Ah, I love a bit of historical fiction, but I honestly cannot remember having read a book set during the American Civil War. Coupled with the fact tha...moreAh, I love a bit of historical fiction, but I honestly cannot remember having read a book set during the American Civil War. Coupled with the fact that Mary wanted to buck the trend and become a doctor, I was so intrigued about this book.
Right from the first chapter, I had to admire Mary. Wanting to apprentice to a local surgeon, she finds herself instead delivering a baby and suitably impressing the surgeon with her skills and knowledge. Despite Mary's disappointment when he turns down her request, she behaves professionally and simply continues trying to find a way into the medical profession.
As the story progresses, it becomes obvious just how tough Mary is, both physically and emotionally, particularly as events progress and she is confronted with some truly heart-wrenching and disappointing situations. Rather than just giving up however, she uses those events to drive herself forward towards her goal - although at times it almost becomes self-destructive behaviour.
However, there is a love triangle. It's not necessarily a terrible thing in this book, but it did feel a little unnecessary to me, as well as being kind of obvious how it's going to end up. Not that it was particularly the wrong ending, but it almost felt like Oliveira threw it in to appeal to readers that weren't really so much into the strong heroine and sense of history. I honestly would have enjoyed the story just as much without the triangle, or even perhaps without a romance at all.
My Name is Mary Sutter definitely held my attention, and I came out of it feeling like I had learnt a lot about the way that medicine was practiced during that time period, and the changes that came about due to the American Civil War. As a historical fiction, I found this a satisfying read with a strong heroine, but the romance really didn't do it for me.(less)
Carla Buckley's latest novel, The Deepest Secret, poses not only the question about how well do you know the people around you, but also that the line...moreCarla Buckley's latest novel, The Deepest Secret, poses not only the question about how well do you know the people around you, but also that the line between right and wrong isn't always clearly defined. I was exited to read it after I enjoyed Buckley's The Things That Keep Us Here in 2012, and interested to find out more about Eve's son's condition.
Xeroderma pigmentosum (or XP) is a genetic disease in which the sufferer's ability to repair damage caused by UV light is deficient - in other words, XP sufferer's cannot step into sunlight or any other type of UV light such as halogen bulbs without suffering burns, and subsequently skin cancers. Eve and David's son Tyler was diagnosed with XP as a baby, and their whole lives have been adapted to keeping him safe - from nighttime birthday parties through to asking all their neighbours to use non-Halogen globes in their homes and having all the street lights in their cul-de-sac turned off.
Such is Eve's obsession with keeping her son safe, that her husband has taken a job in another state, travelling back and forth every weekend to spend time with his family, and starting to feel very disillusioned with his life. What makes this relationship stand out from all the standard 'troubled marriage' story lines however, is the obvious fact that he still loves his wife - he has regular flashbacks to what she was like when they first met, the beginnings of their relationship, and how she lived before Tyler's diagnosis.
Eve's best friend Charlotte, who is her complete opposite, also lives in the cul-de-sac, and many of the residents are on friendly terms with each other, attending Tyler's birthday party and obliging Eve's requests, but there are also a few rebels who refuse to go along with her security measures. Tyler's nightly forays reveal a few of their secrets to him, but there's not actually that many revelations about the neighbours themselves - more their reactions when another child vanishes in the night.
Although I'm not always keen on alternate POVs, they work well for The Deepest Secret - it very much suits the underlying theme of the novel to see events from multiple perspectives.
Eve is admirable in her dedication and sacrifice to her family, but it also means that she doesn't really have her own personality - it has been pretty much absorbed by her determination that Tyler will remain well and have as fulfilling a life as possible. And although it's easy to feel sympathy towards Tyler due to his condition, his frustration with his life makes him rather unpredictable and unlikable.
