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review 2019-01-14 15:54
Book Review of Born in the Bed You Were Made: One Family's Journey from Cesarean to Home Birth by Brooklyn James
Born in the Bed You Were Made: One Family's Journey from Cesarean to Home Birth - Brooklyn James

What the hell happened?

 

Not exactly the question one might expect from a postpartum nurse, it echoed in my mind incessantly after birth. Induction, intervention, ultimately cesarean were nothing new to me…until I was the one atop an operating room table birthing my firstborn through an incision in my uterus.

 

Brooklyn James grapples with her medicalized birth as she undergoes several unexpected health issues—fallout from a medically unnecessary cesarean, secondary infertility, miscarriage. While navigating the work and pleasure of new motherhood, there is also much shock, anger, and disenchantment over birth’s betrayal for her to work through. James finally identifies the root of her struggle: she was not prepared for the birth she might have envisioned. So then begins her exploration of all that is and all that can be in birth. The process leads her to a long overdue conversation with her instinct and her body in an attempt to surrender to, trust in, and accept the inherent wisdom within.

 

Born in the Bed You Were Made is intimate and penetrating, candid and reflective. It reveals a deeper truth about how disconnected many modern women are from birth. Most of all, it is a celebration of self-discovery found in the most obscure yet obvious, most challenging yet gratifying, role as child bearer and mother.

 

Review 5*

 

This book is fantastic! I am not one who usually reads non-fiction or even memoirs, but having read previous fictional books written by this author, I knew that this book, being more personal, would be an emotional roller coaster ride. It didn't disappoint.

 

The author explores her emotions and thoughts over several events that shaped her ultimate decision of having a home birth. As I am not American, I don't know how the medical insurance companies work as such, but I believe that women have the right to decide how and where they would like to birth their babies. Unfortunately, most insurance companies are run by men. I don't mean to be sexist, but its the truth.

 

I am not a mother myself (and due to my advanced age, I may never have children of my own), but what struck me is how much this author's words touched something inside me that resounded within my inner being. She speaks of the instinctual, primitive brain (the part that handles breathing, and old emotional responses like fear, anger, love and knowing things, perhaps at a genetic level like birthing babies) and how she struggled through going against her instincts for a home birth in her first pregnancy because her insurance company didn't allow it. How this led to her having a Cesaerian that may or may not have been necessary, and later a miscarriage that taught her to trust her body and the genetic knowledge within.

 

The author also explores the role and history of a midwife. I found this aspect of the book interesting and full of words of wisdom, from the author herself, as well as those used by her midwife and the research books the author has used. I highlighted over 70 passages throughout this book that struck a chord within me. I don't usually highlight that many things in books, so that shows how much this book has affected me. Midwives have an important role for women. They act as a library of knowledge for expectant mothers. They also guide women through the hard work of labour and birthing children. They have a unique insight into the primitive brain through observation, and medical training to handle most problems that may arise. Unfortunately, these women have not had an easy ride throughout history. They were highly respected once, but they have lost their place due to vilification (being called witches, flakes and fakes in the not so distant past) and their knowledge depleted.

 

Hospitals and modern medicine have grown, time is short in today's society. Large pharmaceutical companies push for the use of drugs, hospitals don't have enough staff to give adequate one-on-one care for every expectant mother, and there are not enough beds for a natural birth. Hospitals have become factories - get them in and send them out as quickly as possible - and induced births, Cesareans (some necessary, but most unnecessary) have become the norm. This saddens not only me but the author too.

 

It has been an honour and a pleasure going on this author's journey. I wouldn't wish what happened to her happen to anyone else, but her journey is inspirational. I believe that women have the right to a support system like midwives along with obstetrics at a hospital, and the freedom to choose between a more economical home birth or an expensive hospital one. Modern medicine should work in concert with the more traditional methods to ensure a healthy birth experience for both the mother and child.

 

Brooklyn James has written a story that has touched me deeply. I love her writing style, and the flow was excellent. I am now looking forward to reading more of her other books as soon as I can.

 

I highly recommend this book, whether you are planning on having children, already have children and are considering having more, or have had children and they are starting their own families. The author references a few books that she used while pregnant, and these may help other expectant mothers too. - Lynn Worton

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review 2017-03-08 22:28
1970s Australia from the point of view of a child with an edge of creepiness and intrigue
The Silent Kookaburra - Liza Perrat

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I was provided with an ARC copy that I voluntarily chose to review.

