Posted in Biography, Book Review, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Parenting and Famlies

The First Breath- Olivia Gordon – 4 #Review @booksbybluebird @panmacmillan @OliviaGordon #NonFiction #Medical#Pregnancy #FetalMedicine #NeonatalMedicine

What happens when pregnancy and the first few weeks of a baby’s life don’t go as planned? How have advances in modern medicine and perinatal genetics redefined our perceptions of what is possible?

The First Breath by Olivia Gordon is a powerful medical memoir about the extraordinary fetal and neonatal medicine bringing today’s babies into the world. Unveiling the intense patient-doctor relationship at work with every birth, this book reflects on the cutting-edge medicine that has saved a generation of babies, the combination of love and fear a parent feels for a child they haven’t yet met and what can happen before a baby’s first breath.

Olivia Gordon was twenty-nine weeks pregnant when a scan found that her baby was critically ill. Thanks to a risky operation in utero and five months in neonatal care, her son survived.

The First Breath is the first popular science book to tell the story of the fast developing fields of fetal and neonatal medicine. It explores motherhood and the female experience of medicine through Olivia’s personal story and sensitive, intimate case histories of other mothers’ high-risk births.

The First Breath asks what it means to become the mother of a child who would not have survived birth only a generation ago, showing how doctors and nurses save the most vulnerable lives and how medicine has developed to make it possible for these lives to even begin.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this from Pan Macmillan – Bluebird via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The story, this book tells is amazing, the sheer scope of the medical advancement, over the last twenty years is well documented here. It’s not just about the science, and the pioneering doctors, there is also the unashamedly human side to this story. The personal experiences of the author, and the mothers, fathers, doctors and nurses interviewed by her.

The balance of facts and case studies is good. The science is complex and will not suit everyone, but it is written, in an easy to understand way, and illuminated by personal experience. The ethical side of this medical advancement isn’t ignored, as the reader is presented with both the facts and the human outcomes.

The experiences of the parents, particularly the mothers, is the best part of the book for me. They are courageous, honest and inspiring.

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Posted in Book Review, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Parenting and Famlies

Hard Pushed – Leah Hazard -5* #Review @Hutchinsonbooks @PenguinUKBooks @hazard_leah #Memoir

No sleep for twenty hours. No food for ten. And a ward full of soon-to-be mothers… Welcome to the life of a midwife.

Life on the NHS front line, working within a system at breaking point, is more extreme than you could ever imagine. From the bloody to the beautiful, from moments of utter vulnerability to remarkable displays of strength, from camaraderie to raw desperation, from heart-wrenching grief to the pure, perfect joy of a new-born baby, midwife Leah Hazard has seen it all.

Through her eyes, we meet Eleanor, whose wife is a walking miracle of modern medicine, their baby a feat of reproductive science; Crystal, pregnant at just fifteen, the precarious, flickering life within her threatening to come far too soon; Star, birthing in a room heady with essential oils and love until an enemy intrudes and Pei Hsuan, who has carried her tale of exploitation and endurance thousands of miles to somehow find herself at the open door of Leah’s ward.

Moving, compassionate and intensely candid, Hard Pushed is a love letter to new mothers and to Leah’s fellow midwives – there for us at some of the most challenging, empowering and defining moments of our lives.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Random House UK Cornerstone – Hutchinson Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Authentic, awe-inspiring and absorbing, this sharing of a midwife’s working life is a must read for everyone. Humorous and poignant it explores what it’s like to be responsible for assisting new life into the world through the eyes of a dedicated midwife as she shares her experiences with the women she helps.

Midwifery has mystical connations, and if you have ever experienced the brutality and wonder of birth you understand why. I’ve experienced birth twice as a mother and once as a birthing partner, and this memoir brings it all back. The writing is informal but full of vivid imagery and genuine love and respect. It made me cry, laugh and remember.

Out in digital on 30th April 2019 and Hardback and Audio on 2 May 2019

Posted in Biography, Book Review, Memoir, Non-Fiction

Heida – Steinunn Sigurðardóttir- 4* #Review @johnmurrays #biography #Iceland #Farming #Rural #Shepherd

Heiða is a solitary farmer with a flock of 500 sheep in a remorseless area bordering Iceland’s highlands. It’s known as the End of the World. One of her nearest neighbours is Iceland’s most notorious volcano, Katla, which has periodically driven away the inhabitants of Ljótarstaðir ever since people first started farming there in the twelfth century. This portrait of Heiða written with wit and humour by one of Iceland’s most acclaimed novelists, Steinunn Sigurðardóttir, tells a heroic tale of a charismatic young woman, who at 23 walked away from a career as a model in New York to take over the family farm when her father died.

I want to tell women they can do anything, and to show that sheep farming isn’t just a man’s game. I guess I’ve always been a feminist. When I was growing up, there was a female president, and I used to wear the same clothes and play with the same toys as the boys. It was just normal to me.

