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ARC Book Review: All The Young Men by Ruth Corker Burks

Title: All The Young Men

Author: Ruth Corker Burks

Length: 304 pages

Publisher: Orion

Synopsis: In 1986, 26 year old Ruth visits a friend in hospital when she notices that the door to one of the hospital rooms is painted red. She witnesses nurses drawing straws to see who would tend to the patient inside, all of them reluctant to enter the room. Out of impulse, Ruth herself enters the quarantined space and immediately begins to care for the young man who cries for his mother in the last moments of his life. Before she can even begin to process what she’s done, word spreads in the community that Ruth is the only person willing to help these young men afflicted by AIDS, and is called upon to nurse them. As she forges deep relationships with the men she helps, she works tirelessly to find them housing and jobs, even searching for funeral homes willing to take their bodies – often in the middle of the night.

All The Young Men was a book I’d seen some of my bookstagram friends have this book, so I was lucky to be sent a copy of from the publisher.

This is a tricky book for me to review because it’s a memoir and it’s always strange to review a memoir because it’s someone’s life. But unfortunately for me, this book just missed the mark.

I’m not saying it’s a bad book, but with it’s subject matter I just think it could’ve been really profound and moving but it was just meh. There’s a few reasons why it didn’t work for me, so let’s chat about them.

In this book Ruth talks about her experiences with gay men, that are often in the last hours of their life dying of AIDS, but I just found their was no emotional connection. Especially in the beginning, you didn’t get to know any of the men and it just felt a bit rushed. Towards the end of the book, you got to know the men a bit more and I found it more emotional, but it just didn’t work for me.

It was very informative about AIDS and it really highlights the horrific symptoms and the shocking treatment that AIDS patient received in the 1990. It does highlight how far we’ve come in our attitudes and science.

The book was mix between the men the author meet and her own personal life. For me the balance was off, but I don’t know why. Is it bad to say I just wasn’t that interested in person life? I know that does sound bad but it’s the truth. I just had no emotional connection to any part of this book.

And the ending was so strange and abrupt. I turned the page and couldn’t believe it was over. And then there was the epilogue that was packed full of the authors personal life but it was rushed. I just didn’t get it.

I don’t know if I’d recommend this one. Like I said it didn’t have the right balance for me, but I did like how informative it was.

Thanks to Orion books for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest unbiased review. It’s out January 21st

Until the next review

Jthbooks

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Books: How they helped me cope with grief.

Well this is a different kind of post for me, but it’s a post that I feel I need to do.

For many years, since my late teens (I’m 27 now) reading has been important to me. I’ve loved it. All thanks to ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ by Sue Monk Kidd. That book was is my first love.

But last year, my wonderful, caring, loving, strong Mother passed away. It was sudden. It shocked me to my core. It broke my heart. It still is broken. It will always be.

For months after I couldn’t read, I just couldn’t. Reading brings me too much joy, and joy was something I couldn’t handle back then. I didn’t think I ever could again. It’s still a struggle to now.

But after a few months. I did start to read again. Then I felt like I needed something positive in my life, so I started a Bookstagram, which led to this blog. I truly believe all these things saved my life. They allowed me to let light in my life again. It gave me a sense of purpose. I didn’t feel so lost.

So now, I’m going to talk about some books that helped me through that time, some books that I think speak about grief in personal, true way.

So first up is:

‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed

I was a fan of this book before my mother died, but after it’s become other worldly to me. It’s my bible. It’s all about the loss of Cheryl’s mother. Cheryl grief is so raw, it floors me. I understand this book and it understands me. If often find myself just holding this book. I’m truly grateful ‘Wild’ exists.

‘Her death had obliterated that. It had obliterated me. It had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance… my life both ended and begun in that premature place where she’d left off. She was my mother, but I was motherless. I was trapped by her, but utterly alone. She would always be the empty bowl that no one could fill.’

‘Brave Enough’ by Cheryl Strayed

This one is actually a book of Cheryl’s quotes. But there’s one quote in there that my mother found comforting when she lost her mother, now it’s become a comfort for me. I try to remember this on the hard days.

Grief if tremendous, but love is bigger. You are grieving because you loved truly. The beauty in that is greater than the bitterness of death. Allowing this into your consciousness will not keep you from your suffering, but it will help you survive the next day.’

‘Dear Lily’ by Drew Davies.

I read this book recently, and was left sobbing. This book says things that could’ve been my own thoughts. They still are my own thoughts. I had to process this book, sit with it for a while. It was amazing to see grief represented this way.

