Cathy Rentzenbrink

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British Books Challenge 2016 – The Round Up

Published January 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

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2016 was my fourth year of participating in the British Books Challenge. I love doing this every year and think it’s important to support our authors here in the UK, old and new. Here’s what I’ve managed to review this year in British Books!

Frost Hollow Hall – Emma Carroll

The Horse Dancer – Jojo Moyes

We Were Just Driving Around – Jon McGregor

Bella Broomstick – Lou Kuenzler

The Chamois – Daphne du Maurier

Silent Saturday – Helen Grant

The Demons Of Ghent – Helen Grant

Urban Legends – Helen Grant

The Demon Headmaster – Gillian Cross

Under The Pylon – Graham Joyce

The Versions Of Us – Laura Barnett

The Quality Of Silence – Rosamund Lupton

In A Dark, Dark Wood – Ruth Ware

Duet – Kate Mosse

Carrie’s War – Nina Bawden

The Coral Strand – Ravinder Randhawa

Defender Of The Realm (Defender Of The Realm #1) – Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler

Strange Girls And Ordinary Women – Morgan McCarthy

The Samaritan (Carter Blake #2) – Mason Cross

Moving – Jenny Eclair

Enough Of This Shit Already – Tony Black

The Boy In The Dress – David Walliams

Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier

Create Your Own Spy Mission – Andrew and Chris Judge

Charm For A Friend With A Lump – Helen Simpson

A Year Of Marvellous Ways – Sarah Winman

Noble Conflict – Malorie Blackman

The Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins

The Inventory: Iron Fist (The Inventory #1) – Andy Briggs

Alfie Bloom And The Secrets Of Hexbridge Castle (Alfie Bloom #1) – Gabrielle Kent

Alfie Bloom And The Talisman Thief (Alfie Bloom #2) – Gabrielle Kent

Notes From The House Spirits – Lucy Wood

Our Endless Numbered Days – Claire Fuller

How I Finally Lost My Heart – Doris Lessing

The Bones Of You – Debbie Howells

According To Yes – Dawn French

The Borrowers – Mary Norton

Random Acts Of Unkindness – Jacqueline Ward

The Adventure Of The Speckled Band – Arthur Conan Doyle

Maggot Moon – Sally Gardner

Sweet Caress – William Boyd

The Girls – Lisa Jewell

The Oasis Of Time – Carolyn Waugh

Author Requests – Off Key by Mark Robertson, Piano From A 4th Storey Window by Jenny Morton Potts and The Death Of Danny Daggers by Haydn Wilks

The Love Song Of Miss Queenie Hennessy – Rachel Joyce

A Dictionary Of Mutual Understanding – Jackie Copleton

Garlic And Gauloises – Hemmie Martin

Looking For JJ (Jennifer Jones #1) – Anne Cassidy

If It Keeps On Raining – Jon McGregor

Reasons To Stay Alive – Matt Haig

Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense Of The Twentieth Century – John Higgs

The Lordly Ones – Daphne du Maurier

Roseblood – Paul Doherty

The Last Act Of Love – Cathy Rentzenbrink

Tiger Moth – Graham Joyce

The Widow – Fiona Barton

The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase – Joan Aiken

The Puppet Master – Abigail Osborne

Under My Skin – James Dawson

Red Letter Day – Kate Mosse

Missing, Presumed – Susie Steiner

Getting It Wrong – Ramsey Campbell

Disclaimer – Renée Knight

Ballet Shoes – Noel Streatfeild

Among Others – Jo Walton

Chinese Whispers – Ben Chu

The Last Leaves Falling – Fox Benwell

Hogmanay Homicide – Edward Marston

 The Loving Husband – Christobel Kent

The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair

So if I’ve calculated correctly, that makes it 72 books for the British Books Challenge this year. It isn’t as much as last year but I’ve still made the target of 12 books a year which I’m very happy with, especially as I haven’t had a great blogging year with a lot of illness. 😦

Highlights from this year include Disclaimer by Renee Knight which I will treasure as not only is it a fantastic book but I also managed to meet the lady herself at Crime At The Court (hosted by Goldsboro Books, London) with my blogger buddy Cleopatra Loves Books. She’s lovely and so very talented and I will probably read anything she ever writes! The Last Act Of Love was also a hugely important and emotional book for me and I loved reviewing it with my sister, Chrissi Reads in our little “Talking About” feature which we do on occasion. Other honourable mentions go to Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig, Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller, Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, the Forbidden Spaces Trilogy by Helen Grant and the fabulous Emma Carroll who wrote the beautiful Frost Hollow Hall. I could go on and on. I’m certainly looking forward to reading some more “best of British” books in 2017! Look out for my sign up post coming soon.

