Non Fiction

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I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search For The Golden State Killer – Michelle McNamara

Published October 16, 2018 by bibliobeth

N

What’s it all about?:

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer – the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorised California for over a decade – from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

‘You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.’

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called the Golden State Killer. Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death – offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic – and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

What did I think?:

If you’re a regular follower of what’s new and what’s hot in the literary world, I don’t think you can have failed to see how much of an effect the true crime book, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark has had on its readers. As with every hyped book, of course I approached it with some trepidation which was also coupled with some unease and a lack of familiarity with the genre in general. My other half, Mr B is quite taken with some true crime podcasts but to be honest, I haven’t really gelled with anything I’ve listened to yet. The worry then was that I’ll Be Gone In The Dark would be a similar experience and I SO wanted to love it, after hearing the highest praise about it from fellow bloggers. Now personally, (please don’t hate me!) this book wasn’t quite the five star read I was anticipating and that was a shame – I had definitely elevated it to astronomical proportions in my mind and sadly, it just didn’t reach those dizzying heights. HOWEVER, there are parts of this book that are utterly fantastic and that I thoroughly enjoyed and I would still recommend this as a must-read book if you’re at all interested in this infamous case or the genre in general.

The late author Michelle McNamara and her husband, Patton Oswalt.

This is the true story of The Golden State Killer and his reign of terror over about a twelve year period that led to thirteen murders, more than fifty rapes and over one hundred burglaries in the state of California. The most fascinating thing about this particular case is how often this one man managed to evade police, leaving very little evidence that would ensure his capture and the way in which he terrified his victims. In the early years of his brutal activities, DNA testing was very much in its infancy and detectives had to rely heavily on anything left at the scene and eyewitness statements. However, our perp was incredibly adept at slipping under the radar and even as his crimes began to escalate, he still managed to escape the authorities and leave them frustrated, confused and eventually despondent. McNamara herself becomes engrossed with the case and spent countless hours often working long into the night, trying to piece together small scraps of evidence, communications between the police and eyewitnesses that may lead to the incarceration of such a sadistic and deplorable criminal.

One of three primary composite sketches of The Golden State Killer.

By FBI – https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/unknown-suspect-21, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60645485

Part of what makes this intriguing work so poignant is that Michelle McNamara sadly died quite suddenly as she was in the middle of writing this book. It has been pieced together by crime writer Paul Haynes, investigative journalist Billy Jensen and her widower Patton Oswalt who obviously had access to the files and notes she was working on. In a strange way, this was one of the things I appreciated about this book and in another way, that’s why I haven’t rated it any higher. Let me try and explain. It was fascinating to read about Michelle’s research, part of it in her own words and part of it in other words and I adored her gutsy determination, passion for justice and effort that she put into the whole project. Nevertheless, I feel like that is one of the problems with I’ll Be Gone In The Dark. At points, it really doesn’t read very well, as if it has been pieced together by too many people (which it has!) and unfortunately, this led to a rather disjointed, haphazard and uneven kind of reading experience as I made my way through it.

I don’t think it helped that I read this book over a period of about a month in little portions at a time. I often found I lost track of the narrative and there were so many facts and figures it made it slightly overwhelming to absorb occasionally. Possibly it may have been better if I had concentrated fully on this book and nothing else until I had finished it? Perhaps, I’m not sure. Saying that, there are some truly wonderful things about this read that make it memorable and still stand out in my mind. I won’t give too much away but there are moments when the author describes our killer’s usual protocol as he enters a house and the terrors that he subjects his victims to whilst he is in there. During these parts of the narrative, it read almost like a suspense or crime novel and I was on the edge of my seat, it was utterly horrifying. I kept reading parts out to Mr B – “did you realise he did this?,” and “how can one man be so sadistic?!” I’m sure he was getting fed up with me by the end!

So to sum up, this is an incredibly gripping read that I believe fans of true crime would really devour. If you’re like me and not a usual true crime reader, perhaps go into it with realistic expectations but I’m sure you’ll find it to be a dramatic and haunting experience. I certainly know there’s passages of this that I’ll never, ever forget!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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Book Tag – Books Beginning With A.U.T.U.M.N.

