Thursday, December 20, 2018

Favourite Christmas Reading, Old and New

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Piggy in Heaven

Piggy in Heaven

By Melinda Johnson

Illustrated by Soraya Bartolome

To Be Published by Paraclete Press, January 8th 2019

This is a truly delightful board book, written by the talented Melinda Johnson and beautifully illustrated by Soraya Bartolome, describing what happens when Piggy dies and wakes up in Heaven.

His initial confusion is eased when he finds new friends, discovers delicious things to eat and endless safe places to play.

The book has a serious message however, which is portrayed naturally, sweetly and simply: Piggy learns that love spans time, space, place and eternity, and that one day, we will be reunited with those we love and who love us.

Despite its sad beginning, this story is filled with joy, hope and anticipation. It is a hugely positive book, filled with faith and love, and is also a really great read.

I have lost count of the number of times we have had pet funerals with our children, spread over thirty years. I really wish I could have had an invaluable book like this to help ease the sadness when our girls were very young and had to say goodbye to a dearly loved little pet and work their way through the grieving process.

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Monday, June 25, 2018

Busy Life

Just a quick note to apologize for the lack of recent posts.

Our beloved elderly dog has been very ill and had to be euthanised.  We have since acquired a new young puppy who requires endless amounts of attention and the incredibly joyful  news of my first grandchild's arrival!

I am still caring for Elderly Relative on a daily basis and there simply are not enough hours in the day to do everything. Although I am still reading, I don't have the time or the energy to write much, and the longer I leave it, the more the read books are piling up before I can get round to saying anything about them, which makes me even more disheartened....

With all this in mind, I think for the next few months at least, I will just be posting photos of the books I have read, with maybe a few words about each, until things settle down a bit and I can get back to book reviewing in earnest.

Sorry for the inconvenience!
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Saturday, April 07, 2018

Just Read: The Flag

The Flag:
The Story of Revd David Railton MC and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
by Andrew Richards
Casemate Publishers, 2017

Most people will say they know about the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, particularly as we are in the centenary commemorations of World War One, but not many know about the man who had the idea of bringing an unknown soldier home to Britain and was a war hero himself. 

David Railton was a Chaplain to British Forces on the Western Front and was awarded the Military Cross for his own bravery in rescuing others in the gravest of danger with no thought to his own safety. Throughout his war service, his primary concern was always for the physical, mental and spiritual welfare of the troops with whom he served and he was adamant that every gallant lad who died would have a respectful funeral, his body draped with a Union Jack flag which Padre Railton carried everywhere with him.

When his idea of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior finally came to fruition, it was his flag which hung on a pillar in Westminster Abbey very close to the Tomb, and for the first time, the full story of the life and work of David Railton has been depicted in this book. I found it really interesting indeed, but desperately sad in places, and I am really glad that Revd David Railton has finally had the recognition he deserves.

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Just Read: Slow Train to Switzerland

Slow Train to Switzerland
By Diccon Bewes
Published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2015

A chance encounter with a book's footnote detailing the published journal of a young British girl who visited Switzerland 150 years ago on a mountain climbing trip led Diccon Bewes to track down a copy of her journal. Fascinated, he then developed a plan to take his mother with him as they attempt to recreate the journey of Miss Jemima Morrell on the first ever Thomas Cook "Tour of Switzerland".

They use public transport, following the route as exactly as possible and attempting to stay in the same hotels, visit the same tourist sites, climb the same mountains and visit the same glacier. It isn't always possible to follow the itinerary slavishly, but they do their best and the differences between the oft-desperately poor and isolated inhabitants of the rural Switzerland of 150 years ago stand in stark contrast to the prosperous, healthy and health-giving tourist destination it is today.

Lots of old photographs of places Miss Jemima visited and excerpts from her journal give a lovely picture of this enterprising and rather brave young lady as she travels with her Junior United Alpine Club across some really quite dangerous terrain even for the modern well-equipped climber, let alone a lady wearing full Victorian dress.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read, which I savoured slowly over a period of weeks and was very sad to reach the end, though there is a most interesting twist there too!

