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.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Psychological Thriller, Thriller

Miracle Creek – Angie Kim @HodderBooks @AngieKimWriter #Courtroom #Drama #Thriller #PsychologicalThriller 4*#Review

Who or what caused the explosion? Was it the mother of one of the patients, who claimed to be sick that day but was smoking down by the creek? Or was it Young and Pak themselves, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? The ensuing trial uncovers unimaginable secrets from that night: trysts in the woods, mysterious notes, child-abuse charges, as well as tense rivalries and alliances among a group of people driven to extraordinary degrees of desperation and sacrifice.

In rural Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine – a pressurised oxygen chamber that patients enter for “dives”, used as an alternative therapy for conditions including autism and infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a dramatic murder trial upends the Yoos’ small community.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

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

My Thoughts…

A tragic event at an alternative medicine site leaves two dead, and others severely injured. This story is about the court case that follows over a year later, through the testimonies and thoughts of the people involved at the time, the story explores what really happened and whether the person in the dock is truly guilty.

The courtroom scenes are detailed and enthralling, seen through multi-points-of-view they illuminate the actions, emotions and motivations of the people at the time of the accident and before. All have secrets, tell lies and many have a motive, but are they guilty? The perception is whilst their lies may be insignificant in abstract, they may form part of a conspiracy against justice and the truth.

The people undergoing treatment are vulnerable and deserve protection. The crime is shocking, as are the revelations that follow. It is not easy reading, but there is nothing gratuitous, everything is a piece in the puzzle or an insight into a character’s personality.

Parenting a child with a disability, maintaining your personal identity, as an immigrant, the role of women in society, abuse, culture clashes, society’s expectations and norms, and alternative medical treatments are themes of this complex, well-researched story. They interweave with a pacy, twisty, sometimes controversial plot. Making this story an addictive mix of courtroom drama, family secrets and psychological thriller.

The ending has a final twist, not unexpected, but still shocking. The sense that the guilt should be shared is paramount and is the perfect end for this thought-provoking novel.

The story is original and complex, the characters are well thought out and believable, The courtroom scenes are realistic, but did I enjoy reading it?

The overriding ethos is dark, and almost lacking in hope, showing the worst side of humanity. Also, there is a level of repetition because events are examined from multi-points- of-view. So, the jury’s still out for me. It’s down to personal preference. If you like a mix of courtroom drama and psychological thriller, you should give this a try.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Literary Fiction, Literary Humour

The Unlikely Adventures of The Shergill Sisters – Balli Kaur Jaswal – 5* #Review @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam @balli_jaswal #India #Women #Sisters #PublicationDay

Full of warmth and laugh-out-loud funny, the new novel from the author of Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

British-born Punjabi sisters Rajni, Jezmeen and Shirina have never been close but when their mother died, she had only one request: that they take a pilgrimage across India to carry out her final rites. While an extended family holiday is the last thing they want, each sister has her own reasons to run away from her life.

Rajni is the archetypal know-it-all eldest but her son dropped a devastating bombshell before she left and for the first time she doesn’t know what the future holds.

Middle sister Jezmeen was always a loudmouth, translating her need for attention into life as a struggling actress. But her career is on the skids after an incident went viral and now she’s desperate to find her voice again.

Shirina has always been the golden child, who confounded expectations by having an arranged marriage and moving to the other side of the world. But her perfect life isn’t what it seems and time is running out to make the right choice.

As the miles rack up on their jaunt across India, the secrets of the past and present are sure to spill out…

Amazon UK

Waterstones

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

My Thoughts…

A charming, humorous, poignant journey for three sisters; Rajni, Jezmeen and Shirina, who travel to India, to honour their mother’s memory. A duty trip turns out to be a cultural, emotional and ultimately enlightening adventure, even if things didn’t happen quite how their mother Sita envisaged them.

Sita is dying and in pain on a terminal care ward, her family life has not been easy, and she despairs of the lack of connectivity between her daughters. Writing a letter with her last wishes means she can die in peace in the hope her three daughters can find each other and live their lives in a positive way.

Each sister has secrets, revealed as their journey unfolds, the sisters are believable, flawed characters, easy to empathise, even if they exasperate you sometimes. The setting is vividly described and an important character in this story. It’s India in all its contrasting forms that makes the sisters need each other and reflect on their lives and relationships. For someone who has never visited, it is an interesting travelogue, which complements the sisters’ journey of self -realisation perfectly,

Past and present events woven into the well-paced plot, illuminate the reader. The humour is sometimes dark, but this makes the story authentic. Social issues affecting women everywhere and more particularly in India are highlighted, they fit seamlessly into the plot but still resonate.

The ending is heartwarming and you are hopeful the sisters’ lives will be everything Sita would wish for them.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Romance, Saga

In a Kingdom by the Sea – Sara MacDonald – 5*#Review @HarperFiction @MacDonaldSara @fictionpubteam @HarperCollinsUK #FamilyDrama #Secrets #Romance #Historical #LiteraryFiction #Cornwall #Karachi #PublicationDay

A sweeping, evocative story of love, secrets and betrayal, set against the stunning backdrops of Karachi and Cornwall.

When Gabby’s husband accepts a transfer to Pakistan, she discovers a new world of heat and colour, of exotic bazaars and trips to the breath-taking Kashmiri mountains. It is an escape she didn’t know she was looking for.

