Sunday, December 22, 2019

An Amish Christmas Bakery

 An Amish Christmas Bakery:

Four Stories by Amy Clipston, Beth Wiseman,

Kathleen Fuller & Kelly Irvin

Published by Zondervan, October 2019

Hand on heart, I absolutely loved this collection of novellas all based on Amish bakeries and have read them all several times....

Alyssa works part-time, but her artistic talents and design flair make her employer's bakery such a roaring success that Alyssa's newly found boyfriend Kyle and her own family  are taking second place. Alyssa's own health is suffering and her family warn her that she is focussing on the wrong priorities at Christmas.  Can she fulfill everyone's needs and wishes, including her own, whilst remaining true to her Amish beliefs? Amy Clipston pulls no punches in this story about what really matters.

A particular favourite was Beth Wiseman's story about a very much stricter Swartzentruber Amish  family whose daughter Katie has a more lenient-background Amish boyfriend. Can she keep her family bakery operating during her mother's recovery from serious illness or will she end up accepting more modern baking appliances from her boyfriend? And what about Henry, a childhood friend who is desperate to become something more serious in Katie's life?

Kathleen Fuller tells us all about Mattie, who has moved to help her aunt and uncle at their bakery during the run-up to Christmas, and finds to her horror that her best friend's ex-boyfriend has also been hired to help her uncle and they will have to live and work in close proximity for an extended period, when they are not even on speaking terms.  It seems a recipe for disaster until  Peter realises that Mattie's anger is based on misunderstandings and her own insecurities, and that life has not been kind to her.

Kelly Irvin gives us a tender story about Martha who is falling in love with an old schoolmate who is being treated unkindly by others in the community due to his own special needs. Ambrose is one of God's Special Children, a loving and gentle man, lacking 'book smarts' but filled with love, compassion and honesty.  Can he and Martha fulfil each other's hearts' desires when neither of them is confident or sure about making the first steps to begin courting?

A lovely Christmas selection to warm the heart of the reader, and joining the list of titles I make a point of re-reading each Christmas-tide.

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Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Stitches In Time

Stitches In Time

By Suzanne Woods Fisher

Published by Revell, 2019

 In this story (book 2 in 'The Deacon's family' series) the now reformed ne'er-do-well Luke Schrock is newly married. Imagine his absolute horror when he is selected by lot to be his community's new Deacon!

Trying to come to terms with being a responsible adult, newly married, renovating his and Izzy's home, running a business and then having to take on a huge amount of extra work involved as a Deacon means that he has much less time to spend with his beloved Izzy.

 Izzy is breaking her heart as month after month, she does not become pregnant, and Luke is spending less and less time at home with her as he deals with problems amongst the families. She struggles to convey her sadness and Luke fails to understand her silences or her concerns as they slowly learn the complexities and sacrifices involved in married life. 

Luke is also determined to fulfill his promise to his late friend and mentor Amos to help empty the County's Foster Homes; when the chance comes up to temporarily re-home girls from their area's  Home, he somehow manages to rustle up people willing to help.  Chief among them is their new schoolteacher, Mollie Graber, whose enthusiasm and can-do spirit is nearly broken by the two wild sisters entrusted to her care. Izzy, however,  holds back from engaging or interacting with any of the Englisch girls added to their community and it takes a long time for her to warm to quiet Cassidy who loves Izzy's sheep and her yarn shop...Can they help each other?

I absolutely loved this story and read it twice in quick succession; I am so looking forward to the third story due next year! The characters are truly engaging and believable.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a digital copy via NetGalley to read in exchange for my honest opinions and review.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Night Sky: Stargazing With The Naked Eye

Night Sky: Stargazing With The Naked Eye

By Robert Harvey

Published by Amber Books, 14th November 2019

Only one word will describe this book: Wow.

Robert Harvey believes very passionately that looking at the night sky with the naked eye is part of our cultural heritage throughout millennia, no matter where in the world we live. 

People have always gazed up at the night sky in awe, reverence and delight at the beauty of the stars and the moon, and it is only in recent generations that people who live in large towns and cities are being deprived of this joy by light pollution. 

