#Review – #TheFirstBreath by Olivia Gordon (@OliviaGordon) @Booksbybluebird @Panmacmillan #nonfiction #medicalmemoir

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(ARC received from the publisher, many thanks).

This is a story about the cutting-edge medicine that has saved a generation of babies.

It’s about the love and fear a parent feels for a child they haven’t yet met.

It’s about doctors, mothers, fathers and babies as together they fight for the first breath.

The First Breath is the first popular science book about the pioneering fetal and neonatal medicine bringing a new generation into the world – a generation of babies without precedent, who would not have lived if they had been born only a few decades ago.

Olivia Gordon explores the female experience of medicine through her own personal story and sensitive, intimate case histories of other mothers’ high-risk births. She details the relationship mothers develop with doctors who hold not only life and death in their hands, but also the very possibility of birth.

From the dawn of fetal medicine to neonatal surgery and the exploding field of perinatal genetics, The First Breath tells of fear, bravery and love. Olivia Gordon takes the reader behind the closed doors of the fetal and neonatal intensive care units, resuscitation rooms and operating theatres at some of the world’s leading children’s hospitals, unveiling the untold story of how doctors save the sickest babies.

What does TWG think?

2019 is the year I decided to lose myself in medical memoirs. I used to be quite afraid of reading books about such sensitive and often harrowing subjects that non-fiction books cover, however those topics are what people have personally endured. Those books tell readers about a journey that they would love other people to understand, or to be aware of. ‘The First Breath’ is one of those books. In fact, it’s one of those types of books which make a lump the size of a crater, form in your throat, hoping that no-one will talk to you until that lump disappears, in fear of personally turning into a puddle.

If you’re a parent of a child who ended up in NICU, required surgery through the womb, or anything like that, a lot of what Olivia Gordon discusses will obviously hit home. If you haven’t been directly affected by such uncertain times, you’ll no doubt find yourself moved by Olivia Gordon’s honest and harrowing account. I was. I was astounded by what the medical profession can do to try and assist a sick baby both inside the womb, and out. I had no idea about half of the things mentioned in this book, and at times I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer extent of the medical jargon and what not.

There are a lot of medical facts throughout this book, of course, and there is also a lot of medical jargon which, to be perfectly honest, went over my head at times. Thankfully I had Google to help me to understand such terminology, and the author did give the definitions some of the time which helped, however there was still a lot that didn’t make sense for someone who hadn’t been in the position that Olivia Gordon had.

Like I say, I was blown away by the work of the surgeons, genetics teams and, the strength of the female body. I have had one child, a 9lb baby girl in 2013 and, even though I was classed as a high risk pregnancy due to my own illnesses, I to this day cannot quite believe what the human body can do. Seriously, females have 2 hearts in their bodies when they’re pregnant, and then they have to try and expel the baby once the placenta says ‘right, get out’. I mean, us ladies need to dilate to the size of a bagel. A BAGEL. Shocking really, isn’t it. So yeah, I think the female body is an exceptional thing and, like ‘First Breath’ describes, there are many times where babies unfortunately do not make it into this world and my heart goes out to every single person who has had to go through that.

The science behind this book is utterly fascinating, medical jargon aside, and the way in which Olivia Gordon incorporates her own personal experience alongside it, was both mind-blowing and incredibly emotional. Not only did the author relieve her own heartache and give the other families (and their babies mentioned in the book) a voice, she also showed the reality of the aftermath so to speak. She didn’t gloss over how difficult it was to have a child in NICU, or to have a child who ended up poorly with various challenges, for the rest of their life. She didn’t pretend that everything was rosy, nor did she hide the devastation of the procedures the surgeons carried out through the womb, because that’s just not life. It’s not realistic and, as much as we would love no-one to endure the heartbreak of losing a child, multiple children, or even their spouse/family member due to pregnancy or giving birth, it happens. But then on the other hand, there could be an extremely sick baby yet due to advanced medical science and the knowledge of surgeons and other members of the medical team, that baby may pull through.

I’m not going to sit here and say that ‘The First Breath’ was an easy read, because it wasn’t. It was very difficult to read most of the time, due to the sheer amount of emotion throughout, yet it was also a read which opened my eyes to the incredible work of the medical profession. It also opened my eyes to the challenges that parents of sick babies face, as well as the emotional turmoil and stress throughout the whole process. It was very clear that the not knowing, or the uncertainty of the future was one of the hardest things to come to terms with, as was the putting the life of your child in someone else’s hands.

‘The First Breath’ is a poignant, powerful, and devastating read which covers a topic a lot of mothers, fathers, and families will be able to relate with. I can only thank the author for sharing her own personal story, and I would like to send love to anyone who has ever been in this position.

Buy now!

