The Diving-Bell And The Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

No. of pages: 139
Rating: 10/10

Synopsis: On December 8, 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby's life was forever altered when a part of his body he'd never heard of--his brain stem--was rendered inactive. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, his exquisitely painful memoir, is neither a triumphant account of recovery nor a journey into the abyss of self-pity. Instead, it is a tender testament to the power of language and love. At 43, Bauby was defined by success, wit and charisma. But in the course of a few bewildering minutes, the editor-in-chief of French Elle became a victim of the rare locked-in syndrome. The only way he could express his frustration, however, was by blinking his left eye. The rest of his body could no longer respond. Bauby was determined to escape the paralysis of his diving bell and free the butterflies of his imagination. And with the help of ESA, "a hit parade in which each letter is placed according to the frequency of its use in the French language," Bauby did so. Visitors, and eventually his editor, would read each letter aloud and he would blink at the right one. Slowly - painstakingly - words, sentences, paragraphs and even this graceful book emerged.

Review: Told through short chapters, this is the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, written after he had a terrible stroke that left him locked inside his own body, with only one blinking eye enabling him to communicate. Amazingly, he managed to write the book entirely this way. Each chapter tells of something different, a memory of his life before the stroke, what it was like waking up after, the sadness and humiliation he feels now that he cannot do anything for himself, to name but a few.

Very sad story, imagine being as mentally sharp as you've always been, but not able to move any part of your body but one eyelid. It certainly takes a lot of strength and courage, not only to carry on without sinking into a pit of depression, but to write a book about what it's like to be locked inside your own body, so other people can understand. The chapters were random, which actually lends to the charm of this book, because it's not all before the stroke and then all after the stroke, he mixes both aspects of his life, sometimes with a dark humour and wit that you cannot imagine feeling yourself in that same situation. It's very well written and flows so easily, but the content really makes you sit back and think about life and try to imagine how terrible such a thing would be. It's definitely something I would recommend, even if it's not something you would normally read, everyone could take something away from this book.

The Madonna Of The Almonds by Marina Fiorato

No. of pages: 366
Rating: 10/10

Synopsis: Young widow Simonetta tries to rebuild her family in 16th century Saronno, tuscany, following the death of her husband in one of the battles ravaging the land. In pursuit of a means to keep her estate together, she stumbles upon a new drink made by inffusing almonds with alcohol. At the same time, she encounters Bernadino, the protege of Leonardo da Vinci. What follows is a glorious story of passion, betrayal, warfare and bravery.

Review: Two parallel stories of love, loss and growing up. Simonetta is a widow at 17, and her dead husband has left her broke, so in order to save her house she agrees to pose as Madonna for artist Bernardino Luini who is painting a religious fresco in her local church. Peasant orphan Amaria is being raised by a kind woman she calls Nonna, and when she tells Nonna of the strange wild man in the woods, Nonna goes to look for him and takes him into their home. On the verge of death, the man they call Selvaggio has what appears to be many war wounds, but he doesn't remember anything of his former life or how he came to be injured.

Historical fiction is a genre I've not really tried before, as I didn't think I'd enjoy it very much. How wrong I was! The story was so easy to get in to, and the characters are fantastically written, I found it so easy to imagine them in my mind with the vivid descriptions that are given. I enjoyed reading about the wars and the religious persecutions of Jews and thought both subjects were written about really well. To put it simply, there was nothing about this book I disliked at all, everything about it was great. I'd really recommend it and I'm eager to now read The Glassblower Of Murano, Marina Fiorato's first novel set in the same time period.

Your Heart Belongs To Me by Dean Koontz

No. of pages: 406
Rating: 6/10

Synopsis: Ryan Perry, at 34, is a young man – hardly of an age to be on a waiting list, nervously hoping for a heart transplant. Luck appears to be with him: he is the recipient of a new heart, and (fortunately) the transplant takes, triumphantly. But a year passes, and Ryan begins to receive gifts in the shape of hearts, sent anonymously. A feeling of paranoia sets in – and this feeling is exacerbated when a large amount of money vanishes from his bank account – it has been donated to a local hospital’s cardiology department. Needless to say, all of this is a prelude to something truly horrific: everything he owns – including his new heart – is to be torn from him, and he is informed he will die a grisly death. Who is Ryan’s tormentor?

Review: Internet mogul Ryan Perry is young, rich and enjoying life to the full, until he starts having heart problems. But when he has his heart replacement he finds that his problems are only just beginning...

This book wasn't really what I was expecting it to be and I think that's why I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. The story didn't even really get anywhere until over half way through, and then it wasn't anything like previous thrillers by him I have read. If you approach the book as just a drama rather than the supernatural type thriller it's advertised as, then it's an okay read, nothing fantastic, but readable. I just found the story to be a bit too random and choppy. Certainly nothing I'd recommend.

