5*, book review, non-fiction

#BookReview Listening To The Animals: Becoming The Supervet. #ListeningToTheAnimals #Supervet @TrapezeBooks @ProfNoelFitz #vet #nonfictionbook #amreading #backablogger

 

becomingsupervet
Listening To The Animals: Becoming the Supervet by Noel Fitzpatrick.

I don’t often read autobiographies but when I heard that Noel Fitzpatrick AKA The Supervet had written one I knew that it was one that I was going to read.

My Review:

I have watched Noel Fitzpatrick on television since his days on the BBC as The Bionic Vet. Of course, now he is better known as The Supervet, star of the Channel Four programme that has been shown on prime time tv for years.

From what I have seen about Noel, he really is someone very special, his dedication is clearly evident, as is his genuine love of animals, and the fact that he loves hugs.

I have often wondered about who he is, the man behind the vet. What drives him to work more hours in the day than is healthy? There has never been any mention of relationships or even friends outside the vet practice, but surely there must be some life outside of it? And why does he hug pretty much everyone that he meets?

Listening To The Animals answers all of those questions. Growing up on an Irish farm was clearly tough and taught Noel some valuable lessons about hard work, although I think that most people will agree that the hours that he puts in are not healthy. The bullying that he suffered was heartbreaking to read, how lonely and isolated he felt as a little boy with only a farm dog to talk to about his worries. I loved how he knew from so early on that he wanted to be a vet and my goodness I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard of anyone working harder than he did to reach his goal. Serious respect to the man, whatever you may think of him, he is someone that will not be beaten and if one way of reaching his goal doesn’t work then he will find another way. Some of his stories were hilarious and had me chuckling away as I read.

I enjoyed reading about some of his hobbies that he loved and learnt from, although all fell to the wayside as work took over his life. And we also heard about relationships, here he was very honest with us, I’m not sure that I really needed to know how old he was when he lost his virginity, but it was an interesting chapter.

I also had no idea what went into building his practice, both in sweat and tears, but also money and debt. I told someone that I had read the book and the only thing that they said was ‘He must be so rich.’ I may have thought the same, but now I know better. He is not in the job for the money, it really is all about the animals.

He talked a lot about his love of Kiera, a little dog that he shares with a vet nurse because he is aware that his lifestyle is not one that would be fair for a dog. The relationship between man and their dog is a complex one, one that I think is often dismissed by people who have never had a dog and even some who have, but what makes Noel such an amazing vet is that he totally understands this. In fact, I think that he has a better understanding of that love and connection and how important it is than most people. I have a dog and I’ve been lucky enough to have had two other dogs who sadly died from old age, all three were part of my family but I am sure that I could not articulate the depth of the feeling that I have or have had for my dogs as well as Noel has.

At the time of writing the book, it appeared that Noel was single, I’ve always had a bit of a ‘thing’ for him, so if you’re reading this Noel and fancy meeting up then do get in touch!

Thank you to Trapeze Books for a copy of Listening To The Animals: Becoming The Supervet by Noel Fitzpatrick. I was under no obligation to review the book and all thoughts are my own.

Blurb:

THE NO.1 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER.

A powerful, heart-warming and inspiring memoir from the UK’s most famous and beloved vet, Professor Noel Fitzpatrick – star of the Channel 4 series The Supervet.

Growing up on the family farm in Ballyfin, Ireland, Noel’s childhood was spent tending to the cattle and sheep, the hay and silage, the tractors and land, his beloved sheepdog Pirate providing solace from the bullies that plagued him at school. It was this bond with Pirate, and a fateful night spent desperately trying to save a newborn lamb, that inspired Noel to enter the world of veterinary science – and set him on the path to becoming The Supervet.

Now, in this long-awaited memoir, Noel recounts this often-surprising journey that sees him leaving behind a farm animal practice in rural Ireland to set up Fitzpatrick Referrals in Surrey, one of the most advanced small animal specialist centres in the world. We meet the animals that paved the way, from calving cows and corralling bullocks to talkative parrots and bionic cats and dogs.

