Tag Archives: book review

Children’s Hour: Nemo’s Friends


Children’s Hour is a  feature here at Lucybird’s Book Blog every Thursday where I’m looking at children’s picture books. As I work in a nursery I get plenty of opportunities to look at picture books, and to see what the kids think of them so it really makes sense to use those experiences.

I’d love to hear everybody’s experiences of the books I review too, and feel free to post me a link to your own reviews, I’d love to make this a bit interactive.

Nemo’s Friends  is one of those let’s make sure parents don’t feel guilty for buying Disney books by making it educational books.

The story is pretty much none-existent. It basically lists Nemo’s friends and gives a fact about that friend, like ‘is a blue fish’ or ‘is a small fish’. The kid’s like it because it’s Nemo, and possibly because they can feel the achievement of knowing which fish is the blue fish etc.

One thing I do like about it is that there will be more sea creatures on the page than the one mentioned so the kids do have to use their knowledge to find out which fish is the fish being talked about.

In terms of story enjoyment, and adult enjoyment it’s pretty low. Even so this is the book other that ‘I Want My Potty’ that the kids seem to want to possess, so it obviously holds some charm. For me it is a way of getting them engaged in knowing things like colour and size, so whilst I don’t find it enjoyable to read, it is at least useful.

Buy it:

Board Book (new and used from £0.01)

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War- Roald Dahl


Synopsis

War is a set of short stories for adults written about war. Based on Dahl’s own experiences in the RAF and of wartime in general.

Review

I’ve ever read any of Dahl’s adult stories before, it’s one of these things that I always thought I’d do at some point and never got around to. I loved his stories as a child, so I was both excited and a bit apprehensive about reading the adult stories. I chose this particular collection because of my love of war stories.

The first, and longest, story was ‘Going Solo’ and it was an account of Dahl’s own experiences in the RAF. Now I read his book ‘Going Solo’ when I was a child, which I only vaguely remember. I’m sure that this version (the one in ‘War’) is more adult, it doesn’t read like a children’s book anyway, but as both are autobiographies I imagine that a lot of the stories are of the same incidents.

Going Solo was the story in the collection which I enjoyed the most. The others though really held something which said that Dahl knew war, and the aftermath. What I liked was how things like loosing a child, or shellshock, or even just generally recovering from the experience of war were talked about but not explicitly. Most of the other short stories felt like they were a story which showed how these things felt, without actually saying how they felt- a sort of metaphor if you will.

The other stories did tend towards the weird, which I think is part of why I didn’t like them so much in the moment. They weren’t weird in an entertaining way, just strange.

I’m not sure if my experience means I will read more of Dahl’s adult stories or not. When I bought this one I also considered Madness and Innocence so I still may read them.

3/5

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Kindle (£4.99)

Paperback (£6.55)

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Filed under Biography, Contempory, Fiction review, Historical, History, Memoir, non-fiction review, Short story

The Power- Naomi Alderman


Synopsis

It starts with teenage girls and gradually spreads and grows until ‘the power’ reaches all women. The power means that women can send arcs of electricity with their hands. Soon the world is turned on it’s head and women are in charge.

 

Review

‘The Power’ was a pick for my book group a few (3? 4?) months ago and it was a hit with all of us (The first 2 links in my other reviews section are from fellow group members). It’s a feminist book group so this did seem like a pretty perfect choice for us, but it had been on my radar before we picked it.

I was ready to write this review when I finished it but I wanted to go to the book group first so I left it, and my vigor to write this review wore off a bit- I think next time I will write but not publish until after.

The story is told in 4 main voices, but contains more major characters than that. There is a female senator who is very supportive of the girls early on, there is the daughter of a gang boss, there is a girl who transforms herself into a religious leader, and a journalist- the only male voice who we hear from directly.

At first it seemed that everything would be perfect. Women have been marginalised for millennia so why would they treat men the same when they find they have the power? Part of what I liked was that things weren’t perfect. It said that women are just people too, and people do bad things, and people abuse power, and people get carried away. It asked the question of whether a world ruled by women would really be better than one ruled by men? The power didn’t really rebalance the problem, it overbalanced it in the other direction.

In other books, in books where women weren’t on top some of these women would be praised as being powerful women, but in a world where they have the natural advantage they sometimes use that power for bad. As the story went on things got darker, and at times it was hard to see right from wrong, because things need to change- but is there such a thing as too much change?

In terms of readability it was a pretty easy read, and the writing style did remind me a bit of YA, not that that’s a bad thing. In fact ‘The Power’ could probably be a YA book if some bits were less graphic.

The other half was a bit sceptical of this book in general, he didn’t really get why they needed a power to balance things, and that says it all really- that we try and balance things but still it’s hard to be a woman.

4.5/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£3.99)

Kindle (£4.99)

Hardback (£12.75)

Other Reviews:

Murder Underground Broke the Camel’s Back

Heavenali

Sam Still Reading

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

Word By Word

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Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Sci-Fi

Children’s Hour: What Shall We Do With the Boo-Hoo Baby?


Children’s Hour is a  feature here at Lucybird’s Book Blog every Thursday where I’m looking at children’s picture books. As I work in a nursery I get plenty of opportunities to look at picture books, and to see what the kids think of them so it really makes sense to use those experiences.

I’d love to hear everybody’s experiences of the books I review too, and feel free to post me a link to your own reviews, I’d love to make this a bit interactive.

I’ve read What Shall We Do With the Boo-Hoo Baby?  to the toddlers a few times now, and it’s pretty popular. It’s a fairly simple story, the baby is crying and car, duck, dog and cow are trying to make it stop, with little success.

It’s a repetitive story. Each animal makes a suggestion of what to do, and they do it, whilst making their noises, but still the baby goes ‘Boo-Hoo-Hoo’. The kids like the noises, especially when I ‘cry’ boo-hoo-hoo, but I’m surprised that they’re not yet joining in with the repetitive bits. We also managed to stay quiet after reading so we didn’t wake the baby (if only we could manage this when some of the other toddlers are sleeping!).

In general I would say that after 2 it would probably be to basic, but it could work for younger children.

The edition we have is dual language Romanian and English, but you can get it in just English and in other dual languages

Buy it:

Paperback (new and used from £0.01)

Board Book (new and used from £0.01)

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Children’s Hour: Mr Big


Children’s Hour is a  feature here at Lucybird’s Book Blog every Thursday where I’m looking at children’s picture books. As I work in a nursery I get plenty of opportunities to look at picture books, and to see what the kids think of them so it really makes sense to use those experiences.

I’d love to hear everybody’s experiences of the books I review too, and feel free to post me a link to your own reviews, I’d love to make this a bit interactive.

When I picked up Mr Big  I was a little unsure as to the length for the toddlers, but we needed something new and interesting, so I offered this and another new book (which will probably be next week’s Children’s Hour), and they picked this one.

Ed Vere is also the author of Banana which was very popular with the pre-schoolers, but very reader dependant. ‘Mr Big’ tells its own story. The story is about Mr Big who is so big that everyone is scared of him, and all he wants is some friends. Mr Big buys a piano, and the beautiful music he plays lets everyone see his soft side.

It’s a beautiful story about not judging by what you see, about emotions, about the importance of friends, and the beauty of music. You could probably write an adult book on the same themes if you padded it out a bit.

Anyway, yes the kids did miles better with it than I thought they would. They actually listened (or at least most of them) and the only way really they didn’t sit nicely was because they wanted to leap up and see the pictures and point at things- which you can’t really say is a bad thing.

Ed Vere’s pictures are bright, and beautiful, and engaging, they really helped the kids to see Mr Big as a person and to want to know about him (him being a monkey probably helped too)

Buy it:

Paperback (£6.99)

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Children’s Hour: I Want my Potty


Children’s Hour is a  feature here at Lucybird’s Book Blog every Thursday where I’m looking at children’s picture books. As I work in a nursery I get plenty of opportunities to look at picture books, and to see what the kids think of them so it really makes sense to use those experiences.

I’d love to hear everybody’s experiences of the books I review too, and feel free to post me a link to your own reviews, I’d love to make this a bit interactive.

We have got quite a few toddlers potty training recently so it was time to get out I Want My Potty.  It’s a book which has been popular with plenty of toddlers over the years I’ve been working at the nursery, but this particular group seem to be obsessed.

The story follows The Little Princess as she learns to use the potty, and how she grows from disliking it to finding it fun. She does some silly things with the potty, which I know some readers wouldn’t find helpful, but our kids find it funny, and you still talk about whether that’s what we do with a potty which gets a conversation going.

In one scene The Little Princess decides to wear the potty on her head! Two of our toddlers did this with our play potties and came to show me laughing and saying they were the princess! (I wish I could show you a picture, it was so cute!)

They have also taken just to carrying this particular book around. Not necessarily to read, more to possess (oh little budding bibliophiles!)

Buy it:

Paperback (£6.94)

Hardback (£4.99)

Kindle (£4.49)

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Choose to Rise: The Victory Within- M. N. Mekaelian


Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis. 

One day Vartan Hagopain, a well respected professor approaching retirement, collapses whilst teaching a class and is shouting of a woman his grandchildren have never heard of. This brings his brother Armen to share a story which he had been keeping a secret since he was a teenager.

It’s the story of their life during and just before the Armenian Genocide.

Review

I mainly agreed to read this book because I knew nothing about the Armenian Genocide, a part of history which I think has largely been forgotten due to it coinciding, but not being a part of, the first world war. I tend to find stories are a good way to learn about history because they make it more real than a handful of facts.

When it came to the actual events of the Armenian Genocide itself I think this book did do quite well. It was almost brutal in the amount of detail which was given, and those who are sensitive to gore may dislike it- but that’s how it should be. I liked how Mekaelian showed both the horrible side of the genocide but also how the Armenians and sometimes others living in the Ottoman empire showed compassion and generosity even when it caused them to be at risk.

Having said this I found the first 75% of the novel difficult. I felt not much was really happening, and some things were pretty unbelievable. I almost gave up a few times.

The beginning was quite exciting, but in reflection it was pointless. There were other ways to be able to tell the story, and it made me think that it might have just been included so that the free 10% given by kindle would encourage people to buy it. Whilst this part of the story was referred to occasionally throughout the novel those parts weren’t needed either.

After the rather exciting start the tempo really slowed down are Armen started his story. The story is very much Vartan’s story to start with, but it is told by Armen. I often got frustrated at how much Armen seemed to know about Vartan’s life even when he wasn’t present. I can’t imagine that even the closest of brothers would reveal such deep thoughts and feelings to each other, and some of the smaller events probably wouldn’t be shared either. It made the writing seem a bit clunky to me, and I think that if Mekaelian wanted to get both the brothers side of things and stories then he would have been better telling the story in a different way than completely in Armen’s voice.

I also found Vartan’s relationship with Nadia to be rather superficial and unbelievable. I couldn’t see where the love was coming from. Maybe that is because it was told in Armen’s voice, but it wasn’t detailed enough to be a love story.

There was also a sort of philosophical element which seemed like it was jammed in to give meaning to the events. And, whilst something like that would have an effect on someone’s outlook on life I don’t think it needed to be a solution for Armen searching for something.

