Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Tuesday Reviews Day - Books

I'm trying out something new on my blog — for the time being Tuesdays will be my 'reviews' days when I will be sharing my thoughts/reviews on books and art supplies mostly but other things might creep into the mix. Hope you enjoy...

Today, it's all about books!

I've still been on a reading frenzy since getting my Kindle.

So far this year I have read 49 books, 48 of which have been Kindle books, of my Goodreads Reading goal of 55 books. I had to keep extending it from the initial 25 books.

First up for this post - Courage in a White Coat by Mary Schwaner.
This book was beautifully written in a way where you felt like you were there sharing the experience right along with Dorothy. I loved it!

Dorothy is an American doctor working for a medical mission — first in India for ten years and then at a hospital in the Philippines for a couple of years before she and her small family end up in a Japanese POW camp when the Japanese took over control.

Early on in the book you share in Dorothy's many joys, triumphs, and obstacles as she becomes accustomed to life in India. Quite a challenge at times for a foreign female doctor because her gender and modern medical practises aren't easily accepted among the locals.

Dorothy uses her ingenuity many times in overcoming obstacles that present themselves. For example, there were no medical information books available to help train her Indian nurses, so Dorothy created her own medical sketchbooks in her own handwriting — including her own ink and wash sketches outlining medical maladies and procedures. She would write and draw with a dip pen and ink — then she would wash some colour on with her tea, or was it coffee? — I can't remember offhand but it gave a lovely watercolour effect. Those sketchbooks proved to be invaluable to her staff. She was also a very talented seamstress which came in very handy in their remote location.

After ten years in India, Dorothy had a short stay back in the States before heading off to the Philippines to continue her practise at a hospital. However, two years later, war would have a profound effect when the Japanese took over the area where they were stationed. Dorothy's ordeal with her young family in the POW camp was horrific and you constantly fear for their lives and for the other prisoners. People, including children, died from malnutrition and other ailments. They were literally starving to death under the constant threat of beatings or execution. Heartbreaking stuff.

I initially gave this book a four star rating but changed to five stars because, apart from being so well written, it left a big impression on me. Well deserved.

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Next up we have The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee.
Another amazing book about one woman's ordeal as she recounts her escape from North Korea. You'd think getting out of North Korea and safely across to China would mean her ordeal was over but, in fact, it was only just beginning. Hyeonseo's courage and determination is to be commended. It was touching to see strangers reach out to help her at great risk to their own safety but there were those she shouldn't have trusted at all and that led to some scary predicaments.

Hyeonseo later attempts to help her mother and brother escape North Korea too and that is yet another harrowing and hair-raising ordeal. There are times you lose hope that they will make it at all. At other times, you feel so grateful for the kindness of strangers — even an Aussie guy played a huge role in helping Hyeonseo and she was in awe that he wanted nothing in return.

I have read a few books by people sharing their accounts of escaping North Korea and each perspective is just as interesting and as horrifying as the last. The scary part is that these experiences happened not that long ago and it is believed that the North Korean regime still starves and kills its own citizens to this very day — prisons, labour camps, and executions for what we would deem as minor infractions by starving citizens are the norm there.

I gave this book 5 stars! I was on the edge of my seat a lot of the time worried sick that Hyeonseo, and later, her family would be caught and sent back to North Korea which would mean certain death for them.  This book was a harrowing read but it was also a beautiful and touching story about the endurance and courage of the human spirit.

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I have more book reviews coming next Tuesday so stay tuned...

10 comments:

  1. I keep meaning to read that book by Hyeonseo Lee. It sounds heart breaking what people in North Korea have to deal with. the whole personality cult that exists there fascinates me, the fact that in this "modern" era we still have places on earth like that is hard to understand

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    1. Very much so. Hyeonseo Lee was lucky in some ways because her family were viewed as more middle to upper class in the songbun/caste system. The lives of the lower class North Korean people were so much harder, pretty much where they were literally starved or worked to death. It's funny how their songbun/caste/class systems mean so much and it's hard for them to break out of even after they've escaped. They've known nothing else and had believed so many of the lies they were told about the world outside of their hermit kingdom. I do hope you get a chance to read the book.

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  2. Very good reviews Serena and glad you liked the books so much.

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  3. These both sound really good. I've written them both down.
    Looking forward to your Tuesday Reviews! :)

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    1. Thanks, Rita. I hope you get a chance to read them. :)

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  4. Nice new feature. I hope your health allows you to keep doing it. That's great that you've managed to read so many books this year.

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  5. I'm always looking for a good book so will enjoy your reviews Serena. Have put The Girl With Seven Names on my wish list.

    Mary x

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    1. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, if 'enjoy' is the proper word to use. It was mortifying to read on so many levels but there was triumph among their harrowing ordeals and it definitely left an impression on me. xo

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