Published September 23, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone and hope you’re all well! Today I’m celebrating Autumn as today marks the beginning of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. I came up with this idea after seeing one of my favourite book tubers, Lauren from Lauren And The Books do a video at Christmas. She took each letter of the word CHRISTMAS and presented a title from her bookshelves that began with that letter. I’m going to nab that great idea and today I will be taking each letter of the word SUMMER and showing you a book from my TBR that begins with that letter which I hope to get round to very soon.

Check out my books beginning with S.P.R.I.N.G. HERE and my books beginning with S.U.M.M.E.R. HERE!

So without further ado, let’s get on with it!

A

What’s it all about?:

Science historian Laurel Braitman draws on evidence from across the world to show, for the first time, how astonishingly similar humans and other animals are when it comes to their emotional wellbeing.

Charles Darwin developed his evolutionary theories by studying Galapagos finches and fancy pigeons; Alfred Russel Wallace investigated creatures in the Malay Archipelago. Laurel Braitman got her lessons closer to home — by watching her dog. Oliver snapped at flies that only he could see, suffered from debilitating separation anxiety, was prone to aggression, and may even have attempted suicide. Braitman’s experiences with Oliver made her acknowledge a startling connection: non-human animals can lose their minds. And when they do, it often looks a lot like human mental illness.

Thankfully, all of us can heal. Braitman spent three years travelling the world in search of emotionally disturbed animals and the people who care for them, finding numerous stories of recovery: parrots that learn how to stop plucking their feathers, dogs that cease licking their tails raw, polar bears that stop swimming in compulsive circles, and great apes that benefit from the help of human psychiatrists. How do these animals recover? The same way we do: with love, medicine, and above all, the knowledge that someone understands why we suffer and what can make us feel better.

I adore non-fiction about animals and this book, which I won in a giveaway on Twitter has been sitting on my shelves for far too long. I’m hoping to put it on my TBR for Non Fiction November so will hopefully be reading it very soon, as I read the synopsis, I’m too excited to leave it any longer!

U

What’s it all about?:

A dark enchantment blights the land

Agnieszka loves her village, set in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest’s dark magic. However, his help comes at a terrible price. A young woman must serve him for ten years, leaving all she values behind.

Agnieszka fears her dearest friend Kasia will be picked at the next choosing, for she is everything Agnieszka is not – beautiful, graceful and brave. Yet when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he takes.

There was SO much hype around this book when it first came out and I can’t believe I still haven’t read it yet. I know my sister, Chrissi Reads didn’t get on too well with it and I’ve heard mixed reviews but I’m determined to find out what I think myself – what a gorgeous synopsis!

T

What’s it all about?:

During the long, hot summer of 1976, a young Cambridge mathematician arrives in a remote village in the Lake District and takes on a job as a farm labourer. Painfully awkward and shy, Spencer Little is viewed with suspicion by the community and his only real friendship is with scruffy, clever ten-year-old Alice.

This book wins the award for the shortest synopsis ever! Anyway, I’ve heard great things, particularly from my favourite book tuber, Savidge Reads so this definitely has to be read. At some point. #toomanybooks

U

What’s it all about?:

‘According to his mother, Jack Burns was an actor before he was an actor, but Jack’s most vivid memories of childhood were those moments when he felt compelled to hold his mother’s hand. He wasn’t acting then.’

Jack Burns’ mother, Alice, is a tattoo artist in search of the boy’s father, a virtuoso organist named William who has fled America to Europe. To fund her journey, she plies her trade in the seaports of the Baltic coast. But her four-year-old son’s errant father can’t be found, and soon even Jack’s memories of that perplexing time are called into question. It is only when he becomes a Hollywood actor in later life that what he has experienced in the past comes into telling play in his present……

Confession time. I haven’t read any John Irving before despite owning a few books by him on my shelves. This looks like a perfect place to start though. Intriguing synopsis and potentially fascinating characters I think!

