Review: Dogs of Courage by Clare Campbell

IMG_9624[1]I’ve read and reviewed a fair few dog related books in my time, with the non-fiction genre which focuses quite specifically upon service and military dogs being a particular favourite of mine. I’m dog obsessed, and although its often an emotional reading experience I still love delving into real tales of dog heroics and the sheer amazing talents and heart that dogs have. They’re such faithful and courageous creatures, and I feel that books such as this really go a long way to highlighting their importance in our lives.

My mum actually bought me one such book for Christmas last year, and fancying something a bit different to the usual fiction I’ve been reading, I decided to pick this one up. Written by Clare Campbell, Dogs of Courage: When Britain’s Pets Went to War 1939-45, does exactly what the title suggests. Throughout this book we learn not only what different dogs did in the war, but how they actually become involved in it in the first place, documenting the vast difficulties and obstacles they had to overcome along the way. This is not just a book describing the heroics of dogs picked up along the way of the war, but the untold story of the multitude of family pets which were sent to do their bit for the war effort too.

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Review: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

IMG_9560[1]Medical non-fiction books, often written by doctors and nurses, have seen a big rise in popularity as of late, with good reason. They offer a fascinating insight into a world which many of us try to stay pretty clear from, giving us both the passion and the heartbreak which walks hand in hand in a medical environment. Whilst there are many of these non-fiction books available right now, I think it’s fair to say that last year saw the release of a book which most definitely threw this genre into the spotlight. I’m of course talking about When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.

At the young age of 36 Paul Kalanithi was on the brink of completing the long and arduous decade of training as a neurosurgeon.  It is with this goal finally in sight that Paul’s life was changed forever, taking him from the role of neurosurgeon into the realms of patient struggling to battle inoperable lung cancer. The book takes us through the journey which Paul fought, following him from his early days as a medical student up until his transformation into both patient and father.

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Review: The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

IMG_9519[1]One of my favourite times of the year is always when the Man Booker longlist is announced. I’m a massive lover of literary prizes, whatever genre or form they take, but I think the Booker has a special place in my heart. It was one of the first big prizes which came to my attention and it’s had some amazing writers on its lists. Even so, the Man Booker isn’t perfect and there is a habit of quite similar books or authors being nominated. It’s actually what makes this year so exciting, as the diversity this year is great, including not only a thriller/crime novel but also the first ever graphic novel to be nominated!

One of the books that caught my attention straight away this year was The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner. For a start I liked the very striking design, with the almost garish clash of colours and fonts. Secondly, the plot intrigued me straight away. The blurb tells us that Romy Hall is at the start of her two life consecutive life sentences (plus six years) at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility. She has been torn away from her old world and all she knows. Away from The Mars Room strip club she once worked, away from her life in San Francisco, away, even, from her seven year old son, Jackson. Instead she is faced with lifetime imprisonment where she must learn to survive and procure the bare essentials. But news from outside the four walls can still filter through, and what she learns will soon challenge her beyond anything else she has endured.

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Review: Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

IMG_9518[1]Last summer (around this time actually) I read Joanna Cannon’s debut novel, The Trouble With Goats and Sheep. It had a massive amount of hype on booktube, and although it wasn’t my favourite book of the year it was one that I really very much enjoyed. It’s no surprise that Joanna’s next book, Three Things About Elsie, was an instant hit on booktube once more, and I will admit that the gorgeous battenberg inspired cover design had me instantly wanting to haul this.

Three Things About Elsie does not follow Elsie, as you might expect, but Florence, her best friend. As the novel opens we find that 84 year old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. Waiting to be rescued, Florence reflects on her long life and the many memories she has with Elsie. Yet not all of these remembrances are good ones, and Florence can’t help but think of the new resident at Cherry Tree; the charming man who looks exactly like someone she once knew who died sixty years ago. Lying alone in her front room, Florence can’t help but wonder if the awful secret from her past is about to be discovered.

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Review: The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

IMG_9488[1]I think most people have some appreciation for Shakespeare, even if they don’t necessarily enjoy his plays or perhaps find them somewhat of a challenge. He is, after all, a genius playwright for good reason. Personally I love Shakespeare, especially his often playful use of language. Even when I was younger and couldn’t make sense of the plays as a whole I still loved saying the words aloud and hearing them trip or slip off the tongue. It’s therefore understandable that his works have influenced so many others, with hundreds of allusions scattered across different forms of literature and plenty of re-tellings. When I realised that Hogarth were doing an entire series where pretty prolific writers were writing their own versions of Shakespeare plays, I was immediately sold, even if it’s taken me this long to pick the first one up!

The Gap of Time is the first book in the Hogarth Shakespeare series and is written by the much loved Jeanette Winterson. It retells the story of ‘The Winter’s Tale’ bringing it into a much more modernised setting. For those of you who’ve read the play you’ll understand the bare bones of the plot, but for those who haven’t the plot is fairly simple. We have two kings, one of which believes the other is having an affair with his wife and has gotten her pregnant. Ruled by his jealousy the King sends the newly born baby off into the wilderness left to the hands of fate. Meanwhile, he does come to realise that his wife is indeed faithful, by which time both his son and his wife have died from the shock. What follows is the aftermath of these events and the filling in of the gap of time which passes.

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Review: The Abandon Trilogy by Meg Cabot

IMG_9475[1]Anyone who is a big reader is sure to have that one author that essentially made their childhood. I’m talking about the kind of author you couldn’t get enough of, whose books you’d devour in one sitting and would read over and over again. Yes, J. K. Rowling is of course one of these authors for me, but she’s not the only one. When I think back on my childhood there’s another name which always springs to mind; Meg Cabot. Meg’s probably most famous for The Princess Daires, but it was actually her other series which I fell in love with, namely The Mediator series. This was long before the likes of Twilight and it opened my eyes to a whole new world of paranormal YA. Whilst perusing my shelves the other day I realised that I had left one of her other series, The Abandon Trilogy, unread, so I immediately set to rectifying this.

The trilogy follows the story of Pierce Olivera, a young girl who died following an accident but was brought back to life. People are amazed at hearing her story, desperate to know if she saw a white light and what death might hold. What she doesn’t tell them is the truth; that she’s been to the Underworld, that whilst there she met a strange boy who has followed her to the living world, unable to give her up. Finding herself drawn to John and the world he represents, Pierce draws ever closer to the realm of the dead, but forces beyond their control are watching, and the furies cannot be stopped.

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