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#BlogTour! #Review – #TheRabbitGirls by Anna Ellory (@AnnaEllory) @LakeUnion @Ed_pr #Auschwitz

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It is an honour to be on the blog tour today for ‘The Rabbit Girls’ by Anna Ellory – thank you to EdPr for the blog tour invite and ARC. Here is my review:

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Berlin, 1989. As the wall between East and West falls, Miriam Winter cares for her dying father, Henryk. When he cries out for someone named Frieda – and Miriam discovers an Auschwitz tattoo hidden under his watch strap – Henryk’s secret history begins to unravel.

Searching for more clues of her father’s past, Miriam finds an inmate uniform from the Ravensbrück women’s camp concealed among her mother’s things. Within its seams are dozens of letters to Henryk written by Frieda. The letters reveal the disturbing truth about the ‘Rabbit Girls’, young women experimented on at the camp. And amid their tales of sacrifice and endurance, Miriam pieces together a love story that has been hidden away in Henryk’s heart for almost fifty years.

Inspired by these extraordinary women, Miriam strives to break through the walls she has built around herself. Because even in the darkest of times, hope can survive.

What does TWG think?

Where to begin? On subject matter alone due to a large portion of the story being set in Auschwitz, ‘The Rabbit Girls’ is a devastating read. Yet on the other hand, Anna Ellory’s novel is heartbreakingly beautiful because of the characters poignant memories.

Set in Berlin in the late 1980’s, ‘The Rabbit Girls’ follows the life of Miriam as she cares for her dying father. Unfortunately, the impending death of her father, Henryk, isn’t the only devastation Miriam has in her life. Without giving too much away, Miriam’s own personal tale is enough to break anyone and, as the story progresses, it is abundantly clear that it has nearly broken her, until a stranger steps in and gives her the strength to realise otherwise, that is.

Miriam’s father is in a bad way, clearly, he is dying. At times he is conscious and aware of Miriam there, and other times all he can do is shout out the name ‘Frieda’. But that wasn’t Miriam’s mothers name, was it? Who is Frieda, and why is Henryk so set on this person?

‘The Rabbit Girls’ is a dual timeline read as it steps back in time, courtesy of letters Miriam has found, and it’s because of those letters that we find out who ‘The Rabbit Girls’ actually were, and why they were called that (amongst other things of course, but spoilers!). I hadn’t heard that terminology before and due to it being related to Auschwitz, I just knew that it wasn’t going to be a case of something cuddly and cute like rabbits are usually associated with. It broke my heart which, is quite a selfish thing to say because I wasn’t the one enduring the heart ache, the pain, the devastation of watching people die and hearing their screams. Why do I, a mere 29 year old who wasn’t even around then, have any right to feel upset about a moment in history which didn’t directly affect me?

It’s simple; because that moment in history was one which moves people, even to this day, because of the sheer atrocities. The people who were in that camp need to have the recognition they deserve, even if they are no longer here to see it, which is why their stories are getting told both fictionally and non fictionally, at the hands of various different authors.

So, not only is this book a poignant, historical piece, it is also a romantic and insightful novel about love once loss and the deep routed power of that four lettered word. I may not have witnessed the pain directly, yet due to Anna Ellory’s beautiful story telling and her emotionally charged historical elements, I was able to feel a snippet of the heartache felt in both Auschwitz, and the world in which Miriam lived in at that time.

Miriam’s story, as I said above, is heartbreaking, harrowing, and simple quite scary. However, it is also a story which was probably extremely common during that time. The sacrifice of ‘The Rabbit Girls’ was jaw dropping and, even though my emotions regarding this book are still very fragile, it was an honour to be able to read such an incredible, incredible novel.

Anna Ellory and ‘The Rabbit Girls’ are forces to be reckoned with, as are all of the victims of Auschwitz. I was blown away by every single word in this novel, and I urge you all to take the time to be in the hands of a story which will leave you absolutely broken, yet hopeful and spellbound, all at the same time.

Buy now from Amazon.

#Review – Not Ready To Adult Yet by Iain Stirling (@IainDoesJokes) @HarpercollinsUK @fictionpubteam

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(Many thanks to HarperCollins for the ARC via Netgalley).

Comedian Iain Stirling is best known as the brilliantly funny voice of the BAFTA-award winning smash hit Love Island. Despite his many accolades, and his mum telling him he s her special little soldier every day, Iain still struggles with everyday adult life. What a textbook millennial.

Looking back at his journey to adulthood, Iain explores why millennials are the way they are and whether that makes us self-obsessed, work-shy, mollycoddled, egomaniacs; or just a misunderstood generation with a crippling fear of failure.

