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Nonfiction November Week 4: Reads Like Fiction

Published November 24, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to the fourth week of Nonfiction November! If you’d like to find out what it’s all about, please see my post two weeks ago where I revealed my Nonfiction November TBR. my post for Week 1 where I talked briefly about my year in nonfiction so far and Week 2 where I paired up three nonfiction books alongside similar fiction tomes. Week 3 invited us to Be The Expert/Ask The Expert/Become The Expert.

This week as the title suggests, it’s all about non-fiction that “reads like fiction,” and is hosted by the lovely Rennie from What’s Nonfiction. You can check out her post HERE.

Nonfiction books often get praised for how they stack up to fiction. Does it matter to you whether nonfiction reads like a novel? If it does, what gives it that fiction-like feeling? Does it depend on the topic, the writing, the use of certain literary elements and techniques? What are your favorite nonfiction recommendations that read like fiction? And if your nonfiction picks could never be mistaken for novels, what do you love about the differences?

I’ve found this topic so interesting this week and have been racking my brains regarding my personal thoughts on it. I have to admit, it took me a little while to find my niche in nonfiction, I used to read solely fiction and found the nonfiction I was picking up a little dry and uninspiring. It’s only over the past six or seven years or so (and mainly due to the interaction with all you lovely bookish folk) that I’ve found nonfiction that really works for me.

As I mentioned in my previous posts this month, this tends to fall in the categories of popular science (particularly neuroscience but I’ll read anything really!), psychology, feminism, books about books and anything animal/nature related. I’ve only recently started getting into memoirs after reading two stonkingly good ones this year – I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death by Maggie O’Farrell and Educated by Tara Westover and am dipping my toes into the true crime genre after enjoying I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara.

Nonfiction doesn’t have to read like a novel for me to get something personal or moving from it – the memoirs I’ve mentioned above are a perfect example but I have to say, the O’Farrell and the Westover did have a bit of a “fiction flair,” and gave me the same sort of feeling as if I was reading a novel i.e. all the emotions and all of the pace and grittiness that you get from a captivating story. Then there’s the books that fall in the middle. They don’t necessarily read like fiction but at the same time you’re completely gripped throughout and find it difficult to put the book down.

Animal:The Autobiography Of A Female Body by Sara Pascoe for me is one of those in-between books which I read and reviewed last year and if you’re interested you can read my review HERE. It was hilariously funny, eye-opening, feminist and frank and made me angry for all the right reasons. I find it difficult to give nonfiction five stars usually as there’s almost always a certain point of the book, no matter how brief where either the pace slows or the topic becomes a little dry. This wasn’t the case with Animal, it was an easy, no-brainer of a five stars and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

On the other hand, a lot of the popular science I read certainly doesn’t have a story-telling or gripping “must read another page right now” style and that’s okay too – sometimes when I read a nonfiction, I want to be informed, educated and learn something a bit different and usually, I prefer to read these books in smaller chunks to absorb all the information I’m being given.

One book that pops into my mind is Stiff: The Curious Lives Of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach, which I read in my pre-blogging days but was another automatic five stars from me. It is a fascinating and occasionally humorous look at death and what happens to our bodies postmortem and was a completely fascinating and illuminating read. It’s a book filled with mind-boggling facts that I read in small doses but was written in such an approachable way that I never felt overwhelmed with the scientific aspects of the topic. I must get round to reading some more Mary Roach soon!

Hope you enjoyed reading this post and have found something you might be interested in reading too. I’d love to know your thoughts on the books I’ve mentioned so please let me know in the comments below if you’ve read them or want to read them!

Coming up next week on Nonfiction November Week 5: New to My TBR (hosted by Katie @ Doing Dewey) – the last week of Nonfiction November!

 

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Nonfiction November Week 1: My Year In Nonfiction

Published November 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to the first weekly post of Nonfiction November! If you’d like to find out what it’s all about, please see my post yesterday where I revealed my Nonfiction November TBR. The host for this week is Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness (please see her post and all the links HERE) and the topic for this week is my year in nonfiction. Here’s the discussion question for this week:

Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Here we go!

