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review 2017-06-23 18:03
I'm conflicted
Grandpa's Great Escape - David Walliams

I am struggling with how to express my feelings about Grandpa's Great Escape by David Walliams. This is due to the fact that this man might actually be a bigger Roald Dahl fan than myself and his writing definitely reflects that. I don't think that Walliams makes any bones about this but I do think that if you've read Dahl's works it will be difficult not to compare the two which leaves Walliams falling a bit short. (Sorry!) Read on its own merit, it's a great little book which touches on topics which I think are really important in middle grade fiction. Our main character, Jack, has a very special relationship with his grandfather who was a fighter pilot in WWII. Their relationship is a unique one which is further complicated by the fact that his grandpa has Alzheimer's disease and believes he is once again in the midst of the Battle of Britain. Jack's parents are torn about what to do with the old man but Jack is adamant that he continue to spend time with him...until the vicar puts an idea into their heads about the old folks home beyond the moors. In typical Dahl fashion, Walliams fashions a slapstick comedy amidst flashbacks to WWII and serious discussions over elderly care and familial loyalty.

 

What I didn't care for:

  • What felt like blatant ripoffs of Dahl's works as well as his illustrator, Quentin Blake

 

What I legitimately enjoyed:

  • The approach and handling of serious discussions revolving around elderly care and Alzheimer's
  • The glossary at the back which discussed in more detail the topics touched on in the book such as the Royal Air Force, Battle of Britain, etc.

 

I'd love to know what you guys think so please check the book out and leave a comment below. :-)

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-05-17 07:25
Susannah's Garden
Susannah's Garden - Debbie Macomber

This is the 3rd book in the Blossom Street Series and it is also my favorite book in the series.  I'm not sure what it is about this book that makes me like it so much but I've read it 4 times (that I can remember).  I guess maybe it is because there is a mystery to be solved and I love mysteries.  I often have a hard time staying interested in books when there isn't a mystery. 

 

This book takes the reader away from Blossom Street when Susannah learns her widowed mother is not doing as well as she thought living alone.  She decides to go stay with her mother for a while and see how she is doing for herself.  She soon realizes her mother needs to be moved to a long-term care facility.  She was especially concerned when her mother tells her that her dead husband is coming to see her.  

 

Susannah also has another mission too, one she did not tell her husband about.  She wants to find her high school boyfriend and find out why he suddenly left and where he went.  While looking through her father's desk she uncovers some things that her father was keeping secret.  Together with one of her friends from high school they start to put the pieces together.

 

While Susannah is dealing with those things her daughter is home from college for the summer and decides to come and help her mom with her grandmother.  She ends up hooking up with a troublemaker that is the son of someone Susannah went to school with.  Susannah is sure he is dealing drugs and doesn't want her daughter to be involved with him but trying to talk to her daughter only causes more problems.  Her daughter is just like Susannah was when she was that age and she is learning how her dad must have felt.  

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review 2017-04-12 11:03
A wonderful look at Alzheimer’s, with sci-fi, inspiration, genetics and metaphysics thrown in.
Pale Highway - Nicholas Conley

Thanks to the author who offered me an ARC copy of his novel that I freely chose to review.

When the author approached me about this novel, I didn’t know what to say. I don’t read a lot of science-fiction (although I’ve really enjoyed some of the sci-fi I’ve read. I think my main problem, and the same goes for fantasy, is that I don’t have much patience for world-building and descriptions) but he explained that although it was classed as science-fiction, and indeed it purports a world that is very similar to ours but with some differences (mostly, the protagonist of the novel, Gabriel Schist, years back discovered the HIV-vaccine but , rather than simply creating a vaccine against that illness, his vaccine reprograms the immune system of the person that receives it and protects them against many other illnesses), it was a bit different to most science-fiction. He told me, as mentioned in his biography, that he had worked in nursing homes and the novel was also about Alzheimer’s disease. I read the description of the novel and was intrigued. And yes, I agree with him, his novel is not a standard science-fiction novel, although it’s true that some of the best sci-fi looks at what makes us human and explores metaphysical issues.

The protagonist of the novel, Gabriel, a famous scientist who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery,  is in his early seventies and suffers from Alzheimer’s, fairly early stages, but noticeable enough. He is trying to hold on to his identity, testing his memory and using tricks to orientate himself and hold onto reality, but it is not without difficulties. The book wonderfully describes the residents of the nursing home, some of their peculiar behaviours, but also the persons behind the behaviours. The novel goes back and forth in time, as does the memory of the character, from 2018 to the 1950s, when Gabriel was a weird young boy (he seems to have presented some traits suggestive of autistic spectrum disorder, likely Asperger’s) already determined to solve the problem of future infectious diseases, and also covering the years when he met his wife, the dissolution of his marriage, his great discovery and how he eventually connected and got to know his daughter. All this is interspersed with what is happening now (well, in the very near future) at the nursing home, as Gabriel never goes out. Suddenly, some of the residents start getting ill, and the virus (if that’s what it is) puzzles everybody as it acts as no known illness. Gabriel starts to have strange experiences that he’s not sure if they are hallucinations or real (the readers are free to make up their own minds about this, although if one chooses to go with a rational explanation, there are enough clues within the story to suggest how his mind might have come up with such weird events) and becomes convinced that he’s the only one who can fight this terrible illness. His is a desperate race, not only against the illness itself but also against Alzheimer’s and the progressive degeneration of his mind.

