#Tuesdaybookblog ‘A Grief Observed’ by C. S. Lewis #BookReview #Memoir @Audible

This is a short and intense first person account of C S Lewis’s (1898-1963) emotional journey as a result of his beloved wife’s death. Lewis was a British writer, best known for The Chronicles of Narnia, who was professor of English literature at both Oxford and Cambridge University. 

The Chronicles of Narnia Adult Box Set

From the blurb

Written after his wife’s tragic death as a way of surviving the “mad midnight moments”, A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewis’s honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the midst of loss. This work contains his concise, genuine reflections on that period: “Nothing will shake a man, or at any rate a man like me, out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.”

This is a beautiful and unflinchingly honest record of how even a stalwart believer can lose all sense of meaning in the universe, and how he can gradually regain his bearings.

My Review

A Grief Observed is a heartfelt memoir of the loss of his wife. It is the agonising experience of death as told by a highly intelligent, devout Catholic, who was also very much in love with his wife at her death. Lewis lays out his bare feelings honestly and poignantly.  This is the first paragraph:

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

He then tries to make sense or accept her death from a religious point of view:

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be—or so it feels—welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.  

His wife had cancer and she knew she was dying, and they had discussed it before it happened, but once she was gone, he learns that no amount of prior discussion prepares you for the death of the person you love. He is plagued with the uncertainty of her whereabouts after death, as he tries to rationalise his religious beliefs and the reality and pain of her loss:

‘Where is she now?’ That is, in what place is she at the present time? But if H. is not a body—and the body I loved is certainly no longer she—she is in no place at all. And ‘the present time’ is a date or point in our time series. 

Finally, he tells us she had come to terms with her own death at least there is some hope in the ending. These are the last lines:

How wicked it would be, if we could, to call the dead back! She said not to me but to the chaplain, ‘I am at peace with God.’ She smiled, but not at me. Poi si tornò all’ eterna fontana.

The last words, Poi si torno all eterna fontana, mean “And then she returned to the Eternal Fount,” which were the last words of Dante’s Divine Comedy, when Beatrice returns to heaven.

Nevertheless, it is the living who find no consolation.

A Grief Observed

I listened to it twice on Audible brilliantly read by Ralf Cosham  and also read the kindle version.

It is not an easy book to listen to, but I believe it could be very helpful for anyone who is working their way through grief because Lewis expresses his grief honestly and eloquently. And people who are suffering loss often cannot find words to express their pain, which leads to a sense of helplessness. If we can out our pain into words thereby verbalising our pain it will be easier to understand and gradually overcome the grief, and as I said in yesterday’s post on ‘6 Ways to Recover from Grief’, we have to walk through the stages of grief, and move forward until the love we feel when we remember is greater than the pain we feel for the loss.  

 A Grief Observed is not for everyone, I warn you it is raw and devastating, but it has 2,500 reviews and 80% are five stars written by people who found the book helpful for their own grieving process.   

His wife was the American poet Joy Davidman

I’ve just discovered this fictionalised account of their relationship and marriage, which is now on my TBR list. 

#Tuesdaybookblog ‘Green Lights’ by Matthew #BookReview #Memoir @Audible

From the Academy Award®-winning actor, written and narrated by Matthew McConaughey, an unconventional memoir filled with raucous stories, outlaw wisdom, and lessons learned the hard way about living with greater satisfaction.

Greenlights Audiobook By Matthew McConaughey cover art

From the blurb

I’ve been in this life for fifty years, been trying to work out its riddle for forty-two, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last thirty-five. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.

So I took a one-way ticket to the desert and wrote this book: an album, a record, a story of my life so far. This is fifty years of my sights and seens, felts and figured-outs, cools and shamefuls. Graces, truths, and beauties of brutality. Getting away withs, getting caughts, and getting wets while trying to dance between the raindrops.

Hopefully, it’s medicine that tastes good, a couple of aspirin instead of the infirmary, a spaceship to Mars without needing your pilot’s license, going to church without having to be born again, and laughing through the tears.

It’s a love letter. To life.

The Gentlemen | Official Trailer [HD] | Own it NOW on Digital HD, Blu-ray &  DVD - YouTube

My Review

Green Lights is a (half)-Life Story, brilliantly written and read by Matthew McConaughey. From his childhood to his existential 50th year, he tells us about the moments which made him the man and the actor he is and will be.

A one-way ticket to the desert is a great place to write a book or a memoir with no interruptions, except your own memories.

Green Lights was poignant, hilarious, enthralling, thought provoking, optimistic, and overall compellingly written and engagingly narrated. 