It is, however, still possible to stargaze with a little planning. Many erroneously believe you need a telescope or pair of binoculars to stargaze, but that is not the case. All of the photos (bar the one of a nebula) have been taken using the author's naked eyes, a digital camera and a tripod, and what a delight the photos are. Stars, the moon, a few of the planets, annular and partial eclipses of the moon, the Milky Way, the Northern Lights are just a few of the things which can be easily observed even by the novice stargazer.

 The book is helpfully divided into regions so you can easily see what it is possible to observe in Europe, North America, South America, Australasia, Africa and the Middle/Far East.  Many famous and quite a few lesser-known landmarks are included, so the photographs cover places many will have some knowledge of from their own region, which adds to the attraction of the book.

This is definitely a book I will be buying.

Many thanks to the Publisher for making a copy of this available via NetGalley for me to read and review.

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Traditions of Death and Burial

 Traditions of Death and Burial
By Helen Frisby
Shire Publications,  2019

Despite the cover, this is not a macabre book at all, but instead an excellent introduction into the whole panoply of traditions and beliefs surrounding death and burial in English society from 1066 onwards.

For me, the most interesting chapter covered how the doctrine of Purgatory influenced church art, decorations, stories, documents, pious customs and works of mercy to free those souls believed to be in Purgatory, right up to the architectural development of Chantry Chapels in larger churches and cathedrals where Masses could be paid for in perpetuity for the repose of someone's soul...or at least until Henry VIII put paid to that with the Reformation.

Depictions of death and the afterlife in churches, manuscripts and books provide lots of welcome visual details; the book is profusely illustrated and the author has provided many excellent examples of death traditions from popular narrative poems and stories as well as the expected practical details of laying out of corpses, embalming, burial services and grave monuments.

Deaths during epidemics make for sobering reading, but it was not just medieval plagues such as the Black Death which people had to worry about... smallpox, cholera, measles, typhoid and diptheria could cause huge numbers of deaths during outbreaks right up to the twentieth century. War, of course always produced horrifying numbers of deaths for virtually every generation to deal with, and looking at photographs of the Commonwealth War Graves remains very sobering indeed.

Celebrity funerals past and present, death cafes, hospices, euthanasia and suicide clinics are also touched upon in the chapter on modern times, and it is quite staggering to look at how society's views of death and burial have changed dramatically over the course of a millennium. Whether for better or for worse is a moot point!

A thoroughly absorbing book, surprisingly fascinating. Well worth a read.

Many thanks to the publisher for making a copy of this book available for me to read and review via NetGalley.

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Friday, October 18, 2019

Mending Fences

Mending Fences

By Suzanne Woods Fisher

Published by Revell, 2019

Book 1 in "The Deacon's Family" series

I was asked to review the second in this series, and realised that somehow, I had missed the publication of the first book. I quickly purchased this and settled down to read. Oh boy, was I in for a treat! 

 Luke Schrock was a ne'er-do-well of the first water. Handsome and arrogant, he was always up for a good time and a laugh, no matter the consequences to those who had to bear the brunt of his antics in their small Amish community at Stoney Ridge. He'd ended up in a rehab facility several times due to his alcohol addiction, but his Bishop had never given up on him and even managed to find a family who would take him in at Stoney Ridge once his time at rehab was up.

Amos Lapp is the community's Deacon; he and his wife Fern have already given a safe and loving home to Izzy Miller, a young woman whose own life has been marred with anguish and pain. Although in the past Luke has caused them trouble, they are willing to let him stay with them at Windmill Farm, but with natural reservations, especially with regard to Izzy's wellbeing.

Bishop David makes it plain that nobody will tolerate any nonsense from Luke under any circumstances. Furthermore, Luke is confronted with an extensive list of local people whom he has wronged, is told point-blank that he must apologize to absolutely everybody on that list and also ask them in what way his actions have affected them....

Has Luke really changed? Will he ever be able to convince his family and community that he has changed not only his lifestyle but his heart and attitudes?

I would never have thought that a wholesome Amish version of  the premise of "My Name Is Earl" would work, but it does, and brilliantly so.

