly insurmountable problem. This is inspiring, truthful and as real as it gets.
Publication Date: 30th July from Pan Macmillan.
On 7 August 1985, Nevill and June Bamber, their daughter Sheila and her two young sons Nicholas and Daniel were discovered shot to death at White House Farm in Essex. The murder weapon was found on Sheila’s body; a bible lay at her side. All the windows and doors of the farmhouse were secure, and the Bambers’ son, 24-year-old Jeremy, had alerted police after apparently receiving a phone call from his father, who told him Sheila had ‘gone berserk’ with the gun. It seemed a straightforward case of murder-suicide, but a dramatic turn of events was to disprove the police’s theory. In October 1986, Jeremy Bamber was convicted of killing his entire family in order to inherit his parents’ substantial estates. He has always maintained his innocence.
Drawing on interviews and correspondence with many of those closely connected to the events – including Jeremy Bamber – and a wealth of previously unpublished documentation, Carol Ann Lee brings astonishing clarity to a complex and emotive case. She describes the years of rising tension in the family that culminated in the murders, and provides clear insight into the background of each individual and their relationships within the family unit.
The Bamber case has long fascinated me – fascinated a lot of people, one of those things most hold a solid opinion about. With this account, Carol Ann Lee brings together all the background, the people, the place, the investigation and gives an in depth overview of the events and those caught up in them.
This book is a terrific resource if you want the facts without the drama, the author has taken great pains to gain a great insight into the background of all the players, tracing the family history in the years leading up to the tragedy, an intelligent and obviously well researched piece that allows the reader to draw their own conclusions.
When you read the newspapers of course everything tends to be sensationalised – and the dribs and drabs of information you glean when things like this are actually going on are bound to have gaps as the police do their jobs. Here, in retrospect, Carol Ann Lee brings everything together in one place, writing with practical yet absolutely fascinating factual styling and I was absolutely riveted.
Jeremy Bamber of course, has always maintained his innocence – I won’t tell you my opinion after reading this book, but I would definitely recommend it if you would like to gain a better understanding of all the ins and outs of what was a case where the phrase “truth is stranger than fiction” could easily apply.
Happy Reading Folks!
Publication Date: 7th May 2015 from Headline
The 2007 disappearance of a three-year-old Madeleine McCann from her bed in Portugal proved an instant, worldwide sensation. There’s been nothing like it since America’s Lindbergh kidnapping eighty years ago.
Award-winning authors Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan have produced the first independent, objective account of the case. They have examined the released Portuguese files, conducted in-depth interviews and original research to answer the questions: What can we really know about this most emotive of cases? What can we learn from it?
The Madeleine McCann case is perhaps the most famous case of modern times – so thoroughly did it capture the world, and still to this day is talked about, written about, endlessly speculated on and with the latest investigation has been very much back in the media spotlight.
I’ve read a lot about it over the years, from Kate’s book (recommended) to the Police files now in the public domain and Amaral’s book (currently banned in the UK) – so I was interested to read this from Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan as it claims to be “The most definitive” account.
It is definitely well researched and well written for sure. If you are someone who has not read a lot of the nitty gritty surrounding Madeleine’s disappearance and you want a good overview with some added commentary I would definitely recommend it.
If you have already read a lot about it I’m not sure it can add anything new however – I found it interesting to see it all laid out in order and with a very matter of fact and logical viewpoint, and there is a lot of information in here.
Overall then a good, succinct account of the events of that night and the following furore and worth a look if you are interested in the Mcann case.
As a final note I would like to say that always, when I’m reading things about Madeleine, I try very hard to keep in mind that despite the endless theorising and genuine public obsession, the heart of this is about that little girl who went missing and so far, has not been found. Professional investigators claim that this case is solvable. One would hope for all those involved that this is the case.
Publication Date: April 7th 2015 from Gallery, Threshold.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor is officially fed up with the endless mommy fads, trends, studies, findings, and facts about how to raise children. Tiger Mom or Cool Mom? Organic or vegan? TV is the devil or TV is a godsend?
