#ThrowbackThursday – Lost & Found by Brooke Davis – 5*s

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday was designed as an opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. As I started reviewing on Goodreads long before I started my blog, it seemed a great way of sharing my earlier reviews (which I hope have improved since the early days).

So this week I’m revisiting Lost & Found by Brooke Davis first reviewed in February 2015.

Lost and Found

 

Millie Bird is seven-years-old. On a shopping trip with her mum, Millie is left alone beneath the Ginormous Women’s underwear rack in a department store. Her mum never returns.

Agatha Pantha is eighty-two and hasn’t left home since her husband died. Instead, she fills the silence by yelling at passers-by, watching loud static on TV, and maintaining a strict daily schedule. Until the day Agatha spies a little girl across the street.

Karl the Touch Typist is eighty-seven and in a nursing home. He remembers how he once typed love letters with his fingers on to his wife’s skin. Now widowed, he knows that somehow he must find a way for life to begin again. In a moment of clarity, he escapes.

Together, Millie, Agatha and Karl set out to find Millie’s mum. And along the way, they will discover that the young can be wise, that old age is not the same as death, and that breaking the rules once in a while might just be the key to a happy life.

My Review

I rarely give out 5 stars, as for me, such a book has to be excellent and stay with me long after I’ve read it, Lost & Found is one of those rare books. I loved everything about it, the story was clever, the characters brilliantly drawn and the writing just beautiful. As the blurb tells you all you need to know I am saying nothing more about the plot. The joy lies in discovering that for yourself.

Yes it’s quirky, and I guess that might not appeal to some, but if you suspend belief and just go with it, its also funny, heartwarming, sad and insightful. While it covers some fairly deep topics, namely the nature of death, ageing, loneliness and abandonment, it does so without being depressing.

The writing is so descriptive that it was like watching a film inside my head, it was so easy to imagine. Millie Bird is a delightful creation and despite being a red head, I’m afraid in my head she morphed into Milly Molly Mandy (yes that gives my age away). Agatha became Dame Maggie Smith in her curmudgeonly persona of Muriel Donnelly (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and Karl was a scruffy Ian McKellen. I was drawn in and enchanted from the start and just wanted the best outcome for Millie, Karl and Agatha. I hope you feel the same way.

 

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Five on Friday with Kay Langdale @kaylangdale

 

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Today I’m delighted to welcome Kay Langdale to Five on Friday. I only encountered Kay’s work recently when I read the brilliant The Comfort of Others (see review here), so I’m as keen as anyone else to find out a little more.

Author Bio:

I’m married and live in Oxfordshire and also have a home in Devon by the water which I love. I have four adult children who were born in the space of five years, which was huge fun if crazy-busy.

I love reading, exercising and learning Italian. I’ve written seven novels and I like writing about modern families, and about people with secrets.

My latest novel, The Way Back to Us, is about a family with a child with a life-limiting illness, and explores how a marriage can be polarised by chosen roles, and how mothering can become a state of siege. I’m told it’s a heart-breaker…

 

Now let’s dig a bit deeper:

 

Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?

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This is the hardest question…

There’d be something by The Specials to summon up my teenage years in Coventry.

There’d be some Kid Creole and the Coconuts, and some Dexy’s Midnight Runners for when I moved to London to university, and some Puccini and Dvorak because it was when I first listened to opera.

There’d be some Ladysmith Black Mambazo to chime with when I first met my South African husband and started going regularly to Kwa Zulu Natal, and there’d be Joni Mitchell singing Forever Young which I played at all my children’s christenings.

There’d be the whole Tom Wait’s album ‘Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night’, and some Bach, and… and…

Five’s impossible …

 

Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.

 

Moisturiser!

My vast collection of books

A good walk

The perfect nude lipstick

My phone

 

Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?

 

Grow your fringe out

Run like the wind while you actually still can

Learn to tie a scarf in multiple ways  – it’s the gift that keeps on giving…

Yoga, yoga, yoga…

Most of what you worry about doesn’t actually happen

 

Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.

 

I can make an excellent White Lady cocktail.

I can revive an unconscious guinea fowl keet (my Twitter peeps know this).

I’m obsessed with skin care – gotta love a new serum.

I fold my jumpers in colour graduated stacks as if I work at Benetton.

I’m totally rubbish at wrapping presents. I’m a big fan of the team gift, partly because someone else then wraps it beautifully.

 

What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?

 

Read the version of Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse edited by David Bradshaw  again (and again).

Listen – really listen – to the dawn chorus, sitting outside on the lawn wrapped in a  huge blanket as the sun rises.

Travel around Italy.

Buy myself some 800 thread count pristine bed linen, so I could eventually be fabulously bed-bound.