I read the book cover to cover twice in quick succession and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is filled with thoughtful humour and a great deal of low-key but powerful spiritual teaching as we watch Luke grow and develop into a decent, kind young man with much to offer his community.

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Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Amish Front Porch Stories

Amish Front Porch Stories:

18 Short Tales Of Simple Faith And Wisdom

By Wanda E. Brunstetter, Jean Brunstetter & Richelle Brunstetter

Published by Shiloh Run Press, 05 November 2019 (UK date)

This is a great collection of Amish-themed short stories, written by Wanda Brunstetter, her daughter-in-law,  Jean, and her grandaughter, Richelle.

Wanda needs no introduction, and it is lovely to see other members of her family picking up the mantle and carrying on the tradition of Amish fiction writing.

Considering these are short stories, a great deal of gentle Christian admonishment and love  is   packed into them, sometimes covertly and sometimes overtly, but never confrontational or overbearing in tone or attitude. Whether we interact with Amish folk on holiday, at home, feasting or 
grieving, the sense of community provides comfort, humour, human interest and hope in each story.

The only criticism is that some of the stories are perhaps a little uneven in pace and dialogue, but I have every expectation that as Jean and Richelle write more, this will be less noticeable; this is only a very minor quibble and does not in any way detract from my enjoyment. 

Thanks to the publisher for allowing me a free digital copy to read and review via NetGalley.

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Tuesday, October 01, 2019

The Christmas Remedy

The Christmas Remedy
By Cindy Woodsmall & Erin Woodsmall
Published by WaterBrook, 2018

Holly Zook is a rarity in the Amish world: a young woman who works in an Englischer pharmacy who is being allowed by her Bishop to study in order to take exams to extend her role, which will benefit the local and extended Amish community who use the business as an important means of information and healthcare.

Her employer, Lyle Greene, is approaching retirement age and willing to bend over backwards to help all those who visit the pharmacy, which is run on old-fashioned values of trust, respect, care and consideration. He is incredibly fond of Holly, and sadly somewhat distanced from his son Brandon who is himself studying to become a pharmacist and is about to take final exams.  When Lyle collapses at work and has a stroke, Brandon returns to help his father, but is horrified to find the business is making little money and being run in such an old-fashioned way. He is full of ideas, which Lyle is reluctant to espouse, and it soon becomes apparent that someone is working to undermine Lyle and the pharmacy as much as possible.

Who could it be?
Can Brandon overcome his prejudices about Holly to help his father, and can Holly put the past behind her to reignite her relationship with her friend Joshua Smucker?

This is a delightful Christmas novella, and I am still baffled how I managed to miss it last year when it was first published.
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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Doing Time

Doing Time

By Jodi Taylor

Published by Headline, 17 October 2019

I have been a huge fan of Jodi Taylor's glorious "The Chronicles Of St Mary's" almost from its inception, so what a delight to be able to read and review the very first book in the new Time Police series!

The Time Police. Feared, mistrusted, mocked, even hated.  A necessary evil to maintain the timeline from the ravages of those who would make unauthorised jumps to change history for their own personal reasons or for political, cultural or religious reasons.  Who in their right minds would join such an organisation?

Well, Jane, Luke and Matthew for a start, and all for very different personal reasons. They are regarded as misfits by their peers in the Time Police, but those in authority are watching them closely and with keen interest. The new recruits gradually start to gel as a team once they finish their basic training and start their "grunt work" before becoming fully fledged officers, but the arrival of a new officer to lead their team, who quickly charms Matthew, seduces Luke and sidelines the quiet and shy Jane, causes absolute mayhem and the three friends begin to drift apart.  

I loved Jane from the very first line and laughed uproariously over Matthew's parents' reactions to his decision to join the Time Police. I was fully prepared to despise Luke the playboy but quickly grew to like him a great deal as the youngsters rampage up and down history, leaving mayhem in their wake.  When they met up with St Mary's, I was on tenterhooks... but I won't spoil the story for anyone.