The mother of three young girls, Stefanie has finally decided to hell with Google she’s going to find out how to be a mom all on her own. In this latest mommy book from the popular blogger, author, and TV personality, Stefanie will share her secrets for achieving a balance in motherhood between being protective and caring, and downright batshit crazy.
So being a parent is absolutely one of the most idiotic things you can decide to do with your life, thats a given. Anyone who is a parent will know the feeling of absolute terror all mixed up with the absolute joy of it, and whilst I stand by my “idiotic” comment, it is also one of the most wonderful experiences you can have.
But then there is this. One day your child should eat this, the next that. Having baby sleep in with you is bad/good/doesnt matter. Put them on solid food at a year, no hold on six months, hang on a second that parent over there is shovelling apple puree into their childs mouth and THAT baby can’t be more than three months old. Oh what to do WHAT TO DO!!! And so on and so forth, it only gets harder as they get older, not easier no matter what anyone says. Wait until they can move around under their own steam…
So I was interested in what Stefanie Wilder-Taylor would make of it all to be sure. And she is hilarious, very insightful, ironically intuitive and very down to earth about it all. Whilst I did not agree with everything she says in “Gummi Bears” not at all, and it is a VERY opinionated book, where often she may wind you up, the bottom line of it, the underlying message for me was spot on. When it comes to parenting NOBODY knows what they are doing and all the self help books in the world will not help you at 3am when you have a toddler who won’t sleep or an 8 year old throwing up because just for today for a special occasion you let their sugar intake go insane.
Ultimately I really enjoyed this book, not because it was a book that definitively told me the best way to raise children but because that was what it absolutely did NOT do. The author decided she was going to muddle through this quagmire we call parenting by simply doing the best she could, gives her opinions and what works for her whilst saying very clearly that she is no better nor worse than the rest of us (although she allows herself to be smug on occasion and also to feel incapable on others) and that in reality there are no hard and fast rules.
It will make you smile, it may make you grind your teeth a little, but ultimately it tells you the truth. When it comes to our children we are all in this together – no amount of preparation can get you ready for that tiny person who takes over your whole life.
Interesting and thought provoking read.
Happy Reading Folks!
Publication Date: 5th March from Canongate.
HUGE thanks to Leilah Skelton of Waterstones fame for sending this to me.
Reasons to Stay Alive is about making the most of your time on earth. In the western world the suicide rate is highest amongst men under the age of 35. Matt Haig could have added to that statistic when, aged 24, he found himself staring at a cliff-edge about to jump off. This is the story of why he didn’t, how he recovered and learned to live with anxiety and depression. It’s also an upbeat, joyous and very funny exploration of how live better, love better, read better and feel more.
A fuller review MAY follow but my initial reactions to this book, just after finishing it, you can find here.
It is ironic (is that the right word I wonder?) that the author who gave me my first reason to stay alive, at a time when I struggled to find one – with his previous novel, The Humans – then went on to write openly, elegantly and with no holds barred, about his own experiences of depression and anxiety. And called it “Reasons to Stay Alive” If I was better with words myself I could probably find a better one than Ironic. But it will have to do.
I would normally at this point I guess, wax lyrical about how beautifully Mr Haig writes and how he gets me every time. Which is true of course, but not what this book needs. I’ve read a lot of non fiction about Depression and related issues during the time that I have been trying to understand my own mindset, my own experience, but what Matt has done is simply talk about it honestly. In the end, if you want to try and understand it, this is what you need – open, frank and truthful words that paint a picture and allow you in.
I shall be keeping a copy of it close by for sure, for the next 3am where I think perhaps dying would be better.
I’ve given it 5 stars obviously, but this is not a book to be rated. It is one to be read – by anyone who suffers, has suffered, lives with someone who suffers and ALL the people in between – one of the most important books you may ever read about the human condition.
Brave, sincere, genuine and inspirational. That is all.
Publication Date:Available Now from Alma Books.
Source: Review copy.