What was your favourite nonfiction read of the year?

I think a good nonfiction book should be one that stays with you and continues to have an impact long after you’ve finished it so my answer for this will be I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death, a memoir by Maggie O’Farrell. It was a wonderful, hugely memorable read and I still continue to think about parts of it today. I actually listened to the audio version (which I also highly recommend) but received a physical copy as a gift after I had finished. I was delighted by this as it has a firm place on my favourites shelves and I will definitely be re-reading it in the traditional way in the future.

Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?

I don’t think so, this year I have tended to stick to the topics I know I love like popular science – particularly anything that involves the brain, psychology, nature writing (especially animal-based) and feminism. However, I am open to trying new things and I’ve been particularly intrigued by the true crime genre after I read I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: On Woman’s Obsessive Search For The Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara recently this year.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

Apart from I Am, I Am I Am, I think I have (or would) recommend Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (review to follow shortly) or This Is Going To Hurt: Secret Diaries of A Junior Doctor by Adam Kay which is hilariously funny and a very illuminating read on the NHS currently.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November this year?:

I currently have two overflowing shelves of nonfiction that I’ve been woefully behind in getting to. I thought Nonfiction November was the perfect opportunity to clear some of my backlog and read some of that amazing nonfiction that I’ve been looking forward to for months (and in some cases, years!). I can’t wait to get started!

Thank you so much to Kim for hosting this week, I’ve really enjoyed taking part and looking back over my year in nonfiction so far!

Coming up next week on Nonfiction November Week 2 (hosted by Sarah’s Book Shelves) – Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairing.

My Non-Fiction November TBR

Published November 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to a very exciting month ahead – Nonfiction November! I really wanted to take part in this last year but had so many commitments for review copies that I just couldn’t fit it in but this year I’m determined. I still have a few ARC’s to read in November so I won’t be reading solely non-fiction but I’m hoping the majority of my reading will fall into that genre.

First, a little bit about Nonfiction November – it’s hosted by Katie of Doing Dewey, Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness, Rennie of What’s Nonfiction, Julz of JulzReads, and Sarah of Sarah’s Bookshelves. Each week of the month there will be a discussion question and link up related to non-fiction on one of the host’s blogs above and I can’t wait to join in! There is also an Instagram challenge going on starting today with various prompts for each day of the month and I’m going to attempt to join in with as many as I can (bibliobeth on Instagram if you fancy giving me a follow). I can’t promise the world’s most beautiful pictures but I can promise some interesting non-fiction recommendations for sure! The Instagram challenge is co-hosted by Kim (@kimthedork) and Leann (@Shelf_Aware_). and if you’d like to join in, they’d love to see your pictures using the hashtag #NonficNov.

But back to today’s post. I thought that today I’d talk about my Nonfiction November TBR or what I HOPE to be getting to this month. I’ve chosen eight books, which is quite optimistic considering the other fiction books I’ve promised to read so perhaps I won’t get to all of these but I’m going to give it a good go. Any that I don’t read will be read soon enough as I often read a non-fiction book alongside my current fiction read and an old favourite.

Here we go!

1.) The Diary Of A Bookseller – Shaun Bythell

What’s it all about?:

Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown – Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving, with twisting corridors and roaring fires, and all set in a beautiful, rural town by the edge of the sea. A book-lover’s paradise? Well, almost … In these wry and hilarious diaries, Shaun provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff, who include the ski-suit-wearing, bin-foraging Nicky. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books (both lost classics and new discoveries), introduces us to the thrill of the unexpected find, and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye.

Why do I want to read it?:

I’ve heard SO much about this book and now I just can’t help myself, I have to submit. It sounds cosy, amusing, interesting and is a book about books. What could be better for a bibliophile like myself?

2.) The Education Of A Coroner: Lessons In Investigating Death – John Bateson

What’s it all about?:

An “entertaining” (Booklist) account of the mysterious, hair-raising, and heartbreaking cases handled by the coroner of Marin County, California throughout his four decades on the job—from high-profile deaths and serial killers to inmate murders and Golden Gate Bridge suicides.

