When your heart needs mending

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae Book Cover The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae
Stephanie Butland
literary fiction, contemporary
Zaffre; 1 edition
(19 April 2018)

Ailsa Rae is learning how to live.

She's only a few months past the heart transplant that - just in time - saved her life. Life should be a joyful adventure. But . . .

Her relationship with her mother is at breaking point and she wants to find her father.
Have her friends left her behind?
And she's felt so helpless for so long that she's let polls on her blog make her decisions for her. She barely knows where to start on her own.

Then there's Lennox. Her best friend and one time lover. He was sick too. He didn't make it. And now she's supposed to face all of this without him.

But her new heart is a bold heart. 

She just needs to learn to listen to it . . 

A book that contrives to be both a serious and empathetic story about Ailsa and her life-defining illness, but at the same time is an uplifting and humorous tale of her struggles as both a blue and a pink heart.

Ailsa has a rare heart defect that could have killed her at birth but through surgical intervention she makes it through her life and even takes a degree, but in her mid-twenties it begins to fail. during the latter part of this period she begins a blog about her life and struggles as someone with a life-defining illness.

The excerpts in the book of her blueheart blog are wonderful and show just how difficult it can be to live when every day could be your last.

It also tells us clearly how difficult it is to have a successful romance under these circumstances and how believing in this romance has issues.

I liked the introduction of the tango as an illustration of this belief in Ailsa’s life and future development.

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Where to go that’s safe?

Home Book Cover Home
Amanda Berriman
literary fiction,
(8 Feb. 2018)

Meet Jesika, aged four and a half. The most extraordinary narrator of 2018.

She lives in a flat with her mother and baby brother and she knows a lot. She knows their flat is high up and the stairs are smelly. She knows she shouldn't draw on the peeling wallpaper or touch the broken window. And she knows she loves her mummy and baby brother Toby.

She does not know that their landlord is threatening to evict them and that Toby’s cough is going to get much worse. Or that Paige, her new best friend, has a secret that will explode their world.

An unusual and disturbing story told from the point of view of a four year old girl as she experiences her life.

She is a very bright little girl but her understanding of events is, of course, limited by her experience, and what her mother has told her. Her life has been difficult as her father abandoned her mother when she was pregnant with their second child and went back to Poland. He doesn’t provide any  support and this leaves them living in a rented flat in a rather unsavoury building. a flat that is damp, lacks reliable reliable heating and maintenance with doors and windows that don’t fit properly and up several flights of stairs. the owner of the flat also is inclined to request services rather than cash for rent from her mother…

Our little heroine has a friend, Paige, and gradually as the friendship between them develops as it also does with their mothers, we begin to work out just what is really happening in Paige’s life.

I was initially unsure about this story as it was tricky reading a story told in the voice of a child – but it was not written in a sentimental manner and indeed her voice was very poignant. i got hooked and found it excellent.

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Why the First?

First Person Book Cover First Person
Richard Flanagan
literary fiction, paranormal
Chatto & Windus
November 2, 2017

What is the truth? In this blistering story of a ghostwriter haunted by his demonic subject, the Man Booker Prize winner turns to lies, crime and literature with devastating effect Kif Kehlmann, a young penniless writer, is rung in the middle of the night by the notorious con man and corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl. About to go to trial for defrauding the banks of $700 million, Heidl offers Kehlmann the job of ghost-writing his memoir. He has six weeks to write the book, for which he'll be paid $10,000. But as the writing gets under way, Kehlmann begins to fear that he is being corrupted by Heidl. As the deadline draws closer, he becomes ever more unsure if he is ghost writing a memoir, or if Heidl is rewriting him - his life, his future. Everything that was certain grows uncertain as he begins to wonder: who is Siegfried Heidl -- and who is Kif Kehlmann? As time runs out, one question looms above all others: what is the truth? By turns compelling, comic, and chilling, this is a haunting journey into the heart of our age.

I found that I just couldn’t get interested in this book, despite trying a couple of times. Somehow the characterisation didn’t work for me.

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No man? or Woman?

Gnomon Book Cover Gnomon
Nick Harkaway
dystopian, literary fiction
William Heinemann
October 26, 2017

In a near-future Britain, a distributed surveillance-democracy called The System knows everything you, and can even spy on your mind. It's a Panopticon country. But when state investigators then look into the head of a refusenik novelist named Diana Hunter, what they find there is not her life story but that of four other people, spread across thousands of years, all vibrantly real and each utterly impossible - and before they can unravel that puzzle, Diana Hunter, shockingly, dies as a result of the investigation, an unheard of result in a perfect system which protects everyone from harm. That's where Inspector Mielikki Neith comes in, a staunch believer in The System who is assigned to investigate the Hunter case. The only problem is that the teasing mysteries in the dead woman's mind may change all that. And these are extraordinary memories, ranging from the life of a banker named Constantine Kyriakos, who finds himself pursued by a shark that may in fact be a god; and an Ethiopian retired pop artist, Berihun Bekele, who picks up his brushes to create a virtual world called The System at the behest of his games' designer grand-daughter; and Athena�s Karthagonensis, the jilted lover of one of the Church's most beloved saints, who seeks to resurrect her dead son with the help of a non-existent miracle; and then finally GNOMON, the acerbic post-human who is plotting to assassinate the next iteration of the Universe . . . The question is whether there is a truth hidden in the noise of all those lives, as Mielikki begins to suspect? Or is all that unfolding experience and drama simply a cover for some kind of attack upon the fabric of the most democratic nation state ever constructed? And the questions just keep coming. Who was Diana Hunter, and why are her books impossible to obtain? And above all, was Diana Hunter innocent all along - worse, could she have been correct to attempt to withstand a perfect, democratic system?

Not for me this novel…

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Are you fine too?

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine Book Cover Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
Gail Honeyman
literary fiction,
May 4, 2017

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

An exploration of what it really means when you say you are ‘fine’ through the story of Eleanor and how she gradually breaks out of cocoon of protection and discovers the world outside which is sometimes not fine at all.


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