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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

REVIEW: Anaesthesia


The Gift Of Oblivion And The Mystery Of Consciousness

By Kate Cole-Adams

Text Publishing, February 2018 (in UK)

If you have any worries about needing an anaesthetic in the near future, this is definitely NOT a book you want to read. Modern anaesthesia is generally very safe and very effective, but what frightened me most was the fact that nobody, not even the anesthetists who use these medications every working day, is entirely certain how they actually work...... and why, sometimes, they don't. 

What exact part of our brain do they affect? Do they affect the entire brain and make it utterly impossible for your brain and body to retain any sort of awareness of trauma inflicted in surgery?  
Does anaesthetic awareness happen more often than we think? 
Does the lack of hard knowledge unduly worry some anaesthetists? Surprisingly not.
What constitutes consciousness anyway, and what makes us remember things? (And that really is a can of worms!)

Kate Cole-Adams is an Australian journalist with a long-term interest in anesthesia and its problems, who needed to undergo major surgery herself, and this book is the result of her researches and her own experiences. It is an interesting book, with lots of fascinating medical research introduced and referenced,  but the large amount of speculation as to the nature of consciousness could perhaps have been more tightly edited as parts of the book did tend to ramble somewhat, making it a lengthy read indeed.

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REVIEW: Pilgrimage


The Great Pilgrim Routes Of Britain And Europe

By Derry Brabbs

Frances Lincoln/ Quarto, October 2017

One might be forgiven for thinking there is a plethora of books about pilgrimages, and indeed there are, mainly concentrating on brief glimpses of many pilgrimages or in-depth travelogues of one major route.

This, however, is quite different and concentrates on the lesser known pilgrim routes for long-distance walkers, even those keen enough to tackle the Great St Bernard  Pass!

You will find the new pilgrim route of St Cuthbert leading to Holy Island, the route to St Thomas a Becket at Canterbury, the route to St Winefride's shrine at Holywell in Wales,  the French leg of the Camino to Compostela, the route from Cologne to Trier in Germany, Rouen to Mont St Michel, which graces the front cover, Seville to Astorga, Munich to Lindau,  La Verna to Assisi, and the longest route, Calais to Rome.

It is a fairly short book, only 256 pages, but it manages to pack in plenty of historical detail, pointers on what not to miss and best of all, the most glorious photographs of the lovely scenery. There really are not enough words to describe how beautiful this book is; it has earned a place in my library and inspired a burning desire to follow some of these paths for myself one day.

My only quibble may be that it did not include the modern Cistercian Way pilgrimage across Wales too, but perhaps that may follow in a subsequent volume :-)

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Just Read: Under The Knife

Under The Knife: A History of Surgery in 28 Remarkable Operations
By Arnold van de Laar
Published by John Murray, 2018.

Somewhat of a misnomer as I have actually listened to this as an audiobook via Audible :-)

The author has picked 28 operations, some mundane and some utterly amazing to us nowadays, which have changed the history of surgery.

From Abraham performing circumcisions using a stone knife to the most high-tech equipment imaginable in the 21st century, from alcohol as an analgesic to the complexities of modern anaesthesia, this remarkable book covers the ever-evolving understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the human body and the evolution of surgery into what we are familiar with today.

 It covers Kings and Queens, Popes, Presidents and astronauts, as well as the brave ordinary folk who experimented on themselves or allowed others to experiment on them. This really was absorbing to listen to and the book would undoubtedly be just as enjoyable to read.

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Just Read: Swiss School

Swiss School

By Mabel Esther Allen

Girls Gone By Publishers, Radstock, 2017

I am slowly collecting as many school stories by Mabel Esther Allan as I can find, and this is a shiny new reprint produced by  Girls Gone By which I received as a birthday present from my family in the US.

I was especially thrilled to find this was not a stand-alone story but introduced an old friend from "Three Go To Switzerland", Hanni Werter, who befriends the newly arrived Felicity and introduces her to a way of life vastly different from that of her previous co-educational and very progressive school in the Welsh mountains.

