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review 2019-10-18 11:27
A coming of age story with a big heart
The Curious Heart Of Ailsa Rae - Stephanie Butland

Thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Griffin for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This is the first book I’ve read by the author and can’t compare it to her previous work, although I’ve noticed reviewers show plenty of love for The Lost for Words Bookshop, and I’m keen to check it out.

The plot of this book is easy to summarise, and the description is quite detailed. Ailsa was born with a congenital heart condition (Hypoplastic left heart syndrome) and has been ill (to a greater or lesser degree) all her life.  Now, when there isn’t much time left, she gets a new heart. The novel follows her journey to learn how to live her new life, which in her case is also akin to a coming of age story. Although she is 28, due to her circumstances she has lived a very sheltered life, always protected by her mother, her aunt, and her friends, and now she has to face lots of challenges.

The author chooses an interesting way of telling the story. The bulk of the story is narrated in the third-person, although exclusively from Ailsa’s point of view, and alternates between the “now” of the story, and what was going on in Ailsa’s life a year ago. Some readers complained about the jumps in timeline. I did not find them too confusing (the timeframe was clearly stated, and it was easy to tell from the content as well), and those chapters did add some perspective on Ailsa’s situation. Because we meet her just before her operation, this device works as a way of letting us know what her life was like before, and also helps us understand some of the difficulties she faces now. I wasn’t sure all of the chapters set in the past added new information or were particularly significant, but they didn’t slow down the pace of the story either.

Apart from the third person narrative, we can also “hear” Ailsa’s narrative in the first-person thanks to her blog. She has a blog where she had been writing about her illness and the difficulties of being on a transplant waiting list, and we get access to some of her posts.  The book also includes her e-mails and text exchanges with some of the other characters. These provide us with a different perspective on the events, even with the caveat that blogposts are written to be published and are not spontaneous pouring of one’s heart (well, most of the time), and we get to hear from other characters as well. This is the third book I’ve read recently featuring a blogger as one of the main characters, so there seems to be a trend. The most curious part of it, in this case, is that Ailsa seems to be otherwise pretty disconnected from some aspects of everyday life (she does not know Seb, the young actor she meets, although he is well-known, and seems oblivious to much of what is shown on UK television, for example). One of the particular characteristics of her blog, though, is that she asks her readers to participate in polls that inform her decisions and the way she lives her life. Although in some cases the decisions are pretty neutral (choosing a name for her new heart, for example), others are more fundamental, and there’s much discussion about that throughout the book.

As for the characters… I liked Ailsa, although I agree with some comments that say she seems much younger than she is. I have mentioned above that the book, at least for me, reads like a coming-of-age-story, and although she’s gone to university and had a boyfriend (and there’s a story of loss and grief there as well), there’s much of normal life that she has not experienced and that explains why there is much growing up she still needs to do. She is childlike at time, stubborn, selfish, she lacks self-confidence, and struggles between her wish to grow up (she insists on sticking to the plan of living independently) and her reluctance to take responsibility for her own life (she is so used to living day to day and not making long-term plans that she uses her blog and the polls as a way to avoid ultimate responsibility). I loved her mother, Hailey, who can be overbearing and overprotective, but she is strong and determined, cares deeply for her daughter and has sacrificed much for her (even if she finds it difficult to let go now),  and I felt their relationship was the strongest point of the novel. I was not so convinced by Seb, her love interest, and their on-off relationship, although it adds another dimension to Ailsa’s experience, seemed too unrealistic. Don’t get me wrong, he is handsome, a successful TV actor, and he is interested in her from the beginning, and yes… it reads like a very young and idealised romantic fantasy, so it might work in that sense, but as a character… What I liked about his part of the story was the acting background and the references to the Edinburgh Fringe. We only know Lennox through Ailsa’s memories and some of the chapters set in the past, and he is the other side of the coin, the one for whom luck run out too soon. This highlights the randomness of events and it makes more poignant the plight of so many people waiting for transplants. The efforts to keep his memory alive and make it count ring true.

The book is set in Edinburgh and I enjoyed the setting (although I’m only a casual visitor) and the references to the weather and the location. There are some local words and expressions used through the novel; although I cannot judge how accurate they are (the author is not Scottish although has done her research). I particularly enjoyed the Tango lessons and the setting of those above a pub.

The writing flows well and although in some ways the book is a light and gentle read (the romance is behind closed doors, and despite the talk of illness and hospitals, the descriptions of symptoms and procedures are not explicit or gore), it deals in serious subjects, like chronic illness, transplants (and it debates the matter of how to increase organ donations by changing it to an opt-out policy and removing the right of relatives to overrule the desires of a loved one), parental abandonment, grief, mother-daughter relationships, side effects of medication, popularity and media coverage of famous people, fat shaming… Although some of these topics are treated in more depth than others, I felt the novel dealt very well with the illness side of things, and it opened up an important debate on organ donations. As I said, I also enjoyed the mother-daughter relationship, and the fact that Ailsa becomes her own woman and grows up. I do love the ending as well.