Jodi has a deft and sure touch with her historical depictions and is a keen observer of current social and political trends as we find when the trio go on their very first foray after an unauthorised time traveller who intends to get winning Lottery numbers. The methods used by Jane, Luke and Matthew are initially chaotic, often unconventional, bend rather a lot of rules, but are ultimately effective and the team are quick learners. They need to be, or their lives, let alone their careers, will reach an abrupt end as the Time Police is also being torn by factions with very different aims and agendas.

I never thought I would be sympathetic towards the Time Police as an organisation after so much of what happened in their interactions with St Mary's in previous books, but it is a tribute to Jodi's writing that this book is such fun and an utterly absorbing read with characters that I quickly grew to love. I am SO looking forward to seeing what happens next!

Thanks to the publisher for allowing me a free digital copy of the book via NetGalley in return for my honest opinion and review.

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Friday, September 13, 2019

The Heat Of The Moment

The Heat Of The Moment:

Life And Death Decision-Making From A Firefighter

By Sabrina Cohen-Hatton

Published by Doubleday, 2019

If you have ever wondered how someone becomes a firefighter,  what motivates them, what inspires them, what scares them, what gives them nightmares, how they decide what they do during the course of their work and exactly *why* they make those decisions, you will enjoy this book.

If you wonder if joining the Fire Service is the career for you, you definitely need to read this book.....

Sabrina Cohen-Hatton's early life  saw her homeless, desperately struggling to get by, find somewhere safe to live, to keep on with her education and selling The Big Issue to do so.  She never gave up.

She joined the Fire Service, and worked her way up to become one of the most senior female firefighters in the UK, earning a PhD in Psychology as she did so,  and revolutionising how her colleagues are encouraged, helped and trained to make the professional decisions which could cost them their own lives as well as the lives of those they are endeavouring to save.

This is a superb book, filled with stories of bravery, heroism, even occasional errors of judgement, but always described with honesty and compassion, looking at how training and decision-making can be improved both for the firefighters on the ground and those in management positions.

The tunnel still haunts my dreams.......


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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Everyday Keto Baking

Everyday Keto Baking

by Erica Kerwien

Fair Winds Press, July 2019

I've been following a low-carb diet for about six months now, and the one type of food I really did miss was baked goods! Not so much the sugar side, but rather the texture and "mouth-feel" of pastry etc.

Eliminating wheat flour does limit the number of traditional cake/biscuit/pastry recipes you can use due to the vagaries of substituting and using coconut flour or almond flour - you really do need a specialist book from someone who has plenty of experience using alternative flours, and I am delighted to say that for me, this book works admirably, providing detailed but easily understandable guidance.

Even if you are completely new to low-carb or keto, this book will help you through each step to enable you to produce beautiful and delicious home-baked items for the whole family to enjoy.  If you have family members who need to have dairy-free recipes, you can substitute with nut milks and even easily substitute for eggs if necessary.

I am trying to reduce the amount of processed sweeteners I use to a minimum as I am finding my tastebuds are now appreciating many foodstuffs as being naturally sweet enough, but this book is fabulous if you are happy to use sweeteners in your cooking or if you are new to this way of eating. There is no need to miss out on your favourite indulgences any more, or feel guilty about eating them.


Thanks to the publisher for allowing me a free digital copy of the book via NetGalley in return for my honest opinion and review.

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Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Kyra's Canine Conditioning

Kyra's Canine Conditioning

by Kyra Sundance

Published by Quarry Books, February 2019

This is a surprisingly fascinating book for anyone who has a dog and is looking for tried and tested ways to improve a dog's physical health in order to improve stamina, performance, agility, co-ordination and reduce the risk of accidental injury from everyday and unusual movements and activities.

The opening is a comprehensive overview of conformation types of different breed of dogs and the how even basic things like keeping your dog's nails properly clipped can affect their posture and movement and chance of injury.

Human exercises like Tai Chi can be adapted to help dogs, and there are full colour illustrations throughout to show you how to passively move a dog's limbs effectively to  gently stretch the muscles, how to warm up and cool down a dog before and after exercise, and most importantly of all, full instructions and ideas to get your dog interested and happy to  exercise, using simple equipment such as hoops and then onto more complex things such as jumps.