Talking About The Last Act Of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink with Chrissi Reads

Published September 7, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

In the summer of 1990 – two weeks before his GCSE results, which turned out to be the best in his school – Cathy Rentzenbrink’s brother Matty was knocked down by a car on the way home from a night out, suffering serious head injuries. He was left in a permanent vegetative state. Over the following years, Cathy and her parents took care of Matty – they built an extension onto the village pub where they lived and worked; they talked to him, fed him, bathed him, loved him. But there came a point at which it seemed the best thing they could do for Matty – and for themselves – was let him go. With unflinching honesty and raw emotional power, Cathy describes the unimaginable pain of losing her brother and the decision that changed her family’s lives forever. As she delves into the past and reclaims memories that have lain buried for many years, Cathy reconnects with the bright, funny, adoring brother she lost and is finally able to see the end of his life as it really was – a last act of love. Powerful, intimate and intensely moving, this is a personal journey with universal resonance – a story of unconditional love, of grief, survival and the strength of the ties that bind. It’s a story that will speak to anyone who has lost someone close to them, to anyone who has fiercely loved a sibling, and to anyone who has ever wondered whether prolonging a loved one’s life might be more heartbreaking than saying goodbye.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: How would you describe the experience of reading non fiction vs fiction?

BETH: Great question! A lot of the times I really feel it depends on the subject matter and the non fiction book in question. Sometimes it can be a bit dry but other times it can be written in a way that is just as compelling as reading a piece of fiction. This was definitely the case with The Last Act Of Love. It was quite literally a page turner and I managed to read it within a day as I just couldn’t put it down. It was terribly sad and at times almost unbearable to read but I’m infinitely glad that I did.

BETH: This is a harrowing story but ultimately uplifting. How did you feel when you reached the end of the book?

CHRISSI: I’m not a major fan of non fiction, as you know, but this book completely pulled me in. You’re right, it was such a harrowing story but it really was uplifting and I think that’s down to the fact that you can tell, as a reader, how much love was felt for Matt. His family really adored him and it was plain to see that. I loved that we got to read more about how the tragic event affected Cathy long after the accident. It was heart-warming to read Cathy’s letter to her brother at the end of the book. This book was an act of love in itself, as Cathy rawly and honestly opens up and it’s a beautiful thing. I felt incredibly moved by the end of the book.

CHRISSI: What does this book tell us about the nature of love?

BETH: Quite a lot. Love comes in many forms but is especially strong in a parent-child or sibling relationship. Obviously when Matt first had his accident, the family cannot bear for him to die so do everything possible in their power to try and prevent this, even taking him out of the hospital environment and learning how to care for him at home. However, after many years when he remains in a persistent vegetative state, they realise that they may be making it more difficult for him than just being strong enough to let him go. Their last act of love is making the hugely difficult decision to let him pass away but it’s not a decision they take lightly.

BETH: You’re not normally a fan of non fiction – what was it about The Last Act Of Love that touched you so deeply?

CHRISSI: I  am definitely not a fan of non fiction, but memoirs have always been the kind of non fiction that I do enjoy reading. I enjoy raw honesty even if it’s hard to read at times. I really felt that Cathy laid herself bare with this memoir. As I mentioned before, it was an act of love in itself writing this memoir. I really feel like Cathy had the most wonderful relationship with her brother and that relationship did touch me deeply.

CHRISSI: Did reading this book, knowing it was a memoir, affect your emotions more?

BETH: One hundred percent. Knowing that all of this really happened and that the family suffered for so long made it all the more traumatic. It must have been a very hard book for his sister to write, although it seemed that she got so much out of this process. I feel honoured as a reader that she chose to share her experiences with the world and really hope that she can come to terms with what has happened in time. Such an emotional read!

BETH: Would you read another book by this author fiction or otherwise?

CHRISSI: Yes, I would. I thought Cathy had a very engaging writing style. This book, despite it being so very sad, was such a page turner!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

BETH’s star rating (out of 5):

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CHRISSI’s star rating (out of 5):

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