Marin County, California is a study in contradictions. Its natural beauty attracts celebrity residents and thousands of visitors every year, yet the county also is home to San Quentin Prison, one of the oldest and largest penitentiaries in the United States. Marin ranks in the top one percent of counties nationwide in terms of affluence and overall health, yet it is far above the norm in drug overdoses and alcoholism, not to mention the large percentage of suicides that occur on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Ken Holmes worked in the Marin County Coroner’s Office for thirty-six years, starting as a death investigator and ending as the three-term, elected coroner. As he grew into the job—one that is far different from the forensics we see on television—Holmes learned a variety of skills, from finding hidden clues at death scenes, interviewing witnesses effectively, managing bystanders and reporters, and preparing testimony for court to how to notify families of a death with sensitivity and compassion. He also learned about different kinds of firearms, all types of drugs—prescription and illegal—and about certain unexpected and potentially fatal phenomena, such as autoeroticism.

Why do I want to read it?:

This book appeals to the morbid, scientific side of me. I was always intrigued by forensics and this book came up on my recommendations when I bought another book on this Nonfiction November list. Of course as soon as I read the synopsis I couldn’t resist buying it!

3.) The Secret Lives Of Colour – Kassia St. Clair

What’s it all about?:

The Secret Lives of Colour tells the unusual stories of seventy-five fascinating shades, dyes and hues. From blonde to ginger, the brown that changed the way battles were fought to the white that protected against the plague, Picasso’s blue period to the charcoal on the cave walls at Lascaux, acid yellow to kelly green, and from scarlet women to imperial purple, these surprising stories run like a bright thread throughout history.

In this book, Kassia St. Clair has turned her lifelong obsession with colours and where they come from (whether Van Gogh’s chrome yellow sunflowers or punk’s fluorescent pink) into a unique study of human civilization. Across fashion and politics, art and war, the secret lives of colour tell the vivid story of our culture.

Why do I want to read it?:

This book was taunting me from bookshops for months. I used to always see it as I walked past a particular bookshop in London Waterloo station where it held a very prominent position and I was instantly entranced by the cover. I eventually pre-ordered it in paperback and it’s just as gorgeous, with rainbow coloured pages to illustrate the particular colour being talked about. I’m intrigued – particularly with the historical information behind the colours.

4.) Dark Banquet: Blood And The Curious Lives Of Blood-Feeding Creatures – Bill Schutt

What’s it all about?:

For centuries, blood feeders have inhabited our nightmares and horror stories, as well as the shadowy realms of scientific knowledge. In Dark Banquet, zoologist Bill Schutt takes readers on an entertaining voyage into the world of some of nature’s strangest creatures—the sanguivores. Using a sharp eye and mordant wit, Schutt makes a remarkably persuasive case that vampire bats, leeches, ticks, bed bugs, and other vampires are as deserving of our curiosity as warmer and fuzzier species are—and that many of them are even ­worthy of conservation.
Schutt takes us from rural Trinidad to the jungles of Brazil to learn about some of the most reviled, misunderstood, and marvelously evolved animals on our planet: vampire bats. Only recently has fact begun to disentangle itself from fiction concerning these remarkable animals, and Schutt delves into the myths and misconceptions surrounding them.

Examining the substance that sustains nature’s vampires, Schutt reveals just how little we actually knew about blood until well into the twentieth century. We revisit George Washington on his deathbed to learn how ideas about blood and the supposedly therapeutic value of bloodletting, first devised by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, survived into relatively modern times. Schutt also tracks the history of medicinal leech use. Once employed by the tens of millions to drain perceived excesses of blood, today the market for these ancient creatures is booming once again—but for very different reasons.

Among the other blood feeders we meet in these pages are bed bugs, or “ninja insects,” which are making a creepy resurgence in posh hotels and well-kept homes near you. In addition, Dark Banquet details our dangerous and sometimes deadly encounters with ticks, chiggers, and mites (the ­latter implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder—currently devastating honey bees worldwide). Then there are the truly weird—vampire finches. And if you thought piranha were scary, some people believe that the candiru (or willy fish) is the best reason to avoid swimming in the Amazon.