Noel has listened to the many lessons that the animals in his care have taught him, and especially the times he has shared with his beloved Keira, the scruffy Border Terrier who has been by Noel’s side as he’s dealt with the unbelievable highs and crushing lows of his extraordinary career.

As heart-warming and life-affirming as the TV show with which he made his name, Listening to the Animals is a story of love, hope and compassion, and about rejoicing in the bond between humans and animals that makes us the very best we can be.

About The Author:

noelfitzpatrickSPECIALIST SMALL ANIMAL ORTHOPAEDIC-NEURO SURGEON


In 2005 he opened Fitzpatrick Referrals, the UK’s pre-eminent and largest dedicated small animal orthopaedic and neuro-surgical facility in Surrey, employing over 250 veterinary professionals and comprising superlative surgical, diagnostic and rehabilitation facilities.

Noel is the clinical chair and chief surgeon at Fitzpatrick Referrals. He is particularly experienced in minimally invasive arthroscopic (keyhole) surgery, spinal disc disease, limb deformities, joint replacement, regenerative medicine and limb salvage for severe trauma or cancer. He is widely appreciated for his innovative solutions to complex problems, whilst promoting and ensuring efficacy and ethicacy at all times. He has developed more than 30 new techniques including several world-firsts.

In 2009 he became the first veterinary surgeon in the world to successfully apply a cutting edge amputation prosthesis (called a PerFiTS) to a cat called Oscar who had lost both front paws in an accident. In 2015 Noel and Oscar each received a Guinness World Record for the achievement.

Noel opened a second state-of-the-art hospital in Surrey dedicated to Oncology and Soft Tissue in 2015, redefining the standard of cancer treatment and care for companion animals.

A further centre is being developed at the Eashing referral practice called Fitzpatrick Institute for the Restoration of Skeletal Tissue (FIRST). The purpose of the new facility is to provide a range of validated evidence based options for the treatment of complex conditions of the neuromusculoskeletal system. This includes marrying new advances in biomaterials with the revolution of regenerative medicine.

 

Listening to the Animals: Becoming the Supervet by Noel Fitzpatrick is out now and is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

blog tours, book review, Guest Reviewer, non-fiction

#BlogTour #BookReview The Story of Now That’s What I Call Music in 100 Artists by Michael Mulligan. @MotorCityMick @TrapezeBooks @Simon_Burnton @NOWMusic #Now100 #music #Christmas

Trapeze Xmas 2

Now this really is rather exciting. Trapeze who publishes a wide range of books it showcases just how wide that range is by having a 12 days of Christmas blog tour with each day featuring a different book that they have published this year.

I don’t know about you but I love the idea and think that it is a little bit different and really rather exciting. I quickly looked at the books that would feature on the tour and picked a few that I wanted to read and review. Firstly there was Noel the Supervet, as an avid watcher of his show I wanted to read his book, then there was The Craftman by the Brilliant Sharon Bolton, or perhaps Hangman by Daniel Cole, whose first book, Ragdoll, was blooming brilliant.

So many good books to choose from and so I rushed to get my choice in, keen to get a book that I really wanted. So when the email came back saying that I had a spot on the tour I wasn’t quite expecting it to be the book that it was. Somewhat confused I checked the email that I had sent and sure enough, in my haste, I had put a wrong number down. What was the book I hear you ask? It was Now That’s What I Call Music in 100 Artists.

I do like music, just not that much. But here I was and I’d made a commitment so I was not quite sure what to do, a book like this deserved someone with a passion for music to review it, someone who used to wait eagerly for the release of that years’ Now That’s What I Call Music CD (or cassette!). Luckily, I knew just the person. Step in my brother, a music lover since he was a young boy and the perfect person to read and review the book.

nowmusic

Review:

Anyone who has had any kind of interest in pop music at any stage of their lives is likely to have owned and cherished a Now That’s What You Call Music album. They have chronicled the charts for 35 years, since their first brazen attempt to fleece the Christmas gift market in late 1983, and are still doing it in 2018, with Now 101 currently top of the compilation album charts (the top 20 also includes Now 100, Now That’s What I Call Christmas, Now That’s What I Call Love Songs, Now That’s What I Call Rock ‘n Roll, Now That’s What I Call Easy, Now That’s What I Call Disney, Now That’s What I Call Now (100 Hits from 100 Nows!), and the unrelated but engagingly titled 100 Percent Clubland EDM Bangers), plus board games, card games, interactive DVD games and the occasional book, of which The Story of NOW That’s What I Call Music in 100 Artists is the latest.