Professor Stephen Hawking is one of the most famous and remarkable scientists of our age and the author of the scientific bestseller A Brief History of Time, which has sold more than 25 million copies. In this compelling memoir, his first wife, Jane Hawking, relates the inside story of their extraordinary marriage. As Stephen’s academic renown soared, his body was collapsing under the assaults of a motor neuron disease. Jane’s candid account of trying to balance his 24-hour care with the needs of their growing family reveals the inner strength of the author, while the self-evident character and achievements of her husband make for an incredible tale presented with unflinching honesty. Jane’s candor is no less apparent when the marriage finally ends in a high-profile meltdown, with Stephen leaving Jane for one of his nurses and Jane marrying an old family friend. In this exceptionally open, moving, and often funny memoir, Jane Hawking confronts not only the acutely complicated and painful dilemmas of her first marriage, but also the relationship’s fault lines exposed by the pervasive effects of fame and wealth. The result is a book about optimism, love, and change that will resonate with readers everywhere.
This was an absolutely fascinating read – Of course I have followed Stephen Hawking’s story just like everybody else, he always struck me as quite an enigmatic character but apart from his public persona I did not know a great deal. And I knew nothing of Jane Hawking, his first wife, who in this memoir tells it as it was for her and it is at turns emotional, funny and very engaging.
It is a love story, it is also the story of two people coming together and making a life, a life that is difficult and expected to be short lived. Jane Hawking does not pull punches with her narrative, but shows her inner strength in the face of adversity, both the good and the bad things that happen are told with an open honesty and a tendency to be blunt that is very appealing.
Of course this is a very personal story – as such I found myself wondering how much of it was coloured by what came later – I can’t say that Stephen Hawking came across as terribly likeable overall – although of course very brave, absolutely determined and often inspiring. Added to that was a sense of the arrogance that extraordinarily intelligent people can have, his disregard for Jane’s belief system and his impatience with other people is sitting right there, sometimes making me shake my head. Jane herself is not always likeable, which I guess shows that she wrote honestly even about herself, but I admired her grit and total and absolute love for her family that kept her going through some difficult times.
The science was intriguing, the lifespan of the relationship and marriage entirely compelling, the slow disintigration of health is sad yet strangely empowering as Stephen fights on regardless, so overall a terrific read if a little long winded and dry upon occasion, for the most part it was entirely bewitching.
I have not seen the movie as yet – The Theory of Everything, as I understand it, takes the more romantic aspects of the story told here and creates a rather wonderful film. I shall look forward to seeing it, however I am very pleased that I read this first as I believe right here is where you will find the most truth, even if skewed by being told by only one side of the equation.
Definitely recommended for fans of Non Fiction and anyone with an interest in a real life lived.
Happy Reading Folks!
Publication Date: Feb 26th 2015 from Text Publishing.
On the evening of 4 September 2005, Robert Farquharson, a separated husband, was driving his three sons home to their mother when his car plunged into a dam. The boys, aged ten, seven, and two, drowned. Was this an act of deliberate revenge or a tragic accident? The court case became Helen Garner’s obsession. She was in the courtroom every day of Farquharson’s trial and subsequent retrial, along with countless journalists and the families of both the accused and his former wife.
I’m trying to read more non fiction at the moment and this book from Helen Garner looked intriguing and it absolutely was. Very compelling, an utterly fascinating look at a trial and the justice system in Australia, an engaging and interesting read throughout.
The case itself is a highly emotional one and it is easy to see how Helen got caught up in it – three young children lost their lives and it is very possible that their Father, someone who is supposed to love, nurture and protect them, in fact ended up killing them. The intricacies of the trial, the background and the courtroom gossip are all brought to vivid and authentic life through the words of the author and it is fascinating stuff.
It is easy to imagine that a real life murder trial is as it appears in novels and films, the reality of it however is very different but utterly engrossing. As evidence is examined, witnesses questioned, you will be entirely involved from start to finish, the author managing to bring it all to life and give it complete emotional depth and resonance.
A really excellent read that will suck you in and play with your emotions – truth often being stranger than fiction, in this case the realities of life are harsh and unforgiving..my sympathies ebbed and flowed, the guilt or innocence of Robert Farquharson has been decided by law, but as ever there is so much more to it than a simply guilty or not guilty verdict.
Happy Reading Folks!