This is a novel with a likeable main character who has had to live with the knowledge that she might not grow to be an adult, waiting for a miracle (unfortunately the miracle requires somebody else’s death, which deals sensitively in some very important topics, and is set in wonderful Edinburgh. I loved Ailsa’s mother and although some aspects of the novel work better than others, in my opinion, the quality of the writing and the strength of the story makes it well-worth reading. And yes, it is a heart-warming story (forgive the pun)! I’ll definitely be checking out more of the author’s books.

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text 2019-08-16 03:57
I've been in the hospital for 9.5 days. Lung disease & Congestive Heart Failure (among other things)

I hate asking for help or money, but I am putting this out there because I am in a tough spot. I have a GoFundMe for my hospital stay of 9.5 days where I found out I had 2 lung diseses and Congestive Heart Failure. Anything helps, even if you just share the campain! I am finally back at home, but I've got a long way to go. Thannk you for looking.

 

GoFundMe Link

 

 

 

Source: www.gofundme.com/f/lung-disease-need-oxygen-amp-cbipap-machine&rcid=r01-156632657553-71498a6a62344685&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w
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review 2018-05-30 00:29
Handle with Care by Josephine Myles 3.5 Star Review!
Handle with Care - Josephine Myles

Great things come in small packages…

Ben Lethbridge doesn’t have many vices left. He lost his youth to raising his little sister to adulthood, then made up for lost time with reckless abandon. Two years of constant partying—and ignoring his diabetes—has left him tied to a home dialysis regimen.

He can work from home, fortunately, but most of life’s little luxuries are forbidden. Except for watching porn… and fantasising over Ollie, the gorgeous purple-haired skateboarder who delivers his discreetly packaged DVDs.

Their doorstep banter is the highlight of Ben’s solitary day, but his paranoia over his illness-ravaged body prevents him from seeing their flirting for what it really is. He knows Ollie is far too young for him anyway, but he figures there’s no harm in sprucing himself up a bit.

Then one day, a package accidentally splits open, revealing Ben’s dirty little secret. But instead of Ollie being repelled they make an unexpected connection that has Ben wondering if he’s been reading him wrong all this time. The only way to find out if they have a chance at love is to risk showing Ollie every last scar. And that could take more courage than Ben owns.

Warning: Contains superhero porn comics and a pint-sized, accident-prone delivery guy with colour-changing hair. Readers may experience coffee cravings, an unexpected liking for bad mullets, and the urge to wrap Ollie up and take him home.

 

Review

 

I  am a big fan of Myles work and I really liked this romance.

I am all in for the hero on dialysis. Since I have lived with and loved someone through this process, I really valued the details of what it is like living with kidney failure and all that is associated especially in terms of a romantic and sexual relationship.

Ben was complex and so was Ollie and I really enjoyed that as well as Ben's sister's struggle to share her brother.

Ben and Ollie struggle with communication and the story needed to be longer to really sink into an HEA but overall I enjoyed and would recommend this read just for the rep of a character with a chronic illness alone. 

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review 2017-06-25 17:00
Govern by Viola Grace Review
Govern - Viola Grace

A woman, with a foul temper and her own spaceship, ends up an escort for a stunned ambassador. Her perfect mate.

Leo runs her ship with precision and an attitude shaped by pain. Gathering an ambassador in stasis, she is surprised to find his ability to match her innermost desires, and he is surprised to find that she wants him in his own form and not the one she craves.

Ambassador Wikkio is a Beholder. Born to a race that can change to match any other species right down to venom or scales, he is an ideal representative for races who are skittish around strangers. Meeting Govern surprises him. He had not thought to meet the woman of his dreams when he woke from cold sleep and never had he imaged that he would enjoy his woman sharpening her wit on his hide.

The Gold Fairy brought them together, and now, she is determined to keep them that way.

 

Review

 

 

Yea! Such a great cranky heroine (she has good reason) with a cool shapeshifting hero.

 

This heroine really needs and deserves love so this romance is particularly compelling.

 

We also get a ship with a mind of her own. Fun! 

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review 2015-03-06 06:33
Review: Girl in the Dark
Girl in the Dark: A Memoir - Anna Lyndsey

It starts with a burning sensation on her face while sitting in from of a computer. Soon after, even standard office lighting hurts. Sunshine is next. Before long, it's not just her face... soon her entire body burns from the touch of light, even though clothing. Retreating to the dark, and occasionally emerging into the gloom where lights are quickly extinguished and even the glimpse of the sun is avoided, Anna's story is compelling.

GIRL IN THE DARK is the memoir of a woman trapped by her own illness, doomed to live in the shadows. With skin so sensitive to light that even the glare from a screen or a light filtering through the trees can cause seemingly-endless pain, Anna's life changes drastically as well as the life of her boyfriend. Her story isn't in chronological order, but instead starts in the present day and takes us back to show her snippets of her struggles and also her life before illness, and her slide into darkness. The order of the story can be a little confusing at first, but Anna is great about giving dates to the earlier scenes so the illness progression can be easily followed. While my eyes are extremely light sensitive, I can't imagine having to shut myself off from the light and world... Surviving and constantly striving to overcome her disability shows me how strong Anna really is, and my admiration for her grows.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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If you enjoyed my review, please help me share it by marking it as being helpful on Amazon. I have included the link to the Amazon review in the Source section at the bottom of this review.

Source: www.amazon.com/review/R346R2WSSRFBW8
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