There’s an OK book in here somewhere. Some effort and talent was put into the research and writing of it, whereupon the copy was placed into the hands of the kid on work experience in the layout department, and it went downhill from there.

It’s a shame to be superficial, but it just doesn’t look very good. Each of the 100 artists has a two-page spread, one containing a photo and a brief biography focusing predominately on their compilation appearances and the other containing trivia related to some of the Now albums they featured on. Sometimes the biography is on the left page of the spread and the albums on the right, which makes a great deal of sense, and sometimes it’s the other way round, which is confusing. It is like the designer of a novel putting the words CHAPTER TWO in large letters on the top of the second page of chapter two, and leaving the reader to work out where the first page fits in. This is the most significant quibble, but nothing about the design impresses – not the fonts, not the panels, not the page numbers, literally none of it (though the front cover is quite good).

The trek through the 100 artists is occasionally broken up by random other stuff. There are, for example, two pages which list the titles of songs from Now compilations that have place names in them. It looks like it was written in 10 minutes and laid out in two, which makes it considerably more impressive than the pages dedicated to songs from Now compilations with the word kiss in the title. There is no way that any sentient human could find any of this interesting, and it looks worse than it reads. The book would be big enough without this random padding, and better to boot.

The publicity blurb boasts that it is “jam packed with amazing facts and ‘Well I never!’ moments”, which is not entirely hyperbolic. There are lots of interesting details that will raise the eyebrow of pop-nerds, mainly about unnoticed producers, uncredited celebrity backing vocalists and unexpected links with other Now-featured artists. If you think it is interesting that Johan Renck, a member of one-hit wonders Stakka Bo (Here We Go was on Now 26), directed the video for Pet Shop Boys’ She’s Madonna (Now 66), or that the same harmonica player appeared on Will Young’s Switch It On (Now 62) and All Around the World by Oasis (Now 63), and you don’t mind a bit of amateurish layout, then this book is for you.
Now albums have always featured top-notch design and their website is phenomenal, but it’s a shame that the people responsible for that sterling work were on their tea break in the five minutes that this book was put together.

Blurb:

Everyone remembers their first NOW album. Since NOW That’s What I Call Music Volume 1 was released in 1983 on double vinyl and double cassette, NOW has become synonymous with pop music and has featured some of the most iconic artists of the last three decades.

To celebrate the release of the 100th NOW album, The Story of NOW That’s What I Call Music in 100 Artists looks back at some of the most memorable – and occasionally regrettable – hits of the last 35 years!

Jam packed with amazing facts and ‘Well I never!’ moments about the 4,000+ artists to have graced the NOW track listings – from Phil Collins to Pharrell, Bananarama to Lady Gaga and Peter Andre to Pet Shop Boys – The Story of NOWis a celebration of pop music through the decades. So plug in your earphones and pump up the volume, because this party is just getting started!

About The Author:

michaelmulligan
Michael Mulligan taken from Twitter.

Michael Mulligan was born on the outskirts of Southend-on-Sea, in Essex, which is where he purchased his first single, ‘School’s Out’ by Alice Cooper. As a teenager he’d buy as many as five music newspapers each week (when there were such things) and would gauge the growth of his music knowledge by his ability to finish the crossword puzzle.

Shortly before NOW That’s What I Call Music Volume 17 was released he got a job in his local record shop. For the next twenty-five years he worked in all manner of music retailers, and more recently he has been a consultant for record labels, mining their archives for overlooked gems.

Michael once made Kylie Minogue laugh, and has the photographic evidence to prove it. Though it is entirely possible she was just being polite. He lives in north London with two cats, a patient and indulgent wife and a ‘no way too large’ record collection.

The Story of Now That’s What I Call Music in 100 Artists by Michael Mulligan is out now and is available from Amazon UK.