Divided into four seasons, Heiða tells the story of a remarkable year, interwoven with vivid stories of her animals and farm work and paints an unforgettable portrait of a remote life close to nature.

We, humans, are mortal; the land outlives us, new people come, new sheep, new birds and so on but the land with its rivers and lakes and resources, remains.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from John Murray Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I was attracted to this book because it is about a place, Iceland, that I know little about, it is currently a popular holiday destination too. The idea of a female Shepherd, running a farm practically single-handed is worth reading about, so I did.

The book has an informative forward, written by the biographer, who is a notable Icelandic author. The book came into being because Heida wanted to stop parts of her land, which has been farmed since the 12th-century being destroyed by an energy company. This it seems is the catalyst for Heida sharing her life to date, but the story is so much more than this.

Written like a memoir, this story details Heida’s life, much of which has been spent on Ljótarstaðir, her family farm. The writing style is informal. It is emotional, individual and personal, providing a real insight into her life.

It is also a story about preserving a way of life and the individual versus the corporate machine. The unwavering message being, it is not enough to want to keep your way of life, in an ever-changing world, you sometimes have to step into their world and fight on equal terms.

If you enjoy learning about different ways of life and culture and have a love of animals this will be an interesting read for you, like it is for me.

Posted in Book Review, Memoir, Non-Fiction

The Honey Bus – Meredith May – 4*#Review #Memoir #Family #ComingofAge #Nature @MeredithMaySF @HQStories #TuesdayBookBlog #TuesdayThoughts

‘The bee is more frightened than you,’ he said.

‘Can you imagine how scary it is to be this small in a world that is so big?’

He was right.

When she was five years old, Meredith May was abandoned by both parents. Her father left for the other side of the country. Her mother disappeared into herself.

But when Meredith discovered the rusted old bus where her grandpa kept bees, her world changed forever.

Family duty. Compassion and sacrifice. Unconditional love. The life of a honeybee displays it all. As her grandpa showed her the sacrifices bees make for their colony and the bonds they form with their keeper, Meredith discovered what family really means.

A rich and lyrical coming-of-age story, combined with spellbinding nature writing, The Honey Bus is the extraordinary story of a girl who journeyed into the hive – and found herself.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Some of the events recorded in this memoir are so sad and shocking that it’s hard to believe you are reading non-fiction, as its content has much in common with a literary fiction story about a dysfunctional American Family. However, this is a woman’s recollection of her childhood, some of it depressing, but mostly uplifting because she finds someone prepared to show her the beauty of nature and how its lessons can help anyone escape to a better life.

Meredith May’s childhood growing up in 1970s North America is interesting from a historical point of view, especially for people who grew up in the same time period. The insight into how honey bees live, what makes them work as a family, and how their experiences can help humans live better lives, is what makes this book remarkable.

It highlights the importance of honey bees to the ecosystem and draws realistic parallels between honey bee and human families and society.

Meredith’s relationship with her younger brother is selfless. It highlights the inadequacy of her mother and grandmother’s maternal skills because of mental health issues and their inherent lack of insight into the needs of young children.

Her Grandpa, although unconventional, understands what she needs, and provides her with security, time and most of all an understanding of life and its mysteries through his love of honey bees and beekeeping.

A complex, poignant journey through the eyes of a young girl faced with life’s misery and wonders, as she learns with her grandpa’s and the honey bees’ help, how to find a life worth living.

Posted in Memoir, Non-Fiction

Finding Gobi Dion Leonard 5* Review

In 2016, Dion Leonard, a seasoned ultramarathon runner, unexpectedly stumbled across a little stray dog while competing in a gruelling 155-mile race across the Gobi Desert. The lovable pup, who earned the name ‘Gobi’, proved that what she lacked in size, she more than made up for in heart, as she went step for step with Dion over the treacherous Tian Shan Mountains, managing to keep pace with him for nearly 80 miles.

As Dion witnessed the incredible determination of this small animal, he felt something change within himself. In the past, he had always focused on winning and being the best, but his goal now was simply to make sure that his new friend was safe, nourished and hydrated. Although Dion did not finish first, he felt he had won something far greater and promised to bring Gobi back to the UK for good to become a new addition to his family. This was the start of a journey neither of them would ever forget with a roller coaster ride of drama, grief, heartbreak, joy and love that changed their lives forever.

Finding Gobi is the ultimate story of hope, of resilience and of friendship, proving once again, that dogs really are ‘man’s best friend.’

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts… 

A lovely, honest, heartfelt memoir from an ultramarathon runner. Dion shares how meeting a little dog in China during a gruelling race changed and enriched his life.

This true-life story has a happy ending, so you know from the beginning whatever happens things turn out well for Dion and his doggy friend.