No name dropping or hard feelings from this real southern gentleman. By the way, The Gentlemen, is my favourite film, so far, but I expect there will be even better ones in store.

What more can I say? Well done Mr McConaughey! Keep acting and writing. There are plenty more green lights ahead!

#Tuesdaybookblog ‘Bedlam’ by LJ Ross #BookReview #Thriller #Audible

This is the third installment of the Alexander Gregory Thrillers and it can be read as a standalone, but I urge you to read book one and two first, because they are also just brilliant!

The Alexander Gregory Thrillers

From the blurb

Fresh from a high-profile case in the Paris fashion world, elite forensic psychologist and criminal profiler Dr Alexander Gregory receives a call from the FBI. The wife of a notorious criminal has been admitted to a private psychiatric hospital and can no longer testify in his upcoming trial. Without her, their case will collapse but, amidst reports that the staff are as unpredictable as their patients, who can the police trust?

In desperation, they turn to an outsider and now Gregory must find the courage to step inside the fortified walls of Buchanan Hospital to uncover the truth. The question is, will he ever be the same again?

Murder and mystery are peppered with dark humour in this fast-paced thriller set amidst the spectacular Catskill Forest.


Bedlam: An Alexander Gregory Thriller (The Alexander Gregory Thrillers Book 3) by [LJ Ross]

My Review

Dr Gregory is a well known English forensic psychologist and criminal profiler. He is also a complex character who is battling with his own demons.

On this occasion he is helping the FBI solve a case related to the mafia. He goes undercover in a private psychiatric hospital, pretending to be a patient, and things get very complicated while he’s hospitalised. 

I love Gregory’s complex, dark character and the way he battles with his own demons, which he is well on his way to recovering in this installment. In fact, I really enjoyed the psychological aspects of the novel and the discussions between doctors and patients at the hospital.

I’m glad Dr Gregory found a love interest in this novel, who is more of a possible long-term relationship than his previous female friends in the first two books (You know by now that I’m an incurable romantic!). Although Bedlam is in not a romance, there is a hint of things to come, and I hope it works out for both of them.

LJ Ross does a wonderful job of creating authentic characters and throwing them headlong into challenging situations, which they cope with and overcome because of their resourcefulness, moral strength and compassion. And of course, we have the villains, selfish people who have no moral scruples.  

I preordered the kindle version, but I added the audible version and ended up listening to Richard Armitage’s fabulous narration. I can’t wait for the next book in the series!

Five Reasons not to #Blog if You’re a Writer #BloggersBash2019 #BookBloggers #MondayBlogs

Writers in the dawn of the third millennium have more options to publish, connect and share than any previous generation ever dreamt of, but is blogging worthwhile, or time-consuming and ineffective?

1. Don’t blog if your aim is Isolation. If you don’t want to connect with anyone else, because they might copy or steal your ideas and waste your precious time, blogging’s not for you.

Blogging is for people who want to connect with other writers, readers, and bloggers. Bloggers want to be part of an online community, sharing, learning, being creative, and helping, encouraging and inspiring others.

2. Don’t blog if secrecy and privacy are vital, because if you blog, others might see what you’re doing or find out about your plans.

Blogging is for people who want to make use of the window display to the world which blogging offers. Bloggers want to show others what we think, feel, and write, receive feedback, encouragement, share ideas, maybe inspire other readers, writers and bloggers, too.

3. Don’t blog if you’re an excellent, driven, knowledgeable,  inspired and self-motivated writer who needs no external incentive.

Blogging is for those who aim to improve their writing, because we know it’s an invaluable aid, encouraging us to think about, schedule and hone in on our writing skills, by reading and writing blog posts about our craft.

4. Don’t blog if you’re self-sufficient and self-absorbed. You’ve never needed anyone’s help or advice, and you’re certainly not going to give any away for free.

Blogging is for those who want to become a bigger person by sharing knowledge, opinions, thoughts and work, freely and generously in the blogosphere.

5. Don’t blog if you don’t need virtual friends to have fun, because you have a ‘real’ life with plenty of ‘real’ friends, and you are not interested in meeting, or trust, ‘virtual’ strangers.

Blogging is for those who love meeting other readers and writers, enjoy reading other writers’ opinions, poems, flash fiction, and generally enjoy connecting, networking and interacting with like-minded people. If that’s your idea of fun, the blogosphere is the place for you!

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This post was written in response to the 2019 Bloggers Bash Blog Post Competition.

#MondayBlogs What Makes a Great Novel? #Amreading #Amwriting #Amreviewing

If a formula existed for a great novel, everyone would benefit. Authors would write perfect novels and readers would never be disappointed.

So, what makes a great novel? My answer is connection and intimacy.

