Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Page one: 
 " Between life and death there is a library," she said. "And within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides the chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would have been if you'd made other choices....Would you have done anything different, if you had a chance to undo your regrets?"

Nora Seed is an extremely intelligent young woman but she is very depressed.  Life didn't turn out as she thought  and she decides to end her life.  She "wakes up" in a library at midnight and the librarian from her childhood school is there.  The librarian was always kind to her and becomes her guide assisting with choices.

There is a book of regrets she has Nora read through and the more she reads, the more upset she becomes.  Now she has a chance to drop in on a life she regrets losing.  Perhaps that will be the perfect life for Nora.  You don't go back in time but join the life you would have if you'd taken that path.  

Nora wishes she'd married Dan and pursued his dream of opening a pub in the English countryside. She visits many lives she could have had because each choice we make in life would take us on a different path.  She can become the olympic swimmer, a married woman with children, a successful musician, a dog walker and it goes on and on.

It's not the type of book I had thought it would be and yet I was loving every single chapter.  This is a marvelous book and reminds you the grass isn't always greener.  No life choice is perfect and you aren't guaranteed of smooth sailing with zero heart ache.

It turned out well, loved the ending chapters and I can recommend this book as a very enjoyable read.  It's emotional and uplifting.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday. as it's set in England. Author Matt Haig is an English novelist.

Note: Netgalley provided me with a bookclub kit for this book.  Alas, I wasn't able to view the kit/verbage as it was "faded" - can't think of another way to describe it.  Couldn't see it. 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Trauma: My Life as an Emergency Surgeon by Dr. James Cole


This medical memoir by Dr. James Cole drops you into the hectic and unpredictable life of a trauma surgeon.  What the interns and first year residents endure to get through training takes dedication and stamina.  Honestly, I don't know how anyone endures the long hours and work conditions but, thank goodness people like Dr. Cole persevere.

This is a fast paced and realistic accounting.  While I can't abide looking at graphic images of surgery or trauma when watching medical dramas, I could read this - with the exception of cardic section.  That was my real squeamish point in the book, even though other injuries such as a stabbing with a screwdriver, a severe burn patient and gunshots wounds were written in great detail.

Each chapter takes on a different medical emergency.  The crossbow incident was both interesting and sad.  His time spent with Navy SEALS and his deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan were also interesting to me.  

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Category: Medical Memoir

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan


This story will be enjoyed by those who loved C.S. Lewis' books about Narnia and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.  As someone who hasn't read those books in decades I realized you didn't need the background to be entertained by this narrative.

The story begins in 1950, location Worcester and Oxford England. Young George Devonshire is a frail little boy with a heart condition.  He is completely besotted with Lewis' book The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and wants desperately to know if Narnia is real.  He will occassionaly climb into the wardrobe in his room and sit, imaging the world outside and a life he'll never have chance to know.

His older sister Megs is a mathmatics and physics student in Oxford and doesn't think beyond mathmatical probabilities - it's either right or wrong. Fantasy and imagination never cross her mind with any serious thought.  

One thing for sure, Megs loves her little brother very much and rushes home from college to be with him each weekend and break. As she is reading to him one day George asks if she will approach Mr. Lewis and ask where the stories about Narnia came from.  Is it real? Where did the inspiration come from? Megs has been to a lecture of Mr. Lewis but is reluctant to approach him with this request.  Loving George so much she risks it as it's his dying wish.  From there - what a wonderful story this becomes.  

Megs is invited into the home called The Kilns, the residence of Warnie and Jack Lewis. (Jack is C.S. Lewis) and the story unfolds from there.  It's a nesting doll of stories

There is saddness in this story but it's also wonderfully rich with details aout Lewis' life from boyhood to present. Adventure seen through a child's eyes and some very imaginative adults.

I want to thank Katherine at I Wish I Lived in a Library for recommending this book.  It was one her favorites from 2021

Sharing with:
Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday
The Intrepid Reader for the 2022 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Monday, January 10, 2022

Stonehenge: The Story of a Sacred Landscape by Francis Pryor

This book about Stonehenge caught my attention at the library and it's been an interesting narrative overall. I won't lie, there are some dry parts to this book but the stories I found interesting are the discoveries of grave sites, historical excavations and carbon dating.