All the different elements did make me wonder if the author really knew what he wanted to write about. Did he want to write a story about the Armenian Genocide? Did he want a coming of age novel? Did he want a story of everyday life for Armenians? Did he want a love story? It just seemed a bit like he’d crammed lots of ideas together.

In terms of learning about the Armenian Genocide it probably made it worth reading for me, however there are probably better ways to learn about it, and maybe even other novels?

2.5/5

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Kindle (£6.19)

Paperback (£16.38)

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Filed under Fiction review, Historical

Children’s Hour: My Mum


Children’s Hour is a  feature here at Lucybird’s Book Blog every Thursday where I’m looking at children’s picture books. As I work in a nursery I get plenty of opportunities to look at picture books, and to see what the kids think of them so it really makes sense to use those experiences.

I’d love to hear everybody’s experiences of the books I review too, and feel free to post me a link to your own reviews, I’d love to make this a bit interactive.

When I was in pre-school earlier today one of the children came to show me My Mum, I have seen it before, but never discussed it on here. She first wanted to show me all the pictures and told me the story in her own words, then she asked me to read it.

The story is pretty simple. With each picture there is a description of what the child’s Mum is like “My Mum is as soft as a kitten, and as tough as a rhino” with the pictures showing Mum like that. The pictures are obviously the Mum because they wear the same pattern as her. Each section ends with a variant of “She’s really nice, my Mum” which gradually makes Mum sound even better.

The combination of pictures and the repetitive formula make it an easy story for the kids to read to themselves, but isn’t so repetitive that it’s boring. The pictures are beautiful and well thought out.

Buy it:

Paperback (£6.99)

Hardback (£5.99)

Kindle (£4.99)

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Children’s Hour: Mr Bear Says ‘Can I Have a Hug?’


Children’s Hour is a  feature here at Lucybird’s Book Blog every Thursday where I’m looking at children’s picture books. As I work in a nursery I get plenty of opportunities to look at picture books, and to see what the kids think of them so it really makes sense to use those experiences.

I’d love to hear everybody’s experiences of the books I review too, and feel free to post me a link to your own reviews, I’d love to make this a bit interactive.

Mr Bear Says ‘Can I Have a Hug?’ (or Owl as one of our children calls it) is just right for our current group of toddlers, quite a few of whom don’t have the focus for a longer picture book. I managed to read this and another in the same series before I felt they wouldn’t focus for any longer. In this one Mr Bear is looking for someone to hug, but nobody i quite right. The spider is too small, the owl’s feathers make him sneeze, but baby bear is just right.

It reminds me a little bit of the That’s not my… books, but with more variety of descriptive words. The kids loved it when we acted out hugging the different animals, which made this one more popular than the other.

Buy it:

New (from £706.99)

Used (from £0.01)

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The Circle- Dave Eggers


Synopsis

‘The Circle’ is the biggest internet company in the world, with technological arms which reach into many areas of life. Mae Holland is one of the lucky ones who gets a job at The Circle, and her life is going to completely change

 

Review

Note: For purposes of this review ‘The Circle’ refers to the book and The Circle refers to the company which is the topic of the book.

When ‘The Circle’ was first released there were a lot of people on my blogroll reading it, and many raving about it. At the time I sort of liked the concept but my experience of the only other Dave Eggers book I’ve read (‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius’) sort of put me off. When I finally picked it up it was because it was on kindle daily deal. I kind of wish I hadn’t judged the book by its author because I actually really liked ‘The Circle’.

The book has been described as being a dystopian novel, which is probably accurate, although what makes it really scary and sort of uncomfortable is how close it is to life now, and how at first it doesn’t seem like anything is really that bad, in fact most of the things The Circle are doing seem almost good. It’s only when it’s too late that you realise those things which seemed good are actually not so great, and it makes you question where the line is. At what point did the things The Circle was doing become bad? Or were they always bad?

The Circle is a sort of blend of google and facebook. There’s a social element which is similar to facebook, but then they are all over the place through their ‘true you’ program which means you only ever need to remember one login for everything, banking, shopping, social media. This sounds sort of good, right, convenient? Then they’re into social justice, documenting things for accountability, like demonstrations, you can see where violence might start, and it’s a public place, anyone could see it anyway. It’s not that different from videos being posted on youtube to show what governments are doing. That’s good, right? We want governments to be accountable.

‘The Circle’ has kept popping back into my head since I read it. Part of it was that it got me thinking about fine lines and privacy, and accountability. Part of it is that real life kept making me think of it. Not long after I’d read it I saw that facebook had started a feature where you can see how many people have reacted to your recent posts. Like wow look how popular you are Like! I don’t care about that for my personal account (maybe a little for the blog facebook), at the time I might want to talk to my friends about what I’d posted, or I might appreciate someone’s reaction to it, but I don’t really care about how many people it is. I’m not a big facebook poster anyway.

I would say that ‘The Circle’ does make you think and I would recommend it. Quite a few people dislike it because they find Mae hard to sympathise with, she’s not really a likeable character, so if you have to like your main character then I would maybe leave this one, but her being that way is part of what makes the book what it is.

4.5/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£4.99)

Paperback (£3.85) -Part of the ‘Buy 3 for £10‘ promotion

Other Reviews:

Leeswammes Blog

Book Journey

Nylon Admiral

Did I miss your review? Post a link in comments and I’ll add it here

There’s still time! If you haven’t entered my giveaway of ‘Yes Means Yes’ why not?!

 

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Filed under Contempory, Dystopian, Fiction review

Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape- Various


Synopsis

‘Yes Means Yes’ is a book with a series of essays written by different feminists, looking at various issues around women’s sexual empowerment and rape and showing a variety of different approaches and thoughts to do with these issues.

Review

If you’ve been following my blog since I was reading ‘Yes Means Yes’ you’ll know that I was really into it and that it really got me thinking. So much so that I wrote several posts where I looked with more depth at some of the articles which emoted me the most (Here, here, here, here, here and here). I would say that most of the articles I did agree with at least to a point (unless they were more stories, which you can’t exactly disagree with anyway), but the ones I wrote about are the ones which most got me thinking or made me really feel something for the writer.

Because the articles are all written by different people, some men, some women, people who are transgender, people who are gay, people who are straight, and people from different communities and cultural backgrounds, you get a good variety of different views. The articles don’t always completely agree, but they all agree that something needs to change. They all agree that there is a rape culture which blames the victim, and which is supported in ways which aren’t always obvious.

I think this book is important to read, and I would recommend everyone to read it- not just girls or feminists- but everyone. Emotionally it’s not always an easy read, and some of the articles are easier to read in terms of writing style, but I do think they should still all be read.

I didn’t write a post about the last article, but it is a nice place to end the book. Where all else is scary and unsure the last article advocates having fun, which is a happy note to finish on

Please go buy it, borrow it, read it now, enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post

5/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£13.16)

Because I think this book is so important I’m giving away one copy to a lucky reader, all you need to do is comment on this blog post to be in with a chance. You can gain extra votes through my social media channels. See the rafflecopter below for details and good luck!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Filed under essays, Feminism, non-fiction review

Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body- Sara Pascoe


Synopsis

Animal is Sara Pascoe’s autobiography where she talks about her experiences as a woman, and about evolutionary psychology.

Review

I read this book for my book group intending to join in online (then forgot on the actual day, opps!), it probably wouldn’t have been something I would have picked up without it being a bookclub book just because I don’t really know much about Sara Pascoe, at least not beyond her being a comedian (or ‘funny woman’), but I knew it was quite a popular book so I was happy enough to read it.

At first I must admit I found Pascoe a little annoying. She seemed to labour over a lot of points, and kept repeating herself. The other half said whenever he looked over my shoulder she seemed to be SHOUTING- and she did seem to quite frequently. She also had these little script-type sections with a teacher and pupil and I didn’t really like those parts, they just seemed like a long way to get to a point which would have been understandable without the play (and often she explained them without the play too which was just a little frustrating).

However once I could see past the waffle I did find some of the things she talked about rather interesting- especially when she talked about evolutionary psychology- and the way she talked about more serious or intellectual subjects did make it more entertaining and easily acceptable.

I also thought she was brave when she talked about some of the things which had happened to her or she had done. Some of them can’t have been easy to talk about, and some things which could have made others judge her.

I do think it would make quite a good sex ed book too, especially for girls, because it’s truthful and it does go into more sticky subjects which tend to be missed in school sex ed. It would be nice if it was recommended reading in schools for that reason, but the way some people are about talking about sex there would probably be someone who stopped that when they saw how frank Pascoe is.

It probably is worth battling through the waffle, as you get through things are a bit more coherent, and less annoying. I’m not sure I’d say I finished it liking Pascoe, but I certainly respected what she was trying to do.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£5.55)

Paperback (£5.84)

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Filed under Biography, Comedy, Feminism, non-fiction review, psychology (non-fiction)

Yes Means Yes: When is a Virgin a Virgin?


This post contains discussion of sex which may not be suitable for some readers

Recently I have been reading ‘Yes Means Yes‘, a collection of essays which talk about female sexuality and consent and how stereotypical visions of female sexuality contribute to a rape culture. It’s a powerful book. I had planned to get to the end and then talk about it overall as I would do with a book normally, but recently some of the articles have really been getting in my head and I feel like it might be better to write down some thoughts specifically on those articles. I probably won’t do this for every article but it seems like a better way to look at it, and I will do a sort of summery post when I’m completely done.

This is my sixth of these review/thought posts for Yes Means Yes, (and probably the last bar an overall roundup) you can read the rest here:

Touch and Consent / Killing Misogyny / The First Time / Sex Education / Nice Guys Finish Last

The Process-Orientated Virgin

-Hanne Blank

When Blank met her first process-orientated virgin she was rather taken-aback. This woman had being having sex for over a year before she considered her virginity lost, because that was the first time she had an orgasm.

I’ve heard before of people claiming multiple types of virginity, hetrosexual virginty, gay/lesbian virginity, anal virginity, but never about people claiming that virginity could carry on after some sort of sexual intercourse had occurred (although many may say it has to be penis in vagina sex for virginity to be lost).

But the more I think about it the more I like the idea. It’s sort of freeing. It says sex should be enjoyed, so until I enjoy sex, it’s not really sex. And hey, how many people actually really enjoy their first time? They don’t really know what they’re doing. Their nervous. There can be blood and generally unsexy things going on. For many it can be too quick, or painful (not all but a not painful time tends to be seen as a good first time, as discussed previously in the book).

I like the idea that you can think that your first time is when you experienced good sex. When you feel like you have lost all your virgin ideas and naivety, and that’s just for those who choose when to have sex. Think of how liberating it could be for rape survivors to really loose their virginity when they choose.

Plus it gets rid of that whole thing of what loss of virginity is, because it’s decided by the virgin.

What do you think? Can virginity be redefined like this? Should it just be first time sex? Of hetrosexual type or of prefered type?

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Filed under essays, Feminism, non-fiction review

Armada- Ernest Cline


Synopsis

Zack Lightman is a video game addict. He spends hours playing Armada and is one of the top players in the world. Then one day he sees a spaceship outside the window, and the really strange thing? It’s a spaceship he recognises from Armada, is he going crazy, or is it something else?

