28 October 2018

Review: Paramedic - One Woman's 20 Years on the Front Line by Sandy Macken

* Copy courtesy of Rockpool Publishing *

I was thoroughly gripped reading Sandy Macken's memoir Paramedic and read it in a single day. This is a first for me and a testament to Sandy's engaging story. Paramedic is a look at Sandy's 20 years service as a paramedic - or ambo - in Australia and covers the medical aspects, the humanity of patients and their loved ones and the toll it can take on first responders.

Despite reading this in a day, I was left wanting much much more. I wanted to hear more call-outs and more patient stories. I wanted to learn more about the training paramedics undertake and the different levels they progress through. I wanted to know whether they ever need to go to court and tips for members of the public when they call an ambulance. I've called several ambulances for those in need and I would love to know what's important to communicate to the dispatcher and the common mistakes to avoid.

Sandy's experience volunteering in disaster zones was inspiring and a reminder that we can all do better.

Running parallel to Sandy's demanding career looking after patients on what can often be the worst day of their lives, was the story of her spiritual journey. This gives the reader great insight into how Sandy has managed - and sometimes failed to manage - the stresses of her job and provides inspiration to those needing optimism and hope in their lives.

I'm currently in the process of organising an interview with the author so if you've got any questions you'd like to ask Sandy, please leave them in the comments below and I'll pass them on. Stay tuned for more.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
15 October 2018

Review: Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

Bridge of Clay by bestselling author Markus Zusak finally hit the shelves this month and was easily the most highly anticipated book on my radar this year.

Fortunate enough to receive an advanced copy, I was shocked to find the first 100 pages or so were a slog. I just couldn't wrap my head around who was narrating. The story is told by an omniscient narrator who is actually one of the characters. How’s that even possible? My reading began to settle only once I'd figured this out and made my peace with the impossibility of it.

Clay - of the title - is one of five Dunbar boys, and the strength of the novel is definitely the rough and tumble relationship between these brothers. As a reader without a brother, I found their interactions touching, and the warmth of their family life in the three bedroom house on Archer street definitely shined through.

The novel also includes backstories of the Dunbar parents as well as several other characters, which jumped forward and back in time seemingly without order. These organic leaps in storytelling were confusing in the beginning, with the multitude of characters, snippets of stories, numerous timelines and the obvious point to a larger story arc. In fact, if I wasn't in the hands of Markus Zusak I may have given up at this point and put the novel aside. I'm glad I didn't, but this complex writing style may be an obstacle to new readers of his work.

There are unifying themes of love and family and overall this is a very moving story. The writing and dialogue are quintessentially Australian and the landscape was perfectly conveyed.

Ultimately, I still favour The Messenger as my favourite book by Markus Zusak, but that's okay. It was exciting to read Bridge of Clay, but after taking 10-13 years to bring this manuscript to fruition, I think the author has earned a well deserved break.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
09 October 2018

Review: The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory is number #15 in The Plantagenet and Tudor novels series, but just like the others in the series, it too can be read as a stand alone.

Set in the mid to late 1500s, this story of Mary Queen of Scots is told from three perspectives: Queen Mary, her keeper George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife, Bess of Hardwick.

Bess's sections were incredibly repetitive; the one exception being the opening paragraph of the book told to us by Bess which was incredibly gripping.

"Every woman should marry for her own advantage since her husband will represent her, as visible as her front door, for the rest of his life. If she chooses a wastrel she will be avoided by all her neighbours as a poor woman; catch a duke and she will be Your Grace, and everyone will be her friend. She can be pious, she can be learned, she can be witty and wise and beautiful; but if she is married to a fool she will be 'that poor Mrs Fool' until the day he dies." Page 1

How's that for an opening? I've read 10 novels in this series and overall, The Other Queen just wasn't as engaging or memorable as the others. I recommend it for completionists of the series, otherwise I know for a fact there are better Philippa Gregory novels awaiting discovery.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
01 October 2018

Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, Normal People by Sally Rooney is a book about the relationship between Connell and Marianne. Told in a writing style devoid of punctuation for dialogue, I found it difficult to read at times.

Normal People is a literary coming of age novel about two high schoolers and the complex relationship between them and the dynamic that keeps them connected. Set in Ireland, it could really be taking place anywhere.

I shook my head at claims readers will be brought to tears reading Normal People as I didn't find it moving at all. Despite reviewing well by some of my favourite book bloggers, I found the relationship between Connell and Marianne vaguely interesting, but not earth shattering. As the title suggests, they were normal people, or two people striving to be normal. What is normal anyway?

Ultimately, this novel wasn't for me, but I'm glad I read it as I now have an opinion on its inclusion on the Man Booker Prize Longlist.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!