I am really looking forward to using this book with our young Labrador, who will love doing almost all of the exercises shown.

Many thanks to the Publisher and NetGalley for sending me a digital copy to read and review.

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An Amish Reunion

An Amish Reunion:

Four Amish stories

By Beth Wiseman, Amy Clipston,

Kathleen Fuller and Kelly Irvin

Published by Zondervan, 9th April 2019

Four well-known and well-loved novelists provide stories relating to Amish folk's partings and eventual reunions under a wide variety of circumstances.

 These range from a separated couple still grieving the loss of their only child, to a single Amish mother who is shocked when the father of her baby arrives back in her community, to the reappearance of a much-loved Englisch friend after many years and a family moving back to their home town after a long period away.

I found them all spiritually nourishing,  all filled with grace and hope despite some of the hardest circumstances and situations that life can throw at us. A solid collection of Amish characters, some larger than life, some subdued, some lovable and some not so lovable, but all part of their communities and eventually accepted as such.

Thanks to the publisher and Net Galley for providing me with a free digital copy to read with a view to review.

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Earth To Earth

Earth to Earth

A Natural History of Churchyards

By Stefan Buczacki

Published by Unicorn, March 2018

If you have any interest in natural history or in churchyards in general, let alone in particular, this is a book you will enjoy.

Churchyards are generally tranquil places, often largely left to their own devices and as such can be veritable havens for flora and fauna of all sizes. Hidden treasures abound, whether your interest is gravestones, church architecture, history, birds, animals or even lichens and mosses.

 Beautifully produced, with a lovely green ribbon marker and filled with captivating and atmospheric photographs, paintings and line-drawings, this book is a pleasure to look at.

 It is also an enormous pleasure to read, covering the way churchyards hold a special place in our history, imagination, art, poetry and prose as well as the more practical commentary on how certain creatures such as badgers can cause problems.  For those in charge of churchyards, there is  valuable information on how and what to plant to encourage or safeguard existing wildlife.

A wonderful volume!

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Human Kind

The Human Kind

A Doctor's Stories From The Heart Of Medicine

By Peter Dorward

Published by Green Tree/ Bloomsbury, September 2018

Dr Peter Dorward is a GP in Edinburgh, and has a very mixed general practice indeed. He also trains students. From his beginning days as a junior doctor, feeling out of his depth and battling extreme exhaustion in the "bad old days" of medical training to the current way of training and working, he looks at all aspects of medicine in a general practice and the incredible variety of patients, lifestyles and situations which he meets as a result.

He describes some memorable characters who stay with you long after you have closed the book - especially Alicia whose ability to interact with the world is sadly diminished and nobody really knows how much she takes in although her doting mother believes she is actually very able to respond and interact. From youngsters with functional illnesses to drug addicts, angry patients to depressed patients, from the terminally ill to the emergency cases he is called to see, Dr Dorward describes his attitudes and thoughts about prescribing protocols, moral and ethical dilemmas and what he believes are the societal and psychological underpinnings for many illnesses.

This is not always an easy book to read; there are quite lengthy philosophical discourses about the nature of health, illness, society and medicine and parts of the book are really very sad indeed. I  did find his commentary about a former student's Christianity very dismissive and patronising, which is a shame as Dr Dorward is otherwise obviously a caring and compassionate man.

I did enjoy the book, but I don't think it will be one I would read again.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read and review a digital copy of this book.

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Sunday, March 10, 2019

Read To Your Baby Every Day

Read To Your Baby Every Day

By Chloe Giordano

Published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books/Quarto,

5th March 2019

There can be few people by now who do not know the benefits of reading to children daily, but babies also love  looking at books and being read or sung to as well.

By adulthood, lots of people have largely forgotten all the words to nursery rhymes, but these are some of the easiest and most enjoyable stories in miniature to share with babies and toddlers. This book is an ideal "refresher course" for parents, grandparents and friends who want to make reading an enjoyable pastime to share with a small child.

