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Sunday, 27 March 2016

Dream Accomplished by Elizabeth Gross

Find a dream and follow it                                          My rating 5 out of 5

This inspiring, memoir  is all about having a dream, that will provide focus, fun and fulfilment, away from the problems of everyday life. 

In this case the problem is a diagnosis of a rare blood cancer Essential Thrombocythemia (MPN).  The first part of the book has loads of useful information for anyone who may be going through hospital processes - with any condition.  Though set in the US, it applies equally to other countries.  It deals with coping with contradictory diagnoses, and what to expect of various procedures.   There are anecdotes about the many wonderful doctors and care staff - plus the not so wonderful.  With  lots of "wow" moments that put your own life issues into perspective,  this always remains a positive book, with uplifting moments at the most difficult of times. 

The second part of the book is about finding an adventure to provide focus and joy through difficult times.  With all this going on, somehow this family find time to focus on the needs of others - this is the family we all wish lived next door!

This is a book of hope.  One that everyone should read, as it has life enhancing tips for all, not just the ill.  This is NOT a book about living with cancer, it is a book about living life to the full and enjoying every moment.   At the end of the book is a section with many useful resources.

On finishing the book, I tweeted the following to the author  "Dinner is late tonight, because I can't do anything until I have finished your book, and because I'm crying with positive emotion."

Thank you Elizabeth, Marc and Page for this life enhancing book.  

Thursday, 24 March 2016

This is One Moment by Mila Gray

(Book received from, and review written for,
Love  vs Giving Up                                  My rating:  4 out of 5

Didi, doing her first internment as a trainee psychologist  in a state of the art military hospital/rehabilitation centre, finds herself drawn to a wounded marine called  Walker.  However Walker is struggling to cope with his injuries, his recollections of the event that caused them and what the future will hold for him.  And then there is Didi's boyfriend Zac, who is rich and famous and every girl's dream.  
Didi's goals include having a perfect marriage and life, like that of her parents, a life that Zac could surely give her.  Whilst working in the military centre she, of course, has an obligation not to become too close to the patients, however having met Walker life isn't quite that simple!
This is a wonderful romance, with a deeper theme of what it is like to one moment be a fit active marine with a promising career ahead, and the next moment to be in a military hospital with life changing injuries.  Mila Gray paints the outline of what the various patients in the centre are going through,  and leaves the reader to colour it in, making the imagery very strong.  
Other themes within this book look at why people cope so differently with similar situations, why the young join the military knowing they could be risking their lives, how Post Traumatic Stress affects people differently, and what it is like to suddenly have to consider a future so different to the one previously envisaged.   Answers are not given!   This is a book about overcoming difficulties, changing your goals when the old ones become inappropriate, and seeing things as they are, not through a mist of blackness or an unrealistic glow of brightness.    And about seeing a chance for happiness and grabbing it.
The characters are well drawn and true to life.  There are times you want to shout at them, but their friends do it for you, and they don't listen anyway.  The chapters alternate between life as seen from Didi's perspective and life as seen by Walker.  There are many light and humorous moments, also times of great sadness and some despair.  During the sad narratives I found myself unable to put the book down, gripped to see how it turned out.  During the lighter moments there are some laugh out loud moments.   
Set in California, this book gives brief glimpses of Californian life, but the main setting for this book is the hospital/rehabilitation centre. 
A great read, light enough for any occasion, but with a depth that kept me interested, brought the characters to life and made me keep turning the pages.  

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

Glimpses into personal lives                                           My rating:  5 out of 5

The author of this book stayed with a "middle-class" family in Kabul, Afghanistan,  for four months, having met the father who was a bookseller.  This book is what she learned about the lives of this family (which Seierstad explains is not a typical Afghani  family), through her observations, going out and about with them and what they told her.  The family mostly live in Kabul, and the stories and anecdotes are from the years 1973 - 2002. 

Each chapter of this fascinating book covers a different subject.  Subjects include lives of the women, arranged marriages, meals, roles within the family and love.  Also covered is life under the Taliban and the warlords, education, politics, history of Afghanistan and of course religion.  All these subjects are as seen from the point of view of the people she lived with, and spoke to. 

I picked up this book, having been recommended it and assuming it was a novel.  It was much better than a novel!  The family life and their difficulties and successes are described so well that I felt as if I was there watching the family live out their lives.  

If you are interested in learning about a way of life, where the culture and expectations are very different from the western norm, then this is the book for you.  Shocking, at times frightening, but always engrossing.  

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Free to be Tegan by Mary Grand

Life After Leaving a Religious Cult                                                 My rating: 4 out of 5

This wonderful novel opens as 27 year old Tegan is being cast out from her Community into a world she left 22 years before. Ending up in Wales she is bewildered at the decisions she is required to make in this "outside world", small things like what sort of milk she wants seem overwhelming given her background. Used to being told what to do at all times, Tegan finds it difficult to adjust into a life where she has choices, but little experience on which to base them. The novel follows Tegan as she tries to overcome her brainwashing/life's training. As she begins to enjoy the wonders of nature and everyday life, she is also trying to cope with the loss of leaving behind everyone and everything she has ever known.

Mary Grand draws an amazing picture of the village life that Tegan finds herself in. If this was a true story, I could take you around the village and tell you all about the people and what has been going on - the writing is that involving and realistic. Indeed often whilst reading the book I wondered if this was a true story turned into a novel .

This is a book with a strong and involving story with plenty of action and heart stopping moments; no sex and minimal violence. A book to make you think about life, and what it is that makes people behave the way they do.

Recommended to all readers who like a well researched novel , a great story and a fascinating subject.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Lies of the Dead by Shauna Bickley

(I received this book, free of charge, from, in return for an honest review)

Mystery Thriller that draws you in                                           My rating:  4 out of 5

Set in Cornwall and Bristol, can Tom and Andi save themselves, and their families, after their brother dies, leaving his dangerous problems for them to fix.

Tom gets a phone call from the police to say that his brother has committed suicide; he then breaks the news  to his sister Andi.  Whilst trying to discover the reason behind his brother's death Tom is drawn into a frightening world,  where he and his sister's family are in great danger  because of his brother's actions.

Set mostly in Cornwall (in a fictitious, but true to life, village) and Bristol, this excellent story is engaging  from the beginning as the reader is led deeper and deeper into the lives of the main characters.  It's a "what would you do in their situation" type book - though nobody would want to go where these people are taken!  The characters are well developed in the early chapters, so the reader  is  firmly on Andi's side when she thinks she is developing paranoia, and blaming it on her troubled marriage.  Tom is a likeable character so when things get scary the reader is with him all the way. 

I really enjoyed this book.  It started off as an enjoyable read, that could be put down and picked up easily, but then developed into a "just read the next chapter" as the story developed. 

Suitable for anyone who enjoys a mystery thriller.