Enlightening, alarming, and appealing to our delight in the bizarre, Dark Banquet peers into a part of the natural world to which we are, through our blood, inextricably linked.

Why do I want to read it?:

I read Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, Bill Schutt’s second non-fiction book as a buddy read with Stuart from Always Trust In Books and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. As a result, I was determined to read his first book which sounds just as fascinating and of course, Nonfiction November is the perfect time to get down to reading it!

5.) The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life In Death, Decay & Disaster – Sarah Krasnostein

What’s it all about?:

Before she was a trauma cleaner, Sandra Pankhurst was many things: husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, trophy wife…

But as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home, she just wanted to belong. Now she believes her clients deserve no less.

A woman who sleeps among garbage she has not put out for forty years. A man who bled quietly to death in his loungeroom. A woman who lives with rats, random debris and terrified delusion. The still life of a home vacated by accidental overdose.

Sarah Krasnostein has watched the extraordinary Sandra Pankhurst bring order and care to these, the living and the dead—and the book she has written is equally extraordinary. Not just the compelling story of a fascinating life among lives of desperation, but an affirmation that, as isolated as we may feel, we are all in this together.

I call my dad from the car and ask him about his morning, tell him about mine.
‘What kind of hoarder was she?’ he asks.
‘Books and cats, mainly,’ I tell the man who loves his cats and who I know is now actively considering his extensive book collection.
‘What’s the difference between a private library and a book hoarder?’ he wonders.
We are both silent before we laugh and answer in unison: ‘Faeces.’

But the difference is this phone call. And the others like it I could make—and how strong we are when we are loved
.

Sarah Krasnostein was born in America, studied in Melbourne and has lived and worked in both countries. Earning her doctorate in criminal law, she is a law lecturer and researcher. Her essay, ‘The Secret Life of a Crime Scene Cleaner’, was published on Longreads and listed in Narratively’s Top 10 Stories for 2014. She lives in Melbourne, and spends part of the year working in New York City. The Trauma Cleaner is her first book.

Why do I want to read it?:

The Trauma Cleaner was the book that prompted me to buy The Education Of A Coroner earlier on this list. It’s my fascination with the forensic world again that makes me want to pick up this book but also I like that it has a transgender element which I’m also interested to read and learn more about.

6.) Animals Strike Curious Poses – Elena Passarello

What’s it all about?:

Beginning with Yuka, a 39,000-year-old mummified woolly mammoth recently found in the Siberian permafrost, each of the sixteen essays in Animals Strike Curious Poses investigates a different famous animal named and immortalised by humans. Here are the starling that inspired Mozart with its song, Darwin’s tortoise Harriet, and in an extraordinary essay, Jumbo the elephant (and how they tried to electrocute him). Modelled loosely on a medieval bestiary, these witty , playful, provocative essays traverse history, myth, science and more, introducing a stunning new writer to British readers.

Why do I want to read it?:

Along with science, nature writing (particularly anything that involves animals) is something I love to read about and this book looked too good to pass up. I love that it’s a series of essays and I adore that it follows “famous” animals. I’ve got high hopes for this one!

7.) When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

What’s it all about?:

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away?

Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.

Why do I want to read it?:

Similar to the next book coming up on my Nonfiction November TBR, this is one of the books that has been on my shelves the longest. Everyone keeps telling me how great it is (and I LOVE reading about neurosurgery/the brain) but this one also has a bitter-sweet emotional aspect that I wasn’t sure I was in the right place to read about in the past eighteen months or so. Now however, I am stronger and I am ready! This WILL happen.

8.) Bad Science – Ben Goldacre

What’s it all about?:

Have you ever wondered how one day the media can assert that alcohol is bad for us and the next unashamedly run a story touting the benefits of daily alcohol consumption? Or how a drug that is pulled off the market for causing heart attacks ever got approved in the first place? How can average readers, who aren’t medical doctors or Ph.D.s in biochemistry, tell what they should be paying attention to and what’s, well, just more bullshit?