Review

I read Armada as part of Dewey’s Readathon and it was a pretty perfect choice for a readathon. It was easy to read and engaging, I got to geek out, and I didn’t have to think about it too hard. It took a little time to really get going but once it did I was really hooked and it took me less than a day to read the whole thing.

I had bought Armada as a present for my partner after he loved Ready Player One, and I read it because I loved ‘Ready Player One’ too. The boyfriend described it as reading like a book written on the way to getting to ‘Ready Player One’, very similar in lots of ways, but not quite there yet. I get that completely. It wasn’t quite up to the awesomeness that was ‘Ready Player One’, but it had a lot of the same sort of geeky references which were one of the good things about ‘Ready Player One’.

Armada’s storyline is probably a bit more relatable than ‘Ready Player One’, but it makes it less of a fantasy and less escapist too. It also means that you don’t have quite as strong a feeling towards the characters. And it makes it more predictable, I guessed at least some of the plot beforehand and although I still enjoyed it but I like it when plots keep me guessing.

If you’ve not read any Ernest Cline I would go for ‘Ready Player One’ first, but ‘Armada’ may fill some of the void which was left (or may be a big disappointment if you believe some other reviewers, views are very mixed)

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£6.19)

Kindle (£4.99)

Other reviews:

Annette’s Book Spot

Leeswammes’ Blog

Silly Little Mischief

Words for Worms

Book Journey

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction review, Sci-Fi

Yes Means Yes: Nice Guys Finish Last


Recently I have been reading ‘Yes Means Yes‘, a collection of essays which talk about female sexuality and consent and how stereotypical visions of female sexuality contribute to a rape culture. It’s a powerful book. I had planned to get to the end and then talk about it overall as I would do with a book normally, but recently some of the articles have really been getting in my head and I feel like it might be better to write down some thoughts specifically on those articles. I probably won’t do this for every article but it seems like a better way to look at it, and I will do a sort of summery post when I’m completely done.

This is my fifth of these review/thought posts for Yes Means Yes, you can read the rest here:

Touch and Consent / Killing Misogyny / The First Time / Sex Education

Why Nice Guys Finish Last

-Julia Serano

‘Why Nice Guys Finish Last’ is probably the article which will be the most controversial amongst feminists, simply because it suggests that women (or more accurately girls) have an active part to play in destroying rape culture. This is somewhat at odds with the idea that girls shouldn’t act in a certain way to avoid rape, however I can certainly understand her argument.

Serano is transgender so she has the advantage of having seen the issue from a male and a female perspective. She has experienced some of the sexist issues which many women experience, but spent her years at school and college as a man.

Serano’s argument is based around the idea of men as predators and women as prey, she says that because women often act like prey that influences men to act as predators.

Serano particularly focussed on how ‘bad’ guys seemed to attract more women than nice guys (actually nice guys, not the type who act nice until they hear no). She says that this influences nice guys to act like bad guys to attract women, and eventually for them to morph into bad guys, because women ‘like it’.

The whole women ‘like it’ argument comes out a little similar to the ‘she was asking for it’ idea, and that’s more what puts me off this than the actual argument. I’m also unsure that the whole women acting like prey thing is completely true. I know plenty of people who date nice guys, and I can’t think of anyone who says they prefer bad guys (although in a general way I have heard the ‘bad guys are hot’ idea), plus I don’t think many people would stick with a bad guy, they might date them but if they are really bad guys then that’s not something which they would commit to. Even if bad guys get more girls I wouldn’t be surprised if nice guys end up in more committed relationships (although those who are interested just in sex are probably going to be the ones who go for it).

What do you think? Do women act like prey? Does that impact on how they are treated by men? Do nice guys really finish last?

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Gather the Daughters- Jennie Melamed


Disclaimer: This book was given to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis

A remote community lives on an island, the only place that is safe after a disaster left the rest of the world as a wastelands. Only the wanderers have seen the wastelands, where they go to forage for supplies, and occasionally save survivors.

There are rules to the island. The men lead, it is the women’s job to keep house and birth children, which they start to do on their first ‘Summer of Fruition’.

But one year a girl, who is soon to become a woman, sees something which starts the girls questioning what they had always been told, and that things had to be the way they are.

Review

I really raced through this book, it reads like a pretty standard dystopian YA novel, but it has some really dark subject matters which are hinted at; rape, domestic violence, paedophillia, murder, anorexia, and persecution. The community follows the laws laid down by the ancestors in ‘Our book’, and in this sense and the way that the community was quite basic and old-fashioned made me think of the Amish (although I wouldn’t expect the Amish to have a community who raped their daughters as a ‘normal’ thing).

Looking back it does seem that that Melamed wanted to add as many issues as she possibly could, but at the time of reading I found that I wanted to keep reading to see what would happen next, so I guess that was actually a good thing.

At the beginning I found it a little difficult to define the characters from each other, but as I got to know them better I found them easier to distinguish. I ended up really liking Janey, she was strong, I would call her a role model but I’m not sure she is really a good one, whilst her actions have fairly sound reasoning behind them they aren’t always the best choices, and I can see some parents not wanting their kids to read the books because of it.

Other reviews I’ve read have described ‘Gather the Daughters’ as too depressing. Whilst I don’t think it is too depressing I also would say that if you like to read light and easy books it won’t be for you. Overall though I would recommend it.

4/5

‘Gather the Daughters’ is released on 25/7/17 in hardback and kindle editions and on 5/4/18 in paperback

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Yes Means Yes: Sex Education


Warning: This post contains discussion of sexual subjects

Recently I have been reading ‘Yes Means Yes‘, a collection of essays which talk about female sexuality and consent and how stereotypical visions of female sexuality contribute to a rape culture. It’s a powerful book. I had planned to get to the end and then talk about it overall as I would do with a book normally, but recently some of the articles have really been getting in my head and I feel like it might be better to write down some thoughts specifically on those articles. I probably won’t do this for every article but it seems like a better way to look at it, and I will do a sort of summery post when I’m completely done.

This is my fourth of these review/thought posts for Yes Means Yes, you can read the first here,the second here and the third here

Real Sex Education

-Cara Kulwicki

In her article Kulwicki talks of what she thinks is an ideal sex education. She says that yes it should include those things a classic sex ed should include; information about STI/Ds, information about safe sex, birth control and pregnancy; but it should also include topics like consent and what makes a healthy sexual relationship- that is consent and pleasure for both parties. She says it should include different types of sexual intercourse than just standard hetrosexual penis in vagina type sex. It should include gay sex, oral sex, masturbation.

Initially this idea sounds a bit like encouraging sex, but actually when you read more you realise that it doesn’t encourage sex as such but physically and emotionally healthy sex lives. It says you shouldn’t be ashamed of exploring your sexuality and of seeking sexual pleasure. Sex is a way of giving and receiving pleasure as well as a way of connecting with someone else, and as a way of creating life.

It also encourages openly talking about sex, which makes it easier for those participating to talk about what they like and don’t, and makes it easier for questions to be asked. It means people shouldn’t feel ashamed about buying condoms, or asking about sexual health concerns, which will promote better physical sexual health.

Shame of sex only breeds the sort of culture where a raped woman can be blamed for her rape, whilst a boy can be forgiven because his sexual urges got the better of him. Where it is understood that everyone should be enjoying what is happening then the idea that a girl who gives no consent is ‘asking for it’ shows that there is no healthy sexual relationship there. It won’t stop rape, but hopefully changing the culture around sex can make it be less excusable.

Reading this chapter made me think about my own sex ed. at school. I went to an all girl’s catholic school (almost 20 years ago) so my experience of sex ed. is probably particularly bad for the time but I do remember it being more or less non existent. I remember learning the very basics of mechanics in science, which was more conception than sex itself, I remember seeing a diagram of intercourse in the science text book- but I don’t actually remember it being mentioned (almost as if sperm just magically appears in your vagina!).

I also remember a talk about contraception. It was given by an unmarried female RE teacher who had taught my Mum when she (Mum) was a teenager. Let’s just say as a group of teenagers we couldn’t imagine that she had any sexual experience (of course now I know that presumption may well be untrue but it meant that the likelihood of us going to her with questions was next to nothing). In the talk she basically listed the different types of contraception, what they did and didn’t do, and told us that ‘The Catholic way’ was the best (i.e. don’t have sex until you’re married then have lots of babies). I can’t imagine Kulwicki’s ‘Real’ sex education ever going down well in schools like mine, but I do think that it may actually be more important there because the girl’s knowledge came from unreliable sources like magazines, and other teenagers, maybe we got the information, but we didn’t get the emotional education, and if parent’s were ‘ultracatholic’ then they wouldn’t feel comfortable asking their parents either.

What do you think should sex ed be changed this much? Does it encourage sex? If it does is that a bad thing? How does this type of sex ed line up with your own experiences?

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Filed under essays, Feminism, non-fiction review

The Accidental Woman- Jonathan Coe


Synopsis

Maria is a woman who is drifting through life. Things happen to her, but she has little drive in what happens. We follow her life for fifteen years, starting just before she starts university.

 

Review

I found The Accidental Woman a little awkward. It’s Coe’s first novel and bares little resemblance to his others. The style of writing is different, and although it is interesting in its difference it also feels a bit like it was used to spread out a story where nothing much really happens.

Coe himself is the narrator, he tells Maria’s story as an author, referring to himself as such. At times this is somewhat amusing because he suggests that he might know how the reader is feeling, but then proceeds not to follow the thought pattern of the reader. In this way he ends up going off on tangents, saying he will tell us about something, then taking a chapter to talk about something else. It is this that makes it seem like a device to spread out the story, but it also makes the reader feel a little like Maria- powerless.

Maria was unlikeable. She seemed so unconnected to her own life, things happened to her and she just let them happen. She would want things but never go for them. She liked to think of herself as somewhat of a loner, but she had friends who she didn’t make any effort with, or any effort to keep, even when she liked them (which was rare).

At a few points it did seem like there was going to be more of a plot, but those points were never explored (which I suppose is Maria’s way), and that was frustrating as a reader.

If you’ve read other novels by Coe you may like to explore the differences in his style by reading ‘The Accidental Woman’, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as your first Coe- maybe ‘The Rotter’s Club’ instead

2.5/5

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Yes Means Yes: The First Time


Warning: This post contains discussion of sexual subjects

Recently I have been reading ‘Yes Means Yes‘, a collection of essays which talk about female sexuality and consent and how stereotypical visions of female sexuality contribute to a rape culture. It’s a powerful book. I had planned to get to the end and then talk about it overall as I would do with a book normally, but recently some of the articles have really been getting in my head and I feel like it might be better to write down some thoughts specifically on those articles. I probably won’t do this for every article but it seems like a better way to look at it, and I will do a sort of summery post when I’m completely done.

This is my third of these review/though posts for Yes Means Yes, you can read the first here and the second here

An Immodest Proposal

-Heather Corinna

In ‘An Immodest Proposal’ Corinna tells the story of a stereotypical loss of virginity. Two teenagers, a boy and a girl. They have been dating for some time and are becoming gradually more sexually involved. The boy has made it be known that he would like to have sex, but has not been pushy. The girl decides that she is ready and when an appropriate time comes they lose their virginities together. There is some bleeding for her but it is not painful, he orgasms, she doesn’t.