There are trials and tribulations, misunderstandings and spats between girls, as you would expect in a school story, but Felicity is a nicely-drawn character and is is a pleasure to read how she settles in the new school and manages to cram in adventures too.
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Just Read: To Raise the Fallen

To Raise the Fallen: 
A Selection of the War Letters, Prayers and Spiritual Writings of Fr Willie Doyle S.J.
Complied and Edited by Patrick Kenny.
Published by Veritas Publications, 2017

I enjoy reading about WW1 in general, and was delighted to know this book had been published. There is a wonderful website by the same author about the heroic and saintly Fr Willie Doyle, covering his life and exploits in the First World War, but this book is rather more sober in content and repays slow and careful reading.

How a pious young lad who loved practical jokes but suffered ill-health ended up being accepted at seminary, being ordained and then saving many physical lives as well as countless spiritual ones by his priestly ministrations is inspirational indeed, and to read his own words about his spiritual life and how he tried to emulate Christ so closely is a privilege.
Many thanks to Patrick Kenny for the website and for this lovely little volume!
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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

With the End in Mind

With the End in Mind:

Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial

By Katherine Mannix

Published by William Collins, December 2017

Katherine Mannix is superbly qualified to write this book, having spent a huge part of her long and distinguished medical career in palliative care, working with people who are dying.

From her first encounters with death as a medical student, then as a junior doctor, she has experienced dealing with patients, their often troubling physical problems as their health deteriorates, their families and all that the dying process entails. Familiarity does not breed contempt, however; rather it breeds sensitivity, compassion, respect, kindness and a respect for those about to undertake the final journey towards death.

Just as no two births or lives are the same, neither are any two deaths identical. They all may share similarities, but dealing with the dying and their loved ones can still produce surprises. Some people are in absolute denial that they are actively dying right up to the point where they lapse into unconsciousness; others request to be kept fully apprised of any changes in their medical conditions in order to plan ahead and prepare themselves and their loved ones.

There is no "right" way of dying and Dr Mannix discusses in some detail how different diseases influence the dying process and stresses that symptoms can almost always be successfully controlled to allow the patient to live as positively as possible until death supervenes.

I cannot find enough words to praise this magnificent book, but simply wish to echo her advice to discuss all these things with your own loved ones, make them aware of your thoughts and wishes and document your wishes. It will make life so much easier for you and for your loved ones when the time comes.

"In sharing the stories of so many ordinary people as they reached
their final days, I hope that I have shown that, in the end, none
of us is ordinary, that each unique individual is extraordinary in
their own way. As we approach the ends of our lives, we experience
a shift in perspective that allows us to focus on the most important
things in our own domain. This shift is both poignant and
freeing, as these stories illustrate. Living is precious, and is perhaps
best appreciated when we live with the end in mind.
It’s time to talk about dying.
I have. Thank you for listening. Now it’s your turn to talk."

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Thursday, February 01, 2018

JUST READ Adopted By The Amish

Adopted By The Amish:

A Family's Pilgrimage Back In Time

By Bob Brawley

Published by LifeRich Publishing, 2017

When I first started to read this book, I foolishly allowed myself to flip to the end and discovered that the family did not remain Amish. I was a bit disappointed and laid the book aside for a while, thinking it was not what I had hoped to be reading.

Yesterday I picked the book up again and just read it straight through, and what a good read it was!  Bob had a very chequered past despite his Christian upbringing, and a precipitate second marriage started well but he and Shelly soon developed problems. A chance newspaper article mentioning the Amish piqued their interest and they went to Missouri to visit the Amish community. They were made very welcome and after their return, they kept thinking about the family they had met. It was not long before they decided to sell up and move back to Missouri with the aim of becoming Amish, and this book tells of many of their experiences as they started to become familiar with the Ordnung of the strict Old Order Amish community the Bishop allowed them to live in.

Unfortunately, things did not work out as they had hoped and ill-health and  accidents saw them making the hard decision to leave the community and rejoin the English world again. That too was an equally hard transition and led to heartbreak before an eventual happy ending.

It is a really interesting read and gives insights not often found in other books. It still left many of my  questions unanswered, but is an enjoyable read.

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Saturday, January 27, 2018

REVIEW Hortense And The Shadow

Hortense And The Shadow
By Natalia and Lauren O'Hara
Published by Puffin Books, 2017

Hortense is sweet, sassy, brave and clever. However, she really, really hates her own shadow and to her annoyance, no matter how hard she tries, she can never escape it - until one day, she somehow manages to cut off her shadow.