Ben Goldacre has made a point of exposing quack doctors and nutritionists, bogus credentialing programs, and biased scientific studies. He has also taken the media to task for its willingness to throw facts and proof out the window. But he’s not here just to tell you what’s wrong. Goldacre is here to teach you how to evaluate placebo effects, double-blind studies, and sample sizes, so that you can recognize bad science when you see it. You’re about to feel a whole lot better.

Why do I want to read it?:

I think this is probably a work of non-fiction that I’ve had the longest. As a scientist in my daily life, I really need to get round to reading this – it’s a travesty I haven’t read it before now!

 

So, there we have it! My TBR for Nonfiction November has been revealed. What I’d love to hear from you guys is if you’ve read (or want to read) any of these books and what you thought? Let me know if you’re participating in Nonfiction November and what you’ll be reading – links welcome down below in the comments. 

COMING UP TOMORROW ON bibliobeth – Nonfiction November Week 1: My Year In Nonfiction. 

 

Blog Tour – Palm Beach, Finland by Antti Tuomainen (translated by David Hackston)

Published October 5, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Jan Nyman, the ace detective of the covert operations unit of the National Central Police, is sent to a sleepy seaside town to investigate a mysterious death. Nyman arrives in the town dominated by a bizarre holiday village—the “hottest beach in Finland.” The suspect: Olivia Koski, who has only recently returned to her old hometown. The mission: find out what happened, by any means necessary. With a nod to Fargo, and dark noir, Palm Beach, Finland is both a page-turning thriller and a black comedy about lust for money, fleeing dreams, and people struggling at turning points in their lives—chasing their fantasies regardless of reason.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Anne Cater for getting in touch and inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for providing me with a digital copy of this darkly humorous novel in exchange for an honest review. Palm Beach, Finland is my first experience with Antti Tuomainen’s writing, although I do have one of his other novels, The Man Who Died which I included as part of my post, 18 Books I’d Like To Read In 2018, which I promise to try and get round to very soon! However, now that I’ve read Palm Beach, Finland, it only makes me more determined to read something else by Tuomainen as I found his work to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience, full of atmosphere, quirky offbeat humour and a very individual writing style.

Antti Tuomainen, author of Palm Beach, Finland.

On first impressions, this novel is about an undercover detective, Jan Nyman who is investigating a series of strange events near a new beach resort in Finland that began with a suspected burglary gone wrong and ended with a murder. Nyman is trying to figure out whether the death was accidental or pre-meditated, who carried out the crime and for what reason, however things become rather convoluted when he gets to the resort and meets the people who could be potentially involved. There’s a number of characters to get to grips with here, all with their own motives for murder, including the woman whose house the death occurred in, Olivia Koski, who is in a desperate situation financially and wants nothing more than to make the house she lives in habitable and safe. However, there are far more personalities on the outskirts of this small, unassuming town to discover and the reader soon realises that nothing in this novel can be assumed or predicted.

An example of one of the beaches in Finland, Yyteri near Pori.

Before I started reading Palm Beach, Finland, I gave the synopsis a quick glance but tried to go into the novel knowing as little as possible about it. I don’t normally do this as I like to have a snapshot idea in my mind about the content of a book before I dive in but for some reason, this new tactic of mine worked really well for this particular work. I was delighted to find an intriguing mystery, some fascinating characters and a sense of humour I could really get on board with. The plot was intricate with multiple twists and turns but luckily, it felt believable throughout and it did make me constantly want to turn the pages and find out what was going on.

As I alluded to in a previous paragraph, I don’t think you can predict the actions of any of our characters in this story and to be honest, that was probably one of my favourite things about it. They all felt quite whimsical and other-worldly in a way and I was constantly surprised by the way in which each individual became personally embroiled in the plot. It began as a relatively simple criminal act, blew up into something much more dangerous and then dragged each of our characters into its clutches one by one as it became increasingly messy and out of hand. I did find myself wishing that we got to know each character a lot better on a much deeper level as it seemed as if the novel relied quite heavily on the complexities of the plot combined with the humorous undertone but generally speaking, this didn’t affect my enjoyment level in the slightest.