Dion is a driven individual whose childhood ended abruptly with the death of the man he called dad. Much of Dion’s motivation for pushing himself beyond reasonable limits can be traced back to his childhood. The memoir flows like a novel and is full of action, conflict, grounded characters and poignant moments.

Meeting Gobi is serendipitous, and Dion is determined she will be his. The sacrifices he makes, the people he meets and the different culture he learns to live with making this an enthralling read. Gobi’s story is touching, and many times your heart is in your mouth as you wonder if she will ever make it to the UK and life with Dion.

The insight into 21st-Century China is fascinating. The real-life action is heartstopping and the bond between man and dog rewarding. So familiar to everyone who shares their life with a doggy friend.  Whether or not, China, dogs and running are part of your life you will enjoy this well-paced, action-packed, original story, I did.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins Non-Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review, Memoir

everything I know about love – Dolly Alderton 3*Review

When it comes to the trials and triumphs of becoming a grown-up, journalist and former Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton has seen and tried it all. In her memoir, she vividly recounts falling in love, wrestling with self-sabotage, finding a job, throwing a socially disastrous Rod-Stewart themed house party, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop is the only man you’ve ever been able to rely on, and finding that that your mates are always there at the end of every messy night out. It’s a book about bad dates, good friends and – above all else – about recognising that you and you alone are enough.

Glittering with wit and insight, heart and humour, Dolly Alderton’s powerful début weave together personal stories, satirical observations, a series of lists, recipes, and other vignettes that will strike a chord of recognition with women of every age – while making you laugh until you fall over. Everything I Know About Love is about the struggles of early adulthood in all its grubby, hopeful uncertainty.

Amazon UK

Amazon

 My Thoughts…

‘Everything I Know About Love’, is a memoir written by a woman in her late twenties, while the writing quality is excellent, am I showing my age? (definitely a 20th-century woman). Aren’t memoirs usually written by people in the autumn of their years?

This book encompasses the central themes of the 21st-century: a fascination with all things celebrity and reality. Parties, drugs, sex, friendship are its mainstays, retold in a charmingly entertaining way. What I didn’t like is the casual reference to ‘Class A’ drugs as if they are nothing out of the ordinary, something everyone does. Drugs were a feature of life when I was in my teens and twenties, but they weren’t socially acceptable as they are now. 

The fast pacing holds the reader’s interest, and the life events recounted, read like a novel. If you are looking for a snapshot of life for young women of a particular social class in the 21st-century, this is a great example.

I received a copy of this book from Fig Tree Penguin Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

 

Posted in Book Review, Memoir, Non-Fiction

Fragile Lives Stephen Westaby – 5* Review

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An incredible memoir from one of the world’s most eminent heart surgeons, recalling some of the most remarkable and poignant cases he’s worked on.

Grim Reaper sits on the heart surgeon’s shoulder. A slip of the hand and life ebbs away.

The balance between life and death is so delicate, and the heart surgeon walks that rope between the two. In the operating room, there is no time for doubt. It is flesh, blood, rib-retractors and pumping the vital organ with your bare hand to squeeze the life back into it. An off-day can have dire consequences – this job has a steep learning curve, and the cost is measured in human life. Cardiac surgery is not for the faint of heart.

Professor Stephen Westaby took chances and pushed the boundaries of heart surgery. He saved hundreds of lives over the course of a thirty-five year career and now, in his astounding memoir, Westaby details some of his most remarkable and poignant cases – such as the baby who had suffered multiple heart attacks by six months old, a woman who lived the nightmare of locked-in syndrome, and a man whose life was powered by a battery for eight years.

A powerful, important and incredibly moving book, Fragile Lives offers an exceptional insight into the exhilarating and sometimes tragic world of heart surgery, and how it feels to hold someone’s life in your hands.

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

I’m not usually drawn to biographies, but this one interested me. An absorbing and provoking read, it captured my attention long into the night.

‘Fragile Lives’, documents a surgeon’s successful career, through a detailed description of keynote cases during a pioneering time for heart surgery. The medical terms are integral to the book, but they are understandable, and if you’re confused there is a glossary at the back. 

This is a  candid, passionate memoir. Every chapter demonstrates the surgeon’s dedication to his work, compassion for his patients and understandable frustrations with a system that focuses purely on outcomes rather than the quality of life.

 The real-life characters of this book are complex and memorable, I recalled some of the groundbreaking cases that became front page news, and it is fascinating to read the stories behind the headlines. 

For me, though it is the unknown cases, those that shaped this man’s career and life that are the most poignant. Even though, as a surgeon he appreciates the necessity of objectivity and not getting personally involved with his patients’lives, these cases prove that it’s not always possible to stand on the sidelines and sometimes you have to risk your own peace of mind for the greater good.

This story is as captivating as any fictional tale. The unpredictable twists and turns,  vivid characters and the life and death action will keep you reading until the last word.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK  via NetGalley in return for an honest review.