Why wasn’t there enough time? Mum had our future all mapped out. I had it all mapped out too. You ruined them, Lil. You went and left, and it’s so unfair of you, because there was so much more.’

‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama.

This is obviously a book about Michelle’s life, but she does touch on her own grief and I think she got is so right.

‘It hurts to live after someone has died. It just does. It can hurt to walk down a hallway or open a fridge. It hurts to put on a pair of socks, to brush your teeth. Food tastes like nothing. Colors go flat. Music hurts, and so do memories. You look as something you’d otherwise find beautiful – a purple sky at sunset or a playground full of kids -and it only somehow deepens the loss. Grief is so lonely this way.

‘History is All You Left Me’ by Adam Silvera.

This book is about romantic love, therefore romantic grief. But grief is grief right? This shows how grief affects your decisions. How you cope.

The pain you’ve left isn’t pain I can see myself having the strength to face again’

‘The Secret Life of Bees’ by Sue Monk Kidd.

This book will always mean a lot to me, now even more so. They lose their sister. It’s so beautifully dealt with in this novel. This book feels like home.

‘It was the oldest sound there was. Souls flying away.’

‘Wishful Drinking’ by Carrie Fisher.

Now this may seem like a strange one, but Carrie died a short while before my Mother and I found great comfort in Carrie as a person. Some of her thoughts expressed my own. How grief encompassed itself in my soul. I was grateful to have her words in this time.

‘That’s what can take simple sadness and turn it into sadness squared. It’s what revs up the motor of misery, guns the engine of an unpleasant experience, filling it with rocket fuel and blasting into a place in the stratosphere that is oh-so-near to something like a suicidal tendency – a place where the wish to continue living in this painful place is all but completely absent.’

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society’ by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Brown

Now this one may seem like a strange also, but it’s the first book I read after. The first book I was brave enough to pick up. It reminded me that Joy in something you love is ok.

‘Autoboygraphy’ by Christina Lauren.

This book is on the list because it’s the first book I bought on my Kindle. Which was my Mothers. I know use it. I get to think of her every time I do. I thought it would be strange, but this book was so good I found myself loving both the book and my Kindle.

So there it is. My reason why my love for reading is so strong. I hope reading has helped some of you like this. Let me know if there’s any books out there that I’ve missed, that speak about grief.

Until the next review

JTH

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Book Review: ‘The Choice’ by Edith Eger

Title: The Choice

Author: Edith Eger

Length: 360 pages

Publisher: Rider Books

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I picked this book up in my local supermarket for £3.99 and I’m so glad I did.

It’s 1944 and sixteen-year-old ballerina Edith Eger is sent to Auschwitz. Separated from her parents on arrival, she endures unimaginable experiences, including being made to dance for the infamous Josef Mengele. When the camp is finally liberated, she is pulled from a pile bodies, barely alive. The horrors of the Holocaust didn’t break Edith. In fact, they helped her learn to live again with a life-affirming strength and a truly remarkable resilience. The Choice is her unforgettable story. It shows that hope can flower in the most unlikely places.

‘Our painful experiences aren’t a liability-they’re a gift. They give us perspective and meaning, an opportunity to find our unique purpose and out strength.’

Now, I have to be honest when I first bought this book, I thought it was a fictional story, like ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’. But as I began reading it turned out to be a memoir and, I believe, a self help book but maybe that’s just for me.

The first part of the book, is about Edith’s beginnings then her time in Auschwitz. She begins describing what it felt like to be Jewish at the time anti-semitism was on the rise. You can feel the fear begin to seep into her. She then goes onto describe the journey to Auschwitz and her time there. Let me tell you it’s described so vividly and with such raw emotion it’s harrowing. It’s exactly what the book needs to be, harrowing for a harrowing time. The way she describes being pulled out of a pile of dead bodies to be saved is something that will stay with me forever.

‘Time doesn’t heal. It’s what you do with the time. Healing is possible when we choose to take responsibility, when we choose to take risks, and finally, when we choose to release the wound, to let go of the past or the grief.’

Edith then goes onto to talk about her life after being liberated, moving to America and how being a survivor affects her life. She goes onto become a very successful physiatrist. Who helps a lot of people. Whilst battling to overcome the tragedy she, and many others endured. She also tells stories of her patients, which are fascinating in their own right, and how she tried help them and how it relates to the issues she was still dealing with.

When Edith begins talking about her patients, that’s when I believe this book turns into a self help book. If you let it, I believe this book can have a real affect on your life. I know it has for me. It’s really made me look at things differently. It’s taught me lessons.