3*, blog tours, book review, giveaway, non-fiction

#BlogTour #BookReview A Pawlife Guide Dog Care At Home by Gina Harding. @rararesources @pawlifeau #dog #giveaway

PawLife Guide Dog Care at Home Full Tour Banner

As a confirmed dog lover I was keen to read Dog Care At Home by Gina Harding and be part of the blog tour.

My Review:

I was keen to read The PawLife Guide: Dog Care at Home by Gina Harding. It’s a short guide to all things dog written by an Australian dog blogger who has now decided to put her tips into a book.

The book covers everything from choosing a puppy through to saying goodbye to your older pet, first aid to feeding and training to toileting.

Overall I thought that it is a decent guide for a new dog owner. I’ve had dogs for most of my adult life so the book is clearly not aimed at me, but the book is quite simplistic and has some rather huge omissions.

I was surprised that there was no mention of puppy farms when talking about getting a puppy, no advice about how to avoid them and also nothing about making sure that the parents had been health tested for whatever is applicable for that breed. I would say that including that is very important. I found it interesting too that there was no mention of crate training your puppy, given that crate training is very popular around the world I was surprised that it wasn’t discussed. But I suspect that it wasn’t included because Gina herself hadn’t used one with her dog, the book did seem to be a guide to what Gina does with little discussion about other options which was a shame.

But I still think that this is a great book for a new dog owner, or perhaps for someone considering getting a dog. It is easy to read and will give lots of things to think about, getting a dog is a huge commitment and is not something to be taken on lightly and it is a good thing to do as much research as you can before. Although set in Australia there aren’t that many Australia only references which is good. Gina clearly has a lot of knowledge when it comes to dogs and she’s written a great guide that I’m sure all of us will learn something from, I learnt more about dog CPR than I knew before which is great!

Thank you to Gina Harding for a copy of The PawLife Guide: Dog Care at Home, I was under no obligation to review the book and all thoughts are my own.

Blurb:

Pawlife - gharding-pawlife-guide-cover-d1The PawLife Guide: Dog Care at Home

DOG CARE AT HOME gives you the information you need to have a happy and healthy dog no matter what your dog’s current stage in life, in just 10 minutes a day. Over 200 hours of research including interviews with veterinarians and fellow dog owners around the world,

Dog Care at Home is the all-in-one book to have at home, with six veterinarians that have contributed to this ultimate guide, rest assured you are in reliable hands.

Inside you will discover:

– Choosing the right breed
– The basic steps of raising a puppy
– What vaccinations are for and why your dog needs them
– Travelling with your dog
– How to perform CPR on your dog
– Health and hygiene including dental care
– Choosing the right veterinarian
– When it’s time to say goodbye
– And much more!

PawLife’s Dog Care at Home is the answer for all your dog parenting needs in one comprehensive guide that ensures your dog lives a long, healthy and happy life.

Purchase from Amazon UKhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Dog-Care-Home-Ultimate-Healthy-ebook/dp/B07HGR9ZNF

Author Bio

pawlife-gina-harley-author-photoGina is an enthusiastic dog lover, so much so that she founded her own dog blog business called PawLife, which has been awarded top 10 Australian Dog Blog. This wouldn’t be possible without her best friend Harley, who is a toy poodle mix. They are continually going on new adventures, testing out new squeaky toys.

Gina recently discovered her writing passion and wanted to create the ultimate guidebook that would support, educate and inspire pet parents and yet to be pet parents around the world. Gina and Harley are originally from Australia, where the weather is always beautiful. This is Gina’s first book and looks forward to writing many more to help fellow pet-parents; with her fur-baby Harley by her side.

Social Media Links – 

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pawlifeau/

Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com.au/PawLifeAU/

Instagram- https://www.instagram.com/pawlifeau/

Website- http://pawlife.com.au/

Giveaway – Win a 12 Piece Dog Toy Starter Box from Zenify (Open Internationally)

pawlife-giveaway-V1

If you want to be in with a chance of winning this brilliant prize then click here to enter. Good luck!!!