It is what would often be described as a ‘good’ first time for her. She didn’t feel forced or unprepared, he was nice to her and waited for her to be ready.

Initially you think what is the issue here? Then Corinna reveals that this story- a perfectly believable- and for many associatable- story is about the boy. He wants sex, she is merely ready. For her the experience is not unpleasant, but she gets no real pleasure from it. So is it really fair to call it a good first time? Should she not hope for more? The whole way the language is used to describe a first time makes it seem very passive. Maybe she does want sex, maybe she does want it to feel good, but she has been always told that for a girl’s first time to be good she only has to be willing. When you really think about it that isn’t fair. A boy is expected to want sex, she is expected to wait for love, or at least someone special.

On the other hand a first time should maybe not be expected to be actually good. The participants are inexperienced, they might not even fully know what they themselves like, let alone what their partner wants. They know the mechanics, but maybe not specifics. As they do more and see more what they like, and get to find what makes the other person feel good, as they become more confident, thing should (hopefully) get better. The girl may feel she can get more involved, and be a participant, rather than just someone who had something happening to them.

In an ideal world everytime should be good, but it’s a bit far to actually expect every time to be good. I think women should be able to feel that they can seek pleasure (even the first time), and that they can initiate sex, but for them to expect it, maybe not.

What do you think of this? Are women at a disadvantage when it comes to sexual pleasure from the onset?

 

 

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Filed under essays, Feminism, non-fiction review

Yes Means Yes: Killing Misogyny


Trigger Warning: Rape and (sexual and physical) violence

Recently I have been reading ‘Yes Means Yes‘, a collection of essays which talk about female sexuality and consent and how stereotypical visions of female sexuality contribute to a rape culture. It’s a powerful book. I had planned to get to the end and then talk about it overall as I would do with a book normally, but recently some of the articles have really been getting in my head and I feel like it might be better to write down some thoughts specifically on those articles. I probably won’t do this for every article but it seems like a better way to look at it, and I will do a sort of summery post when I’m completely done.

This is my second of these review/though posts for Yes Means Yes, you can read the first here

Killing Misogyny: A Personal Story of Love, Violence, and Strategies for Survival

-Cristina Meztli Tzintzún

Cristina grew up in a family which seemed stuck in a loop of misogyny. Her father cheated repeatedly on her mother, he was violent, on their first date he raped her, not even the first time she had been raped. Her aunt faced a similar fate, beaten by her father for being raped and later forced to marry her rapist.

Cristina vowed to break the chain, she would never let a man treat her as her family members had been treated. She started reading feminist literature, and became a self-proclaimed feminist. In her late teens she even wrote and had published an article about how she planned to break the chain of misogyny.

Then she met Alan. Alan seemed like the perfect man from first glance. He was a male feminist, and would get into discussions about feminism with Cristina. When their relationship became sexual he agreed to get tested for STIs before they had sex for the first time.

But things were not as they seemed. Cristina developed herpes from oral sex. Initially she refused to see Alan, but she believed that he would be the only one to give her attention knowing that she had an STI and she returned to him.

Over the next few years Alan and Cristina had an on again off again relationship. He would cheat on her, or give her and STI and she would leave him, but she couldn’t resist him and kept returning. She even went to a group for women like her, but they didn’t know about feminism and she didn’t feel a connection to them. Alan knew about feminism and she believed that he wanted to change, despite all the evidence to the contrary she thought she could be the one to change him.

Cristina has left Alan now, for good. She helps support women who are in the situation she was in. She says that she needed to experience that misogyny for herself to be able to understand it, to understand those who are trapped by it, and to do her best to defeat it.

That she has turned her life around is a hopeful message. It says you can change your life. You can get yourself out that hole. You might fall, but you can get up again. Or at least that is how it should be.

Somehow I find that hope hard to see. She kept returning, how can she be sure that this is it? Even her mother was disappointed with Cristina for leaving Alan, but she is stuck in the same life herself. I get that she doesn’t want that life for her daughter, but I find it hard to see why she stays. I know there probably is not one simple reason, but it seems to diminish the hope from Cristina’s own escape.

I have said before that I feel I’m privileged when it comes to my experiences as a woman, so maybe this is why I can’t see the hope in this story, because I have never experienced anything close to it (and I am thankful for that)?

 

What do you think? Am I missing the hope in this story? Does it have more power than I realise for the right people?

 

Feel free to comment anonymously on this post. It will go into a moderating queue but am unlikely not to approve it

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Yes Means Yes: Touch and Consent


Recently I have been reading ‘Yes Means Yes‘, a collection of essays which talk about female sexuality and consent and how stereotypical visions of female sexuality contribute to a rape culture. It’s a powerful book. I had planned to get to the end and then talk about it overall as I would do with a book normally, but recently some of the articles have really been getting in my head and I feel like it might be better to write down some thoughts specifically on those articles. I probably won’t do this for every article but it seems like a better way to look at it, and I will do a sort of summery post when I’m completely done.

Reclaiming Touch: Rape Culture, Explicit Verbal Consent, and Body Sovereignty.

-Hazel/Cedar Troost

Reclaiming Touch is the first article which really got into my head because it made me look at consent in a whole different light, but I’m still debating with myself over it. In the essay Hazel/Cedar Troost talks about the idea of a sort of expanded consent. The idea is that you should seek consent, and be asked for consent for any type of physical contact, be it a simple hug or something that already requires consent.

Initially I did think that the idea was a bit extreme, that was my sort of gut reaction. I couldn’t really imagine the idea of asking my friends if I could hug them, or my partner if I could hold his hand, because it’s just something that we do. I’m a quite physically affectionate person, I probably wouldn’t just go ahead and hug someone I’d never hugged before without asking, but I guess I would presume consent from having done it before.

It came to a point though where I realised that actually some of that sort of talk is used to justify rape where someone has had sex with the rapist before. In those situations we talk of saying yes once as being consent for that one time, we shouldn’t presume that another time the person may not want it.

It could be the same for any sort of physical contact, just because I have hugged my friend in the past it doesn’t mean that they want a hug now, plus there are times when different types of physical contact might not be appropriate.

Another point Troost made is that seeking consent for small things made seeking consent for bigger things easier. It sets a sort of precedent which means that you wouldn’t even think twice to ask about big things, because you ask for everything else. To me this means that teaching people to ask for consent for everything would mean that they grow to respect other boundaries and makes ‘grey’ rape less likely.

Troost also says that this type of consent actually improves a person’s sex life. I don’t know, it somehow to me makes it seem that things would be less spontaneous, and when you know someone well you can probably read the signs that they aren’t into it (or they would tell you). However I can see it being liberating knowing exactly what each other wants, and knowing that you are both getting enjoyment from the situation. It makes sure you are both on the same level.

 

 

What do you think? Is it extreme to seek consent for everything, or does it create a good habit?

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Do No Harm- Henry Marsh


Synopsis

Henry Marsh is a renowned brain surgeon working in the NHS in the UK. In ‘Do No Harm’ he gives an account of his life as a brain surgeon. He speaks of how the NHS has changed over the years, his victories and his failures, and the effects these things have had on his life.

 

Review

I found out about ‘Do No Harm’ first through Ellie’s blog, and I added it to my wishlist instantly, since that time I heard lots of great things about it, but it was only when it came up on the kindle monthly deals that I actually bought it, in some ways I’m glad I waited, in others I wish I’d gotten to it sooner.

I actually ended up reading it when I was in hospital for my own operation (because apparently I’m insane) I think that I could read about operations at the time without getting freaked out shows just how interested I was. Having said that I wouldn’t say it’s a good book for the faint hearted, there are some rather graphic descriptions of operations- although personally I felt Marsh’s sense of control and anxiety more than I felt squeamish.

You did get a sense of Marsh caring about his patients, he spoke about how he had caused the death, or lack of life, in some patients and how you had to lock that knowledge away because otherwise you would just give up, but that didn’t stop you from feeling guilty. When you do operations which do have such a high level of risk then there are bound to be times that it doesn’t go to plan, and Marsh has probably saved more lives than he has ended, he has a strange mix of guilt for these cases and the stereotypical surgeon arrogance. It made me start to think of that arrogance as a sort of defense mechanism- like a surgeon needs that arrogance otherwise they will always be terrified of what failure will cause, they have to believe things will go right to be able to take that risk.

Another interesting thing was how Marsh talked about how the NHS has changed, and, as he sees it, has become less effective. He wrote of how things were held back by too much paperwork, and bureaucracy, and computers that didn’t work. At one point he is trying to get some x-ray results, but he doesn’t seem to be able to see them on his computer so he goes to the x-ray department, who only seem to be able to see them with one person’s log in. The computers are meant to make things easier but Marsh says if they had the old x-ray films he could have just picked it up and looked in a few seconds instead of trying for a long time to see them on the computer.

This is particularly poignant now because the NHS has been getting lots of cuts, and sold off to private companies, both things which makes it harder for frontline staff to do their jobs. We are very lucky in this country. Our NHS is (generally) free. Anyone can access healthcare. Without the NHS some of Marsh’s patients wouldn’t have been able to afford their operations. It seems crazy that people think the NHS should be scrapped. No it’s not perfect, but the thought of it going away terrifies me, and that seems to be what our current government is working towards. We have a nursing shortage but for some reason the government decided that they would stop the nursing bursary, and we have lots of foreign nurses which we may no longer have with Brexit, and lots of nurses are leaving because their pay has been frozen, they’re having to do more hours, and the paperwork side of things has increased so much that they feel they can’t give time to patients.

Okay end of political rant.

I really found this book interesting and Marsh’s style of writing made it easy to read as well rather than clinical and dry. Now I just have to decide whether to buy a similar book about heart surgery next or Marsh’s second memoir…any recommendations?

4.5/5

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The Lake House- Kate Morton


Synopsis

Whilst on enforced holiday police officer Sadie Sparrow stumbles across an abandoned house that holds a secret. 70 years ago a young child went missing and was never found. Sadie decides to revisit the case and see if she can solve it.

Reveiw

I really enjoy Kate Morton’s books, I like the combinations of mystery, history and relationships. The Lake House is a little bit different, it has more of a ‘standard’ mystery story about it, mainly because it involves an unsolved crime and the actual police where her others are generally more about the people who are involved in the mystery. It still definitely had her personal element, looking at the way the past had affected people now. From how Sadie’s own past had an effect on her to how the child’s own family had been affected by his disappearance.

There were a lot of theories banded about, at first I thought that maybe ‘The Lake House’ was an earlier book by Morton which had been republished because I always felt I was one step ahead of Sadie. Thinking about it a bit more closely though I think that made me be more closely entangled with what Sadie was thinking, and I had more information than Sadie as the book would shift between times, and included sections where you saw into the minds of different people involved.  This gave not just a good look into the mystery, but also a look at the lives and minds of those involved.

There were a couple of things I disliked I thought that (highlight for spoiler) Constance’s killing of Mr LLewellyn just didn’t seem like it was really needed for the story and I found that (highlight for spoiler)Bertie actually being Theo was just a bit too convenient, it fact it slightly spoiled the end of the book for me, maybe I just like a few loose ends.  It didn’t quite hold my attention as well as other Morton books either.

3.5/5

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Nasty Women- 404 Inc.


Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis

‘Nasty Women’ is a series of essays written by nasty women, that is women who apart from being marginalised because of being women are also marginalised for other reasons e.g. being gay. being of non-white descent. The essays talk of life for women in the world today.

Review

I’ve really been into feminist books recently (apart from this I have recently read Moranifesto and Animal, and I’ve started Yes Means Yes), so when I saw this on netgalley it instantly caught my eye.

Nasty Women is inspired by Donald Trump’s comment about Hillary Clinton being a “Nasty woman” and the following twitter trend, because of that I sort of presumed that the book would be written by American women. I was wrong, it doesn’t matter to me, just a comment. 404 Inc. are based in Scotland so, understandably, a lot of the writers were British, and many of those Scottish. In a way I maybe prefered this being British myself because that made a lot of the essays easier for me to relate too.

Having said that I do think I’m a privileged woman. My everyday sexism stories are few and far between, I’m straight, I’m white, I’m educated. Some of the people in these essays aren’t as lucky as I am, and those essays were eye opening. I don’t want to go into too much detail, there were elements I recognised and connected to, and those I didn’t so much but which I could understand.

As far as readability goes it was quite variable. Most of the essays were easy to read, I’d say the conversational types, it doesn’t mean the ones I had to concentrate on more weren’t good, just harder going.

The fact that Donald Trump won though really makes me angry. Partly as a woman, mainly as a human being.

4/5

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Children’s Hour: Jack and the Beanstalk


Children’s Hour is a  feature here at Lucybird’s Book Blog every Thursday where I’m looking at children’s picture books. As I work in a nursery I get plenty of opportunities to look at picture books, and to see what the kids think of them so it really makes sense to use those experiences.

I’d love to hear everybody’s experiences of the books I review too, and feel free to post me a link to your own reviews, I’d love to make this a bit interactive.
A few months ago we got a forest school put into our nursery. The kids loved it, and still do, and we found it really sparked the imagination of some of the children. One of the children suggested that the posts for the hammocks (which we put up as an when) could be candles for a giant’s birthday cake, so that started us off on a whole topic about the giant who had visited our forest school. Of course we needed to find out more about giants so we read Jack and the Beanstalk.

I think there is a reason why some stories stay around for a long time, and the kids certainly enjoyed this one. They used what they had learnt from the book to facilitate their play, from hiding, to cutting down the big tree so that he would fall.

The edition which we have is a lift-the-flap book (it’s the same as the one shown and linked below) which is always something which helps to engage the kids because they love lifting the flaps. They asked to read it quite a few times after it had first been introduced, and a lot of them could tell parts of the story off by heart. We even had one parent coe in and tell us that their son had been talking about Jack and the Beanstalk at home- which is really lovely to hear.

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Small Great Things- Jodi Picoult


Synopsis

When the baby of .a white supremacist dies fingers point to black nurse Ruth who had been banned from caring for the child.

Review

I was excited about reading ‘Small Great Things’ as I generally really enjoy what Picoult writes, but I was also a little unsure. For a white author to write in the voice of a black woman could be problematic, I was concerned about stereotypes, or just that generally the character wouldn’t be right. Thinking about it more I thought that maybe I shouldn’t be concerned about it, after all part of Picoult’s writing is about people who aren’t herself. She can never be a black woman, but then she can never be a male lawyer with epilepsy either, or a child who speaks to God (or at least she can’t be that and a teenage witch, school shooter, abused teenager, abused child, suicide victim) so why shouldn’t she be able to imagine the voice of a black woman?

Whether she wrote an actual realistic representation of a black woman, I can’t say, but I didn’t think that it was stereotypical, and I did think that an interesting view was put on racism which seemed rather empathic. Whether she was actually a believable character is a bit of a moot point, because Picoult definitely did a good job of highlighting, sometimes unnoticed, elements of prejudice and racism.

What I was more surprised about was how Picoult managed to make the voice of the white supremacist a voice which couple be understood and sympathised with- beyond simply as the voice of a man who had lost his child. It wasn’t so much that you could understand why he was racist as you could see how someone could fall into that life.

There was one part of the story which I did find hard to believe, and I don’t think it was really needed. Maybe Picoult just wanted a twist at the end. I won’t say what it was because of spoilers.

I found when I started writing this review that ‘Small Great Things’ is being made into a film– lets hope a better job is made of it as there was on ‘My Sister’s Keeper.’

4//5

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Beelzebelle- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Beelzebelle is the fifth book in the Clovenhoof series

Synopsis

Only Jeremy Clovenhoof could accidentally acquire a baby, but he’s ready to be a Dad- in his own way.

Meanwhile Michael has discovered a new church, Ben has found a new hobby in taxidermy, and there is a wild beast roaming around Sutton Coldfield.

Review

I’m glad to see the series back with Clovenhoof, not that I didn’t like the others, I just missed that group.

Clovenhoof approaches parenthood like no other, including hiring a monkey assistant  and joining a mother’s group in a quest for milk for the baby. Of course things don’t quite go to plan, especially as he’s not really the baby’s father!

A lot of the more action-y part of the story is focussed around Michael who finds a new church which rewards its members for ‘good deads’, a bit like a supermarket loyalty card. and also, accidently creates a beast in the lab where he works.

As with most of the clovenhoof novels most of the action is towards the end, but there is an amusing journey to get there.

4/5 

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Our Endless Numbered Days- Claire Fuller


Synopsis (written by me!)

When Peggy is young she goes on a trip with her father to a cut off area of the woods, her father tells her that the world has ended, and everyone she knew is dead. They are the only survivors and must keep themselves alive living off the land.  The story is told looking back after Peggy has found the world again, and discovered that her father was lying.

Review

It took me a very long time to get into this book, I as reading it for months. I was in the middle of a slump, which probably was a part of it, but the story was slower than I had expected, and a lot of the time not much was really happening. Towards the end it picked up a lot, and I read the last, maybe third, quite quickly. I’m not sure that last section actually brought up the story enough for me to recommend it, but it probably just about made it worthwhile for me as someone who had already started it.

As I’m writing this review more bits of the book are coming back to me from what was quite hazy. There were some good plot points throughout, although not enough to make me eager to read. They were nice little touches though, and they might be enough for others.

Looking at other reviews it seems to be a very much ‘marmite’ book, so I suppose it might be worth giving a try, although it seems that if you don’t like it close to the

3/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£5.59)

Kindle (£4.99)

Other Reviews

Me, My Shelf and I

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

Word By Word

 

 

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Hellzapoppin’- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Synopsis (from amazon)

Life at St Cadfan’s is never dull. There’s the cellar full of unexplained corpses. There’s the struggle to find food when the island is placed under quarantine. And there’s that peculiar staircase in the cellar… Being a demon in Hell has its own problems. There’s the increasingly impossible torture quotas to meet. There’s the entire horde of Hell waiting for you to slip up and make a mistake. And there’s that weird staircase in the service tunnels… Brother Stephen of St Cadfan’s and Rutpsud of the Sixth Circle, natural enemies and the most unnatural of friends, join forces to solve a murder mystery, save a rare species from extinction and stop Hell itself exploding. The fourth novel in the Clovenhoof series, Hellzapoppin’ is an astonishing comedy featuring suicidal sea birds, deadly plagues, exploding barbecues, dancing rats, magical wardrobes, King Arthur’s American descendants, mole-hunting monks, demonic possession and way too much seaweed beer.

Review

Hellzapoppin’ is the fourth book in the Clovenhoof series, but can easily be read as a standalone novel. We have seen the characters in previous books in the series, but they were minor characters, and the events in the previous books they appeared in don’t really have an effect on the events in this one (I would recommend reading the others anyway).

This one did take a little more getting into than the first couple (probably about the same as Godsquad though), and it had less of an action focus.

I did like seeing the image of what Hell might be like though- again a little bit of a poke at bureaucracy that we first saw in Clovenhoof. I also likes the friendship between Ratspud and Stephen. It seems like an unlikely friendship- a monk and a demon, but actually they ended up bringing out the best in each other.

I also liked some of the odd inventions in hell, and the inclusion of Escher and C.S Lewis. If you know the work of Escher you can probably imagine how hellish a piece of architecture based on his work could be. C.S Lewis is known for being a Christian and his Christian writings so it’s interesting to see him here, ‘on loan’ from Heaven.

escheromhoogomlaag

I enjoyed the comedy of the events at the monastery, even the dark humour which isn’t always to my taste.

Part of the reason I picked up Hellzapoppin’ was because of my loss of reading mojo, which I thought this might get through, and I was right.

4/5

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Didn’t Get Frazzled- David Z. Hirsch


Disclaimer: This book was given to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

Medical student Seth Levine faces escalating stress and gallows humor as he struggles with the collapse of his romantic relationships and all preconceived notions of what it means to be a doctor. It doesn’t take long before he realizes not getting frazzled is the least of his problems.

Seth encounters a student so arrogant he boasts that he’ll eat any cadaver part he can’t name, an instructor so dedicated she tests the student’s ability to perform a gynecological exam on herself, and a woman so captivating that Seth will do whatever it takes to make her laugh, including regale her with a story about a diagnostic squabble over an erection.

Review

The author of ‘Didn’t Get Frazzled’ (whose name isn’t actually David Z. Hirsch, that’s a pen name) is a doctor, and that made me a puzzle a lot of the time over how much was true and how much of this story was made up. I’d like to think that most of the actual medical stuff was true, but with patients and doctors given different names, but that the personal stuff was more made up. I at least would expect medical fact to be true.

It compares fairly closely to ‘The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly’ which I think is part of what confused me. It probably is a bit more accessible though because of the extra personal details given. Although I think I would be perfectly happy with just the medical bits to be honest, they were the sections which interested me the most.

Overall I really did enjoy it, there was just one section, where Seth and his friends went to a sort of sex club which I didn’t like, and found completely unneeded to the plot.

I would recommend it though. It’s an interesting, engaging, sometimes funny, and easy read, You could probably read it in one sitting if you had time.

4/5

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Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole- Allan Ropper and David Brian Burrell


Synopsis (from amazon)

What is it like to try to heal the body when the mind is under attack? In this gripping and illuminating book, Dr Allan Ropper reveals the extraordinary stories behind some of the life-altering afflictions that he and his staff are confronted with at the Neurology Unit of Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Like Alice in Wonderland, Dr Ropper inhabits a place where absurdities abound: a sportsman who starts spouting gibberish; an undergraduate who suddenly becomes psychotic; a mother who has to decide whether a life locked inside her own head is worth living. How does one begin to treat such cases, to counsel people whose lives may be changed forever? Dr Ropper answers these questions by taking the reader into a world where lives and minds hang in the balance.

Review

Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole was one of my five star reads last year, but my lack of blogging means I haven’t actually reviewed it yet.

In fact I’ve been on a bit of a non-fiction drive over the last year. In so far as I’ve been reading this year proportionally I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction.

It’s a little bit like ‘The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly’ combined with ‘House’. Lots of real life medical symptoms which seem to have obscure reasons behind them. That tends to be a lot of physical symptoms which have neurological causes, or neurological or psychological symptoms which actually have a physical cause. It’s part of what I always found interesting about House, so it’s even more interesting to see it in real life.