I’m reading much more translated fiction this year and completely loving this experience. The translator for Palm Beach, Finland, David Hackston did a brilliant job of bringing this novel to an English speaking audience whilst still retaining the author’s unique idiosyncrasies and comic timing. I definitely want to be reading more from Antti Tuomainen!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary
debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was
published two years later. In 2011, Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the
Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key
Award. Two years later, in 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of
Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style,
Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his
poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller,
shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards.

Find Antti on his Goodreads page at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5142432.Antti_Tuomainen

on his website at: http://anttituomainen.com/

or on Twitter at: @antti_tuomainen

Thank you so much once again to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Palm Beach, Finland will be published in October 2018 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to Palm Beach, Finland on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42086762-palm-beach-finland

Link to Palm Beach, Finland on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Palm-Beach-Finland-Antti-Tuomainen-ebook/dp/B07DFQ2DVK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1538594419&sr=8-1&keywords=palm+beach+finland

 

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018 – SEPTEMBER READ – Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

Published September 28, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Living with his little brother, Fudge, makes Peter feel like a fourth grade nothing. Fudge is never far from trouble. He’s a two-year-old terror who gets away with everything–and Peter’s had enough. When Fudge walks off with Dribble, Peter’s pet turtle, it’s the last straw.

What did I think?:

Apologies for the smaller image than normal regarding the book cover but I couldn’t resist including this particular cover as the headline picture for my post as I’m pretty certain this was the actual cover I owned when I was a youngster! For anyone who might not already know, I love Judy Blume with every fibre of my being. She was such an important part of my childhood, she taught me so much about adolescence and how to cope with it and I was even lucky enough to meet her in person a few years ago when she attended YALC, a young adult’s literature convention that happens in London on a yearly basis. Chrissi has had to put up with my gushing admiration for Blume over the years and luckily for me, didn’t get too embarrassed at YALC when I came face to face with my idol (and made a fool of myself by dropping down into a curtsey, I was so overwhelmed with happiness!). Yes, the less said about that the better I think.

Her Royal Highness Judy Blume, author of Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing. Your majesty…

Chrissi was also incredibly gracious when I begged her to let me put some classic Blume on our Kid-Lit list this year and I’m so very glad that we did. Jumping back into her writing was so wonderfully nostalgic it made me feel all warm and cosy inside. Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing is probably written for the younger readership, i.e. middle grade fiction but the enjoyment I got from it was second to none. I think I might have mentioned in a previous post that when Chrissi and I were growing up, our father was in the army and we lived in Germany for about thirteen years. At one point, we didn’t have access to many English bookshops – in fact, there was only a very small one about half an hour’s drive away and we went there about once a month to spend our pocket money. The rest of the time we had to make do with the local school library or re-reading the books we currently had so we spent a LOT of time doing that. As a result, my Blume collection was unsurprisingly very well thumbed, dog eared and a bit worse for wear from the amount of times I re-entered the world of Peter, Fudge and company.

As I started to read Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing as an adult, all the old feelings I had about this story came rushing back and some of them were truly precious. I remembered whole incidents that I had completely forgotten (for example, the little girl who wets herself at Fudge’s birthday party) but what was most remarkable to me is how little my views had changed on the characters since I read it as a child. Reading it back then, I remember being exasperated almost up to the point of tears with the character of Fudge. I felt terribly sorry for Peter as he struggled with his painfully annoying younger sibling and even went so far as to question his parents love for himself after, initially, Fudge appears to be blatantly getting away with everything. I wondered if as an adult, I would feel more sympathetic towards Fudge and understand his predicament slightly better – in other words, he’s a small child and doesn’t have the skills yet to realise the consequences of his actions. Of course, I DO realise that but I have to admit….I’m still team Peter. There’s something about Fudge that really irks me, I can’t put my finger on it.