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

4*, book review, Children's books, historical fiction, non-fiction

#BookReview Wojtek war hero bear by Jenny Robertson. @Jenny_Writes #Wojtek @LoveBooksGroup #kidsbooks #war #bear #book

 

Wojtek book cover (1)
Wojtek war hero bear by Jenny Robertson.

My Review:

What a lovely little book this is. I really wasn’t sure what to expect but I really enjoyed reading about Wojtek war hero bear. It seemed like such an implausible story yet Wojtek really did stand with Polish soldiers.

What shines through in this book is the great character that Wojtek was and how important he became to the soldiers that he was with and what a huge boost he gave them.

I was disappointed to learn at the end that not all of the characters were real, but given the time that has passed since the events in the book took place that isn’t really surprising that some of the story has been lost.

I’d never heard of Wojtek before, I had no idea that a bear had helped the Polish army in the second world war. It really is a heartwarming story. I liked the way that the story was told, sometimes we heard what Wojtek was thinking but most of the time told as if by an observer. It is simple in language and I think that it could be read by children aged 10 and over, but adults will enjoy the book too.

The illustrations also need a mention, for they match the writing in the simple way that they are presented but they fit very well with the story and I enjoyed seeing them a lot.

If you’re interested in reading about wars then this book will be sure to give you a different and unique story. If you don’t enjoy reading about the war then don’t let that put you off, it is the amazing story of Wojtek that is the story, and it is one that is well worth reading.

Thank you to the publisher Birlinn, for a copy of the book. I was under no obligation to review the book and all thoughts are my own.

Blurb:

The Wojtek MonumentWhen a tiny orphaned bear cub is adopted by Polish soldiers during World War II, little does anyone know that little Wojtek will become one of the bravest fighters of them all. As the soldiers train to take part in some of the fiercest fighting of the war, Wojtek grows up, providing headaches and laughter in equal measure as he learns to drink beer, chase horses and wrestle with his human friends. But at Monte Cassino, as the Allies try and dislodge German troops from their mountain-top eyrie, Wojtek, now a fully signed-up solider with his own rank and number, comes into his own, dodging the bullets to carry ammunition to his comrades as they inch their way to victory. After the war, the Polish solders move to Scotland. Wojtek comes too and soon becomes the centre of attention in a new country. But with hostilities ended, how long can he keep his freedom? Best-selling children’s author Jenny Robertson explores the themes of friendship and trust in this moving and inspirational story.

About the Author:

11536435_640608746040788_4485959991424682348_o

Jenny Robertson has written numerous books for children and adults – fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her children’s novels and Bible stories have been widely translated and also read on Yorkshire Television and STV.
 
 

Twitter:

 

To buy Wojtek war hero bear by Jenny Robertson click here:  https://goo.gl/c4nRTp

4*, book review, non-fiction, true crime

#Review The Jigsaw Man by Paul Britton. @PenguinUKBooks

 

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The Jigsaw Man by Paul Britton.

 

My Review:

I love reading crime and thriller fiction books and I enjoy watching true crime programmes on tv so when friends were discussing The Jigsaw Man by Paul Britton I was immediately intrigued and wanted to read it.

The book is in many ways fascinating. Britton gives insight into many cases including many that I was already familiar with like Fred and Rose West, Rachel Nickell and James Bulger. He provided details of those cases that I had not heard or read before, at times it felt like a little bit too much information but generally it was fascinating.

Britton displayed some detachment to the cases that he talked about which is understandable, to stay sane when dealing with such horrific crime some detachment is necessary. But it did feel like an unemotional read.

The James Bulger murder is an event that I remember well and I, like many, was horrified when we found out that he had been murdered by two young boys. Britton gives quite a lot of detail on the case including what the boys did to James before and after they killed him. This is not easy reading and is definitely something that has stayed with me since I finished the book. Consider yourself warned.

What Britton had to say about the murder of Rachel Nickell was very interesting, he gives a lot of detail into her murder and his thoughts around who had murdered her. Colin Stagg is discussed at length including the police sting using a female police officer to try and get a confession from him. Given what happened since the book was written, where Britton himself was investigated by the British Psychological Association and at one point was charged with misconduct for his role in the Colin Stagg sting, the charges were later dropped but I couldn’t help but pay a little more attention to what he said about Stagg. What he does is go into great detail about how careful they were to make sure that Stagg was not coerced or led in any way, it felt quite defensive and very much like Britton was saying that he had done absolutely everything by the book and was not at fault in any way.