The story —set in an Australia richly brought to life by the writing that describes landscape, animals, trees, food, furniture, cars, lifestyle and social mores— is told in the first person by Tanya Randall. Adult Tanya is back in her childhood cottage and a newspaper cutting from 1973, which her grandmother kept, makes her remember that time when she was only eleven. The story of adult Tanya frames that of her childhood memories, which take up most of the book (I had almost forgotten that fact until the very end of the story).

Young Tanya is quite innocent (of course, she doesn’t think so), overweight (she eats compulsively, seemingly to comfort herself when the situation gets difficult at home, when they call her names, when she has any upsets or… most of the time. There are long lists of biscuits and other foods she consumes at an alarming pace, well-researched for the period, although I’m not familiar with them), and loves her mother, father, cat (that she insists on walking as if it were a dog, even if that brings her even more unwanted attention), dog, true crime magazines, and her friend Angelina, although not so much her grandmother, Nanna Purvis.

Seeing (or reading) things from a child’s point of view is a good way to reflect on how adult behaviour might appear to children and how difficult certain things might be to process and understand. Her mother’s miscarriages and depression (that keeps getting missed until very late in the novel), her secret uncle’s devious behaviour (it’s hard to read the scenes of Tanya with her uncle, as she’s clearly craving for attention and we know from early on where things are headed, but Tanya doesn’t and she finds it more and more difficult to extricate herself from the situation). The author is excellent at making us share her point of view and her thought processes that create an atmosphere of dread and impending disaster. The dualistic life view of young children, for whom everything is black or white is reflected perfectly in Tanya’s reactions to her grandmother (whom at first she doesn’t like at all but later, as she realises she’s the only one to stick by her, goes on to become complicit with) and to her uncle, who goes from being perfect to being a monster (although the novel suggests that he had also been a victim).

The novel is not easy to classify, although it comes under the thriller label, but it is a psychological exploration of childhood, memory, tragedy, the lies we tell ourselves, and also a work of historical (albeit recent history) fiction, as it beautifully recreates the time and place (down details such as hit songs, records of the era, bicycles, toys, cars, magazines, foodstuffs, clothing and hairdos) and even historical events, like the opening of the Sidney Opera House. There is something of a twist at the end, and plenty of secrets, like in most domestic noir novels, but for me, the strong points are the way the story is told, and some of the characters. Nanna Purvis (who is a fantastic character and proves that grandmothers are almost always right) has old-fashioned ideas about relationships, sexuality, religion and race, but manages to surprise us and has good insight into her own family. Tanya reminded me of myself at her age (although I read other types of books, I was also overweight and wasn’t the most popular girl at school, and we also lived with my mother’s mother, although thankfully my home circumstances were not as tragic) and she tries hard to keep her family together. Her point of view and her understanding are limited, and her actions and frame of mind repetitive at times (she munches through countless packets of biscuits, pulls at her cowlick often, bemoans the unattractive shape of her ears, wonders if she’s adopted) as it befits a character of her age and historical period (so close but yet so far. No internet, no social media, no easy way to access information). Real life is not a succession of exciting events; even at times of crisis, most of our lives are taken up by routine actions and everyday tasks. Her mother’s sinking into depression and her bizarre behaviour, which is sadly misunderstood and left untreated for far too long, rang a chord with me as a psychiatrist. It is an accurate portrayal of such conditions, of the effect the illness can have not only on the sufferers but also on the family, and of the reactions of the society to such illnesses (especially at the time). Uncle Blackie is also a fascinating character but I won’t say anything else as I want to avoid spoilers. Although the setting and the atmosphere are very different, it brought to my mind some of Henry James’s stories, in particular, What Maisie Knew and The Turn of the Screw.

This is a great novel that I recommend to those who are interested in accurate psychological portrayals, reflections on the nature of memory, and books with a strong sense of setting and historical period, rather than fast action and an ever changing plot. A word of warning: it will be difficult to read for those with a low tolerance for stories about child abuse and bullying. If you’re a fan of good writing that submerges you into a time and place and plunges you inside of a character’s head, with an edge of creepiness and intrigue, this is your book.

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review 2015-04-27 14:11
So Much to Love About Last Night
About Last Night - Ruthie Knox

This book was my introduction to Ruthie Knox, and it was a wake-up call to me about how fresh and exciting contemporary romance can be. I re-read it this weekend because I've been in a bit of a reading slump and I wanted a reliable pick-me-up, which About Last Night definitely is. Upon this second reading, I discovered it was every bit as good as I remembered.

 

Mary Catherine "Cath" Talerico is a Chicago native living in London, working as an assistant curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum putting together an exhibit on historical knitwear. She's made a lot of mistakes in life, and in order not to forget, she has tattooed reminders of four of her worst mistakes on her skin: a songbird, a lit match, a closed book, and a tangled labyrinth. She has a fifth tat, as well--a phoenix rising from the ashes--symbolizing Cath's determination to reinvent herself. 