M

What’s it all about?:

A twenty-four hour whirlwind of death and life.

In the depths of a winter’s night, the heart of Simon Limbeau is resting, readying itself for the day to come. In a few hours’ time, just before six, his alarm will go off and he will venture into the freezing dawn, drive down to the beach, and go surfing with his friends. A trip he has made a hundred times and yet, today, the heart of Simon Limbeau will encounter a very different course.

But for now, the black-box of his body is free to leap, swell, melt and sink, just as it has throughout the twenty years of Simon’s life.

5.50 a.m.

This is his heart.
And here is its story.

Also published as The Heart, this book won the Wellcome Trust Book Prize in 2017 and as a scientist who loves science non fiction, this seems like the perfect book for me. I’ve heard wonderful things about this book!

N

What’s it all about?:

Nutshell is a classic story of murder and deceit, told by a narrator with a perspective and voice unlike any in recent literature. A bravura performance, it is the finest recent work from a true master.

To be bound in a nutshell, see the world in two inches of ivory, in a grain of sand. Why not, when all of literature, all of art, of human endeavour, is just a speck in the universe of possible things.

Ian McEwan. Contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Told from the point of view of a foetus. Enough said, right?

Here ends my Books Beginning With A.U.T.U.M.N! What I’d love to know from you guys is if you’ve read any of these books before and what you thought? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you’d like to do your own books of A.U.T.U.M.N. from your TBR, I’d love to see them so please feel free.

Hope you all have a cosy Autumn/Fall!

Love Beth xx

It’s All In Your Head: True Stories of Imaginary Illness – Suzanne O’Sullivan

Published September 22, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘Even if medical tests cannot explain your pain or tiredness or disability, it does not lessen your suffering. The pain of medically unexplained illness is every bit as real as any other and, if anything, is multiplied by the lack of understanding.

Most of us accept the way our heart flutters when we set eyes on the one we secretly admire, or the sweat on our brow as we start the presentation we do not want to give. But few of us are fully aware of how dramatic our body’s reactions to emotions can sometimes be.

Take Pauline, who first became ill when she was fifteen. What seemed at first to be a urinary infection became joint pain, then food intolerances, then life-threatening appendicitis. And then one day, after a routine operation, Pauline lost all the strength in her legs. Shortly after that her convulsions started. But Pauline’s tests are normal; her symptoms seem to have no physical cause whatsoever.

Pauline may be an extreme case, but she is by no means alone. As many as a third of men and women visiting their GP have symptoms that are medically unexplained. In most, an emotional root is suspected and yet, when it comes to a diagnosis, this is the very last thing we want to hear, and the last thing doctors want to say.

In It’s All in Your Head consultant neurologist Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan takes us on a journey through the very real world of psychosomatic illness. She takes us from the extreme — from paralysis, seizures and blindness — to more everyday problems such as tiredness and pain. Meeting her patients, she encourages us to look deep inside the human condition. There we find the secrets we are all capable of keeping from ourselves, and our age-old failure to credit the intimate and extraordinary connection between mind and body.

What did I think?:

Oh, the thoughts. Oh, the feelings. Let me try and start at the beginning and I’m hoping my words make some sort of coherent sense. If not, I apologise. I have a couple of non fiction shelves at home (which you’ll see in due course if you enjoy my Shelfie by Shelfie book tag), and never seem to get round to reading them until this year, I began a new venture where I read three books at once – a current “main” read, a non-fiction read and a re-read of an old favourite. I’ve been eagerly anticipating many of my non-fiction reads, well….apart from this one. Let me explain. I’m a sucker for an interesting title, cover and synopsis and I don’t shy away from potentially controversial subject matters if it means I can educate myself about particular topics but I really wasn’t sure whether this book might hit a little too close to home, even for me.

Neurologist and author, Suzanne O’Sullivan who won The Wellcome Trust Prize in 2016 with It’s All In Your Head.