Whether he was at fault or not I don’t really know, but the theme throughout the book is that Britton is fantastic at his job, loved by the police that he worked with and relied upon to solve numerous cases that he was instrumental in ensuring that the perpetrators were caught and convicted. This did get a little bit wearing and made me start to question how much of each story we were really being told. In something as subjective as psychology and profiling it is surely impossible that someone involved in so many cases didn’t get it wrong once, not even a bit wrong, but that seems to be what Britton thinks, or at least wants his readers to think.

Since finishing the book I have tried to find out a bit more about Paul Britton and it is clear that views are mixed and far more complex than he tries to make his readers think. Some claim that he wasn’t as involved in the cases as he makes out and that he has taken credit for some ideas that came from others. Who knows. Whatever the truth is The Jigsaw Man is a compelling and interesting read that will give the reader insight into police investigations. It is a long book and gives details of crime after crime, all but one or two involving some very unpleasant murders or serious sexual assault, the blackmail case providing a small amount of light relief.

I was surprised about the level of information Britton gives on some very well known crimes and so if you are interested in true crime then this is a book for you, I think that it helps if you remember the main cases that he talks about but this isn’t essential as he will give you more than enough detail. I really did enjoy reading it and found it fascinating, but I would have liked Britton to make himself more human and show that he isn’t perfect and did sometimes get it wrong, and perhaps what he learnt from that. His failure to do that makes me question the book and how true to life it really is, especially when, for example, he states that he believed that The West’s had eaten some of their victims due to marks on the bones, I have not been able to find anything else to substantiate this and even though I know that it would be impossible for it to be proven given the death of Fred West and the silence of Rose, it is something that I would expect to be discussed somewhere if there had been any evidence of that.

It was a good but frustrating read. I’d still read more books by Paul Britton but I’d definitely take what he says with more of a pinch of salt than I did when I started reading this one.

Blurb:

Forensic psychologist Paul Britton asks himself four questions when he is faced with a crime scene: what happened: who is the victim: how was it done, and why? Only when he has the answers to these questions can he address the fifth: who is responsible?

An intensely private and unassuming man, Britton has an almost mythic status in the field of crime deduction because of his ability to ‘walk through the minds’ of those who stalk, abduct, torture, rape and kill other human beings. What he searches for at the scene of a crime are not fingerprints, fibres or blood stains – he looks for the ‘mind trace’ left behind by those responsible; the psychological characteristics that can help police to identify and understand the nature of the perpetrator.

Over the past dozen years he has been at the centre of more than 100 headline-making investigations, from the murder of Jamie Bulger to the abduction of baby Abbie Humphries, the slaying of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common, the pursuit of the Green Chain rapist and the Heinz baby food extortionist, the notorious Gloucester House of Horror and most recently, the murder of Naomi Smith.

Told with humanity and insight, The Jigsaw Man is Paul Britton’s absorbing first-hand account of those cases, and of his groundbreaking analysis and treatment of the criminal mind. It combines the heart-stopping tension of the best detective thriller with his unique and profound understanding of the dark side of the human condition.

About The Author:

paulbrittonHe is perhaps the UK’s leading psychological profiler.

Paul Britton was born in 1946. Following degrees obtained in psychology from Warwick and Sheffield universities, he has spent the last twenty years working as a consultant clinical and forensic psychologist. He has advised the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Crime Committee on offender profiling for many years and currently teaches postgraduates in clinical and forensic psychology. He is married with two children. Paul Britton is the author of Picking Up the Pieces and The Jigsaw Man, which won the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award for Non-Fiction.

The Jigsaw Man by Paul Britton is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

4*, blog tours, book review, debut author, non-fiction, parenting

#BlogTour Our Altered Life by Charlene Beswick @ouralteredlife

 

book cover 1
Our Altered Life by Charlene Beswick.