Millennials have been celebrated and scorned; they re the envy, fascination and disgrace of the world. But is there more to this #selfie and avocado-obsessed generation that can t grow up than meets the eye?

Throughout life millennials have been taught that they are perfect and should live a perfect life. They ve been told, whatever happens, don t mess up. And then they enter the real world. And failure quickly rears its ugly head. A head millennials weren t warned about and definitely aren t ready for.

Iain knows a lot about messing up. And he s ready to share.

Funny, provocative and full of his trademark razor-sharp wit, this is Iain s guide to what life is really like for millennials and how they can navigate it better.

What does TWG think?

Tonightttttt……..

Sorry, forgot for a second there that I’m not the Love Island voiceover man, Iain Stirling is! I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Iain in Glasgow last year to get my book signed, and I have to say that, after hearing his voice a lot without seeing him talk due to Love Island, his voice really doesn’t match the person! For a time I genuinely thought that someone was dubbing his voice and that he was doing a Britney by lip-syncing speaking!

I jest.

Or do I?

Iain Stirling is known for several things; his comedy, his Love Island voiceover….and the dodgy pictures on Google from his time as a CBBC presenter. Honestly, google it if you don’t believe me!

I was really looking forward to reading ‘Not Ready To Adult Yet’ because of how relatable the title was. How many of us wake up in the morning and are all like, ‘F off, I don’t want to be an adult, not today, not ever’? It happens, we’re human. This book is incredibly relatable, and incredibly funny. If you wanted a recap of life in the early nineties when Saturday morning T.V. was the absolute BOMB, or if you wanted to get into the mindset of a millennial, you would be in your element with this read, that’s for sure.

Not only that, HE EVEN GETS HIS MUM INVOLVED!! I thought his conversation with Mummy Stirling was so bloomin’ funny! So down to earth and it was clear to see where he got that side of his personality from. Even though this book does talk a lot about the dark side of social media, peer pressure, and the impending doom of adulthood itself, Iain also delves into his own personal life as he looks back on the challenges he faced whilst growing up, as well as the hurdles he had to jump when first starting out as a comedian. Eye-opening for sure, especially when you learn that he told an 8 year old where to go! It makes my sticking my middle finger up at a kid, extremely tame!

I’m not a politics person. I don’t understand it, even though it is incredibly important. So, I will hold my hands up and say that I found the parts regarding politics incredibly sluggish and I felt that they didn’t really belong alongside the hilarity of Stirling’s life. Just my opinion, obviously.

All in all, ‘Not Ready To Adult Yet’ is a honest, eye-opening, and snort inducing read about the things nobody else dares to talk about. The honesty of Iain Stirling is both commendable and ‘HE SAID WHAT?!’ – a brilliant combination from such a down to Earth man. Seriously, you get what it says on the tin with him!

Buy now from Amazon

#BlogTour! #Extract from ‘A Cruel Deception’ by Kim Booth (@K_B_Author) @BOTBSPublicity

Many thanks to Sarah for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for ‘A Cruel Deception’ by Kim Booth. Here is an extract from the book, as well as the blurb and the all important ‘buy’ link:

For Joan and Ted Warner, an innocent and trusting couple, a chance encounter with Barbara Hendry, a cunning con-woman who turned their settled lives into a living nightmare

The Warners were not victims of a remote scam, carried out over the internet by fraudsters from afar. For six years, faking a friendship face-to-face, this plausible woman carried off the impersonation of a member of the nobility fallen on hard times, manipulating the emotions of her victims, deceitfully draining them of every penny they had set aside for their retirement, and plunging them into debt.

Hendrys intention was to slip away, having sucked the Warners dry of all their hard-earned savings. But for some dogged investigative work by a determined detective she would have succeeded- and remained free to prey on other vulnerable victims.

Follow this journey of fraud and depravity in the company of the one man who knows the full story – the British detective who cracked the case and brought Barbara Hendry to justice.

Buy now from Amazon

Extract.

During the following months and after having spent a large amount away on the fraud enquiry it was time to return to getting on with my local work and wait for justice to take its course. I had left requests for statements to be recorded from witnesses that I had been unable to see and was waiting for any replies. In my absence there had been a number of burglaries at large houses on the patch that needed looking into, I still had the enquiry to pursue where an “additional” grave had been discovered by a gardener in a local graveyard and I had also been given an enquiry to look into about some very suspicious “goings-on” and a very large country house in the north of the patch. Gossip was rife about women being chased around the very large gardens of the premises scantily clad, chauffer driven cars arriving at all hours of the day and night being let into the premises which were guarded by very large metal gates. I decided to go and take a look to see what was going on, and when I approached the gate was met by a very large male with no neck who when I enquired as to who lived there was told in no uncertain terms to “Piss off!” not a good move really by the man on the gate it only served to feed my appetite as to what was going on.