In other ways it’s a lot like some of Oliver Saks work. However I found it easier to read than the things that Saks had written (and I’ve read).

I also liked that you got to see a bit of the hospital itself and also the authors own learning curve. It added a little something. I guess you could say it’s a human element which you don’t get from standard case studies.

5/5

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Hardback (£17.99)

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Filed under Fiction review, health, non-fiction review, psychology (non-fiction)

Some Small Reviews, and Serial Reader


breakfast-serial-iconRecently I’ve been reading some books on an app called Serial Reader. Serial Reader is a free app, which I found out about on thingy thing. It has a number of  books on it (mainly classics) which are sent to the app in small bite sized chunks (of about 10 minutes worth of reading time) with one chunk being sent per day.

It’s really designed for people who don’t have time to read (who I don’t understand) but I find it’s good for when I’m waiting for a little time and don’t want to get involved in a whole book.

So far I’ve only been reading the shorter pieces, which I feel is more ideal, but you can read longer things, it just takes longer.

There is a Serial Reader premium, which allows you to read ahead and highlight, among other things.

So far I’ve read two books, and started two others, so I thought I’d review these. I also started Sun Tzu’s Art of War which I doubt I’ll finish but is on the Rory List

The Monkey’s Paw– W.W. Jacobs

Most people know the barebones of The Monkey’s Paw, at least anyone who has watched a few of The Simpson’s Halloween episodes. The  basic premise is that there is a monkey’s paw which gives the owner three wishes. However it is somewhat of a curse because of the way the stories came true.

It was pretty spooky, but had a little too much superfluous information which made the beginning drag, and the actual wishing bit was more brief than I expected. A quite entertaining little read.

If you would rather read it on your kindle it’s only 49p

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button– F Scott Fitzgerald

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the story of a man who ages backwards, he is born as an old man, and dies as a baby.

My own knowledge of the story comes mainly from the film, the film lasts over two hours, so I knew they really must have stretched the plot to make a short story into such a long film. I think I expected a bit more similarity though.

It was an enjoyable read, and I think it did well as a short story (which I often find are lacking in something). I didn’t really feel much for Benjamin, but I think what was more interesting was how others reacted to him.

You can read this one on kindle for free (as part of Tales of the Jazz Age)

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Delusions of Gender- Cordelia Fine


Synopsis (from amazon)

This is a vehement attack on the latest pseudo-scientific claims about the differences between the sexes – with the scientific evidence to back it up. Sex discrimination is supposedly a distant memory. Yet popular books, magazines and even scientific articles increasingly defend inequalities by citing immutable biological differences between the male and female brain. Why are there so few women in science and engineering, so few men in the laundry room? Well, they say, it’s our brains. Drawing on the latest research in developmental psychology, neuroscience, and social psychology, “Delusions of Gender” rebuts these claims, showing how old myths, dressed up in new scientific finery, help perpetuate the status quo. Cordelia Fine reveals the mind’s remarkable plasticity, shows the substantial influence of culture on identity, and, ultimately, exposes just how much of what we consider ‘hardwired’ is actually malleable. This startling, original and witty book shows the surprising extent to which boys and girls, men and women are made – and not born.

Review

This book has been on my kindle since 2014 (according amazon anyway), which makes me wonder how long some of my ‘real’ books have been on the shelves unread.

I kind of wish I had read it sooner, but I’ve been on a bit of a roll when it comes to non-fiction recently, so maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind before.

It was a while ago so more exact details are lost to me, but there are certain things which still stand out, and in a way doesn’t that make for a better review? I was helped a little to remember by reading Ruth’s review (which I recommend).

Delusions of Gender did take a little getting into, in terms of a ‘sciencey’ book it was easy to read, and it was interesting, but not necessarily immediately engaging.

I did find some of the arguments a bit repetitive, which makes sense when you’re talking about different but similar studies, but not so much when you are talking about the same one. It is difficult though if you are referring to something said earlier to know how much to say to make sure the person you are writing to knows what you are referring to.

The main thing I got out of it really is about how much difference small things might be able to make, especially when a child is still trying to work out their identity. Would not gendering a child change this? I’m not so sure, at some point the child themselves would want to know what they are, and I’m sure they could work it out.

In a way those little things seem hopeless, because they’re the type of things that you don’t even think about, so how can you hope to have a gender neutral environment.

4/5

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Filed under Feminism, Fiction review, non-fiction review, psychology (non-fiction)

Juliet, Naked- Nick Hornby


Synopsis (from amazon)

Annie lives in a dull town on England’s bleak east coast and is in a relationship with Duncan which mirrors the place; Tucker was once a brilliant songwriter and performer, who’s gone into seclusion in rural America – or at least that’s what his fans think. Duncan is obsessed with Tucker’s work, to the point of derangement, and when Annie dares to go public on her dislike of his latest album, there are quite unexpected, life-changing consequences for all three.

Review

Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book this quickly, took me just over a day. I’m not convinced it’s all down to the book, I was phoneless at the time (ok that’s not quite true, I had the boyfriend’s old iphone which is so out of date that apps just aren’t compatible with it) so there were less distractions.

Part of it was the book though. Hornby is very readable, and the story was engaging. It had a bit of a High Fidelity feel about it, although I wouldn’t say it’s up to the same level.

Part of what I liked but also sort of disliked was that the characters were rather unlikeable. I suppose that makes them more real, which is good, but it did mean I didn’t feel that much of a connection with them.

The ending sort of fizzled out too which was disappointing but maybe true to life.

4/5

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Love Anthony- Lisa Genova


Synopsis (from amazon)

Olivia Donatelli’s dream of a ‘normal’ life was shattered when her son, Anthony, was diagnosed with autism at age three. He didn’t speak, hated to be touched, almost never made eye contact. Then, just as Olivia was learning that happiness and autism could coexist after all, Anthony was gone.

Now she’s alone on Nantucket, desperate to find meaning in her son’s short life, when a chance encounter with another woman, Beth, brings Anthony alive again in a most unexpected way. In a piercing story about motherhood, autism and love, two unforgettable women discover the small but exuberant voice that leads them both to the answers they need.

Review

I’m becoming quite a fan of Lisa Genova, and I enjoyed this one, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. It still had the sort of knowledge I would expect of Genova, she obviously had more than a layman’s knowledge of autism, but that didn’t really feel like the centre of the story.

The story was more about the two women, and, although that story was somewhat involving, it didn’t have that extra kick that I expect from a Genova novel.

I felt like I was reading the novel waiting for the two stories, the stories of the two women, to intertwine. Part of that was I think because of the synopsis I read (which was the one above) which made it seem like there would be more of a relationship between the two women. The relationship was pretty intense, but it was also a while in coming.

I did enjoy it it just wasn’t a typical Genova.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£5.99)

Paperback (£7.99)

Currently part of amazon’s 3 of £10 promotion

Other reviews:

So Many Books, So Little Time

Reading With Tea

 

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Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Psychology (fiction)

Ready Player One- Ernest Cline


Synopsis (from amazon)

It’s the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. We’re out of oil. We’ve wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty, and disease are widespread.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes this depressing reality by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be anything you want to be, where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade is obsessed by the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this alternate reality: OASIS founder James Halliday, who dies with no heir, has promised that control of the OASIS – and his massive fortune – will go to the person who can solve the riddles he has left scattered throughout his creation.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that the riddles are based in the culture of the late twentieth century. And then Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle.

Suddenly, he finds himself pitted against thousands of competitors in a desperate race to claim the ultimate prize, a chase that soon takes on terrifying real-world dimensions – and that will leave both Wade and his world profoundly changed.

Review

I’d been hearing great things about Ready Player One, reviews that almost made me want to read it, but I didn’t really think it sounded like my type of book, so I didn’t seek it out.

Then I was trying to think of a present for my partner. I’d had a fair amount of success with books which sounded good but a little too fantasy or sci-fi for me, so Ready Player One came to mind.

My partner really enjoyed it, so, when my TBR pile wasn’t looking especially appealing, I decided to borrow it.

Oh how I wish I’d read it sooner. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with sci-fi- which is the main thing that puts me off, but this book definitely fell on the love side of things.

It had everything, action, romance, intrigue. The geek in me loved it. A lot of people say that they liked the nostalgia element, but most of the things based o the past were from the 80s, I was born i 87 so a bit early for me, and I was’t a console player anyway which a lot was based o. Maybe if I was I would have enjoyed it eve more, but as it was I loved it.

5/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£5.84)

Kindle (£4.99)

Other reviews:

Reading is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac

Book Journey

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

Silly Little Mischief

Ink and Page

Girl Vs Bookshelf

Leeswammes’ Blog

Words For Worms

Nylon Admiral

Did I miss your review? Leave me a link in comments and I’ll add it here

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Filed under Contempory, Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction review

Oddjobs- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from amazon)

It’s the end of the world as we know it, but someone still needs to do the paperwork.
Incomprehensible horrors from beyond are going to devour our world but that’s no excuse to get all emotional about it. Morag Murray works for the secret government organisation responsible for making sure the apocalypse goes as smoothly and as quietly as possible.
In her first week on the job, Morag has to hunt down a man-eating starfish, solve a supernatural murder and, if she’s got time, prevent her own inevitable death.

Review

I’ve been really enjoying the Clovenhoof books by Goody and Grant (I’m reading Hellzapoppin’ at the moment) so when they sent me an offer to read the first book from their new series I jumped at the chance.

Oddjobs has the same humourous tone that the Clovenhoof books do but I think it has a bit more of an edge to it.  It’s a little bit political, about work in general and probably a lot about more about government work (I’ve only ever really worked in that sector so I’m not sure how true it would be of other sectors).  Basically about red tape and silly ideas.

It has more action throughout that the Clovenhoof books too, which makes it readable in a different way.

Clovenhoof is probably a bit more easy going, but I think overall this might be a more interesting series, I’ll be looking forward to the next one.

4/5

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close- Jonathon Safron Foer


Synopsis (from amazon)

Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, amateur entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, detective, vegan, and collector of butterflies.

When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he discovers in his father’s closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him ever closer to some kind of peace.

Review

After loving Everything is Illuminated I had high hopes for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, maybe that’s why I was a little unimpressed. It took me a while to really get going, and it really didn’t have the emotion that I expected. I expected Oscar’s Dad’s death to be a major theme but it was more of a trigger point for the rest of the story.

There was a certain amount of emotion, but I’m pretty sure Oscar was autistic, or at least he didn’t show emotion in the ways most people would. It just didn’t hit me like I expected.

Reading on a kindle didn’t help either, there are pictures in the book, which were in the kindle version, but they were never very well displayed, whether that is just a kindle thing I’m not 100% sure, but I think it probably was.

In the end I did sort of enjoy it, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone

3/5

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Kindle (£4.99)

Paperback (£8.99)

Other reviews:

Knitting and Sundries

The Perpetual Page Turner

Lit and Life

 

 

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The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps- Michael Faber


Synopsis (from amazon)

Note: I don’t like this synopsis, but it’s the best of a bad bunch and I can’t write a better one myself, so…yeah

Siân, troubled by dark dreams and seeking distraction, joins an archaeological dig at Whitby. The abbey’s one hundred and ninety-nine steps link the twenty-first century with the ruins of the past and Siân is swept into a mystery involving a long-hidden murder, a fragile manuscript in a bottle and a cast of most peculiar characters. Equal parts historical thriller, romance and ghost story, this is an ingenious literary page-turner and is completely unforgettable.