 

My Review:

When I saw that Charlene Beswick was looking for people to read and review her book, Our Altered Life, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. For the story of a mum who had twins with one of them having a life-changing disability could have been my story. I have twins and when I was pregnant I was told that there was a very high chance that one of my twins had a disability. Further testing showed that this wasn’t the case, but it had really made me think about how I would manage twins when one had a profound disability.

So, intrigued and also keen to support a fellow twin mum I agreed to read Our Altered Life. I was a little bit unsure, the author was writing this book about her life and her experience, she hadn’t written anything published before so I really wasn’t sure how the book would read. Would it have grammatical errors and spelling mistakes? Well, thankfully the answer to that was no. I don’t know what process the author went through prior to publishing Our Altered Life, but the book has clearly been proofread and edited.

Our Altered Life is very readable, the author’s writing is almost chatty so it often felt like I was sitting and chatting with her over a cup of tea. At times I felt that she went out of her way to insist and perhaps convince us that although she had been shocked when Harry was born, she did still love him and wouldn’t change him. It was clear from reading the book that she loved Harry and that she would do anything and everything to help him, so she really didn’t need to keep telling us that.

The other niggle that I had when reading the book was that her second husband seemed to come and go at random through the story, at one point we were told that he had moved in and his children from a previous relationship were often there too, but then we heard many stories and events that made no mention of him being there. I wasn’t sure what happened and why he was excluded like that, it was almost like the author had forgotten that he had even been there.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Our Altered Life, it wasn’t always an easy read but it was heartwarming and made me want to hug my children just that little bit tighter. Charlie Beswick is clearly a very strong and resilient woman, I can only wonder whether I would have coped half as well as she has.

Blurb:

GRS MACHIN13

After a healthy twin pregnancy, Charlene and Mark were shocked to be told that one of their boys had been born with half of his face undeveloped. In seconds, the happy family future they had been planning disintegrated into turmoil and uncertainty.

Laugh out loud funny in places, heart-wrenchingly sad in others, and refreshingly honest at all times, Our Altered Life is Charlene’s wonderful account of how she struggled to forgive herself and bond with a baby she didn’t expect. Follow her transition through grief and anger, challenges and triumphs, loss and acceptance, to love for the life she has now with two children she wouldn’t change for the world.

About the Author:

GRS MACHIN4 - Copy

Hi, I’m Charlie, mum to twins Oliver and Harry and I am blogging about life as a parent of a child with special needs at Our Altered Life. I chronicle the highs and lows of a life less ordinary and the challenges and adventures we all face. When I’m not writing or working you will find me drinking gin, eating my own body weight in cheese and laminating stuff (you can take the girl out of teaching but you cant take the teacher out of the girl!).

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ouralteredlife/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ouralteredlife/?hl=en

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ouralteredlife

Our Altered Life by Charlene Beswick will be released on 29th September 2017 nd will be available to pre-order soon.

3*, book review, mental health, non-fiction

Review: A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold.

klebold
A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold.

I’m fairly sure that this is the longest book review that I have written, I have tried to cut it down but can’t, it seems that I have a lot to say about A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold and feel the need to say it! It is also the first review that I have done that could be classed as giving away spoilers, although being a non-fiction book that doesn’t tell the reader anything that isn’t already ‘out there’ I’m not sure whether you can really class them as spoilers.

My 3* review:

I have to admit that while reading this book I did ask myself why I had wanted to read it. As a big crime fiction fan, I do find myself interested in real crime, especially the more unusual cases. I remember the shooting at Columbine high school in America, I remember being horrified that something like that could happen in a school and trying to comprehend why two teenage boys would decide to go on a rampage in their own school.

I am thankful that gun laws in the UK prevent this sort of thing from happening, and I’ve always been horrified at the subsequent school shootings that have happened since Columbine. I have to admit that part of me is fascinated about what would make someone shoot children in a school, and what type of upbringing might cause someone to do that.

So when I came across A Mother’s Reckoning I wanted to read it, I wanted to understand what had happened at Columbine and how Dylan’s parents coped with the aftermath. I wanted to know whether the author would try to minimise her son’s involvement or paint herself as a wonderful mother who did nothing wrong? I had many questions.