 

 

In order to stay on the straight and narrow, New Cath lives by a lot of rules. She doesn't drink. She doesn't date. She works, she exercises, she pays her bills (barely). However, when she has to go on a blind date to secure access to a prize piece for the knitting exhibit (because Plot), a combination of maudlin Patsy Cline cover songs and unexpectedly potent mixed drinks make short work of Cath's "rules", and she wakes up in banker Neville "City" Chamberlain's bed with only a sketchy memory of how she got there.

 

Cath has seen Nev on the train to work and exercising in the park, and she thinks she has him all figured out--immaculate suits, polished shoes and briefcase, straight-razor shave--he's a banker whose neat and orderly life cannot possibly have room for a girl as messy and disorderly as Cath. -Except that Nev is not as straight-laced as he initially appears, and the two of them have an intense and immediate physical attraction that just won't play by Cath's rules.

 

There is so much that I love about this book: I love the premise, the tattoos on Cath's skin and the way it takes the whole book to unravel the history of each. I love both Cath and Neville's characters, how fully realized they are, how their jobs (especially Cath's) and routines are fully drawn and relevant to the story (rather than the more typical fare where people go to the office and do vaguely office-y things all day, just because a character's gotta work). I love their sexual chemistry, which crackles off the page but advances the plot and is exciting without being gratuitous. I love the dialogue, which is sharp and funny and exactly the right amount. I love that both Cath and Nev take care of their own needs rather than counting on the other to rescue them. I love the feels this book brings. All the feels.

 

That's not at all to say this book is perfect. As much as I understand how important Cath's rules are to her--(she doesn't want a relationship, so she'll come over to Nev's but won't let him cook her dinner; he can bring her a treat for the train, but she won't tell him what time she'll be at the station; she won't tell him where she lives or works)--they do seem kind of gimmicky and childish sometimes, and you kind of wonder why Nev would be so tolerant of her arbitrary and selfish restrictions. (Then you remember, oh, right, because Sex.)

 

The plot also takes a turn toward predictable disaster when Nev brings Cath home to meet his family under a plot-advancing (but credulity-challenging) ruse in which they're feigning marriage. This section of the book goes just exactly the way you'd expect it to, which is to say not well at all. (During these chapters, Cath wins over Nev's parents entirely too easily, too, but since that's a minor plot point it didn't bother me much.)

 

Some people are really bothered by the ending, in which Nev (who is an artist as well as a banker) incorporates the stories of Cath's tattoos into paintings which he publicly displays. I didn't mind it because it fits so well into the narrative frame of the story -- Cath's tattoos, and what they mean to her, and what they come to mean to Nev, are such a central theme -- but I understand that outside of fantasy, it might be kind of squicky to turn someone's private body art into paintings which you display publicly and without the subject's consent.

 

On the whole, though, I love this book so much, I recommend it to romance-skeptics all the time.

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review 2015-01-18 22:42
The Prince Who Charmed Her by Fiona McArthur
The Prince Who Charmed Her - Fiona McArthur

This is another one of the books that was in my used bookstore Harlequin Medical Romance bargain pack. It didn't work for me, but at least I liked it more than Her Christmas Eve Diamond.

Dr. Kiki Fender is working on a cruise ship as a way to escape. Nine months ago, she'd had a whirlwind romance with Prince Stefano of Aspelicus. Soon after he suddenly left her, she'd learned she was pregnant. She spent the next few weeks hoping he'd contact her, but he never did. Kiki miscarried at 18 weeks, and there was still no word from Stefano. Now it's mere days before what would have been her due date, and Kiki is shocked to encounter Stefano while treating a passenger suffering from a severe allergic reaction.

Stefano had meant to call Kiki and explain himself, but he'd been delayed by an accident and a long rehabilitation period. By the time he'd recovered, she was long gone. Their sudden reunion on the cruise ship shocks him as much as it does Kiki. Even if he can't mend things between them, he at least wants to explain himself and apologize. Unfortunately, it seems as though everything he says and does just makes Kiki more upset with him.

I almost quit this one 30 or 40 pages in because the editing was so bad. There were a few sentences that should have had question marks but didn't, a few instances of passive voice, and one run-on sentence that I think was missing a period. This either got better later on, or I just got better at ignoring it, although there were still some things that stuck out. For example, Miko briefly became Milo on page 170, and on page 234 Kiki repeated the exact same three sentences she'd said only three pages earlier (possibly intentional? I wasn't sure).