I had not introduced myself for fear of compromising any future enquiries but as it turned out the premises were owned and being used by a multi-national company as a “knocking shop” where executives would no doubt take advantage of the pleasures on offer to ease the process of any business negotiations! The premises later featured in a national corruption enquiry involving a well-known national company.

#BlogTour! #Review – #FiveStepsToHappy by Ella Dove (@EllaRoseDove) @TrapezeBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n

I hope I do this book justice today! Huge thanks to Tracy Fenton and Trapeze for the blog tour invite and ARC, I am delighted to be today’s stop on the blog tour for ‘Five Steps To Happy’.

Life can change in a heartbeat…

When struggling actress Heidi has a life-changing accident aged 32, her world falls apart. Stuck in hospital and unable to walk, her only companion is Maud, the elderly lady in the bed next to hers. Heidi misses her flatmate, her life, her freedom – surely 32 is too young to be an amputee?

But when Maud’s aloof but attractive grandson Jack pays a visit to the ward, Heidi realises that her life isn’t over just because it’s different. It might not look like the life she dreamed of, but it’s the one she’s got – and there’s a lot she still wants to tick off her bucket list. With Jack at her side, will Heidi take the first step back to happiness? Or is there one more surprise still in store…?

A feel-good read based on the inspiring true story of journalist Ella Dove. Sometimes all it takes is one small step..

What does TWG think?

How the hell do you review this?! ‘Five Steps To Happy’ may be fiction, however it is based on the true story of the authors own life, and all I can say it……wow.

Ella Dove is one helluva woman, and one helluva author. I knew, after racing through 10% of the book in a matter of minutes, that it was going to be a good’un. You know when you just get that feeling about something? I had that and then some. I mean, how does anyone even come back from a situation like this? I know that some people have no choice but to carry on, and others feel as though they cannot cope, but can you honestly blame them for being upset by what’s happened? I can’t. I felt like shouting at the book; ‘don’t tell Heidi to cheer up, you have no idea how she feels!’.

‘Five Steps To Happy’ tells the story of Heidi and her journey as she finds her ‘new normal’ after becoming an amputee after a freak accident. As well as Heidi’s emotions, the storyline sheds light on the domino effect of the accident and how Heidi’s loved ones are struggling to cope with what’s happened.

This was such an eye-opening and poignant read – I had no idea about the journey which amputees go on, nor how long the ‘rehab’ is before they can go back to living in their home. On a personal level, I was able to resonate with some of Heidi’s emotions as I am losing the ability to walk myself, with the prospect of being unable to walk completely by the time I’m 40. Now I’m not taking the owniss off Ella or Heidi by saying that, it’s just I felt comfort by the rollercoaster of emotions, the worry at finding a ‘new normal’, feeling guilty and such. Walking is something we take for granted and it’s not until that ability is hindered, do we realise just how much a part of us walking actually is.

Being based on a true story, the emotion and frustration was very genuine and, because I was aware of the authors story, I felt that Heidi’s emotions hit me a lot harder because someone had actually been in that position if you get what I mean. It wasn’t as though Ella Dove was writing the scenes based on second hand knowledge via other people’s stories.

Talking of other people, I LOVED Maud!!! I just wanted to wrap her in a huge hug and take care of her. Such a lovely, lovely character.

Towards the end of the book, I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried. I honestly couldn’t hold in my emotion any longer. ‘Five Steps To Happy’ is one of the most beautiful, uplifting, honest, and empowering novels i think I have ever had the pleasure of reading. You don’t need to be an amputee to appreciate the powerful words in this story, you just need to have a heart and be willing to listen. People who have found their whole life change over night aren’t expecting people to understand, they’re just wanting people to take the time to listen and be present.

Such a wonderful, wonderful book with a very important message within. I adored its beauty, and I adored the authors magnetic storytelling – I am jealous of everyone who gets to read this for the very first time.

Buy now.

#BlogTour! #Review – The To-Do List by Amy Jones (@jimsyjampots) @EburyPublishing @AnneCater

Many thanks to Anne Cater and Ebury for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for ‘The To-Do List’ by Amy Jones. Also, thank you to the publisher for my ARC – I am delighted to share my review today.

How not to be good? Let me list the ways…

Are you a woman? Do you make to-do lists to stop you losing your mind? Have you ever cried in the toilets at work, had a meltdown in the supermarket, or gone off the rails at a hen party?

And have you ever been saved from any of the above by your truly brilliant friends?

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then this is the book for you. A moving, funny and brutally honest memoir of one woman’s millennial misadventures, The To-Do List and Other Disastersfollows Amy Jones on her journeys through friendship, marriage and mental health disasters in a story that’s as relatable as it is riotous.