The first half of this book is incredibly depressing to read. It is clear that Sue Klebold descended into a very dark place after the shooting and she uses the pages to vomit those feelings out onto the reader. I got to 50% through and had to take a break, I could feel my own thoughts becoming darker and knew that I had to step away from the book. I read two fiction books before returning, bracing myself for more.

Perhaps because I was prepared for it the second half was not as deeply depressing as the first. In fact, the second half actually said very little that wasn’t in the first half, this book is very repetitive. We hear, again and again, and again, how Sue and her now ex-husband had not noticed anything with Dylan that they hadn’t put down to normal teenage angst and how if she had suspected anything then she would have forced Dylan to get help and that then Dylan wouldn’t have felt so desperate and wouldn’t have killed so many people. I’m simplifying it, but basically, Sue Klebold obviously thinks that she could have saved the day if only she’d noticed.

Another thing that Klebold focuses on is what she calls ‘brain illness’. She does eventually give a brief explanation of why she says brain illness rather than mental health but if I’m honest, by then I was past caring about the why as it had become so annoying that I just wanted her to stop it and call it what it is. Brain illness makes no sense to me, sure, I understand that when you have mental health problems that your brain doesn’t work as it should, but does it have an illness? If my kidney’s stop working properly I don’t say that I have kidney illness, or a leg illness when I’ve broken my bone. You get the point, but it’s annoying and unnecessary. And yes, I do have mental health problems so feel that I am able to say that I hate ‘brain illness’.

It was interesting to read about Klebold’s denial around what her son did and how that denial was smashed when the police sat her down and told her step by step, what had happened during the rampage that Dylan and his friend Eric went on, including who shot who. It is made clear to us that Dylan shot fewer people than Eric and that he had spared a few people, telling them to run instead of shooting them. While these may be true facts it did feel that Klebold had emphasised them to make sure that we know that her son was not the worst.

It is clear that Klebold sees Eric as the bad one and that without him in his life Dylan would never have done such terrible things. Klebold acknowledges that Dylan had mental health (sorry, brain illness) problems that were undiagnosed and tells us repeatedly that Dylan was suicidal yet unable to kill himself, but so desperate was he to die that he went along with Eric’s plan to kill others, something that both boys knew would end in their deaths too. Klebold does talk about the memorials for the victims, she tells us that originally two crosses had been put there for Dylan and Eric but they had been destroyed. I can’t help but feel that she thinks that Dylan deserves a cross, that he too was a victim in all of this.

Since finishing this book I have done some more research into Dylan especially, but also Eric and the shootings. It is clear that there were more signs that Dylan was in trouble, like clear anger management issues, that were not mentioned in the book. This is not a short book and as I said it is very repetitive so there was plenty of room for Klebold to tell us about this, but I guess that she didn’t want to. Which makes me question the rest of the book, and what else she decided not to tell us.

What Klebold had to go through must have been beyond horrific and I do feel compassion towards her. She has clearly gone on to do a lot of good, supporting others who have lost children to suicide and reaching out to other parents of school shooters. The fact that she managed to get through what happened and put it to something positive is commendable.

However, I’m not really sure what she wanted to achieve with this book. The focus of the book is, understandably, on Dylan and although she tells us many times that she is very sorry about the people that were hurt by her son the victims seem to be almost forgotten and, in many ways, irrelevant. The book is far longer than it needed to be, mainly because of the repetitiveness which is a shame, this book could be a very powerful tool, helping parents to look at their children and see signs that may suggest that their child needs help and support. Instead, Klebold comes across as quite preachy and arrogant, placing blame with many people and institutions, but not with Dylan and certainly not with herself.

I received a copy of A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold from the publishers via Netgalley, I was under no obligation to review the book and all thoughts are my own.

Blurb:

On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives.

For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?

These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In A Mother’s Reckoning, she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.

Filled with hard-won wisdom and compassion, A Mother’s Reckoning is a powerful and haunting book that sheds light on one of the most pressing issues of our time. And with fresh wounds from the recent Newtown and Charleston shootings, never has the need for understanding been more urgent.

All author profits from the book will be donated to research and to charitable organizations focusing on mental health issues.

A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.