Review

This is more a novella than a novel, which suits my reading habits right now.

The synopsis makes it sound more exciting that it really is, it’s more interesting than exciting. The story carried on nicely though, and was quite beautifully written, it’s no Crimson Petal and the White but it fills the gap well enough.

There’s not really that much of a story to it. The letter offers some intrigue, but it isn’t really used to the best it could be, and the romance was a bit everyday.

I did enjoy it enough though to be disappointed when my kindle copy ended at around 60%, and I felt a bit ripped off, I must admit the customer service at canongate were very good when I complained on twitter though.

Both editions listed below also contain the novella ‘The Courage Consort’

3/5

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The Seed Collectors- Scarlett Thomas


Synopsis (from goodreads)

Aunt Oleander is dead. In the Garden of England her extended family gather to remember her, to tell stories and to rekindle old memories. To each of her nearest and dearest Oleander has left a precious seed pod. But along with it comes a family secret that could open the hardest of hearts but also break the closest ties…

Review

I adored Pop Co. and loved The End of Mr Y, but the Scarlett Thomas books which I’ve read since have been a bit disappointing, not not good, just not as good. So I approached The Seed Collectors with a mixture of excitement and apprehension.

I think with The Seed Collectors Thomas is getting back to the writer I love, the writer who I was excited to see new books by. I think the gap between this book and her last was bigger, and maybe that shows.

It’s still not as good as Pop Co. It took more time to fall into- more like The End of Mr Y- but I ended up loving it all the same.

It wasn’t exactly what I expected, I expected it to mainly be a book about the seeds, but it wasn’t really about the seeds much at all. I suppose you could say it was a story about a family, but that makes it sound boring. This isn’t some ‘normal’ family, everything is screwed up. Plus some of the people are vile, ok all of the people are pretty awful (so if you like to love your characters, this probably isn’t the one for you).

To be completely honest it’s not really very plot driven, but I really enjoyed it all the same and found myself reading it in the same sort of incessant way that I would normally only read a plot driven book in.

4.5/5

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Hardback £13.48)

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A Tale For The Time Being- Ruth Ozeki


Synopsis (from amazon)

Ruth discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home. Within it lies a diary that expresses the hopes and dreams of a young girl. She suspects it might have arrived on a drift of debris from the 2011 tsunami. With every turn of the page, she is sucked deeper into an enchanting mystery.

In a small cafe in Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao Yasutani is navigating the challenges thrown up by modern life. In the face of cyberbullying, the mysteries of a 104-year-old Buddhist nun and great-grandmother, and the joy and heartbreak of family, Nao is trying to find her own place – and voice – through a diary she hopes will find a reader and friend who finally understands her.

Review

‘A Tale for the Time Being’ marks the beginning of what I am calling my return to ‘normal’ reading, ok still not completely normal for me- I’m reading one book at a time rather than two. I’d had a few single books which have held my attention since my return to blogging, but now I’ve had a bit of a run, and I hope it’s not just due to the books I have chosen. (You can read a bit about my lack of reading here). Is it ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ which made me be able to come back to my old reading levels? I’m not sure, but I do know that I enjoyed it, I do know that I wanted to read it above other activities which require less concentration (and which I had been holding my interest more than reading), and II do know that since reading it I have read a number of other books which have held my attention (which I intend to review in due course).

So, yes, I really did enjoy ‘A Tale For the Time Being’, but actually I don’t know if I have anything significant to say about it.

It did take me a little time to get into, but once I did get into it I didn’t want to stop. I especially wanted to know what had happened to Nao, and Ruth’s story helped fuel that as she got so absorbed in Nao’s story.

I liked Nao’s voice. It made subjects which were sometimes very emotional easy to read, and her story really did sounds like she was telling it to a friend who she was slowly getting to know.

I certainly recommend it. Although if you can go for a paper copy rather than an ebook, I read the ebook and all the footnotes were at the end of the book, which doesn’t really work when you can’t flick through it!

4.5/5

Buy it:
Paperback (£8.99)
Kindle (£5.29)

Hardback (£16.59)

Other reviews:

The Relentless Reader

Words for Worms (contains spoilers)

Fay Simone

As the Crowe Flies (and Reads)

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

 

 

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Furiously Happy- Jenny Lawson



Synopsis (from amazon)

In Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson regaled readers with uproarious stories of her bizarre childhood. In her new book, Furiously Happy, she explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

As Jenny says: ‘You can’t experience pain without also experiencing the baffling and ridiculous moments of being fiercely, unapologetically, intensely and (above all) furiously happy.’ It’s a philosophy that has – quite literally – saved her life.

Review

I loved Let’s Pretend This Never Happened so I was excited when I heard Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) had a new book coming out.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened was hilarious, so I was expecting the same from Jenny’s new book. It was very funny, but it had more of a serious side than her first book had. I still liked it, but it wasn’t as easy a read.

This one featured a lot about Jenny’s mental illness. That made it less light, although a lot lighter than you would expect of a book which has a high content about mental illness. She had a philosophy of always being Furiously Happy when her illness would allow her. A way to show that she could have a good, happy, time, a way to say that that illness is not her.

Jenny says she wrote this book with people who have the same problems as her in mind. So I wasn’t exactly the target market, but I still found the book pretty uplifting, and I definitely enjoyed Jenny’s sense of humour.

If you loved the first one you can’t go wrong with this, but I think you may be better off starting with the first.

4/5

Buy it:

Hardback (£12.08)

Kindle (£7.49)

Paperback: pre-order (£8.99)

Other reviews:

Alison McCarthy 

Words For Worms

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Filed under Biography, Comedy, health, Memoir, non-fiction review

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly- Matt McCarthy


Synopsis (from amazon)

In medical school, Matt McCarthy dreamed of being a different kind of doctor the sort of mythical, unflappable physician who could reach unreachable patients. But when a new admission to the critical care unit almost died his first night on call, he found himself scrambling. Visions of mastery quickly gave way to hopes of simply surviving hospital life, where confidence was hard to come by and no amount of med school training could dispel the terror of facing actual patients.

Review

McCarthy’s autobiography is an interesting and eye opening look into the American healthcare system. It would be interesting to see how it differs from a doctor’s experience in the NHS.

I must admit that I expected to see lots about patients who couldn’t afford the healthcare that they need, the idea of no NHS is not one I like, and I never really understood people who are against ‘Obamacare’ in the US. There was a little bit of that, but in was only really a very small part of the book, and I wouldn’t even say it was particularly hard hitting. At one point McCarthy was interning in the medical centre, which seemed pretty much like a drop in centre would be here in the UK, except that the same patients would keep returning. I say like a drop in centre because the treatment seemed rushed, and fairly basic, for example medication over other possible solutions which a specialist might recommend. Plus it seemed like it was mainly run by interns, which suggested a lack of continuity of care. McCarthy found that it was difficult to get to grips with the patient notes because there was a rush and lots of notes to read. He found reading just the latest notes wasn’t enough, but reading further took too much time. Part of this I think was to do with his approach, but it seems that with this patients would end up falling through the gaps.

There was also a section where he went to se and treat the homeless. This bit was too brief I felt, but he only did it for one night. There was certainly enough to give me admiration for people who do it. I think this bit would be pretty much the same in the UK, I imagine homeless people easily don’t see GPs, or go to appointments at hospitals, just because they are hard to keep contact with, and I’m not even sure if you can register with a doctor if you don’t have an address.

Anyway I am going on somewhat of a tangent. I really enjoyed this book. There were plenty of ups and downs and at times you thought that maybe Matt wasn’t cut out for it. After all being a doctor is one of those jobs where a mistake can really cost someone, even to the point of death. But everyone has to start somewhere and it was a real eye opener on how hard things are for doctors, especially those still training.

The hours were absolutely ridiculous. I mean you’d think that you want someone that important to be as sharp as possible when they were working, but the long days meant that was practically impossible. It certainly gave me more sympathy for the junior doctors over here (and I already supported them).

Despite the subject having the potential to be either over emotional or too dry I thought McCarthy did a really good job. There was emotion when it mattered, but it a way you had to be like a doctor and not get too bogged down in the emotions- and the way McCarthy wrote helped with that. He actually made it quite an easy read, and entertaining, which I hadn’t expected. I had expected it to be interesting, and it was, but I did expect it to be so entertaining. I thoroughly recommend

5/5

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Other Reviews:

Sam Still Reading

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Filed under health, Memoir, non-fiction review

The Radleys- Matt Haig


Synopsis (from amazon)

Life with the Radleys: Radio 4, dinner parties with the Bishopthorpe neighbours and self-denial. Loads of self-denial. But all hell is about to break loose. When teenage daughter Clara gets attacked on the way home from a party, she and her brother Rowan finally discover why they can’t sleep, can’t eat a Thai salad without fear of asphyxiation and can’t go outside unless they’re smothered in Factor 50.

With a visit from their lethally louche Uncle Will and an increasingly suspicious police force, life in Bishopthorpe is about to change. Drastically.

Review

The Radley’s was on my wishlist for years, before I read The Humans, before The Humans was even released. I have a problem, I add things to my wishlist and never buy them, because when I’m in a bookshop (or to a lesser extent on an online store) I get distracted by books which are not on my wishlist, and end up buying them. I think I ended up buying The Radleys because it was on kindle deal.

I’m trying to think how to review without spoiling.

It’s somewhat of a coming of age novel, although not in a classic sense, because the thing which is making the Radley children grow up is not exactly normal. Also that there is a sort of coming of age novel for the parents too- who says you have o be a teenager to ‘come of age’?

At times it was sort of predictable, but that’s ok, I enjoyed it anyway.

3/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£8.99)
Kindle (£5.69)

Other reviews:

Reading With Tea

Leeswammes’ Blog

Knitting and Sundries

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

B Reading

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Filed under Contempory, Fantasy, Fiction review

Why Not Me?- Mindy Kaling


Synopsis (from amazon)

Mindy Kaling has found herself at a turning point. So in Why Not Me?, she shares her ongoing journey to find fulfilment and adventure in her adult life, be it falling in love at work, seeking new friendships inunlikely places, or attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behaviour modification whatsoever.

Review

I love Mindy’s show The Mindy Project, when I read her first book last year I adored her even more, I watched The US version of The Office just because I needed a Mindy fix (despite being a bit against American adaptations as a general rule, and yeah actually I was proved wrong on that one). When I heard she had a second book coming out I was excited, but I was finishing buying a house, and was on a self inflicted book buying ban (and well, even on amazon the paperback is almost £10, that’s a lot for a paperback…yeah I’m like that).

In the end I got it as a Christmas present, and it was the first of my present books which I read. I did really enjoy it, but I think I prefered her first. I think the first one was just a bit more accessible. In the first book she wasn’t famous, or becoming well known I suppose. It just meant a lot of what she talked about was a bit more recognisable. In Why Not Me for a good part she was well known, and for some I would go as far as to say she was famous. Her stories, whilst still entertaining didn’t quite have that same sense of reality.