The novel is written in the third person, although always from Gabriel’s point of view, giving the readers a great insight into the processes and difficulties of a mind coming undone, of the strength of memories of the past, sometimes more vivid than the present, and the style is fluid, with some beautifully descriptive passages, and some very vivid moments, particularly Gabriel’s memories, filled with emotion. Gabriel is a scientist and a keen observer, even in his current state, and that serves the novel well.

The characters are realistically drawn and it’s impossible not to care for them. Gabriel is confused and unclear at times, he hesitates and his self-confidence is marred by his illness and by previous experiences. He feels guilty for letting people down in the past, for his use of alcohol (initially to try and fit in with social expectations, as he was too different and too intelligent for most people, but later he got to like it and used it as a coping strategy but also as something he enjoyed), for allowing his wife to leave, for not being there for his daughter … He also feels guilty because he’s always said that human beings are predictable and not interesting enough and he hasn’t loved or cared for many of them. But his experiences through the novel put him to the test more than once and he discovers that it’s never too late to learn more about yourself. The author, who evidently has first-hand knowledge, depicts well the changes in humour, the confusion, the fear, the loneliness, the disorientation, and also the tenacity and the spirit of the elderly residents, including those moments when their personalities shine through the illness. The character of Melanie, Gabriel’s daughter, and her difficulty coming to terms with the illness of her father (all the harder because of his once brilliant mind), reflects well the difficulties of the families, with their guilty feelings for not visiting more often or for not being able to do more and their difficulty accepting the new circumstances (although not everybody is the same, of course).

The running of the facility, Bright New Day, also rings true. Understaffed, with routines to suit staff rather than residents, and with a mix of staff, some very caring and professional and others not so much. The novel is not an indictment of nursing homes, and other than one of the staff members, everybody works hard and is caring, but it does reflect the difficulties of running such facilities within a limited budget and trying to care for residents as individuals.

The plot is intriguing and the issue of if and how Gabriel might manage to defeat the virus is a page turner, although there are some very quirky aspects of the story that some readers might find challenging (not the scientific part as such. Although I’m a doctor I don’t think readers without medical knowledge will have difficulty with the general concepts behind Gabriel’s discovery. It is a fascinating idea). The story requires some suspension of disbelief although it is also possible to read some of the clues offered through the fragments of Gabriel’s memories as proof that a less fanciful interpretation of events is also possible. That is up to each reader.

I have to confess to feeling very moved by the story and being teary-eyed a couple of times but don’t worry, there are fun moments too and it is not a sad story but a life-affirming one. The ending, whatever interpretation we choose to go with is joyful and positive and might be meaningful to many readers.

This is not an easy novel to categorise in any genre. I think most people who are interested in Alzheimer’s will enjoy it, and people who like books on medical subjects, as long as they have a well-developed imagination. I recommend it also to people interested in memory, identity and in the big questions, and to those looking for a positive and inspiring read.

 

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review 2016-09-23 03:32
Book Review: A Crown for Cold Silver
A Crown for Cold Silver - Alex Marshall

BOOK REVIEW

"Not even a devil can save you from yourself."

What if the familiar young peasant boy (think Kvothe, Fitz, insert-male-fantasy-lead-here), destined to become a hero and bring vengeance down on those responsible for the deaths of everyone he’s ever known and loved, the one of humble beginnings and wild potential, dies without any fanfare, and with only an old woman to bear witness? What if she isn’t just any old woman?

Turns out she’s Cold Zosia, the Stricken Queen, who 30 years prior bound six devils and tore up the empire with her Five Villains, took the throne herself and then supposedly died a deserved death in a coup. Except she didn’t, and the murder of her adopted village seems like the long-awaited comeuppance for dirty deeds and good intentions gone sour. So what now does she have to lose? Maybe the hero should’ve been the young boy that her devil dog drags up the mountain on the cusp of death, young and full of potential, but only Zosia remains when the smoke clears, and she realizes she’s going to have to do what she does best --- raze it all to the ground.

"'Mercy. Now there's a devil I won't have any truck with, not from here until my dying day,' she said."

I loved so much about this book. I loved Zosia and her devil, Choplicker, I loved the Villains (especially Maroto and Hoartrap) and the world Marshall built. I loved its handling of race and sexuality and age, and I loved its creeptastic little-v villains and scary major religion. I cannot WAIT for the second installment. In the meantime, I recommend this to anyone and everyone, there’s something here for all.

 

Let's Discuss!

I'd love you to share your thoughts on the book or my review  below. I'm also dying for book recs that feature old(er) women saving the world (or destroying it?) and generally doing important or interesting things, so rec away!

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review 2016-01-30 00:31
Traveling with the elderly
Displacement - Lucy Knisley

I'm continuing to work my way through Lucy Knisley's body of work. I just finished her most recent book, Displacement: A Travelogue, and much like An Age of License it was a deliciously quick, fun read with a lot of heart. The other travelogue that she wrote was all about self-discovery as she went on a trip as a (mostly) carefree twenty-something. Displacement was drastically different. In this book, she went on a trip with her elderly grandparents. Her grandfather is incontinent and hard of hearing. Her grandmother has dementia. She's stuck on a cruise ship with them. (It sounds like a trailer for a film when I write it out like that.) Interspersed throughout her narrative of their time on-board are snippets from a book her grandfather wrote several years before about his time in the war. (Those are especially poignant and made up some of my favorite parts.) She is struck by how much they have deteriorated in the time since she saw them last but it's not all doom and gloom.There is beauty also and a sense of happiness that she can spend this time with them. It's a beautiful little book.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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