Publication Date: November 4th 2014 from Crown Publishing.
Long-held myths defining the sources of and cures for crime are shattered in this ground-breaking book–and a chilling profile of today’s criminal emerges.
I requested this book via netgalley because I wanted to read some more non fiction and the subject matter was interesting to me – I do have a passing interest in psychology and crime so it seemed as if this would be fascinating. And it was.
There was a definite academic quality to the writing but done in an accessible fashion so that it was easy to follow – and the author’s thoughts on “criminal personality” and the possibility of identifying criminals early were well put across and cohesive, allowing for the fact that although it can be applied in a lot of cases there are exceptions. I found it intriguing, the thoughts on “insanity defence” and how this is usually unlikely, although there are cases where a person could not control his or her actions it is rare.
There are actual real life examples to back up the points made, but I did like that the author allowed for other “types” of criminal and managed to make a sound argument for his own opinion. It is a little dry at times and occasionally repetitive but overall I found it an engaging and interesting read.
If you have an interest in the subject this would be a good book to read, easy, fact and discussion involved and overall I enjoyed it and maybe even learned something.
Happy Reading Folks!
Publication Date: Available now.
Thank you to the author for the review copy.
‘Joshua’s World’ is a glimpse into one family’s experience of autism. Their third child, Joshua, was diagnosed with autism at the age of three.
This was a beautifully told and emotionally resonant true life story of one family and how they lived with and worked through a fairly traumatic time in their lives – when Joshua, their third child was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 3. From realising there may be something wrong, to fighting for and obtaining a coherent medical diagnosis and moving on to the learning curve involved when you realise your child has extra needs, the author manages to get across the emotional highs and lows perfectly and I would imagine that this would speak to the heart of any parent who has been through or is going through something similar. And indeed to parents everywhere.
What I loved about it was the absolute heart of family that sits bang at the centre – working together, as a unit, supporting and helping each other through the ups and downs of daily living, with their faith in God as an aid and sustenance in the darker moments, despite the real difficulties life throws at them, ultimately the underlying message is one of hope. A story needing to be told, I was highly impressed at the bravery and strength of all involved.
Ok as a self published book it could do with the eye of a professional editor, there is an overuse of exclamation marks which can sometimes remove you from the centre of the tale – but metaphorically speaking I guess the life they were living was one huge exclamation mark anyway. Even during the more rambling parts of the book, the love of a Mother for her family shone right through, so in that sense I think that the rest doesnt matter. I was moved and involved throughout.
Overall a wonderful story and one I would recommend highly to anyone who could do with some help with similar issues – and indeed to anyone who can appreciate and take something from a real life situation given a voice and real soul.
Happy Reading Folks!
Available now from Headline
Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy via BookBridgr
As a boy Nathan Penlington had loved Choose Your Own Adventure novels. So when he came across a set of the first 106 volumes for sale on eBay, he snapped them up. Picking up the first, The Cave of Time, he was looking forward to a nostalgic trip back to his own childhood. What he discovered instead would send him off on adventure all of his own.
As he turned the pages, there was another story being written – in the margins were scribblings by the little boy who had originally owned them, a boy called Terence. There were hints on the coming adventure and jokes, but also something darker. Terence wrote about being bullied at school, the things he hated about himself, of a desperate need for friends. Later Nathan came across a few pages of diary. Nathan’s search for Terence is at once funny, moving and more than a little quixotic. There would be dead ends and crossed wires, and along the way Nathan would have to face his own childhood demons. It is a story about the dark places that can exist in any childhood, but also of the sanctuary to be found in books.
Gosh this was an enthralling absolutely compelling story of those things that can happen in real life and I have to say I’m very very sad to be leaving this one behind, I have lived every moment of it.