Take A Girl Like Me by Amy Bohan

No. of pages: 295
Rating: 8/10

Synopsis: Having grown up in Wales, Amy Louise excelled at sport (representing her country in athletics), was spotted by a model agent and then came to London to work on the London Fashion Week catwalks. Very soon she was addicted to cocaine and alcohol, stopped eating and her life rapidly spiralled down until she found herself at the mercy of a drug dealer who regularly raped her. Her extraordinary story pulls no punches and brings into sharp focus the lies perpetrated by the glamorous image of Fashion Week and and the tabloid perspective.

Review: A harrowing true story about how one woman's life spiralled out of control. From drugs to celebrities, booze, rape and self harm, this book really has it all, and shockingly it all happened to Amy.

I started this book a few hours ago and couldn't put it down until I finished the last page. It was just gripping, and I can't believe that someone could actually survive so much in such a short space of time and come out the other side relatively unharmed, it seems crazy! I found it quite shocking that everything just spiralled out of control so quickly, but I wanted to reach into the pages and scoop Amy out to safety. Having gone through a few of the same things, I could relate to certain parts of her life and it wasn't a far stretch to see how it all turned to drugs and alcohol as an escape. I was so glad to read that Amy managed to pretty much overcome it all and emerge on the other side, it must have taken a lot of strength to do that, and I certainly admire her!

Lose The Diet: Transform Your Body By Connecting With Your Soul by Kathy Balland

No. of pages: 228
Rating: 8/10

Synopsis: Are you tired of yo-yo dieting? You have the power to look and feel great without dieting. With this book, your weight and your life can bring you peace of mind. You ll find answers that will end your need for dieting and uncomfortable food deprivation that ultimately leads to weight gain. Instead, you'll find the good health and happiness that you deserve. Lose the Diet is your complete, easy-to-use guide for reconnecting with yourself and discovering the power to achieve and maintain a healthy weight without diets. Drop the diets and the weight in a healthy and natural way. Find out why deprivation doesn t work. Learn about the mind-body-soul connections effect on weight. Discover that happiness leads to a healthy weight rather than the other way around.

Review: A guide for reconnecting with yourself as a way to lose weight. Each chapter covers a different aspect in achieving this such as meditation, fitness and relationships with other people, especially focusing on the fact many people have lost the connection with the world, other people and even themselves, causing them to eat unhealthy food out of unhappiness and boredom.

As a yo-yo dieter for many years, I hoped this book would be full of different information on the battle of weight loss and I wasn't disappointed. This book is a positive experience from page 1, focusing on what you can change in your life and help to achieve those changes rather than focusing on any failures you may experience along the way. I love the tips and techniques that are scatted throughout, and will definitely be referring back to them as my weight loss attempts continue. I've learned a lot, especially about the power of positive thinking and focusing on your goals, using meditation and visualisation to get you there. As an emotional eater, I really think this is the perfect book to help you overcome the hurdles that make you eat out of sadness or loneliness, and eat only out of hunger therefore controlling your weight. I think this book has a unique approach, focusing on healing yourself to help you lose weight, rather than starving yourself or joining some fad diet.

Dexter In The Dark by Jeff Lindsay

No. of pages: 376
Rating: 9/10
Series: Dexter (Book 3)

Synopsis: When two bodies are found burnt, molested and headless - seemingly sacrificed to an ancient god - and Dex is brought in as forensic analyst to help investigate, he realises he could be dealing with someone a whole lot more sinister than he is. Soon it seems the dark passenger in Dexter's head has gone into hiding. And when something creeps out your friendly neighbourhood serial killer, you know it's serious...

As Halpern and Dexter are stalked by death, it looks like it's getting personal - especially as Dex now has a family to protect. Dex must cope with a certain mutilated sergeant from his past, and more importantly... stay alive...

Review: Dexter's 'Dark Passenger' has suddenly disappeared...or has it been scared off? As Dexter tries to find out what's going on, someone has their eye on him. And they intend to let him know exactly what they have planned for him...

I loved the newly explored relationships with Astor and Cody, and really enjoyed them in this book, definitely can't wait to see where that storyline is going in the future. It felt kind of weird without the Dark Passenger around though, Dexter actually feeling human emotions just doesn't seem right, and I think that's why I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as Dearly Devoted Dexter. I thought the 'bad guy' aspect of the story was really interesting, certainly something I'd never have imagined, and I have a feeling that we'll be seeing him again in the future! Can't wait to read Dexter By Design and see what happens next and how Dexter is settling into his new life.
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