Many of the old favourites are here: Baa Baa Black Sheep, Frere Jaques (in English and in French), Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush, etc, but how many of us know all the words to Old Mother Hubbard? This actually has no fewer than fifteen verses, which was news to me!

This delightful book is full of wonderful illustrations, all from Chloe Giordano's original pictorial fabric art embroideries, and they are absolutely exquisite. I don't know who will enjoy them most, the adults reading or the little ones listening and looking. I am certainly buying a copy for my baby grandson.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for letting me see a digital copy to review.

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Friday, March 01, 2019

Master Recipes From The Herbal Apothecary

Master Recipes From The Herbal Apothecary:

375 Tinctures, Salves, Teas, Capsules, Oils And Washes

For Whole Body Health And Wellness

By J J Pursell

Published By Timber Press, Inc,  5th March 2019

This great book does exactly what it says on the cover title.

There is an initial specific chapter providing details of 60 key herbs and how they work. The author recommends becoming friends with 20 and learning as much as you can about them, preparing and using them. A valuable table provides information about dosing schedules depending on the format of the remedy made. Almost every kitchen will have the utensils needed to make herbal remedies; mine certainly does.The instructions for preparing each type of herbal remedy are simple, clear and concise, and well illustrated with colour photographs.

General Day-to-Day Health issues and their remedies are covered, along with chapters dealing with
Immune Defense,Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Care for Babies and Children,  Herbs for Elders and also chapters on herbs for Emotional Support and Travel Wellness.

There is an excellent chapter entitled Herbs for Odds and Ends, which covers flea treatment in animals, herbs for dying fabrics, domestic uses of herbs for cleaning, air freshening etc and in making notepaper.

I enjoyed this book so much I have ordered a paperback copy for myself :-)

Many thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for letting me have a digital copy of the book to read and review.

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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Conquering Type 2 Diabetes

Conquering Type 2 Diabetes

By Richard Shaw

Published by Hammersmith Books, 19 February 2019

Richard was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, most definitely overweight and with a poor diet high in sugar and carbs. He dutifully attended medical appointments, took his prescribed medications, but it was only when he had an eye health scare that he made the conscious decision to improve his health.

He chose to follow the Banting diet, reducing his sugar and carbohydrate intake in favour of  increasing protein, fats, nuts and non-root vegetables. His health did not just improve dramatically, losing 31 kg, but he managed to significantly lower all the biochemical markers of Type 2 diabetes (which is traditionally held to be chronic, progressively degenerative and certainly irreversible) to a non-diabetic level.

This is not a "I am right, doctors are wrong" book, neither is it in favour of jumping on any particular  bandwagon that rolls along and catches your fancy. He is careful to stress that you should not abandon any prescribed medications and that you need to keep your GP/Consultant  aware of your lifestyle and diet changes and for your health to continue to be monitored carefully. He documents medical research and studies which he found of particular interest so the reader can explore the information and incorporate it into a planned change of diet.

Richard provides meal plans and forty recipes suitable for the low carb/high fat diet he chose to follow, along with lots of helpful general advice about exercise, water consumption, dietary modifications, getting into routines, apps and websites that may be of use to the reader too.

He is keen to stress that this worked for him, and the Banting diet - or variations of it - have worked for many people across the world, but it is not a guarantee of completely reversing Type 2 Diabetes for everyone. It will help to improve health, and that can only be a good thing.

This is an easy, quick and engaging read, and is full of useful advice even for those who  are not diabetic. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

The Language Of Kindness

The Language Of Kindness:

A Nurse's Story

By Christie Watson

Published by Chatto & Windus, (Hardback) May 2018

Published by Vintage, (Paperback) January 2019

Christie did not take the typical route into nursing. Unsure of what career she might follow, she read widely, left home and moved in with her boyfriend at sixteen and was left looking for a home and a job when her relationship quickly ended.She found both when she found a job working with handicapped youngsters with severe physical disabilities in a residential home, where she saw caring and nursing in action, and her future career was set.

Managing to get into nursing school at a younger age than normal, she then spent twenty years nursing. In this book she takes us on a tour of a hospital, its departments and staff, bringing in details about people she looked after and worked with, the variety of areas of nursing work she particularly enjoyed, while weaving in the history of nursing, hospitals and health care from before birth to after death.