If you’ve been following me for a while now, you might have seen in a previous review/post that I’ve been struggling for the past eight years with a chronic illness. Basically, my diagnosis is fibromyalgia with chronic fatigue syndrome and hypermobility. It’s got to the point in my life now where I’m managing to cope really well with it. I still have my bad days of course, and at the end of the week, it’s still a mission to keep myself standing upright but I’m absolutely determined  to stay positive and that it’s not going to take my life away from me. This is why I still continue to work full-time, even if it is quite a struggle at times, I have to be honest. If you want to read more about my story, I wrote a personal post HERE.

As I was FINALLY picking up this book, I felt nervous and excited in equal measure. I didn’t know whether this book was going to make me feel horribly angry or completely vindicated about my own chronic health issues. I posted a picture of the book on Instagram and had some amazing and very interesting responses, many of whom were reacting the same way as I did when I first saw that title. Of course, a title like It’s All In Your Head seems to have been deliberately chosen to be controversial and raise a few hackles and, job done, my hackles were well and truly primed. Nobody with chronic illness likes to be told “it’s all in your head,” especially considering the amount of pain, suffering, physical and emotional turmoil we go through on a daily basis. There is literally nothing else my doctor can do for me and how to manage my pain myself has been one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn.

However, as I soon came to realise as I made my way through this fascinating and insightful book is that we don’t have to take that title literally and assume the author is saying something she is clearly not. As I’ve learned myself through my chronic illness journey, sadly a lot of my condition is psychological but a) that does not mean I’m going crazy, b) that does NOT mean I’m imagining it, c) my pain IS real and will probably always be there and d) I have to find the best way to cope with it (with the help and support of my loved ones) that will mean I have a fulfilling and enjoyable life. The author does briefly touch on illnesses like fibromyalgia and like she confirms, there is no definitive test for diagnosing it which makes it hard for both the patient and the doctor to ensure that the treatment offered is correct. Obviously more research desperately needs to be done and is ongoing but various studies have shown that although the pain is felt physically in different regions of the body, one theory is that the actual problem may lie in the pain receptors of the brain. In this sense, when you take the phrase “it’s all in your head,” might not mean what I initially assumed it to mean when I looked at the cover of the book and was instantly offended!

In this book, O’Sullivan follows a number of different patients, all with medically unexplained symptoms ranging from tiredness and pain to numbness, paralysis and even violent seizures and when nothing is discovered in blood tests, scans etc, suggests that there may be an emotional connection to the terrifying (and often debilitating) symptoms they are experiencing. She explores some intriguing ideas, including the age-old question – when did it become such a stigma to be psychologically unwell? As a society, we have an undeniable determination to pin everything down with physical evidence of malaise, only accepting cold, hard figures and scientific facts to prove that we are genuinely unwell. However, the individuals she talks about are truly exhibiting physical signs of illness and even if there isn’t a test yet that can decipher exactly what’s going on, O’Sullivan is simply suggesting all possible avenues, even psychiatric ones should be explored so that the patient can get the most appropriate, effective and individual treatment for them alone.

I’m so glad I read this book. Not only was it an absorbing and informative read but personally, I felt like it made me look at my own health problems in a whole new light. I came to this book determined to be angry with it and sceptical of the author’s own thoughts and feelings. However, at the end I felt slightly ashamed when I realised that they were perfectly sound and sensitive, particularly in her reactions to people who are genuinely suffering. Of course there are always going to be “those” people who are attempting to cheat the system and fake illness which is a real shame for those of us who are in very real pain and torment but I loved that O’Sullivan takes each one of her patient’s ailments seriously and compassionately, ensuring all the relevant boxes are ticked before suggesting that there might be an alternative explanation for their symptoms.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

It’s All In Your Head: True Stories Of Imaginary Illness by Suzanne O’Sullivan was the forty-sixth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Under The Knife: The History Of Surgery In 28 Remarkable Operations – Arnold van de Laar

Published September 16, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In Under the Knife, surgeon Arnold Van de Laar uses his own experience and expertise to tell the witty history of the past, present and future of surgery.