Overjoyed to be free at last, she is so very happy... but one night, she falls into mortal danger, and the only thing that saves her is her shadow and she realises how mistaken she has been all along.

This is a short but delightfully illustrated young children's book, deliciously scary in parts, and very reminiscent of an Eastern European type of folk story. It can be read on multiple levels and is an interesting story to read out loud and discuss with children; I liked it very much.

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Friday, January 05, 2018

JUST READ - Take Good Care Of The Garden And The Dogs

Take Good Care Of The Garden And The Dogs:
Family, Friendships, And Faith In Small-Town Alaska

By Heather Lende
Published by Algonquin Books, 2010

I have always found Alaska an intriguing place and thoroughly enjoyed this book by Heather Lende, who lives in the very small town of Haines in Alaska. It is a completely different way of life in Haines, where food is either hunted, trapped, fished or home-grown in an extremely short growing season, or shipped in from long distances. Food plays a large part in the book, and she relates how in her home, the rule is "you kill it, you eat it"; she discusses bear hunting, salmon fishing, harvesting wild produce and how Lasagne can even be considered an exotic treat.

Much of the book revolves around a major cycling accident she was involved in and her lengthy recuperation, how it affected her, her family, her faith, her friends and indeed her whole life. The accident brought her up short and made her reconsider anew the brevity of life and how life can be changed in a heartbeat; her occupation as obituary writer for the local newspaper makes her keenly aware of how every death in a small community affects everyone on some level and what each person brings to the life of their community.

A thoughtful read, with many touches of humour, and crammed full of information about native Alaskan customs, traditions and ways of looking at life.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2018

JUST READ White Silence

White Silence
By Jodi Taylor
Published by Accent Press 2017

Having read and loved all of Jodi Taylor's other books,  I was keen to see what she would produce with the start of this very different supernatural type thriller series starring Elizabeth Cage. This is a huge sea-change from her Frogmorton Farm contemporary fiction and her Chronicles of St Mary's  series about time travel investigating historical events in contemporary time.

As a child, Elizabeth rapidly learns that she can do things other people cannot, and that even when she does what she thinks is right and for the best, other people see her abilities very differently and see her as a threat to their wellbeing. Her ability to "read" people becomes something she suppresses, and she makes a determined effort to lead a dull, blameless ordinary life, never attracting attention to herself. 

It almost works. Almost. A "chance" encounter with a flasher in a park leads her to meet and fall in love with Ted Cage, and after a quick courtship, they marry, leaving her to lead a normal suburban housewife life until Ted takes a new job at the Sorensen Clinic. It isn't long before she is invited to accompany Ted to a function at the Clinic and she meets his boss, the unsettling and rather creepy Dr Sorensen, and one of Ted's colleagues, Michael Jones, who has an intriguing aura and nurses a mystery of his own.

Ted's sudden death and her enforced stay at the Clinic lead her to team up with Michael Jones and together they face a entity involved in the death of one of the other patients, travel back into the past, though we never quite find out how that was accomplished, and then escape the Clinic to hide in a remote castle which turns out to have secrets and dangers of its own and places both of their lives in danger...... and that's just for starters.

This is jam-packed with action, adventure, adrenaline, tears and fears and beautifully written scenes; I was absolutely hooked and read it compulsively as fast as I was able.  The story ends abruptly with Elizabeth fleeing for her life, not knowing who she can trust or which version of recent events is actually real; this quite literally stopped me dead in my tracks, simultaneously outraged at the cliffhanger and desperate to discover what happens next to both Cage and Jones. Subsequent more careful re-reading did reveal additional clues about what may have happened but I would not dare to regard them as cast in tablets of stone as Jodi is perfectly capable of leading us up the garden path and then springing the unexpected on us, as she has done a few times in the Chronicles of St Mary's.
Really looking forward to the next installment :-)

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Happy New Year!

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!

I think this year I will head  new posts either as REVIEW  which will generally be for books I get via NetGalley unless I state otherwise, or as JUST READ for my general day to day reading :-)

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