What does TWG think?

Have you ever walked through the street, comparing yourself to every person you went past? Have you ever assumed that someone else’s life is perfect simply because they’re not you?

‘The To-Do List’ is Amy Jones’ own personal journey with mental health. Not only does the author share her honesty regarding how she feels about her body, she also admits her sensitivities when other people look at her. Are they mad because of something she has done? Are they annoyed with her? How can she fix it? Even if Amy didn’t have a clue as to whether the person had an actual issue with her, her insecurities niggled at her to make her feel like the world and its wife was against her.

You may read this book and struggle to understand why the author is ‘creating’ problems that aren’t even there, but the thing is, that’s what mental health is all about. People with depression, anxiety, stress disorders etc, struggle to rationalise things like someone without mental health issues. We battle day in, day out, with every little thing. It doesn’t matter if we don’t want the battle because the sneaky little bastard that is mental health, takes over everything.

I do think that Amy Jones was incredibly brave to put her struggles out there, especially seeing as we are in a world where ignorance is bliss and people are too quick to assume. I found her humour enlightening and I loved how she wasn’t afraid to make light of situations even when she didn’t have the energy to do much else.

A book like ‘The To-Do List’ is a difficult book to review because the hook of the book, so to speak, is actually the authors life and it’s not like anyone can sit there and say ‘nah your life was boring’ because that’s not fair. Yeah, this book had a prominent theme, but it didn’t have the bog standard ‘grit’. Not that it should have to be honest, after all, the topic of mental health has it’s own amount of intensity to it.

I was able to relate to a lot of what Amy discussed, and I truly believe that anyone with mental health struggles, body image issues, or anything in between, would totally benefit from the authors optimism and poignant honesty.

Buy now.

#BlogTour! #Recipe from #AFeastOfSerendib by Mary Anne Mohanraj (@mamohanraj) @RaRaResources

Today I have a recipe from Mary Anne Mohanraj’s Sri Lankan cookbook, ‘A Feast of Serendib’. Many thanks to RaRaResources for asking me to be involved. Before I share the recipe with you all, here is a little bit more about the book and the all important purchase links. Enjoy!

Dark roasted curry powder, a fine attention to the balance of salty-sour-sweet, wholesome red rice and toasted curry leaves, plenty of coconut milk and chili heat. These are the flavors of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka was a cross roads in the sea routes of the East. Three waves of colonization—Portuguese, Dutch and British—and the Chinese laborers who came with them, left their culinary imprint on Sri Lankan food. Sri Lankan cooking with its many vegetarian dishes gives testimony to the presence of a multi-ethnic and multi -religious population.

Everyday classics like beef smoore and Jaffna crab curry are joined by luxurious feast dishes, such as nargisi kofta and green mango curry, once served to King Kasyapa in his 5th century sky palace of Sigiriya.

Vegetable dishes include cashew curry, jackfruit curry, asparagus poriyal, tempered lentils, broccoli varai and lime-masala mushrooms. There are appetizers of chili-mango cashews, prawn lentil patties, fried mutton rolls, and ribbon tea sandwiches. Deviled chili eggs bring the heat, yet ginger-garlic chicken is mild enough for a small child. Desserts include Sir Lankan favorites: love cake, mango fluff, milk toffee and vattalappam, a richly-spiced coconut custard.

In A Feast of Serendib, Mary Anne Mohanraj introduces her mother’s cooking and her own Americanizations, providing a wonderful introduction to Sri Lankan American cooking, straightforward enough for a beginner, and nuanced enough to capture the flavor of Sri Lankan cooking.

Buy now.

Recipe:

Hoppers / Appam

If I had to pick the perfect Sri Lankan meal, this would be it. There’s nothing like breaking off a crisp piece of hopper, dipping it into broken egg, and scooping up some curry and a bit of seeni sambol. Delectable.

These rice flour pancakes have a unique shape; fermented batter is swirled in a special small hemispherical pan, so you end up with a soft, spongy center, and lacey, crispy sides – that contrast is the true glory of the hopper. (You can buy instant hopper mix, available online, and just add water, which will work fine, and doesn’t require overnight planning ahead. Many diasporic Sri Lankans I know use that option regularly.) Typically you’d make one egg hopper per person, plus another plain hopper or two, and maybe a sweet hopper to finish up.

If you don’t have a hopper pan, you can make hoppers in a regular frying pan; you just won’t get quite as much of the crispy sides. It’s a little time-consuming to make hoppers, since each one must be individually steamed for a few minutes, but with practice, you can have four hopper pans going on a stove at once. I’d recommend starting with just one pan at a time, though! Serve with curry and seeni sambol.