I think it was a bit less thought provoking too. There were still elements which were thought provoking, but not in a way that hit me like the occasion with the dress in Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Part of the problem I had I think was that there was so much build up for me. I was excited from back when I knew the book was going to exist. That’s quite a while to anticipate something.

I still love Mindy. I would still recommend this book, I did really like it, but it is less memorable than her first for me, and I don’t think it quite meets up to it.

4/5

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Paperback (£9.09)
Kindle (£9.49)

Other reviews:

Bookjourney

Alison Mccarthy

Chris Book-a-rama

 

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Filed under Memoir, non-fiction review

Wool Series- Hugh Howey


The Wool series consists of 3 books; Wool , Shift and Dust

Synopsis (written by me, because there isn’t just one)

Years in the future a civilization, the only survivors on earth are living in a silo. Outside the air is poison. The Wool series of books looks at how this came to be, and how things started to fall apart.

Review

Note on the review: Because I read Wool, Shift, and Dust one after the other I have decided to review them all in one go rather than as separate books. Because of this I’ve decided to use a sort of key code. Anything in black refers to all the books and isn’t a spoiler. Anything in red refers to Wool, there may be spoilers for Wool but won’t be any spoilers for previous books. Anything in green refers to Shift, it may contain spoilers for Shift or Wool. Anything in purple refers to Dust, it may contain spoilers for any of the three books.

I bought Wool (and later Shift and Dust) for my partner initially. There were quite a few reviews around at the time (I definitely remember that Ellie reviewed Dust) and I thought the books sounded good, but not quite me. These sorts of sci-fi things are more my boyfriend’s taste. However when he enjoyed it I thought I would give it a read too.

Overall I did enjoy the series although for all the books I found they started slow and after a while became more interesting. I must admit as well that I found my interest in the series overall wavered with each book, so although I fairly enjoyed Dust, it had significantly less pull than Wool did.


By the end of Wool I was really looking forward to starting Shift and seeing what happened next. My boyfriend warned me I would be somewhat disappointed, and he was right because Shift doesn’t continue on from where Wool left off, instead it jumps back to when the silos were new and gradually moves to the same time but in silo one- head silo- and how the events in Wool effect that silo.

I still enjoyed Shift by the end, it was interesting to see another side. It was also interesting how Jules almost became the enemy. Or I suppose I should say how it didn’t seem like the plans we learnt about in Wool were so bad after all. They seemed somewhat good intentioned.

I sort of wish things had stayed that way, where you can see both sides of the coin, but Dust changed it into bad plans again. I think it would have been more interesting to see Jules and silo one discussing her problems with what they were doing and maybe finding a solution.

Dust’s start was rather disappointing. It didn’t start where Wool had left off but jumped a little further forward, and I think partly because of this things were a little confusing. Jules seemed to know a lot but it was difficult to understand how she knew a lot of it. Of course I could have forgotten what exactly had happened in Wool which may have marred my impression of Shift.

 

Would I recommend the series? I don’t know. A lot of promise seems unfulfilled, but I did enjoy reading them, so maybe

3/5

Buy it:

Wool (from £4.99)
Shift (from £4.99)
Dust (from £4.99)

Other reviews:

Leeswammes’ Blog Wool | Shift

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm Wool | Shift

Quirky Bookworm Wool

The Sleepless Reader Wool

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Filed under Contempory, Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction review, YA

The Tiger’s Wife- Téa Obreht


Synopsis (from amazon)

Natalia is on a quest: to discover the truth about her beloved grandfather. He has died far from home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery.

Recalling stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia suspects he may have died trying to unravel two mysteries. One was the fate of a tiger which escaped during German bombing raids in 1941; the other a man who claimed to be immortal. But, as Natalia learns, there are no simple truths or easy answers in this landscape echoing with myths but still scarred by war.

Review

I read the first chapter of this book back in 2011 when it was in the first Waterstone’s Eleven. It went on my wishlist then, but it’s was only towards the end of last year that I actually read it.

There are four stories in this novel. That of Natalia as a child and her relationship with her Grandfather. The story of Natalia now. And the two stranger stories, those of the tiger’s wife, and the deathless man. All the stories are meant to be true, the stranger stories being stories which Natalia’s grandfather told her about his life.

The stranger stories are what make the book really. They have an almost fairytale like quality. I especially liked the tale of the deathless man because it had elements which seemed more real than that of the tiger’s wife, but they were contrasted in the idea of this man who couldn’t die. The idea of a woman falling in love with a tiger was less supernatural I suppose, it’s more how much it was believed I think that was unusual.

I did enjoy the writing in this book, however I’d find I got interested in one story only for it to stop and give way to one of the others, and then I’d stop reading because I didn’t want to read that other story. Even though I liked each story on it’s own I wasn’t ready to leave one for another, and that meant it took me a surprisingly long time to read for such a short book.

(Isn’t the new cover awesome?)

3/5

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Paperback (£7.99)

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Other reviews:

Word by Word

Lit and Life

Nose in a Book

Page Turners

Literary Lindsey

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Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Historical, Literary

Look Who’s Back- Timur Vermes


Synopsis (from amazon)

Berlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman.

People certainly recognise him, albeit as a flawless impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable happens, and the ranting Hitler goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own T.V. show, and people begin to listen. But the Führer has another programme with even greater ambition – to set the country he finds a shambles back to rights.

Review

This book has had some controversy. Mainly focusing about is it right to write a humorous book about Hitler? I think the main problem people see in it is that it sort of makes light of Hitler and in doing so somehow makes light of what he did.

I think the people who say this miss the point somewhat however. It’s a book about Hitler in the basics, but really it’s more about the media and how life now views Hitler. He’s seen as a sort of spectacle. Think of all the tourist destinations which wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for Hitler. Is this about the point of not forgetting so it can’t happen again? Or is it more of a morbid curiosity or some sort of extended rubbernecking?

I think it shows how something similar could happen again. Hitler in this book became known and famous. Maybe he would never have been taken seriously as a politician, but the start of it was there. It does make me think somewhat of the popularity of people like Trump, many people are against him, but he also has a certain amount of support- and that could be dangerous.

On the surface this is a humorous book, and it did make me laugh. You could probably read it just as an entertaining read if you wanted to. If you didn’t feel the need to justify it.

It won’t be for everyone. I know it’s something that could offend. I understand why. But I liked it.

4/5

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Paperback (£6.29)

Kindle (£4.99)

Hardback (£13.49)

Other reviews:

Plastic Rosaries

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Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Historical, Humour

Double Dexter- Jeff Lindsey



Double Dexter is the sixth novel in the Dexter Series.

Synopsis (from amazon)

Everyone’s favourite serial killer is back and deadlier than ever…

A witness. Such a simple concept – and yet for Dexter Morgan, a perfectly well-disguised serial killer, the possibility of a witness is terrifying. As an upstanding blood-spatter analyst for the Miami Police, Dexter has always managed to keep the darker side of his life out of the spotlight. An expert at finding truly bad people – murderers who’ve long escaped justice – Dexter has long been giving them his own special brand of attention.

But now someone has seen him in the act. Dexter is being followed, manipulated and mimicked, leading him to realise that no one likes to have a double – especially when his double’s goal is to kill him.

Dexter is not one to tolerate such displeasure … in fact, he has a knack for extricating himself from trouble in his own pleasurable way.

Review

I’ve recently finished watching Dexter on netflix which made me want to read more of the series (which I hadn’t read so far because of the size of my to be read pile) so I borrowed ‘Double Dexter’ from the library. The TV series is pretty much a completely story to the books, so one doesn’t spoil the other, although if you try to compare them it just makes you annoyed that the TV series is so different, and that I suppose is what made me want to keep reading the books. The TV series is good, as a TV series, just not as an adaptation.

In ‘Double Dexter’ Dexter is, well, different. He gets seen and that puts Harry’s Code under threat, because he has to deal with this new threat.

One thing I really feel shows skill when it comes to Jeff Lindsey’s  writing is how he makes the reader actually feel sympathy with Dexter. It makes some sort of sense in the other books because the people who he murders are murderers themselves, it’s a sort of vigilante justice. That isn’t true in Double Dexter, because the person who he is trying to kill did nothing criminal- he just saw Dexter at his work. However we still feel sympathy for Dexter.

One thing though I tend to get with the Dexter books (and I have mentioned it before) is that sometimes Dexter seems very slow. I’m not sure if that is just that I’m cleverer than Dexter, or if there has become a certain predictability with the books.

This one though is the first time I’ve got frustrated with Dexter for other things. Like how he expects Rita just to have the dinner on the table. Sort of sexist. Except is he sexist or is he just single minded? Because it’s always been like that does he just not question that maybe it shouldn’t be like that?

3/5

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Filed under Crime, Fiction review

Hallucinations- Oliver Sacks


Synopsis (from amazon)

Have you ever seen something that wasn’t really there? Heard someone call your name in an empty house? Sensed someone following you and turned around to find nothing?

Hallucinations don’t belong wholly to the insane. Much more commonly, they are linked to sensory deprivation, intoxication, illness, or injury. In some conditions, hallucinations can lead to religious epiphanies or even the feeling of leaving one’s own body. Humans have always sought such life-changing visions, and for thousands of years have used hallucinogenic compounds to achieve them.

In this book, with his usual elegance, curiosity, and compassion, Dr Sacks weaves together stories of his patients and of his own mind-altering experiences to illuminate what hallucinations tell us about the organisation and structure of our brains, how they have influenced every culture’s folklore and art, and why the potential for hallucination is present in us all, a vital part of the human condition.

Review

Oliver Sacks is probably generally seen as one of the most accessible neuroscientists of modern times.  Considering that, and my interest in psychology it’s quite surprising that I haven’t read anything by him before now. I can see why he is seen as accessible from his writing style, however I did find Hallucinations a little hard-going, more because of repetitiveness than anything else.

The book was split into sections based on causes of hallucinations (e.g. particular illnesses, sensory reasons, drugs), which made sense in some ways, however it also meant that when more than one cause for a particular type of hallucination could be found a description of that type of hallucination would be given in each chapter about each cause. There were different first-person accounts, which was interesting in it’s own way because different people hallucinate different things, even within a set type of hallucination. Even that did have some repetitive air to it though.

Having said that it was very interesting. I think Sack’s main aim was to make hallucinations more acceptable. They are generally seen as a sign of madness, and they can be that, but usually they aren’t, there are many more things that can cause them, and lots of different presentations of hallucinations which many people wouldn’t consider.

In fact he described what one would call a migraine aura usually as a type of hallucination which is interesting. I suppose calling it an aura makes it seem less serious or scary- but is that just because of a sort of stigma put on the idea of hallucinating. I do sometimes find migraine auras distressing- would they be more distressing if I called them hallucinations? Anyway it just shows that hallucinations aren’t all what one’s first thoughts of hallucinations would be. They aren’t always ‘real’ things. They aren’t always pictures even.

I did find it very interesting, and it probably changed my view of hallucinations a bit. It could have done with a bit of editing though. I’ll certainly read more by Sacks, and I already have Musicophilia and Migraine on my wishlist.

Oliver Sacks sadly died this weekend, which is what prompted me to write this review over the others that are waiting to be written.

3.5/5

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Kindle (£4.49)

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Filed under non-fiction review, psychology (non-fiction)