Nathan Penlington’s journey is at times both hilarious and emotional and he writes with a wry wit and dry humour even in the darker moments. As he tracks down “The Boy in the Book”, hits a few bumps in the road, discovers as much about himself as anyone else, this will have you as much on the edge of your seat as any thriller would, and may well spark an interest in a variety of subjects. Since reading this I have tracked down as much information as I can find on “The Great Diary Project”, discovered a fascination with what our style of writing gives away about us and examined closely my own penchant for collecting things…
I genuinely can’t think of anything else to say without spoiling the whole ambience of this one – but if you have a love of books and the escape they can give you, its an absolute must that you read this tale. Add to that the fact that it is a heartwarming and uplifting story as well as a very intuitive and captivating one, I can’t imagine that there is a single reader out there who would not take something important away with them after reading it. So you know, go on!
More Here: http://nathanpenlington.com/
The Great Diary Project: http://www.thegreatdiaryproject.co.uk/
Happy Reading Folks!
Thank you for the review copy via Netgalley.
Murder – a dark, shameful deed, the last resort of the desperate or a vile tool of the greedy. And a very strange, very British obsession. But where did this fixation develop? And what does it tell us about ourselves? In A Very British Murder, Lucy Worsley explores this phenomenon in forensic detail, revisiting notorious crimes like the Ratcliff Highway Murders, which caused a nation-wide panic in the early nineteenth century, and the case of Frederick and Maria Manning, the suburban couple who were hanged after killing Maria’s lover and burying him under their kitchen floor. To accompany the tv series.
I’ve been dipping in and out of this one as I like to do with Non Fiction and as a reader interested in true crime and indeed crime fiction this was a great little read.
It is focussed less on actual crime but more on our fascination with it – and how in a lot of ways it became a source of entertainment for the public and inspiration for many fictional stories. Examining several “high profile” cases – the most interesting of which for me was the Ratcliff Highway Murders as I knew nothing about them – this traces back the roots of the public fascination for all things macabre in a very accessible way.
Also looking at crime fiction from Holmes to Christie to Sayers amongst others, this was a fascinating insight into crime and our different obsessions with it. I admittedly have not watched the television show that this is accompanies but I may have to rectify that.
If you are interested in Crime, both as fiction and as reality, especially in how it affects the public psyche, then you will certainly find a lot to appreciate here.
Happy Reading Folks!
Available March from Applause Books/ Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group.
Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy via netgalley.
Author Scott Von Doviak provides background information, analysis, and trivia regarding the various films and television productions, including “Bloodlines” sections on related works and “Deep Cuts” sections collecting additional odd facts and ephemera. All you ever wanted to know about the king of horror onscreen can be found here.
Now we all know what a Stephen King fanatic I am so this book was an absolute must read for me as I do watch every adaptation going and was definitely interested in finding out more, hearing other opinions and seeing if there were any that I had missed.
This held a plethora of information within its pages and I found it extremely interesting – I dipped in and out of it, managed to get a little list out of it of adaptations I had missed and generally had a lot of fun with it. As someone who knows Mr King’s books inside out and upside down but didnt know QUITE so much about how some of these stories came to screen, it was fascinating reading.
Mr Von Doviak’s writing is terrific – sometimes this sort of reference material can be very “dry” even if you are interested in the subject matter but in this case I found it to be extremely involving, humerous in places and certainly well researched. I doubt there is much more to be said on the subject of King adaptations and as soon as the paperback is available I shall be getting a copy for my Stephen King shelf. Its something I will go back to again and again.
All in all a must have for any Stephen King fan and an enjoyable read for anyone.
Happy Reading Folks!
Available February from Hay Publishing.
Thanks to the authors for the copy via netgalley.
Ok so the first thing to say is, I’m not a fan of “self help” books. I’ve always found any that I have dipped into rather preachy and smug as if to say “well if you would only do THIS your life would be fantastic”. But I read the blurb on this one, and as the content struck me as extremely relevant to my personal life at the moment, I thought well, why not?
So over the last evening and this morning I read the whole thing cover to cover – and I was very surprised at just HOW relevant it was and how much of what the authors were saying struck a cord with my own feelings and emotions right now. Suffering any kind of loss is hard – we all know that – often coping skills are hard to find. What I found within the pages was a way of focussing those feelings, understanding them a bit better, and realising that nothing I was thinking or feeling was wrong.
This book does not preach at you. It does not attempt to make your suffering go away, in fact after reading this I’ve accepted that suffering is just something we have to go through in order to move on. And that there IS a way of moving on and retrieving your own sense of self worth after a loss, a break up, or indeed any huge life change.