I sympathised with Peter, being the oldest sibling myself and can remember those times in my childhood where the responsibility of looking after my two younger siblings seemed occasionally to be quite a huge cross to bear. If you’ve been there, you might be familiar with the frustration of being blamed for something your sibling does because as the oldest: “you should know better/you should have been looking out for them.” Maybe this was why I connected with Peter so much? Anyway, this is a beautiful little tale about the scrapes Fudge gets into, how it affects his older brother and how one devastating incident with a pet turtle called Dribble ends up bringing the whole family closer together again. I smiled, I groaned, I got emotional and I loved every minute.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP IN OCTOBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Nightbirds On Nantucket (The Wolves Chronicles #3) by Joan Aiken.

 

This Is Going To Hurt: Secret Diaries Of A Junior Doctor – Adam Kay

Published September 5, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Adam Kay was a junior doctor from 2004 until 2010, before a devastating experience on a ward caused him to reconsider his future. He kept a diary throughout his training, and This Is Going to Hurt intersperses tales from the front line of the NHS with reflections on the current crisis. The result is a first-hand account of life as a junior doctor in all its joy, pain, sacrifice and maddening bureaucracy, and a love letter to those who might at any moment be holding our lives in their hands.

What did I think?:

I have been hearing about this book literally EVERYWHERE and it has been taunting me for months now, pleading to be read. At the moment and probably for the forseeable future, I work for the NHS as a scientist and come into contact with a lot of junior doctors, usually by phone when I’m giving out patient results. My mum also used to work for an NHS hospital as a nurse on an emergency surgery ward so she too is more than familiar of the importance of forging good relationships with doctors. You could say, as a family, we’re very aware of the crucial need for our health service and I was excited to read a book that would uncover an inner secret sanctum I may not have had complete and exclusive access to before. I actually listened to this book on Audible after recently getting into audiobooks as a way of reading more when I’m out and about and I couldn’t have picked a better first choice of book. This Is Going To Hurt is a no holds barred account of what it’s really like to work for the institution that is the NHS and deals frankly and hilariously with a variety of patients that Adam Kay has worked closely with as a doctor.

Adam Kay, author of This Is Going To Hurt, pictured here enjoying his own book!

This brilliantly funny work of non-fiction is told in the form of diary entries from when Adam was a junior doctor right the way through his career which ended when he was a senior registrar. Some diary entries are shorter than others but in each one, Adam’s dry wit and passion for what he was doing shines through and we hear fascinating tales of his work, mostly in gynaecology that have the power to make you laugh, shock and amaze you and by the end of his journey in medicine, irrevocably break your heart. Adam bares his soul in this memoir and doesn’t hold back from the grittier, nastier side of what it’s like to work as a doctor with the NHS in the current situation that it finds itself now – understaffed, underfunded and supremely underappreciated.

Honestly, what on earth did we do before the NHS?

Throughout this book, when I wasn’t laughing, I was filled with admiration and a new-found respect for the work that doctors do, the severe pressures they are under, the extended shifts that they work, the fatigue and stress that they must suffer and the walls that they have to put up to protect themselves in highly emotive and painful situations. Personally, I would have loved to have been a doctor but even if I had got the grades, reading This Is Going To Hurt only brought back to me what I had suspected about myself all along. I couldn’t do it. I’m a bit of a sensitive soul and the emotional aspect of the job, which is of course unavoidable, would be far too devastating for me to handle. As a result, I give an internal “high five” to EVERY doctor/nurse out there who deals with often heart-rending decisions on a daily basis.

I don’t want to go into too much detail about the cases that Kay talks about for fear of spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t read this yet but let me assure you, some of the incidents that he recalls are forever etched in my mind, the mental imagery of some will probably never be erased! Obviously, patients have complete anonymity but I often wonder if the real-life patient behind the author’s case reads this book and cringes with embarrassment, recognising the resemblance to their own experience! He doesn’t shy away from detailed, descriptive passages and some recollections might be a bit too graphic for the queasier audience but I found his brutal honestly and candour both refreshing and fascinating. I particularly loved the sections where he bemoans the state and instability of the health service, the expectations placed on doctors and the alarmingly little time given to ensure doctors’ mental heath is being taken care of considering what they have to see and experience during a regular shift.