But what I did particularly enjoy about The Deepest Secret was the main theme of the storyline - that although people have very definite ideas about what is right and wrong when they are removed from the situation, when they are in the middle of it, it's very difficult to make that distinction. Buckley's storytelling made it easy for me to see why Eve did things in a certain way, and although I appreciated the realism of the ending, it did feel a little rushed and not completely logical to me.(less)
When I saw The Stone Girl on the sale shelf in a bookshop, I immediately grabbed it. Although Young Adult contemporary books don't tend to be to my ta...moreWhen I saw The Stone Girl on the sale shelf in a bookshop, I immediately grabbed it. Although Young Adult contemporary books don't tend to be to my taste, but when it's an issue book, it's a whole different thing. These are the books that stick in my mind long after I've finished reading, whether it's the emotions, the plot or the characters.
The very first thing that struck me about The Stone Girl was the style of the third-person narration. I usually prefer third-person narration, but the repeated use of names completely threw me off at first. Rather than 'he' or 'she', it was 'Sethie this' and 'Sethie that' to the stage that I considered stopping reading because it just STOOD OUT SO MUCH.
After a while I got used to the style and by the end it was probably only that I'd made a note about it early on that prompted me to mention it.
However, The Stone Girl also suffers from 'absent parent syndrome'. Sethie's mother is seemingly completely oblivious to the fact that her daughter is losing a drastic amount of weight and that her behavious is also spiralling out of control, and although there's an attempt at justification towards the end, it didn't feel realistic. There are also numerous interactions between Sethie and staff at her school, such as the nurse where she has apparently spent a lot of time, but there is no mention of the nurse trying to raise the alarm.
The characters are average, Sethie didn't really stand out for me, and although I've read a couple of books since, I'm really having trouble thinking of reasons why she would stand out.
This may just be one of those issues books that particularly resonates with readers who have had similar issues as Sethie and just didn't click with me. It wasn't a bad book by any means, but it just didn't sit right with me.(less)
There are several reasons why I was drawn to this book. Firstly, the main characters are brother and sister, which is something that isn't often intim...moreThere are several reasons why I was drawn to this book. Firstly, the main characters are brother and sister, which is something that isn't often intimately explored in Young Adult literature. I'm the only girl of four children, so sister relationships are foreign to me, but brother-sister relationships are something I know pretty well and I was interested to see how Brown would portray the relationship between Grayson and Kendra. Add in a road-trip (hello!), and Grayson's OCD, and I was totally intrigued to see how this story played out.
Perfect Escape is my first experience with Jennifer Brown, and I have to say I was pretty impressed. I liked her free-flowing style, and even though contemporary YA is not my usual genre, I really enjoyed the plot and the characters.
The plot itself is pretty straightforward - Kendra makes a huge mistake and with her brother suffering from the limitations of his OCD, she makes an uncharacteristically rash decision to just drive as far away from her personal and family issues. At first, she doesn't really have a plan, but one forms as she makes her way across the state, and without telling Grayson the real reason, she keeps on driving towards California.
What I loved most about Perfect Escape was undoubtedly the relationships between the characters. Although Grayson and Kendra had their issues, they also supported each other the best way that they knew how - whether it was the right way or not, it was done with sibling love rather than personal motivations. There are also other characters that they meet along the way, and one in particular I found fascinating and my only quibble with her was that I didn't feel like her story was explored in enough depth. But in the end, this is a book about Kendra and Grayson, and the secondary characters aren't really supposed to steal the limelight.
I've read several books with characters suffering from OCD, and I found that Perfect Escape was pretty much on par with those other books - and I particularly liked that Kendra and Grayson were open about the effect that OCD was having on both their lives, their relationship and their family.
There is absolutely not a scrap of romance in Perfect Escape, and I loved it. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of a good romance, but it's nice to read a YA novel that doesn't rely on flirtation or a cute boy to get the plot moving and open up the characters.
I really enjoyed Perfect Escape - it's a great mix of road-trip and family relationships and I found it easy to read, compelling and satisfying.(less)
I've read several books about eating disorders in 2013, but A Trick of the Light is the first one with a male main character, and also the most unique...moreI've read several books about eating disorders in 2013, but A Trick of the Light is the first one with a male main character, and also the most unique. The narrator of the story is not Mike, it is anorexia itself, which brings a completely different perspective.