Even when there weren't any obvious errors, McArthur's writing didn't work for me. It felt stiff, and sometimes strange and awkward. Here's an example. The first two sentences, especially, seemed like they could have been written more smoothly:

“At seven Stefano had pulled Theros from a deep ocean pool on their island and saved his life with a boy's rough and ready resuscitation. Unfortunately Theros had been left with an injury to part of his brain from its time without oxygen. After that Stefano's young brother had not been the most sensible of boys, and later had become a handsome and lovable but childish man.” (16)

By the way, yes, Theros, Stefano's younger brother, was brain damaged. He had a wife who loved him very much, and they apparently had an active sex life. Theros and Marla weren't around much, so I can't really say much about them. Stefano's feelings about Theros were very mixed: there was affection, embarrassment (Stefano was very concerned with appearances, and Theros' behavior sometimes made the news), and guilt (Stefano blamed himself for not helping his drowning brother fast enough).

Anyway, Kiki and Stefano's romance didn't really work for me. On the one hand, they were supposed to have this explosive and undeniable chemistry. On the other hand, they didn't seem to know each other very well at all. I found it hard to believe that neither one of them was able to contact the other in the nine months since they'd separated. I think Stefano was injured at around the same time Kiki had her miscarriage, which meant he'd had several months to email or call her. He said he'd tried, but somehow Kiki had missed every single one of his attempts. As for Kiki, maybe she was too petrified by his status to send him an email? Or maybe she didn't even know his email. From the sounds of things, they'd only been sleeping together for a week when Stefano left.

Stefano was only a complete and utter jerk a couple times in the book, but those times were doozies. One of them involved interfering with Kiki's career without her consent. I nearly applauded when Kiki snarled at him for it. The other involved assuming horrible things about Kiki's motives. Kiki forgave him more easily than I did.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2014-10-07 22:22
Review: An American Duchess by Sharon Page
An American Duchess - Sharon Page

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

AN AMERICAN DUCHESS is the latest from Sharon Page, an author I’ve loved and enjoyed for years in all kinds of romance subgenres. It tells the story of a modern young woman whose determination to embrace life in the face of death both attracts and disturbs a more traditional man equally determined to retreat from life for the same reasons.

Zoe Gifford was raised dirt poor and no amount of new money later in life will ever make New York society ever truly accept her or her mother. But that money will be enough to buy a marriage with the younger brother of an English Duke, and release the rest of Zoe’s trust fund so she can finally be free from her family and their expectations. When Zoe first meets her fiance’s older brother, their immediate mutual dislike appears to mask an even stronger physical attraction. But how can she marry the Duke for love when she had no intention of staying married in the first place?

Nigel, Duke of Langford, has survived the Great War at a huge cost to his physical appearance and psychological health. Now all he wants to do is bury himself at his family estate in England and hide away from the rest of the rapidly changing world. His brother’s American fiancee is the perfect example of the type of woman he thinks he can’t abide, yet she’s also compelling in a way that Nigel simply can’t resist. When Nigel discovers his brother’s plan to subvert Zoe’s plans for a brief marriage, the damaged Duke knows that he must claim Zoe for his own. But neither Nigel nor Zoe could have anticipated just how true the words “for better or worse” would be for them after the wedding was over. 

Although I enjoyed AN AMERICAN DUCHESS overall, it was still a story that both charmed and infuriated me in equal amounts. The first section of the book starting from when Zoe and Nigel first meet, all the way up to their wedding, could have stood alone as a very good category romance. But this is also the story of what happened after they fell in love and were married, and what happens next is both tragic and confusing. Tragic, because Nigel and Zoe experience the worst sort of loss that two expectant parents can face, and the way they each cope with their grief drives a gigantic wedge between them. Confusing, because in the middle of their personal tragedy, both Nigel and Zoe became involved in additional plot lines that seemed to exist solely to provide an epic Big Misunderstanding that would seemingly force the couple apart permanently. 

Of course, it was the time apart that made Nigel and Zoe realize that their love was worth every effort to trust each other with their mutual secrets and to do everything they could to make things work. But it was frustrating to see only hints of what Zoe’s life had been like during their separation, and then see the two of them magically resolve every single difference in a conversation they could have had all along. Even the baby epilogue (cleverly named “The Baby Epilogue”) presents the results of an obviously successful pregnancy with no reference to any difficulties the couple had faced previously in the book. Still, even with all the difficulty I had with the latter half of the book, the intimate scenes between Zoe and Nigel are uniformly great, and their initial romance is so wonderful that I still have to give 4 stars for the book as a whole. I just wish the rest of Nigel and Zoe’s story had lived up to the promise of what had gone before.

Source: mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=723
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