Saturday, August 30, 2014

Working Stiff


Working Stiff

By Judy Melinek, M.D. and T.J. Mitchell

Published by Scribner, August 12th, 2014



This is a notable book. Not just because Judy Melinek was one of the MEs who worked with the victims of the 9/11 disaster, but because of the everyday routine work she did, ascertaining the causes of death of so many of the residents of New York during her two years there.

Death can occur from all sorts of causes: suicides, murders, house fires, drug overdoses, car accidents and industrial accidents, to name but a few.  Dr Melinek was instrumental in determining deaths which had initially seemed accidental were in fact the result of malicious intent, most notably in the case of a small child whose mother decided to "punish" her by immersing her in a bath of scalding hot water, and the child subsequently died from her burns. Hospital staff initially thought it was accidental, but she was able to prove conclusively that this was not the case.

The stories range from shocking to heartbreaking and frightening but although the often distressing cases and autopsy findings are described in detail, they are described sensitively and not gruesomely - a very clever and well-crafted balancing act by the authors. The long-term aftermath of the suicide of Dr Melinek's psychiatrist father when she was herself only a child emerges quite early on in the book and is a recurrent theme when she muses on what drives people to suicide as she performs the autopsies of people who have committed suicide and deals extremely sensitively with their families.

The events of 9/11 naturally occupy a significant part of the book. I was particularly interested to read about this period from the point of view of the medical examiner team, for all of whom this was a horrifying and unprecedented new experience despite their daily dealings with death in all its myriad forms and variety.

A five star book in my opinion; I read my review ebook twice in quick succession :-)


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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Only Remembered


Only Remembered

Edited by Michael Morpurgo

Illustrated by Ian Beck

Published by Jonathan Cape, July 2014


****Updated to add that I have only just discovered that I received an abridged digital copy to review, and that the published book is much more substantial indeed ****

This is a very special hardcover book to mark the centenary of the onset of The Great War, aimed  at children but appealing to all ages.

The entries have been  chosen by politicians, activists, writers and actors, and cover a wide variety of topics, beautifully and lavishly illustrated.

Some of the classic poems make their appearance, including the almost obligatory but still superb "Anthem for Doomed Youth" and "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owens, but we also see a war comic, period songs and family stories as well as the real life gripping tale of the heroism of Albert Ball, RAF flying ace.

The commemorative scroll which was sent to the families of the fallen was written by Rudyard Kipling, who was to lose his own son in the conflict, and we have the opportunity to read the original script for part of the final episode of "Blackadder Goes Forth", written by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton.

For me, the highlight was a piece of unutterably poignant prose by Noel Streatfeild in her autobiography, A Vicarage Family, detailing how her family learn of the war life and the untimely death of her cousin John, but the whole book is a worthwhile and absorbing look at what was believed to be the war to end all wars.



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Saturday, August 09, 2014

Tino and the Pomodori



Tino and the Pomodori

By Tonya Russo Hamilton

Published by Gemelli Press, June 25th, 2014



These are the Italian childhood memories of  Antonio (Tino) Russo, father of the author, who  grew up in Roccarainola, near Naples.

Tino loved to help his Nonno grow tomatoes, right from saving the seeds through to preparing the soil, planting and tending the young tomato plants and waiting and watching for the exciting day when the flowers could be seen.

Soon, the pomodori (Italian plum tomatoes) would grow and ripen, ready to be made into all sorts of delicious dishes by his hard-working and devoted Nonna.

Lots of incidental Italian phrases add to the atmosphere and charm of this sweet children's book about Italian rural life and the life cycle of that staple food, the pomodoro. The illustrations by Britta Nicholson are a perfect match for the story and this is a very appealing picture book indeed for younger children.



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The Knowledgeable Knitter



The Knowledgeable Knitter:

Understand the Inner Workings of Knitting and

Make Every Project a Success

By Margaret Radcliffe

Published by Storey Publishing, August 6th, 2014



This is a veritable knitting encyclopaedia!  No matter what you want or need to know, the answer is very likely to be found in this book.

 I am only an average knitter and I learned an enormous amount by reading this book, often something brand new to me on almost every page. I had never heard of Channel Island casting on, for instance, which produces a lovely stylized edging, and I am itching to try this out the next time I make a garment.

From the basics of picking a pattern, yarn and needles, changing stitch patterns and borders, knitting from the top of a garment down rather than the more traditional bottom up to top, right through to converting flat knitting to knitting in the round (and vice versa) as well as making up garments and caring for them, this is a treasure trove of a book. Margaret Radcliffe has also provided an extensive and comprehensive section on identifying and fixing mistakes, which is something every knitter has to do at one time or another, and in my case, fairly often :-)

The introduction quite rightly states that knowledge is power; armed and equipped with the reams of information, hints, techniques and troubleshooting contained in this book, you will be able to understand, adapt, create and transform knitting patterns to produce items which are exactly the way you envision them and want them to be, rather than having to follow other people's patterns slavishly because you lack the confidence or expertise to adapt them successfully.

Definitely a keeper!



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