Stonehenge has been a fascination of mine since I was a teen.  My husband, son and I were fortunate enough to take a vacation over a decade ago and visited Stonehenge twice. Highlight of the trip!

The fact that the stones come from Wales and other areas in England show that the stone was not constructed for practical purposes with straightforward business motives. If that were the case, stones would have been sourced as locally as possible. It was far more complex and a place of gatherings for many "tribes" and communities from all over England.

Near Stonehenge at Amesbury Archer a discovery of  three males, apparently related, were buried in nearby graves. Human teeth do most of the growing during childhood,  therefore the composition of the enamel will reflect the water a child drinks. Experts were able to find where they came from through their teeth.  The oldest male came from Germany but a younger male's teeth revealed he grew up in Southern England - his teeth showed he drank water from the chalklands.

In 1978 during an excavation they came upon burial mounds. They found the body of a man with his legs bent and one arm across the chest. The time period could be estimated because of the distinctively shaped arrowheads found. These arrows entered his chest from three different sides of his body. This would seem to imply someone protecting Stonehenge and shooting at the intruder.  I think it’s also amazing they can do radiocarbon dates and therefore knew this body was buried somewhere between 2400 and 2140 BC.

These are just a few interesting facts I read in this book by Francis Pryor. If Mike Biles,  who writes at A Bit About Britain, wrote a book about Stonehenge I would be very interested to read that book.  Historical narratives can be very engaging depending on the author and style.

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Category: Geography

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney


Mr. and Mrs. Wright have a problem with their marriage. They also have secrets from each other that, I'm certain, doesn't help the issues they face in their failed relationship.

Adam and Amelia Wright have been married ten years.  Amelia works at a dog rescue organization at Battersea.  Adam is a writer and adapts books to movie scripts.  He wrote a script called Rock Paper Scissors which he hoped would be a successful screenplay but it's never made into a movie. He spends his days adapting other authors' work into films.

Adam also suffers from a condition called Prosopagosia which is also called face blindness. When I read that bit I was certain the author had made up that medical condition but sure enough, it's quite real.  Those who suffer from this condition can not recognize faces at all - their loved ones or anyone.  They cope by learning a scent, perfume or the way someone walks. This is important in developments of this thriller.

Amelia, unbeknownst to Adam, writes a letter to him every year on their anniversary where she pours her heart out about her love, her hopes and her frustrations with him being a workaholic.  She never gives him the letters but through this you get the core of their failings with one another.

Then Amelia wins a trip to a remote getaway in the wilds of Scotland.  Blackwater Chapel is so remote the phones do not work and there is absolutely nothing near them. No stores, petrol stations or homes.  It's a windy, snowy stormy night when they finally arrive, bickering most of the way.  It's the last chance to save the marriage by getting away and having time together. 

So, here is where I looked up the genre of the book because I do not like horror, at all.  It isn't.  They arrive and the chapel door is locked.  They walk around the building and when they come back, the door is open.  Creepy.  Inside there is a dust coating on the bench in the foyer. Adam gets the lights on and Amelia sees a smiley face traced in the dust on the bench.  Amelia asks Adam is he did it but he claims he did not. The lights go out after Amelia is in a wine cellar, a face appears in the frosted  stained glass window, their very clean guestroom has the exact furniture and decoration as they have in their London home.  

This is a suspenseful story which reveals the big twist very close to the end.  The chapters are titled Amelia, Adam and eventully a third perspective is introduced called Robin.  You won't know who Robin is until much later.  Again - thriller, suspenseful and you'll immerse yourself into the very cold Scottish countryside and wish you could pull that blanket a bit tighter around you as you read.

Sharing with Joy at Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Roundup

 I had signed up for the book challenge at Shelleyrae's site  Book'd Out  and went for the Nibbler category of six books.  Here'...