Friday, November 29, 2013

The Owner's Manual For Driving Your Adolescent Brain

The Owner's Manual For Driving Your Adolescent Brain

By JoAnn and Terence Deak

Published by Little Pickle Press, 25th November 2013

This is a very short book - only 75 pages long - but absolutely crammed to bursting with facts, hints and tips about how the adolescent brain functions and how the owner of an adolescent brain can best take care of it in order to get the very most out of it.
It is in full-colour throughout and profusely illustrated, making it eye-catching and engaging.

When you think of how complex a subject the brain is, I find it amazing that the authors, both of whom have Ph.D.s, have managed to make it understandable, accessible, and most of all interesting and enjoyable.  It is aimed squarely at the adolescents concerned and is written in a down to earth and factual style which has a great deal of humour in it too.

Most  early to mid-teens who are learning biology would find this book interesting and useful in their studies of science as well as on a personal level and it would certainly be helpful for parents to read it too; I particularly like the parts where the importance of getting enough sleep, exercise and limiting the time spent on social media/video games etc are given a factual, biological basis which will be appreciated by teens  rather than being dismissed as just parental nagging......

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A Nantucket Christmas

It's the end of November and time to start reviewing Christmas themed books in earnest!

A Nantucket Christmas

By Nancy Thayer

Published on 29th October by Ballantine Books

Nicole, a recently retired nurse, lives on the wonderful island of Nantucket with her new husband Sebastian. They are blissfully happy and it looks as if nothing could spoil their first Christmas together as a married couple......until Sebastian's adult daughter Kennedy and her family end up spending the whole Christmas week at their house, the same house in which Kennedy grew up.

Kennedy is now married, with a toddler son and another baby on the way, but she is childish,  manipulative and determined and will stop at nothing to try to get her father to re-unite with her mother - even though her mother is in a serious relationship and her father has remarried.

Maddox is a delightful little boy but his mother is struggling to be as perfect as her beautiful and self-obsessed mother Katya, and obviously finding adapting to motherhood to be an overwhelming process. At times I sorely wanted to shake Kennedy and thought that Nicole behaved with admirable self-restraint to her step-daughter, who plots and schemes relentlessly.

 It looks as if the whole week is going to be a catastrophe, especially when there is an unexpected  visitor in the form of  Kennedy's mother Katya.  Young Maddox  manages to find a stray dog and get caught up in an adventure of his very own which throws the whole family into turmoil...

The descriptions of Nantucket and its Christmas festivities are both detailed and wonderful, and I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this novella. It has definitely put me in the Christmas spirit!

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Combat Doctor

Combat Doctor:

Life and Death Stories from Kandahar's Military Hospital

By Marc Dauphin

Published by Dundurn, October 28th, 2013

Marc Dauphin is a Canadian ER physician and Army officer, highly skilled and very experienced indeed, who in 2009 went to Afghanistan and served a full six month tour of duty at the military hospital at Kandahar where he and his team were responsible for treating some of the most severely injured soldiers and civilians. He was the Canadian Officer Commanding and carried an enormous amount of responsibility on his shoulders.

The Role 3 multinational hospital had a superb reputation and produced the most remarkable survival statistics that have ever been recorded in a combat or a civilian hospital; 97% of those injured who were admitted to the hospital with recordable vital signs survived due to the outstanding medical and nursing care they received there.

It was a hard, gruelling tour of duty for all the staff; although there were lighthearted moments, the staff were pushed to their absolute limits - and beyond them - by the constant, almost relentless influx of wounded, and they way they responded is utterly jaw-dropping. Surrounded by  enemies who sent rockets thudding into the grounds at regular intervals and who showed no respect for the Geneva convention guidelines that medical staff should not be attacked or fired upon during the course of their duties, they put their own physical safety on the back burner and concentrated on saving those who were brought to them, regardless of nationality or age, civilian , military or hostile status.

They treated children and adults who had trodden on concealed explosives, Afghan soldiers who had managed to shoot themselves, suspected terrorists as well as soldiers who were  so badly wounded it seemed that it might not be possible to save them; all were treated by the staff with compassion and respect, under the most stressful and dangerous circumstances imaginable. It would be prudent to add that this book contains incredibly evocative and very detailed descriptions of what life was like in the hospital as well as of the medical procedures that were carried out to save people's lives; it makes for compelling albeit sometimes stomach-churning reading.

The last part of the book tells of Dauphin's return to the safety and civilised world of Canada after his tour of duty, and how difficult he found it to adapt. Not surprisingly, he was found to have PTSD after what he had seen and endured, and his recovery took a considerable length of time and he was changed forever by his experiences.