The story begins as Mike's life starts to fall apart - he's a pretty quiet, unassuming kind of kid, with one best friend and does well in school and in sports - but when his parents relationship starts to disintegrate, he turns to the voice in his head to help him have one thing about his life that he controls - his weight. I loved the relationship between Mike and his best friend, Tamio in the beginning - although not perhaps the most obvious of friendships, they are drawn together by common interests, but as Mike's illness starts to worsen, he isolates himself from his old friends and the connection starts to weaken.
Mike's parents, particularly his mother, are fairly present throughout the story, although they are caught up in their own issues for the most part, and although his mother does become more involved by the climax it did make me feel more sympathetic towards Mike that the people who should have loved him the most didn't realise just how ill their son was becoming until it was nearly too late.
It only took me a couple of hours to read A Trick of the Light, and that was actually my main negative about it. At times it felt like things were moving along far too quickly, and although I can understand that Mike was vulnerable and the situation spiralled drastically, it felt like there were big chunks of time that were glossed over rather than given the attention they needed. The upside is that I found this a very hard book to put down - I read it in practically one sitting, alternating between sadness and hopefulness.
Metzger is pretty unflinching in her writing - there's not a moment where it felt like the seriousness of Mike's illness was being made light of, and it's definitely a compelling story. (less)
I've read a fair share of YA 'issue' books in the past, but Zoe Letting Go is the first one I've read that deals directly with eating disorders. And u...moreI've read a fair share of YA 'issue' books in the past, but Zoe Letting Go is the first one I've read that deals directly with eating disorders. And unlike many issues books, eating disorders is something we can all probably relate to a little - that voice inside our heads that tells us we really shouldn't have that second piece of cake, a crash diet before we go on holidays to look better in a swimsuit - food, unfortunately, can have a pretty big grip on our lives at one time or another.
Zoe Letting Go begins with Zoe being admitted to Twin Birch, a treatment centre for eating disorders, without actually knowing that is why she is there, and alternates between letters to her best friend, Elise, and diary entries detailing the treatment, other patients and internal struggles that Zoe goes through without even really realising it.
Although not an outstandingly individual character, Zoe represents a huge chunk of teenage society - she's not popular and not a total outcast, she has one very close friend and a few casual acquaintances, and is an average student. And it is only as her time at Twin Birch progresses that the underlying issues of her life really come to the surface, bit by bit.
Zoe Letting Go is an intense read - although there is very little 'action' as such, the tension Zoe feels between herself, Elise and the other patients makes for a very readable story, and I read the whole book in a single sitting because it was a little like watching a train wreck - I was shocked, but I couldn't look away.
My one and only niggle was that I couldn't really understand the reaction of Zoe's mother to her daughter's obviously escalating problems, and that the only solution that seemed to be tried was admitting her directly to a very exclusive program far from home.
Nora Price's writing style is very easy to read - there is emotion and pain between the lines, and as Zoe spills out her secrets in the pages of her diary I could feel the tension building up to the climax of the story, which completely took me by surprise.
Zoe Letting Go is a book that I'm very glad I read - it's shockingly intimate and compulsive reading.
A few months ago, I read Ms. Suzuma's book, Forbidden - which was the first book I've ever read that made me cry (not just a bit of moisture, full on...moreA few months ago, I read Ms. Suzuma's book, Forbidden - which was the first book I've ever read that made me cry (not just a bit of moisture, full on tears!). Immediately I went to see what other work she had published, and picked up A Note of Madness, her debut novel.
I knew from the beginning this book would be another tough read, but it was so worthwhile. Ms. Suzuma writes with an intensity that is impossible to walk away from - I was incredibly emotionally invested in this book right from the beginning.
Flynn is the kind of character that you just want to reach through the pages and comfort, and as family and friends try their best to reach out and help him, I could feel their hopelessness and concern. As Flynn's mental health fluctuates, so does the pacing - as a reader I felt like I was right inside his head, experiencing his highs and lows, emotions and experiences.
It wasn't until I finished reading and read some more about Ms Suzuma herself that I found out that mental illness is one of her own personal struggles, which makes me love this book even more - it is truly a work from the heart.