2 cups South Asian rice flour (or a mix of rice and wheat flour)

1 tsp sugar

pinch of baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups coconut milk

eggs for egg hoppers

extra coconut milk and jaggery for sweet hoppers

1. Mix first five ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl, cover, and set in a warm, turned-off oven to ferment overnight. (In a cold climate, fermentation may not occur without a little help – I turn my oven on to 250 degrees, and when it’s reached temperature, turn it off and put the covered bowl in the oven to stay warm.)

2. Mix again, adding water if necessary to make a quite thin, pourable batter.

3. Heat pan (grease if not non-stick) on medium, and when it’s hot, pour about 1/3 cup batter into the center. Pick up the pan immediately and swirl the batter around, coating the cooking surface. The sides of the hopper should end up with holes in them: thin, lacy, and crisp – if the batter is coating the pan more thickly, mix in some hot water to thin it down. Cover and let cook for 2-4 minutes – you’ll know it’s ready when the sides have started to brown and the center is thoroughly cooked. A silicone spatula will help with getting the hopper out of the pan.

4. For egg hoppers, after swirling, crack an egg in the center before covering. The egg will cook as the hopper does, finishing in about 3-4 minutes.

5. For sweet hoppers, after swirling, add a tablespoon of coconut milk and a teaspoon of jaggery to the center of the pan, then cook as usual.

About the author.

Mary Anne Mohanraj is the author of Bodies in Motion (HarperCollins), The Stars Change (Circlet Press) and thirteen other titles. Bodies in Motion was a finalist for the Asian American Book Awards, a USA Today Notable Book, and has been translated into six languages. The Stars Change was a finalist for the Lambda, Rainbow, and Bisexual Book Awards.
Mohanraj founded the Hugo-nominated and World Fantasy Award-winning speculative literature magazine, Strange Horizons, and also founded Jaggery, a S. Asian & S. Asian diaspora literary journal (jaggerylit.com). She received a Breaking Barriers Award from the Chicago Foundation for Women for her work in Asian American arts organizing, won an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, and was Guest of Honor at WisCon. She serves as Director of two literary organizations, DesiLit (www.desilit.org) and The Speculative Literature Foundation (www.speclit.org). She serves on the futurist boards of the XPrize and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.

Mohanraj is Clinical Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and lives in a creaky old Victorian in Oak Park, just outside Chicago, with her husband, their two small children, and a sweet dog. Recent publications include stories for George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards series, stories at Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, and Lightspeed, and an essay in Roxane Gay’s Unruly Bodies. 2017-2018 titles include Survivor (a SF/F anthology), Perennial, Invisible 3 (co-edited with Jim C. Hines), and Vegan Serendib.

Website

#BlogTour! #Review – #StillStanding by Natalie Queiroz (@natqleigh) @AnneCater @jblakebooks

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It is an honour to host such an incredible, incredible woman on my blog today. Natalie’s story is one which, despite the fact that it shouldn’t have happened in the first place, will leave you bereft. Many thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, and for the ARC of Natalie’s memoir, ‘Still Standing’. Here is my review:

Still Standing Cover
Natalie Queiroz was eight months pregnant when she was stabbed by her partner in the most vicious attack imaginable. 

In the space of nine minutes, and in broad daylight, Natalie was stabbed twenty-four times with a carving knife.

She suffered horrific wounds to her lungs, liver, stomach and uterus, whilst the knife missed her baby by a margin of two millimetres  before the arteries in her wrists were methodically severed by the hooded attacker she finally realised was her partner and the father of her unborn child. 

After heroic intervention by passers-by and police, the attack was brought to an end, but her ordeal was not over. An air ambulance rescue was launched, and against all medical odds, Natalie and her baby survived – but not without life-changing physical and emotional damage. 

Still Standing is the story of one life-shattering event – what came before that fateful day, what happened on it, and how one woman and her baby survived to rebuild and heal together after it. At once a shocking story of evil, manipulation and violence, and a truly moving reminder that a life can be pieced back together, no matter how bad the damage, this book will empower and inspire anyone who has ever faced true adversity to rise up and stand tall.

What does TWG think?

I have been thinking about how best to write my review, all day. How on EARTH can you form coherent words about an incident which left 2 people for dead. Wait, hang on, how on EARTH does someone carry out the attack that leaves 2 people for dead, one being their own flesh and blood!!!! If I was asked, in person, as part of a random chat, about my thoughts of ‘Still Standing’, the amount of swear words I would use would turn the air blue. However, seeing as this is my own blog and I will be putting the review on Amazon, no swear words will be in this at all. Shame.

Natalie was stabbed 24 times. 24 TIMES! Not only that, she was 8 months pregnant and the attacker stabbed her in the stomach as well. Not only THAT, the attacker was someone incredibly close to Natalie. Someone which helped to create the baby that they nearly killed. Sick isn’t it?