From the story of the desperate man from seventeenth-century Amsterdam who grimly cut a stone out of his own bladder to Bob Marley’s deadly toe, Under the Knife offers all kinds of fascinating and unforgettable insights into medicine and history via the operating theatre.

What happens during an operation? How does the human body respond to being attacked by a knife, a bacterium, a cancer cell or a bullet? And, as medical advances continuously push the boundaries of what medicine can cure, what are the limits of surgery?

From the dark centuries of bloodletting and of amputations without anaesthetic to today’s sterile, high-tech operating theatres, Under the Knife is both a rich cultural history, and a modern anatomy class for us all.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to John Murray Press and Book Bridgr for sending me this review copy at a time when I was delighted to have a new, shiny book to delve into. Who am I kidding? I’m ALWAYS happy to have a new, shiny book as a bibliophile, right? But seriously, I was going through a tough time and Under The Knife came as a pleasant surprise as I had requested it some time ago and thought that I had been unsuccessful in getting it so when my cheery postman brought it round, it was a very welcome addition to my collection. Personally, I found it was easier to read this non-fiction tome in shorter sections to be able to absorb all the information the author was throwing at the reader and to avoid becoming over-saturated in medical jargon. Although, don’t get me wrong, this piece of popular science is highly accessible to people who may not necessarily have a scientific background. Everything is explained methodically, without ever seeming patronising. It just may be a bit too much medical/surgical descriptions to take if you try to binge read it all at once, in my opinion.

Arnold van de Laar, author of Under The Knife.

Under The Knife can be explained as a history of surgery, but more specifically, twenty-eight particular operations that have been carried out on notable figures through history and have changed the face of medicine as a result. One of the more horrifying cases that van de Laar explores is lithotomy (translated as “stone cutting,”) which involved a Dutch man, blacksmith Jan de Doot (with NO prior surgical knowledge) in 1651 who performed an operation on himself to cut out his own bladder stone when the agony of it became too unbearable for him to suffer anymore and he didn’t trust anyone else to do it. Staggeringly enough for those times, he survived and over the next fifty years, doctors learned much more about what causes these particular types of bladder stones making it a relatively rare condition now. We also investigate the story of Bob Marley who because of his beliefs, flatly refused to have his cancerous toe amputated and died as a result, the tendency for obesity in Popes and how Queen Victoria pioneered a new movement in the realms of anaesthesia.

Jan de Doot in 1655, proud owner of a bladder stone and survivor of surgery by his own hands.

I’ve always been fascinated by the history of surgery which was one of the reasons I requested this book for review. This book wasn’t exactly what I expected but I think that was a good thing. It was less of a time-line through our past and how surgery has developed but a more in-depth look at specific instances where surgery has changed individual lives or advanced the field as a whole to improve survival rates in the future, even paving the way for better, more efficient technologies. As you might expect with a book all about surgery, it has quite gruesome, detailed moments including graphic descriptions of surgery so if that’s in any way unpalatable to you, just letting you know! For me, I found it to be an interesting insight into the world of trauma and illness, how our body copes, the pressures that the surgeon is under to “fix us,” and how the body heals itself after the process is completed.

It’s amazing and quite frankly, mind-blowing to see how much surgery has advanced through the years – can you ever imagine having to have an operation without any anaesthetic? Or how about when blood-letting was considered a normal procedure for someone who was gravely ill? Arnold van de Laar uses his vast experience as a specialist laparoscopic surgeon to present us with facts, statistics and precise, engaging information about surgery and how it’s changed over the years, thankfully for the better!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Mini Pin-It Reviews #24 – Four Books From Netgalley

Published September 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four books from Netgalley for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) Me, Myself And Why: Searching For The Science Of Self – Jennifer Ouellette

What’s it all about?:

As diverse as people appear to be, all of our genes and brains are nearly identical. In Me, Myself, and Why, Jennifer Ouellette dives into the miniscule ranges of variation to understand just what sets us apart. She draws on cutting-edge research in genetics, neuroscience, and psychology-enlivened as always with her signature sense of humor-to explore the mysteries of human identity and behavior. Readers follow her own surprising journey of self-discovery as she has her genome sequenced, her brain mapped, her personality typed, and even samples a popular hallucinogen. Bringing together everything from Mendel’s famous pea plant experiments and mutations in The X-Men to our taste for cilantro and our relationships with virtual avatars, Ouellette takes us on an endlessly thrilling and illuminating trip into the science of ourselves.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

2.) Land Where I Flee – Prajwal Parajuly

What’s it all about?:

To commemorate Chitralekha Nepauney’s Chaurasi – her landmark 84th birthday – Chitralekha’s grandchildren are travelling to Gangtok to pay their respects.

Agastaya is flying in from New York. Although a successful oncologist at only thirty-three he is dreading his family’s inquisition into why he is not married, and terrified that the reason for his bachelordom will be discovered.

Joining him are Manasa and Bhagwati, coming from London and Colorado respectively. One the Oxford-educated achiever; the other the disgraced eloper – one moneyed but miserable; the other ostracized but optimistic.

All three harbour the same dual objective: to emerge from the celebrations with their grandmother’s blessing and their nerves intact: a goal that will become increasingly impossible thanks to a mischievous maid and a fourth, uninvited guest.

Prajwal Parajuly – the son of an Indian father and a Nepalese mother – divides his time between New York and Oxford, but disappears to Gangtok, his hometown in the Indian Himalayas, at every opportunity. Land Where I Flee is his first novel.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

3.) Joy, Guilt, Anger Love: What Neuroscience Can And Can’t Tell Us About How We Feel – Giovanni Frazzetto

What’s it all about?:

Is science ever enough to explain why we feel the way we feel?

In this engaging account, renowned neuroscientist Giovanni Frazzetto blends cutting-edge scientific research with personal stories to reveal how our brains generate our emotions. He demonstrates that while modern science has expanded our knowledge, investigating art, literature, and philosophy is equally crucial to unraveling the brain’s secrets. What can a brain scan, or our reaction to a Caravaggio painting, reveal about the deep seat of guilt? Can ancient remedies fight sadness more effectively than antidepressants? What can writing poetry tell us about how joy works? Structured in seven chapters encompassing common human emotions—anger, guilt, anxiety, grief, empathy, joy, and love—Joy, Guilt, Anger, Love offers a way of thinking about science and art that will help us to more fully understand ourselves and how we feel.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

4.) The Transcriptionist – Amy Rowland

What’s it all about?:

This powerful debut follows a woman who sets out to challenge the absurdity of the world around her. Lena, the transcriptionist, sits alone in a room far away from the hum of the newsroom that is the heart of the Record, the New York City newspaper for which she works. For years, she has been the ever-present link for reporters calling in stories from around the world. Turning spoken words to print, Lena is the vein that connects the organs of the paper. She is loyal, she is unquestioning, yet technology is dictating that her days there are numbered. When she reads a shocking piece in the paper about a Jane Doe mauled to death by a lion, she recognizes the woman in the picture. They had met on a bus just a few days before. Obsessed with understanding what caused the woman to deliberately climb into the lion’s den, Lena begins a campaign for truth that will destroy the Record’s complacency and shake the venerable institution to its very foundation. An exquisite novel that asks probing questions about journalism and ethics, about the decline of the newspaper and the failure of language, it is also the story of a woman’s effort to establish her place in an increasingly alien and alienating world.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI-PIN IT REVIEWS: Four YA Novels.

 

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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The Diary Of A Young Girl – Anne Frank

Published September 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Anne Frank’s extraordinary diary, written in the Amsterdam attic where she and her family hid from the Nazis for two years, has become a world classic and a timeless testament to the human spirit. Now, in a new edition enriched by many passages originally withheld by her father, we meet an Anne more real, more human, and more vital than ever. Here she is first and foremost a teenage girl—stubbornly honest, touchingly vulnerable, in love with life. She imparts her deeply secret world of soul-searching and hungering for affection, rebellious clashes with her mother, romance and newly discovered sexuality, and wry, candid observations of her companions. Facing hunger, fear of discovery and death, and the petty frustrations of such confined quarters, Anne writes with adult wisdom and views beyond her years. Her story is that of every teenager, lived out in conditions few teenagers have ever known.