If the subject matter of Forbidden is one step too far for you, I strongly recommend that you read A Note of Madness instead - it's emotional, compelling and you will be incredibly touched by Flynn's story.
This was my third book by Tabitha Suzuma, and following on from A Note of Madness, when I couldn't help but fall a little bit in love with Flynn, I wa...more This was my third book by Tabitha Suzuma, and following on from A Note of Madness, when I couldn't help but fall a little bit in love with Flynn, I was excited to see where his story would go next. Of course, I knew this would be another emotional read, and I was quite surprised to find that the story was told in alternating POV between Flynn and Jennah.
But it really couldn't have been written any other way - and in fact the whole feel of the book was more Jennah's story than Flynn's, which was perfect. I liked Jennah in the first book, but this time around I could completely feel her pain, her confusion and her soul-wrenching sorrow as Flynn's illness spiralled out of control. Everything that happens to Flynn, Jennah and their families and friends feels completely real and imaginable. Their relationship is incredibly touching and their love is convincing, with realistic dialogue.
The ending is, in the typical style of Ms. Suzuma, not neat nor pretty. It's another bittersweet tear-jerker that had my heart breaking as I read with something akin to mania through the closing stages, but still maintained that little spark of hope that things really could get better for Flynn and Jennah.
Although this is a quick read, it's not a light one and once again Ms. Suzuma has written an emotional, compelling book that is impossible to put down.
As I said at the end of my review of A Note of Madness, if you are put off reading Forbidden due to the nature of the plot, this series perfectly showcases Ms. Suzuma's fantastic, emotional, compelling writing and I can recommend it to anyone.
Told in a straight-forward, slightly detached manner, The Sum of My Parts is an emotional, intriguing and haunting read. Olga’s openness about the horrendous abuse she suffered as a child is admirable, and she has done her best to reach a medium of revealing enough of her story to make an impact on the reader, whilst respecting the feelings and potential reactions of other DID sufferers.
The psychology and treatment of her condition make for fascinating, gut-wrenching reading, from spiraling into agoraphobia, her struggle to keep her career and to save her marriage. As Olga relives the memories that she has compartmentalized in order to keep herself from falling apart, she also discovers a side of herself that she never even knew existed.
I really enjoyed this book – it was very emotional and quite disturbing in parts, but it was also uplifting and inspirational. If you have an interest in psychology, or in real people overcoming huge adversity and using it to their advantage, this book is for you. (less)
Hospital Babylon is the fourth book of Imogen Edwards-Jones' eight "Babylon" books that I have read in the past few years. Offering an insight into th...moreHospital Babylon is the fourth book of Imogen Edwards-Jones' eight "Babylon" books that I have read in the past few years. Offering an insight into the world of situations and occupations that are glamorous and yet often ridiculed, these are pretty light reads, with input from anonymous insiders.
Probably the most famous of these books is Hotel Babylon, upon which a television series in the UK was based a few years ago. Hotel Babylon is also the first of the books I read (after seeing the TV series), followed by Beach Babylon (the story of a glamorous resort) and Air Babylon (the adventures of an airline steward which really freaked me out when it discussed what happens when people die on planes).
Hospital Babylon is the last of the "Babylon" books I will probably read, although I'm tempted by Restaurant Babylon that was only released a couple of weeks ago, and that's because it's the last one that I find particularly interesting. I'm always drawn to non-fiction books set in hospitals, as after working in one for more than three years (my favourite job ever), what I saw was enough to make your toes curl, let alone what the medical staff endure.
Based on twenty-four hours in a UK emergency room, seen through the eyes of one of the doctors in training, Hospital Babylon is both a look behind the scenes and at the front line of emergency medicine. Funny, sad, shocking and frustrating, the stories of the patients, doctors, nurses and other medical staff kept me turning the pages, and in between was an intimate look at the NHS itself, and the impact that standards of care, staffing requirements and middle management have had on changing how an emergency room in the UK operates - with some pretty frightening results.