I have no idea how this woman is, pardon the pun, still standing. I would love to say that she is strong, and whilst I wholeheartedly believe that, I am angry for her because she shouldn’t have HAD to be strong – she shouldn’t have been attacked anyway! It is, just like Natalie says in the book, very easy to sit here and commend her on the way she got through the attack, because she did get through it and it is amazing. However, like I just said, she had no other bloomin’ option BUT to get through it! She didn’t get through it for herself. She got through it for her babies, the two that had already been born and the one that was fighting for its life inside her. Natalie HAD to put on a brave face because she had children to look after despite being severely injured by an absolute cactus. Again, I have absolutely no idea how she managed to do it, but holy moly she did and what an unbeliever woman she is.

‘Still Standing’ goes back to the day which Natalie would no doubt love to forget – the day she saw her life flash before her very eyes. The day her baby was born early. The day her life changed drastically both in terms of her physical looks, and her emotions. Natalie describes the attack in incredible detail, as though you’re watching it happen in front of you. She describes her feelings at that time, what went through her mind when the paramedics were with her, what went through her head when she woke up in hospital hoping that everything was a dream. It’s heartbreaking to read, and yet I wasn’t even the one going through what she did!

The attack didn’t just affect Natalie, it also affected her two eldest children because of course, she is their mummy and they were old enough to be aware of certain things. I am so, so pleased that the bystanders were recognised for assisting Natalie that day, as were the emergency services involved. What an incredible bunch they are. A lot of people snipe about our NHS but without it, there’s a slim chance that Natalie and her bubba would have survived.

This memoir is incredibly emotional. It’s gritty. It’s eye-opening. It highlights the lengths which people can go to to manipulate a situation. ‘Still Standing’ doesn’t just focus on the day of the attack, it also focuses on the aftermath and how Natalie begun to get her life back little by little, as well as the emotional turmoil she had to face at the hands of a downright selfish person.

As I’ve already said many times, Natalie didn’t have a choice BUT to survive that day. She could have easily given up. It’s a massive shame that her strength is coming to light due to what she went through, because I am sure she was an incredibly strong person beforehand. That said, in my eyes, Natalie Queiroz is a superhero. What a moving, emotional, raw and poignant piece of writing this is. When I grow up, can I please be like Natalie? I’ll make my own cape…!

Still Standing will be published on the 13th June. Pre-order now!

About the author.

Natalie Queiroz is the survivor of one of the most appallingly brutal attacks imaginable. After being stabbed two dozen times by her partner when she was eight months pregnant, she has rebuilt her life and inspired people the length and breadth of the country with her courage and refusal to be bowed by her trauma.
Alongside a successful full-time career, she has since become a motivational speaker and, through various feats of endurance and daring, raised thousands of pounds for the Midlands Air Ambulance charity she owes her life to.

#Review – #UnnaturalCauses by Dr. Richard Shepherd (@MichaelJBooks) @PenguinUKBooks #Pathologist #Medicine

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(Thank you to Michael Joseph for the ARC)

Meet the forensic pathologist, Dr Richard Shepherd. A detective in his own right, he must solve the mystery of sudden and unexplained deaths.

He has performed over 23,000 autopsies, including some of the most high-profile cases of recent times; the Hungerford Massacre, the Princess Diana inquiry, and 9/11.

He has faced serial killers, natural disaster, ‘perfect murders’ and freak accidents.

His evidence has put killers behind bars, freed the innocent, and turned open-and-shut cases on their heads.

Yet all this has come at a huge personal cost.

Unnatural Causes tells the story of not only the cases and bodies that have haunted him the most, but also how to live a life steeped in death.

What does TWG think?

If you had said to me a few years back that I would be reading a book about pathology, I would have quite literally laughed in your face. As soon as someone spoke about death, I would walk out of the room because of the fear I had associated with it. Fast forward many, many years, and not only am I now reading books which are fictionally gorey, I am also reading non-fiction books about death, autopsies, and forensics. Funny how things can change, isn’t it?

There was just something highly intriguing by the title of this book and and the tagline on the cover; I just knew I had to read it.

Not only is ‘Unnatural Causes’ about some of the bodies which Dr. Shepherd has been faced with, it is also an honest account from the doctor himself, about how those autopsies affected both him and the people around him. The life that Dr. Shepherd chose was one which intrigued him from the moment he clapped eyes on a certain medical book as a young boy. His hunger for medicine and dead bodies put fire in his belly – it wasn’t just a case of accumulating dead bodies in the mortuary where he worked, it was also the mystery behind those deaths which spurred him on. However, his personal life suffered greatly because of his profession. I have no idea how he managed to switch from forensic pathologist, to husband and father, at the touch of a button, but I can only assume how difficult that must have been for both him and his family.