What did I think?:

The Diary Of A Young Girl is one of those pieces of non fiction that occupies a very special place in my heart. I’ve read it a few times now at different points in my life through my adolescence right through to adulthood and each time I’ve managed to get something unique out of each reading experience. It’s not a five star read for me and that’s only because, I have to be honest, I do find parts of Anne’s diary a bit slower than others but it earns a rightful place on my favourites shelf because of what it’s given me over the years. Over this past year, I’ve challenged myself to a little experiment where I have a current read, a work of non fiction and a favourite re-read on the go at the one time. I set this challenge for myself as I realised I have a host of non fiction books on my shelves that just aren’t getting read and that I need to get round to, whilst also realising that with all the exciting new releases coming in, I don’t get a chance to re-read the books on my favourite shelves. The Diary Of A Young Girl is one of my all-time favourites and after this latest re-read, definitely deserves to keep its spot on the shelf.

Anne Frank, the author of the diary entries put into a collection by her father, Otto Frank.

If you haven’t managed to get round to reading this book yet (and I feel like it should be required reading in ALL schools!), Anne Frank is a young girl from a Jewish family who is forced to go into hiding with her parents, sister and another family when the Nazis descend upon their town and begin to remove all people of the Jewish faith to camps and ghettos, basically sealing their fate to one of misery, poverty, disease and in far too many scenarios, death. Assisted by some friends, the two families are ensconced in a Secret Annex concealed from the world by means of a bookcase which opened onto their tiny living quarters where they were forced to hide for two years. Most of the time they had to exist in complete silence because of the workers in the office below or the proximity of the other houses to their own space. Discovery of the family would result in deportation and execution of all those that hid there and of those that helped them evade the authorities so playing by the rules of the house, being as quiet as possible and desperately awaiting the end of the war became normal life for the families that lived there.

Reconstruction of the bookcase that hid the doorway to The Secret Annex.

Image from: By Bungle – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4132164

As I mentioned earlier on in my review, I’ve managed to extract something different from each experience I’ve had reading The Diary Of A Young Girl. Reading it as a teenager, I felt strangely close to Anne and I felt a well of emotions being stirred up regarding the horrific situation she finds herself in, her normal feelings as a young teenager herself (particularly about boys!) and those awkward adolescent moments where the hormones are raging and you feel yourself developing into a woman coupled with the confusion that often accompanies these thoughts and feelings. Having to cope with all of this whilst living in such close quarters with her family, another family and having no means of escape left me feeling so uncomfortable and sorry for Anne that at times, I had to silently applaud her for her tenacity, humour and bravery that is clearly apparent and so endearing throughout her diary entries.

On my latest reading of this book, I got even more than I ever could have expected from it emotionally speaking and that’s because I had the good fortune to visit Amsterdam about eight years ago and more specifically, the house and Secret Annex where Anne Frank was hidden. It was an experience I will never, ever forget, especially when I saw how small their quarters actually were. It was frightening to think that eight people had to live in such a small space and I couldn’t stop saying to my partner how unbelievable it was that they could survive in those cramped, overcrowded conditions for so long and all parties managed to keep their sanity. However, there are two stand-out points that I take away from Diary Of A Young Girl that I find particularly heart-breaking. The first is that Anne’s story does NOT have a happy ending and it’s especially hard to read, knowing this and seeing her joyful optimism for the end of the war, having a normal life and realising her dreams of becoming a writer. This leads me onto the second point – Anne is quite obviously a hugely talented writer. Her diary entries are succinct, empowering, beautiful, raw and so very authentic and it’s devastating to think of what she could have done in her life if she had been given the chance to see the end of the war and become an adult. Even writing about it now makes me feel so emotional and it’s definitely a book I’ll be re-visiting in the future, it’s too important not to.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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