It is an interesting and moving book, written with a light touch but deep compassion.

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for giving me a digital copy to read and review.

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Sunday, February 03, 2019

The Almanac

The Almanac:

A Seasonal Guide to 2019

By Lia Leendertz

Published by Mitchell Beazley, 2018

I have had occasion to use my copy of The Almanac multiple times this year already, to check sunrise and sunset times and to consult the tides tables, but there is so much more too.

The names on the months of the year are given in different UK languages including Jerriais Scots Gaelic, Ulster Scots, Irish Gaelic, Manx, Cornish and Welsh.

There is information about gardening according to the phases of the moon, religious and secular feasts and festivals, cheeses for each month, seasonal recipes including Epiphany Tart and Cullen Skink for January, as well as songs, folklore, facts about the weather,  the sky at night and loads of details about what flora and fauna can be seen at different times of the year.

It is a beautifully produced hardback book, with something for everyone, no matter their interests, and is a joy to look at and handle.

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Monday, January 28, 2019

The Ravenmaster

The Ravenmaster

My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London

By Christopher Skaife

Published by 4th Estate, 2018

This book is *exactly* what it "says on the tin" :-)

After a long and exemplary military career, Christopher Skaife applied to become a Yeoman Warder of Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London. He subsequently ended up becoming The Ravenmaster.

He debunks many of the myths which have grown up about the Tower and its ravens, but what he reveals about these incredibly intelligent and fiercely independent birds and their interaction with humans is even more fascinating and valuable in its turn.
This really is a superb book, a fascinating, side-splitting, sometimes heartbreaking description of his life and work, entwining folklore, history, natural history, science and the minutiae of his and the ravens' daily routines.

I found it absolutely riveting and I was really very sad when I reached the end. My only quibbles are 1/ that the US version apparently has a super cover photo of The Ravenmaster in his official dress uniform rather than the brooding and rather Edgar Allen Poe-esque cover designed for the British market, and 2/ that the few photographs are black and white, but these are very minor quibbles and in no way detract from the quality of the book.

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Monday, January 14, 2019



Special Forces Cadets Series Book 1

By Chris Ryan

Published by Hot Key Books, February 7th, 2019

Max is ...different. An orphan, living in a children's home, he watches, listens and learns. He observes the world around him, reading about and learning any skill he thinks will be of use one day.

Those traits, his quick wits and decisive actions save his life and the lives of his companions one day when on  a group mountain climb that goes badly wrong.

What he doesn't know is that he has been watched for a long time by a secretive and shadowy group looking for youngsters like him, who have specific characteristics, skill sets and mindsets, able to go into situations of extreme danger where adult soldiers could not go unobserved.

The selection course he is invited to go on is cut short when a group of terrorists storm a London school and hold the pupils hostage, and Max and his fellow recruits are thrown in the deep end during their first assignment.

I loved Chris Ryan's "Agent 21" series and seriously doubted whether he could better it. Judging by this gripping first book in a new YA series, he has definitely bettered it.
Can't wait for the next book!

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Nine Pints

Nine Pints

A Journey Through the Mysterious, Miraculous World of Blood

By Rose George

Published by Portobello Books, October 2018

This was a Christmas gift, and what an engrossing read it turned out to be. 

As a UK blood donor, I thought I knew a bit about the Blood Transfusion Service, but that was very far from the case. The story about how modern blood transfusion services operate in the UK and abroad makes sobering reading; here we are so used to volunteers giving their blood freely that it seems almost distasteful 
to think of donors being paid in other countries. 

Blood always has and always will evoke strong emotions.  From religious sects who refuse blood transfusions to cultures where menstruating women are exiled from their family homes during their "uncleanness", from the fear of blood borne diseases and the problems that life-saving transfusions of clotting factors can cause when contamination occurs, to the use of leeches in modern day medicine to counteract clotting and poor blood flow after surgery, this book contains something for every reader.

Fascinating, horrifying, gripping, terrifying in some parts and always utterly absorbing, this is well worth a read.

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