The detail in this book is second to none. Whilst there is a lot of medical language used, Dr. Shepherd gives explanations for the medical terms, and the terms used whenever he had to give evidence in court. I had never read a book about pathology, and to be honest, I was worried that I wasn’t ‘clever’ enough for a book of this calibre, however due to the simplistic explanations and incredible detail, I was able to understand and enjoy everything about this book.

It feels a bit weird saying that I enjoyed reading a book about death! It’s not that I enjoyed the fact that many people died, or the devastation each of the victims families had to faced, it was the science behind the post mortem’s and trying to reach a conclusion as to how that particular person died. Were drugs involved? Was it a murder? If so, was the victim killed in the place that they were found, or were they merely dumped there? The fact that Dr. Shepherd went as far as reenacting (as best as able) a murder in his own living room, trying to establish whether the culprit was left or right handed, really did open my eyes to what a pathologist actually did. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t just that which opened my eyes, I mean, the whole discussion regarding how a body is cut open during a post mortem, certainly stopped me in my tracks.

It is very clever how to realise just how our bodies work from the inside out, when at times we take that for granted because all we can see is the outside of our bodies. We don’t really think about what goes on inside unless we are getting checked for certain things. We know our hearts beat, but would you know how much your heart is meant to weigh? Would you know what type of body would rise to the surface first, should a body be found dead there? Would you be aware of internal body temperature? I know those answers now, but only because I have read this book.

Honestly, my brain was like a sponge soaking up all of the science throughout this book! It was extremely interesting, whilst also intense, how the book went on to discuss how the post mortem’s were carried out for the 9/11 attacks, as well as other unfortunate disasters. Plus, it’s not every day that you read about Princess Diana’s death from the pathology side instead of reading the conspiracies in the Daily Mail. I was blown away by the steps that had to be taken, the organisation, how courts were involved. Everything.

‘Unnatural Causes’ is an absolutely fascinating, honest and brutal account of life versus death and visa versa – I have learnt so, so much thanks to Dr. Shepherd. I highly recommend!

Buy now!

#BlogTour! #Review – Conversations With a Killer – #TedBundy by Stephen G.Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth @theMirrorBooks

Something incredibly different for you all today, a review of ‘Conversations With a Killer – Ted Bundy’. Many thanks to Mirror Books for the tour invite and ARC.

The book behind the sensational Netflix series The Ted Bundy Tapes.

Now the subject of a major motion picture, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, starring Zac Efron

Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer was born out of more than 150 hours of exclusive interview footage with Bundy himself, recorded on death row before his execution in a Florida electric chair.

Bundy’s shocking eleventh-hour confessions to journalists Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth provide a horrifying insight into the twisted mind of America’s most notorious serial killer.

He was a sadistic monster.

A master manipulator.

His grisly killing spree left at least 30 innocent young women dead.

This is Ted Bundy in his own words.

What does TWG think?

Ted Bundy, a name which most people have heard of. However, it’s also a name which is associated with devastation as he took it upon himself to ruin the lives of at least, and highly likely many more, 30 women and their families. ‘Conversations With a Killer’ isn’t a confession. Bundy was far too clever for that. Instead it’s more of an insight into his psyche, whilst talking in third person to try and convince the world, and himself, that he was innocent. If you’re aware of the notorious serial killer, then you’ll be aware that he was clearly guilty and, judging by the way he answered some of Stephen’s and Hugh’s questions, he didn’t seem to give a damn.

Ted Bundy was a very, very clever man. He had exceptional knowledge and used that to his advantage. I got the impression that he was aware of his charm and the fact that it got him what he wanted, and more. Whilst reading the conversations that were had, I struggled to believe that such a charming, intelligent and confident man could behead women, use them for his own sexual gratification without their consent before AND after (although if they’re dead they obviously cannot consent but still), dump their bodies as though its rubbish day, and then casually get on with his life as though it was the norm.

But then again, his charm and intellect were his power, hence why he did it. I felt, as bad as this sounds, that I wanted a bit more from Bundy in this book. I learnt a lot about his shoplifting days, given that a large portion of the conversations were filled with his gloating about a stereo and matching speakers. I knew that Bundy wouldn’t sit and confess in black and white, which is probably why he gave the journalists the run around. He was sitting on death row, what would it matter to him?

Exactly that – he was sitting on death row, and as Hugh and Stephen rightly said, he had nothing else to lose by confessing. So why didn’t he?

‘Conversations With a Killer’ is a riveting, insightful, shocking read which had me shaking my head in disbelief. Bundy’s actions were so far fetched, they often came across as disbelievable, which in turn made it even more chilling.

Buy now.