But then a shocking letter from her sister reveals a devastating secret. Gabby is transported back to her childhood home on the Cornish coast, and as memories unravel, so too does her new life in Karachi.

Will Gabby find the courage to face the dark secrets and embrace a different future?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

I always enjoy reading a book written by a true storyteller, and this is the case with ‘In a Kingdom by the Sea’. The story flows beautifully, the characters are believable, complex, and draw you into their world. The settings are contrasting, but both are atmospheric and described using vivid imagery so that you can enjoy the sensory experience, as you become immersed in the secrets and mysteries of the plot.

There is a lovely balance of contemporary and historical as the family’s secrets are revisited and revealed. This is a journey of self-discovery for Gabby as she overcomes her emotional setbacks, and finally becomes her true self.

There are many important themes explored in this novel, the political situation in Pakistan, and the difficulty of day to day life there, contrasted against the freedom and relative safety of life in London, and the rural idyll of Cornwall, is most complex and absorbing. I love how the friendships made, and the encounters with individuals are portrayed in a positive, hopeful way. Its authenticity makes the whole book more realistic and enjoyable.

Gabby’s journey, both emotionally and logistically is the driving force of this story, and many women will identify, with at least parts of it. The role of women and the oppression they face underpins this novel, and the strength and resilience of these women resonate.

I will miss the characters and settings in this story, reading it, is a truly positive experience.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship

Her Husband’s Mistake- 5* #Review Sheila O’Flanagan @headlinepg @HeadlineFiction @sheilaoflanagan #Family #Relationships #Life #PublicationDay

Roxy’s marriage has always been rock solid.

After twenty years, and with two carefree kids, she and Dave are still the perfect couple.

Until the day she comes home unexpectedly and finds Dave in bed with their attractive, single neighbour.

Suddenly Roxy isn’t sure about anything – her past, the business she’s taken over from her dad, or what her family’s future might be. She’s spent so long caring about everyone else that she’s forgotten what she actually wants. But something has changed. And Roxy has a decision to make.

Whether it’s with Dave, or without him, it’s time for Roxy to start living for herself…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Living and then married to her school sweetheart, Roxy’s adult life has always been a partnership, she thought their marriage was strong, their family, all they both wanted. When her father became terminally ill, she expected, and received her husband Dave’s support, until she didn’t.

Arriving home unexpectedly after the funeral, she finds her loving husband committing the ultimate betrayal, with their attractive next-door-neighbour, and just like that everything changes for Roxy and her young children.

Even though this a soul-destroying discovery, it is written with self-deprecating humour, Roxy is restrained, her reactions even surprise herself, but she is a reflective thinker and doesn’t make life-changing decisions on impulse. She walks away to the safety of her childhood home, kids in tow, to decide on the future for all of them.

Grief for her father and her marriage rule her emotions, but she has responsibilities and moves forward, even though she wants to hide in a dark room and lick her wounds, like an injured animal. This story charts her journey of self-realisation, as she discovers new challenges and possibilities suddenly visible now she is released from the safety bubble of her marriage.

Dave wants his easy life back, even though he is the one who jeopardised it, It’s hard to feel any empathy for such a self-absorbed creature. Roxy is strong, giving and dependable, she is easy to empathise, many mothers will recognise something of themselves in her behaviour and personality traits, regardless of their circumstances.

Easy to read, with contemporary issues and believable, complex characters, this story of empowerment and family life is relatable, and that is why it’s so engaging to read.

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 Book Review, Friendship, Romance

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker – 5* Review – Jenni Keer @AvonBooksUK @JenniKeer

Meet Lucy, aged 25, and Brenda, aged 79. Neighbours, and unlikely friends.

Lucy Baker is not your usual 25-year-old. She is more at home reading and knitting in her cluttered little flat than going out partying and socialising.

79-year-old Brenda is full of wise and wonderful advice, but when she’s diagnosed with dementia her life begins to change. Before her memories slip away forever, Brenda is desperate to fulfil one last wish – to see Lucy happy.

Gifting Lucy the locket that helped Brenda find her own true love, she hopes to push her reticent neighbour in the right direction. But is Lucy Baker ready for the opportunities and heartbreaks of the real world? It’s about time she put her knitting needles aside and found out…

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

I love that there are so many stories at the moment about cross-generational friendships, which portray older people in a positive light.

‘The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker’ is a lovely example of this type of story featuring Lucy aged 25 and Brenda aged 79 and their strong friendship, which provides the reader with humorous, magical and poignant moments.

Brenda has lived a full often glamorous life and is still a flamboyant character. However, it’s her kind nature that makes her stand out and what draws Lucy to her. Lucy is not typical of her generation, she finds everything in life difficult, lacks self-confidence for a variety of reasons and is still seeking that perfect someone, even though she pretends to everyone, including herself most of the time that she isn’t.

The plot see-saws between Lucy’s home and work life, with engaging characters in each, they are all very human; flawed and realistic, which makes the story believable too, even though it has a strong flavour of the extraordinary.

There’s romance for Lucy, family problems and work stresses. Brenda has to face some cruel realities, but helping Lucy onto her rightful life path makes her focus on the positives rather than the negatives, of her life.

Friendship, frailty and fun sum up this book, one that I would recommend to everyone.

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