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Michelle Scott (Wellington New Zealand)
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Rebel with a cause
Rebel with a cause
by Ray Avery
Edition: Paperback
Price: 13.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A life story which educates and truly inspires, 17 Jan 2013
This review is from: Rebel with a cause (Paperback)
This book is full of lessons - of all different kinds. From a terrible childhood in the UK (how does society let these things happen?), to a true empathy for and commitment to the world's disadvantaged, to the lessons about science and about humanitarianism and poorly directed international aid dollars (he is especially scathing about WHO and UNICEF), to what he tells us about places like Eritrea (I knew nothing of this country) and Nepal (we already knew quite a lot, but interesting to read and confirm impressions). While of particular interest to people who know - or want to know - more about these issues and places, or to those from the UK or New Zealand because of Ray's connection to those countries (Ray Avery was also New Zealander of the Year in 2010), this book has something for all of us. Because as well as lessons, Ray's story offers us all inspiration - an over-used word, I know, but read this and be truly inspired.


Left Neglected
Left Neglected
by Lisa Genova
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly easy read, with lots to learn from it, 17 Jan 2013
This review is from: Left Neglected (Paperback)
Well-written, easy to read (despite the difficult subject matter), thought-provoking and a book which I learned a lot from. The story of a hectic, two-career couple with three young children - and what happens after the wife is involved in a major car accident and suffers a serious head injury. It wasn't until I had finished the entire book that I read the author's bio at the back, and learned that she has a PhD in neuroscience - rather than just doing an excellent job of the research, she is also an expert in the field and well qualified to tackle this sort of subject matter. Never a truly uplifting or enjoyable read, but I raced through this book, largely because of its strengths and because I could identify with quite a lot of it. Like many of us, I need a regular reminder to live in and enjoy the moment, and to practice empathy for those whose lives are not going as smoothly as mine, and books like this remind me to do so.


A Life on Gorge River: New Zealand's Remotest Family
A Life on Gorge River: New Zealand's Remotest Family
by Robert Long
Edition: Paperback
Price: 15.32

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story, follow it up by reading his wife's account, 17 Jan 2013
The story of a New Zealand family who live some five day's arduous walk from the nearest road, down in South Westland/Fiordland. Told by a man who has lived there for some 30 years, having sought out such a remote location as a young man, and stayed on in his hut/home there ever since. After years there on his own, he married Catherine Stewart and their two children have been born and brought up there. A great story, of all his adventures, the people he meets and how he survives. When I first read this book, I commented that I would have loved to hear more about the family years, perhaps the story told from Catherine's perspective, and how the children experienced such a remote life. And now I have, as his wife has published a book titled "A Wife on Gorge River". Together, the two books tell the full story. Both are well written and easy to read, with lots of food for thought - for New Zealanders, parents everywhere, those who love the great outdoors, those who crave a simpler existence - for all of us, really.


Born on a Blue Day: The Gift of an Extraordinary Mind
Born on a Blue Day: The Gift of an Extraordinary Mind
by Daniel Tammet
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.09

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a gem, 7 Sep 2012
I give this 5 stars - a very high rating for me - simply because of the extremely rare opportunity it gives the reader to, in some small way, experience the world through the eyes of someone with a variation on autism. Daniel has Savant Syndrome, in itself an extremely rare form of Asperger's, which gives him almost unimaginable mental powers, as portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man. He sees numbers as shapes, colours and textures (synesthesia), and can perform extraordinary maths in his head. One of his achievements has been to set a new British and European record for memorizing and reciting pi - to 22,514 digits, a feat which took him 5 hours and 9 minutes to recite at the Ashmolean in Oxford in 2004. He can also learn to speak a language fluently in just a week -a noteworthy feat being the learning of Icelandic in less than a week, to a level where he could converse on television about a range of subjects in his newly acquired tongue. While this may be exceptional, other aspects of his life are more typical of autism - a compulsive need for routine and order, difficulty in coping with crowds, change and lots of different stimuli at once, as well as an inability to see the world through the eyes of others. He takes things literally (needing to learn things like when someone says "Take a seat", you sit down rather than picking up the seat and taking it away) and also has to learn something about the concept of empathy in order to function socially. Even things like needing to look someone in the eye when speaking to them are totally foreign to Daniel, as to other autism sufferers. The other critical and near-unique thing about Daniel is that he has been able to learn to live largely independently, an impossibility for most people with similar levels of autism, Asperger's or even Savant syndrome. Not only did this book enable me to view the world through his eyes, but there are also lots of facts and insights offered which were new to me. He offers many insights into medical matters - from epilepsy to colic. He also offers fascinating insights into social norms and issues, and language. The book ends very hopefully when he talks about the moments of complete peace and connection which humans experience from time to time. "I imagine these moments as fragments or splinters scattered across a lifetime. If a person could somehow collect them all up and stick them together, he would have a perfect hour or even a perfect day. And I think in that hour or day he would be closer to the mystery of what it is to be human. It would be like having a glimpse of heaven".
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 2, 2012 3:36 PM GMT