Edith is a brilliant writer. Absolutely brilliant. Her memories are described in such a brutal, honest, real way. She also looks back on these memories, and analyses them and it is absolutely fascinating. To hear it from a survivors point of view and a psychiatrics.

I can not recommend this book enough. It’s in a league of its own. This was a hard book for me to review, as I don’t feel I could do it justice.

Until the next review

JTH

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January Wrap Up

Well, I can’t believe it’s the end of January already. The month has just flown by. I’ve managed to read five books this month. Some good, some not so good. I know five isn’t many compared to some of you, but it’s good for me I’m a slow reader

First up was ‘Two Boys, At Swim’ by Jamie O’Neill. This book was what you call a slow burner. It’s started slow, and to be honest was hard to read as it’s written in Irish dialect. Once you get into it, it’s wonderful. Queer Fiction at its finest.

Second up was ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ by Heather Morris. There was a lot of hype surrounding this book and it’s still on top of the bestseller list in the United Kingdom. This book had a few good moments but overall I didn’t like this one. It was too light and fluffy considering it was set in such horrific circumstances. This book just missed the mark for me.

Thirdly, was ‘Turtles All The Way Down’ by John Green. Wow, I did not like this book. I just thought it was horrible. The story was set around a disappearance that’s barely mentioned throughout the plot. While it’s excellent to get stories about Mental Illness out in the world, that’s all the character was reduced to. Could’ve done so much more. If John Green hadn’t already had big hits with his books, would this be as successful?

Fourth was ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama. I know Memoirs aren’t everyone’s first choice but this one is terrific. It’s a fantastic look behind the scenes in one of the greatest political moments of our time. It’s so compelling.

The fifth and final book of the month was ‘The seven deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle’ by Stuart Turton. Another popular book of last year, and once again I don’t really agree. Hard to get into, too many characters. I stayed till the end, it wasn’t worth it.

Until the next review

JTH

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Book Review: ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama

Title: Becoming

Authors: Michelle Obama

Length: 421 pages

Publisher: Penguin/Viking

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5/5

Now, I know Memoirs aren’t everybody’s ideal read. But if you feel like trying to broaden your horizons, then definitely pick up this one. It’s one of the best I’ve read.

‘When she was a little girl, Michelle Robinson’s world was the South Side of Chicago, where she and her brother, Craig, shared a bedroom in their family’s upstairs apartment and played catch in the park, and where her parents, Fraser and Marian Robinson, raised her to be outspoken and unafraid. But life soon till her much further afield, from the halls of Princeton, where she learned for the first time what it felt like to be the only black woman in a room, to the glassy office tower where she worked as a high-powered corporate lawyer- and where, one summer morning, a law student named Barack Obama appeared in her office and upended all her carefully made plans.

‘It hurts to live after someone has died. It just does. It can hurt to walk down a hallway or open a fridge. It hurts to put on a pair of socks, to brush your teeth. Food tastes like nothing. Colors go flat. Music hurts, and so do memories. You look as something you’d otherwise find beautiful – a purple sky at sunset or a playground full of kids -and it only somehow deepens the loss. Grief is so lonely this way.’

This memoir is truly wonderful. The stories Michelle tells are truly fascinating. From her humble beginnings to her time as First Lady.

I loved Michelle’s memories from her childhood. They were told so vividly. You’ll absolutely fall in love with her parents, who you can truly tell shaped her to becoming the wonderful person she is. The story of her romance with Barack is so tender and heartwarming, it’s like something out of a novel. It’s so nice to get to know the people behind the political figures. And Michelle doesn’t hold back.

Of course, the bit I was really waiting for was the Presidential Campaign and the Presidency. And they didn’t disappoint. It was so intriguing to read about what goes on behind the scenes, how Michelle handled the attacks and how they managed to raise two children in such extreme circumstances.

What really impressed me throughout this memoir was Michelle’s writing. It was so eloquent. The stories were honest, detailed, entertaining. Michelle’s writing was heartfelt (see quote above to see just how brilliant it was) funny, clever and self deprecating.

The Obamas ran their campaign on hope. Somehow throughout this memoir Michelle has managed to convey hope and the reader is, I truly believe because I was, is left with hope. And to me, that’s a sign of a terrific read.

So, if you like memoirs, have an interest in politics or want to get to know the person you’ve seen on your tv screens for years, then this is the book for you. Comment and let me know.

Until the next review

JTH