However, unlike other non-fiction medical memoirs I've read in recent years, the main character resists the opportunity to really take a pop at the National Health Service - instead he highlights the impact of the changes, rather than railing against them, and how patients and their outcomes are ultimately affected - either for better or worse.
At times this book is very funny - some of the situations that people find themselves in would be hilarious to anyone except the person in the midst of it, and at other times it's very sad - how quickly someone who appears to have only a minor medical problem can deteriorate, how the staff are pushed to the edges of physical and mental limits and how they actually are real people too - something that is easy to forget when you are waiting for medical attention.
Hospital Babylon is probably the least funny of the "Babylon" books that I've read, but probably the one that I enjoyed the most. To be honest, the writing isn't mind blowing, but the insight with which the story of one emergency room, on one night, was told was enough to keep me entertained.(less)
Last week I posted a review of Hospital Babylon, the story of one day in an English A&E Department, which I really enjoyed. Because I enjoyed it s...moreLast week I posted a review of Hospital Babylon, the story of one day in an English A&E Department, which I really enjoyed. Because I enjoyed it so much I went through my books on search for something similar, and stumbled across Confessions of a GP, which I picked up a couple of years ago. I was interested in reading a book from the perspective of a General Practitioner, because it promised to be more intimate and perhaps more focused on specific patients and scenarios.
However, Confessions of a GP is more a series of vignettes across the career of Benjamin Daniels, both as a GP and as a doctor in training in a hospital setting. Several of the stories were sad, others almost funny, but the vast majority came across to me as being rather condescending.
I'm sure that as a GP, Benjamin Daniels has more than his fair share of frustrations with people - from those that treat their doctor like a get-out-of-work-free card, or take up their time with seemingly inane problems with unrealistic expectations of what their GP can do for them. But as a book, it's rather disappointing, and his overall attitude comes across as knowing more than the average person, which in some cases is perhaps true, but left me more than a little disappointed.
The only character that consistently appears throughout the book is Benjamin himself, and as he is a locum GP, rather than having a permanent practice, there's not even the relief of having a receptionist or nurse play any type of recurring role. And seeing as I liked him less and less as the book progressed, my enthusiasm for his stories lessened too.
Perhaps I'm being a little unfair because I'm comparing Confessions to an almost similar book, but surely writing about real people with a little more compassion isn't such a big ask. There were a handful of patients that I was interested in their outcomes, but Daniels was so negative that it also started to rub off on me and I just stopped caring.
I really can't recommend this book to anyone, even if you are interested in medical non-fiction. It was just one man's whinging rant, and I just didn't buy into it at all.(less)
I quite enjoy a bit of non-fiction occasionally, but it has to be entertaining. And honestly, going into this one, I was quite worried that it would b...moreI quite enjoy a bit of non-fiction occasionally, but it has to be entertaining. And honestly, going into this one, I was quite worried that it would be far too science-y for me - I hated science at school because I just wasn't interested.
But with The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot has taken a subject and turned it into a far more emotional story than just the tale of how one woman's cells became the building blocks of modern medicine. The scientific / medical parts are written in a way that are easily understandable, and dotted with interesting, well-presented facts that grabbed my attention, and actually had me wanting to know more.
Alongside the science, there is also a very human side to the story. From diagnosis, to treatment to Henrietta's early death, Ms Skloot tells the tale with a sympathetic yet straight-forward voice. As she becomes more and more involved with the story behind HeLa and begins the arduous task of gaining the trust of Henrietta's family in order to find out as much as possible about the mystery lady behind one of the greatest advancements in medicine, I liked her more and more.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is more than a non-fiction book. It's a moving, and sometimes shocking investigation into the life of Henrietta, her family and the fall-out from the scientific advances made using her cells. From the radical treatments, lack of information, complete lack of consent, through to the investigation into homes for the disabled in the 1950's, there were many times during this book that I was completely floored that parts of history have been so completely glossed over.
Even if non-fiction isn't your thing, The Immortal Life of Henrietta lacks doesn't feel like non-fiction at all - there's far too much emotion, and it's far too compelling to be considered just another non-fiction book.