It is simple to read and understand – you are not dazzled by important sounding words or over excessive psychology – it speaks simply to self. Through the stories and experiences of others, it helps you understand that you are not alone, that you are not strange or unusual and that there ARE ways of making it, if not easier, then more productive.
The layout is great – separate chapters speak to separate issues – the issue that is affecting me most, that of moving on after a long term relationship comes to an end had its own specific pages, as did the death of a close friend or relative and various other issues that we all face at some point in our lives. If you just want to read the relevant chapter to your situation, you can.
I read it all – the advice given was straightforward, extremely helpful and very calming. I’m not sure my heart is healed JUST yet – but now I know what to expect, I have some mechanisms to help me cope, and there are certainly some passages in this book that I shall return to whenever my emotions get the better of me.
I would recommend this to anyone who is finding it hard to cope after an emotional issue – it won’t cure the problem or make it go away – what it WILL do perhaps is, help you to move through every part of the grief process with a greater understanding and more rational thinking.
My thanks to the authors once more – you have helped. Truly.
The Siege by Adrian Levy & Cathy Scott-Clark – a searing account of the 2005 terrorist attacks at Mumbai’s famous Taj Hotel.
On 26th November 2008 the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai is besieged by Pakistani Islamists, armed with explosives and machine guns.
For three days, guests and staff of the hotel are trapped as the terrorists run amok.
On 29th November commandos launch Operation Black Tornado. The world holds its breath.
The first thing that struck me was how well researched this book was. Starting with the “Dramatis personae” giving an overview of the people involved and a brief background, including guests, staff and the terrorists themselves, I was immediately right at the heart of the matter – I wanted to find out what happened to all of them. Leading on with a bit of background of the events leading up to the terror attacks, and some information on the hotel, you were left feeling slightly off kilter while you waited for what you knew was coming..
The second thing that struck me was how much this book read as if it was a Thriller – a fast paced one at that – I often had to stop for a moment and remind myself, especially in the more violent moments, that these people were REAL. Everything I was reading actually happened – it was a sobering thought and one that compelled me to read ever onwards. I read this in two days, such was my inability to leave it before I knew the outcome. I had zero knowledge of these events before opening this account – such is the beauty of the writing I now feel almost as if I were there – or at the very least had friends who were.
This is a soundbite in a way – a little of my own research tells me that there was a lot more to the terror attacks on Mumbai in 2008 quite apart from the events at the Taj – I feel that I absolutely want to know more. If anyone knows of any other books that tackle this subject well, I would be very interested to hear about them.
I’m not sure what else I can say really – I can’t speak to characterisation because these are not characters they are human beings who suffered at the hands of other human beings – that very fact makes this a must read. I would highly recommend that you give it a go.
At the end, I read every name in the “RIP” section and shed a tear for those people I had never known, and never WOULD have known had they lived.
Thank you kindly to the author for the copy of this book to review.
Considering this is not a book I would have picked up on my own, I enjoyed it very much!
The authors tale of a move to New Zealand it was at times funny, insightful and heart warming. Jamie has a lovely turn of phrase in her writing that keeps you engaged with her story from start to finish. I giggled wildly on occcasion especially during some very wry commentary on the culture shock and nuances of language that can flummox you when moving within a completely different community. And the mime, well. I’m laughing now just because writing this review has taken me back…
As a sneak peak into someone elses world, it works terrifically well – it makes me want to keep a diary, although mine would be somewhat less interesting. I started this novel as a brain break from the rather dark mystery thrillers I was reading and I was up well into the night last night so I could finish it. It may be non fiction but it could easily be read as such…and wow what a terrific film it would make! If only time travel were possible I would suggest to the author that she do it all again with a camera man in tow..
Jamie lives with us in the UK now….and yes, we use the term “rubbish” not “garbage” as well…at least she may well have been prepared for that.
Terrific stuff. I can’t wait for more….I’m kind of hoping she is writing a book about moving to the UK. Would live to see us Brits through her eyes.
Happy Reading Folks!