Writers need to connect with their readers and readers are on the lookout for authors whose stories invade their hearts and minds (intimacy) and become meaningful (connection).

A reader’s response to a novel is personal, intellectual, intimate and complex.

Novels speak to the readers’ minds, that hidden, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, darkest, sometimes unpredictable, elusive part of our brains that surprises each one of us, more times than we’d care to admit.

Readers want to be immersed in a story, transported and moved. They want to feel what the characters feel, understand their predicaments as if they were working with the author.

Writers want readers to be active participants in the narrative, reliving their character’s experiences and reinterpreting their stories. As Stephen King has said, “All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies…’

Readers enjoy finding themselves in the story, with the characters. That’s the moment all writers and readers crave; the moment the reader becomes actively, emotionally and intellectually involved in the story.

A colloquial expression might be that the novel gets under their skin, but where it really gets is inside their minds; that’s what makes a great novel.

So, how do writers find their way into the minds of people they don’t even know?

The answer is as simple as it is complex: writing about universal themes, feelings and events which are (and have always been) common to all of us.

That’s one of the reasons why Shakespeare will never be outdated.

Image result for shakespeare universal themes

Great novels don’t have to be about extraordinary people or wondrous events. Great novels are about feelings we have all experienced or witnessed, such as love, anger, jealousy, greed, happiness, optimism, depression, and universal events such as falling in love, parenting, sibling rivalry, sickness, death, earning a living, quarrelling, making friends, travelling, etc.

Great novels make readers feel something beyond themselves and the scope of their ordinary lives.

Great novels reach their minds, taking them on an unknown journey of self-discovery. Readers become part of the story, because they are involved with the characters and events, and when they finish reading, they are not the same person they were when they started reading, because they have changed their minds about something, or thought about something that had never occurred to them before, or felt something they hadn’t felt before or for a long time.

The challenge for both readers and writers is that one particular author will rarely be able to reach every reader’s mind, because of course all minds are different and no two readers will react in the same way to a novel, or even to different episodes and characters in a novel.

The good news is, there are so many types and genres of novels to be read and so many ways of reading, paperback, kindle and other e-books, and audio books, that it’s hard not to find something for everyone.

How to find a book that’s perfect for you?

It’s hard to get it wrong if you follow these three steps:

  • Read the blurb (writer and editor’s information and views).
  • Read a few varied reviews (diverse readers’ opinions).
  • Read the look inside pages (read the first chapters and decide whether to continue reading or not).

If you do so, it’s unlikely you’ll choose a book you won’t enjoy.

And when you finish, don’t forget to post a review, because it will help the author and other readers, too.

Are you looking for a great book? Here are some of the great books I’ve recently read:

Us

Us by David Nicholls. Themes: love, marriage, parenting, and contemporary life, from the perspective of a middle-aged Englishman. Poignant and humorous.

Eleanor Oliphant by Gale Honeyman. Themes: abuse, loneliness, serendipity, from the point of view of a young woman. Poignant, humorous, Feel good.

our house

Our House by Louise Candlish. Themes: marriage, infidelity, crime, parenting, told from two points of view, husband and wife of two young children. Family drama.

The Guest Room: A Novel by [Bohjalian, Chris]

The Guest Room Chris Bohjalion. Themes: marriage, infidelity, corruption, sex trafficking, narrated by an American husband and father and a Russian prostitute who is an illegal immigrant in the USA.

Missing You by [Coben, Harlan]

Don’t Let go by Harlan Coben. Themes: love, corruption, crime. A suspenseful thriller. This is his latest novel, but all of them are fabulous. Missing You is one of my favourites.

The Good Girl by Maria Rubrica. Themes, crime, kidnapping, family, love. A dark family drama, told from the point of view of the kidnapped daughter, before and after the event.

The Sister: A psychological thriller with a brilliant twist you won't see coming by [Jensen, Louise]

The Sister, by Louise Jensen is a suspenseful psychological thriller I enjoyed, but all her novels are great reads.

It Ends with Us: A Novel by [Hoover, Colleen]

It Ends With Us, by Colleen Hoover is a heartbreaking family drama about abusive relationships told in the first person by a young woman living in Boston.

The Remedy for Love by Bill Roorback is a unique and moving novel about survival, loneliness and serendipity, told from the point of view of a lawyer who attempts to help a homeless young woman on a freezing night.

Check out all my reviews on Amazon

But don’t take my word for it, what’s meaningful for me may be boring for you.

Follow the three steps (blurb, reviews, look inside) and find those great books you’re longing to read!

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What do you think makes a great book?

Would you like to tell me about a great book you’ve recently read?