Forever Today: A Memoir of Love and Amnesia
Forever Today: A Memoir of Love and Amnesia
by Deborah Wearing
Edition: Hardcover

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of food for thought, 13 Jun 2005
Deborah Wearing relates the story of her husband's amnesia - the worst case known, she says, and it is certainly hard to imagine how anyone else's memory-loss could be worse than Clive Wearing's. I found "Forever Today" quite easy to read, although it is essentially a sad and depressing tale. You can't help but think that in the same situation, you would far rather that your life had not been saved, because the reality of such a "saved" life is too awful to contemplate. The one saving grace of the tale is the continuation of the love Clive feels for his family and his wife in particular, and her assertion that despite having no memory at all, he remains "the same Clive".
This book is well worth reading because of the unusual ground it covers and the considerable food for thought it provides - I had never before really tried to contemplate what life would be like with no memory at all, and no ability to create new memories. It is also fascinating to learn more about the complexity of the human brain, and to share the insights this book provides into brain injuries and their impact.


Before I Say Goodbye
Before I Say Goodbye
by Ruth Picardie
Edition: Paperback

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In between tears, you'll learn several worthwhile lessons, 3 Oct 2004
This review is from: Before I Say Goodbye (Paperback)
A short and quickly read book, and perhaps not one which you could cope with at all stages in your life, this is the brief account (kind of parallels the brief life) of the last year of life of a 32 year old London journalist who discovers she has cancer - and the news rapidly gets worse and worse. A collection of her emails (sent and received), some pieces she wrote for the newspaper, and text from her husband, this really tells it how it is (or was) for them. Few euphemisms, and the heart-breaking fact for any parent reading the book that she left behind her twin children (conceived through IVF), who celebrated their 2nd birthday just a few weeks before her death. Good for gaining a basic understanding of what she went through and some empathy for any friends or family you may want to support at such times in the present or future.


The Alphabet Sisters
The Alphabet Sisters
by Monica McInerney
Edition: Paperback

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Neither demanding nor particularly rewarding, 3 Oct 2004
This review is from: The Alphabet Sisters (Paperback)
Although slow to begin with, this was easy enough to read, but did fall into that category of "a bit of a waste of reading time", unless you had a particular reason for reading it. The basic idea (the story of three sisters from a small town in South Australia who all end up back in that town together as adults after years of avoiding one another, and rediscover that closeness) and the setting appealed, but the story itself is very simplistic to the point that it makes you cringe at times. And the book is not particularly "true to label" - as it ultimately deals with the death of a young mother from cancer, it turns into something that seems at odds with its brief and promise.


The Mitford Girls: The Biography of an Extraordinary Family
The Mitford Girls: The Biography of an Extraordinary Family
by Mary S. Lovell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.09

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a great story, 3 Oct 2004
This is a long book, and about a quarter of the way through it dragged a bit for a few chapters, but that is my only real criticism. I really enjoyed it - if it had been a fiction work, it would all have seemed a little far-fetched: how could one family be involved in so many of the key events of the 20th century? Close friend of Hitler, member of American Communist party, cousins of Winston Churchill, well-known authors, the Kennedy connection, owner and saviour of Chatsworth - they'll all in here, and the characters and family dynamics are all interesting and complex enough to keep you intrigued.......


Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons
Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons
by Lorna Landvik
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.79

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gem of its type, 3 Oct 2004
It is unusual for me to rate a novel like this - pretty much in the "easy reading" category - so highly. So what's good about it? The historical context (follows the experience of a group of women friends who for over 30 years are members of a book group which they have named "AHEB" - hence the book's title) with a flavour of some of the issues of the different decades covered (1960s- 1998), the variety of life experiences (these are all middle-class women, so there is something in each of their experiences which an "average" reader like me can identify with), the appeal of the theme of women supporting women. Well written, appealing format, never too corny, never boring or difficult to pick back up again when you have had to put it down - and very much a novel full of the stuff of my life (past, present and future) and the lives of my friends.


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