A superb book and one which inspires me with the utmost respect for the medical teams who work in combat zones. Thank you, Dr Dauphin, for sharing your experiences.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Plain Peace

Plain Peace

A Daughters of the Promise Novel

By Beth Wiseman

Published by Thomas Nelson, November 12th 2013

I've read all the previous "Plain" books by Beth Wiseman and enjoyed them, also her crossover books in the Land of Canaan series, so I was certainly poised to love this book, number 6 in the "Plain" sequence, too.

But I didn't love it. Certainly parts of it were very well done; I  was really pleased to get to know the character of of Lucy Turner better and find out her life story, and to catch up with Dr Noah and his family was also a delight, but the actions of some of the main characters simply did not strike me as believable .

Anna, the protagonist, is an Amish girl who has been brought up by her grandparents. Her grandfather is the uber-strict local bishop and has caused some wayes in the community. Her grandmother is universally beloved and a sweet woman who allows her husband to rule the roost....or does she?
 I simply cannot get my head round the dear Marianne deliberately and over a period of many years, sublimating her displeasure at her husband's domineering ways by having a secret basement room where she stores a vast mountain of contraband and very un-Amish goods, which she has spent thousands of dollars buying, all without her husband's knowledge and knowing that he would be very unhappy.

Anna falls for the new boy, Jacob Hostetler, who has moved to Paradise with his family after the death of his sister Leah in an accident in Ohio. Her grandfather does not want her to see Jacob apart from at Church services, so she starts deceiving her family in order to see him, and Jacob's family turn out to be hiding some pretty big secrets of their own too. Jacob's mother, Cora,  initially befriends Lucy Turner but then turns against her when she discovers Lucy's previous affair with Ivan Stoltzfus.

The truth does come out, eventually, and there is a "happy ending" for all the characters, but I just cannot see the stern Bishop Byler rolling over and letting his wife keep her cuckoo clock, crystal glasses, pretty dishes and iPhone etc.  I just can't......

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Thursday, November 14, 2013


Last month, I had 5,059 page views on this blog.  I am thrilled and delighted beyond measure.

To each and very one of my readers, I want to say a heartfelt "Thank You!".

As you can see from the NaNoWriMo  meter in the right sidebar, I am again doing the infamous month long marathon of writing a 50,000 word novel in November. I am on target as I have today reached the 25,000 word mark; I may not be able to post as many book reviews this month as I would do normally, as this year's historically based topic needs a lot of research - so when I am not writing, I am researching rather than reading for pleasure :-(

Normal service and plentiful book reviews should start appearing towards the end of the month.........

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The King's Grave

The King's Grave:

The Discovery Of Richard III's Lost Burial Place And The Clues It Holds

By Philippa Langley & Michael Jones

Published by St Martin's Press, 29 October 2013

Earlier this year, I watched the documentary about the finding of the King Richard III's body with fascination. Reading this book takes that amazing story into minute and incredibly satisfying detail. After all, how often does a long-lost dead king turn up in a council owned car park?

This was a once in a lifetime discovery of enormous historical importance and Philippa Langley had to fight tooth and nail to get the Powers That Be to take any notice of her passionate conviction that she KNEW just where his grave was situated; her ideas were initially treated somewhat dismissively by some experts.

She had to liaise extensively with a wide variety of people at Leicester City Council who were very interested and supportive - but financially limited in what monies they could provide - and she had to find a substantial part of the financial backing herself. She managed to  get a television company interested in making a documentary about the proposed archaeological excavation and it was largely through  funding from the world-wide supporters of the Richard III Society that the initial surveys and then excavation became possible. It's a truly compelling story and Philippa Langley was, of course, proved to be 100% correct;  she would have been perfectly entitled to revel in the discomfiture of those who dismissed her theory but she does not do so, which does her enormous credit. I don't think I would have been quite so charitable!

The chapters alternate between the excavation and its back-story, written by Philippa Langley, and the life of Richard written by the historian Michael Jones; this juxtapositioning really does help to bring Richard to life for the modern reader. Although we already knew what the outcome of the Battle of Bosworth was, and we now know that the body in the car park really was Richard III, the story remains a compelling one and a delight to read. It really does go a very long way to debunking the appalling bad press that King Richard was given by his Tudor successors.

 Definitely a keeper!

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Sunday, November 03, 2013

Got Any Questions About The Funeral Trade?

Ken West, the author of the book "R.I.P. OFF!" which I have just reviewed, has very kindly agreed to take part in a Q & A session on my blog about the funeral business.

 If you have any questions, however bizarre, morbid, mundane or extraordinary they might be, feel free to leave a comment on the original blogpost, on this post or email me with them and I will send them to Ken to answer :-)
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