I can’t stress enough how wonderful and amazing this book really is if you’re in the mood for something that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure. Curious about the experience of junior doctors in the NHS? Adam Kay strips it all back with unflinching honesty and everyone is invited in to observe.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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My Lady Jane: The Not Entirely True Story (The Lady Janies #1) – Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows

Published August 20, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A comical, fantastical and witty re-imagining of the Tudor world, perfect for fans of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Lady Jane Grey, sixteen, is about to be married to a total stranger – and caught up in an insidious plot to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But that’s the least of Jane’s problems. She’s about to become Queen of England. Like that could go wrong.

What did I think?:

I chose this book as one of my recent Chrissi Cupboard Month picks because of the rave reviews I had heard about it, particularly from one of my favourite bloggers, Stephanie over at Stephanie’s Novel Fiction and of course, my sister whose opinion on books I trust implicitly. I’ve got to admit, I did keep putting it off, for two reasons which are both as silly as the other. The first is that I wasn’t completely sold on the cover (of the edition I have, please see image above) and I should know by now that judging a book by its cover is a very dangerous thing to do – who knows what you could be missing? Indeed, I’ve almost missed out on some amazing stories i.e. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes just because I mis-judged the cover and thought it would be something it wasn’t.

From top to bottom: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows, authors of My Lady Jane.

The second reason (and probably the silliest) is that I’m a huge fan of the Tudor period of history and adore fiction re-telling lives of the real people in this moment of history, particularly in the style of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir. As a result, I’m very familiar and fond of the tragic story of Lady Jane Grey and the thought of it being re-written to be completely different from the actual history with a humorous edge didn’t sit well with me and made me feel slightly uncomfortable, goodness knows why? Now I’ve experienced all the joy, brilliance and wit that Hand, Ashton and Meadows have brought to this tale I am a fully fledged convert to these new imaginings of history and am thoroughly berating myself for leaving it so long before reading in the first place.

My Lady Jane is the story of the Tudor dynasty, particularly the point where Lady Jane Grey ascends to the throne of England, like you’ve never heard about it before. It’s a land where there’s two classes of people, those that can turn into animals, otherwise known as Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated) and then there’s those who can’t. There’s a reason why Henry VIII was compared to a lion, you know! There’s quite a bit of bigotry and prejudice against people who assume their animal forms and huge factions of the country are at war with the young King Edward struggling to maintain control of his kingdom. It also doesn’t help that he’s dying and the succession for the throne is becoming very hazy indeed, particularly as Edward is certain if he chooses his sister Mary, she will be all too delighted to extinguish every last Eðian in England. Edward is also attempting to marry his cousin, Lady Jane Grey off so her future will be secured but the groom in question, Gifford is unable to control his urge to turn into a stallion every evening as soon as the sun goes down. Then all three become embroiled in a dangerous conspiracy for the throne that threatens not only their own lives but the whole future of England.

A portrait of the “real” Lady Jane Grey, also known as the Nine Day Queen.

This book was so much fun! I immediately texted my sister about twenty pages in and told her just how much I was enjoying it and could almost hear her sigh of relief from over fifty miles away. No, it’s not in any way a true account of the life of Lady Jane Grey but that’s one of the reasons why this book is so exciting. It feels fresh, unique, incredibly different and was so light-hearted and hilarious, it was a pleasure to settle down with it whenever I had a minute. It felt like re-visiting characters you know and love, like Jane herself, Edward and his sisters Mary and Elizabeth but also it painted them in such a distinct, new manner that it felt like you were getting to know them all over again. Gifford was a very welcome addition to the pack (or should that be herd?!), I loved his excursions as a horse, the way he opens up ever so gradually and ultimately, the growth of his relationship with Jane which was nothing short of adorable.

I really wasn’t sure whether the fantastical edge was going to work for a story about the Tudors but the authors have pulled it off magnificently. As a huge animal lover myself, I always enjoy animals within narratives but to have characters that can turn into animals? My heart was so happy. This novel was both a huge surprise and an absolute delight to read and I was completely won over by the wonderful ridiculousness of the narrative and how easy it was to devour.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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My Lady Jane by Hand, Ashton and Meadows was the forty-second book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!