Write a note to everyone I’ve loved and cared about to thank them for enriching my life.

Thanks so much for taking part Kay and I’m definitely with you on the moisturiser and skincare obsession – that’s me too!

 

Published Works

Way Back to UsThe Way Back to Us is Kay’s latest book 

Since their youngest son, Teddy, was diagnosed with a life-defining illness, Anna has been fighting: against the friends who don’t know how to help; against the team assigned to Teddy’s care who constantly watch over Anna’s parenting; and against the impulse to put Teddy above all else – including his older brother, the watchful, sensitive Isaac.

And now Anna can’t seem to stop fighting against her husband, the one person who should be able to understand, but who somehow manages to carry on when Anna feels like she is suffocating under the weight of all the things that Teddy will never be able to do.

As Anna helplessly pushes Tom away, he can’t help but feel the absence of the simple familiarity that should come so easily, and must face the question: is it worse to stay in an unhappy marriage, or leave?

Previous Books

 

 

The Comfort of Others (2016); Away From You (2015); Choose Me (2013); Her Giant Octopus Moment (2012); What the Heart Knows (Published by Rowohlt, 2009); Redemption (published by Transita, 2006 and by St Martin’s Press as If Not Love, 2008).

You can catch up with Kay via her website, Amazon and Twitter.

 

 

 

#ThrowbackThursday – Follow the Leader by Mel Sherratt – 4*s @writermels #Review

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday was designed as an opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. As I started reviewing on Goodreads long before I started my blog, it seemed a great way of sharing my earlier reviews (which I hope have improved since the early days).

So this week I’m revisiting Follow the Leader by Mel Sherratt first reviewed in February 2015.

Follow the leader

 

A man’s body is found on a canal towpath. In his pocket, a magnetic letter in the shape of an E.

Days later, a second victim is found, this time with the letter V tucked into her clothing.

As the body count rises, the eerie, childlike clues point to a pattern that sends DS Allie Shenton and her colleagues into full alert.

The race is on. Allie and the team must work quickly to determine where the killer will strike next. The rules are simple but deadly—to catch the killer, they must follow the leader.

My Review

A thriller with a difference as from quite early on, we know who the killer is and why he is targeting those he kills. You might expect this to detract from the tension, but it doesn’t.

When a man is stabbed to death, walking his dog by the canal, the only clue DS Allie Shenton and her team have got is a plastic magnetic letter left with the body. We know who he was stabbed by and why, but we also have no clue as to what the letter means.

When a second body is found, again with a plastic letter, it then becomes clear to the police that the murders are linked. So the race is on to make the link and catch the culprit. Although a link is identified quite early on, a lack of motive is the main stumbling block to pointing them in the right direction.

During the course of the investigation we get to know the investigating officers. DS Shenton in particular. It makes a change to have a police team, without mavericks, back biting and career politics forming the background. Here we have normal, reliable, likeable characters with real life worries and relationships and we’re willing them on to make the right connections. The case is further complicated by another vicious incident which may or may not be connected to the ongoing investigation, but directly involves DS Shenton and impacts on her life in a big way.

The nature of bullying and abuse makes an interesting sub topic. From the beginning we know the killer was bullied at school and horrendously abused at home, and the killings are his way of extracting revenge. However the school bullies have now grown up and would for the most part not seen what they did as bullying, the boy they persecuted at school, doesn’t even hit their radar as it meant nothing. A message to us all to think about actions and consequences and how they affect other people. Though whatever the “victims” did in the past I wouldn’t personally recommend such extreme comeuppance.

Having not read the previous book in the series, I was not party to the full background of some of the themes, and characters that play out in this book, but I don’t think that matters. This was a good solid police procedural that kept the pages turning and ended with unresolved business suggesting more to come.

Post Op R & R – if only one of those stood for reading.

Emily Dickinson quote

By the time you read this I will be relaxing on the West Coast of Ireland, putting the past few weeks behind me and not thinking about the results that I’ll be coming home to.

Having left you last time with my late night hospital discharge I’ll bring you up to date. I feel I should also warn you, this post will be relatively dull as even I can’t find much fun in sitting around doing nothing.

It wasn’t a particularly easy, first night at home, largely due to the after effects of the anaesthetic. I spent the night elegantly propped up in bed trying to ignore, the nausea, sore throat and heartburn. This wasn’t conducive to sleep so I was a bit like a zombie the next day. After the previous nights nausea I made a quick decision not to maintain the Codeine which makes me not only drowsy but nausea and enough was enough. I felt remarkably pain-free just topping up the Paracetamol, so that formed the mainstay of my pain relief over the next week. I did give in to one Codeine tablet at night to help me sleep, but even one tablet had side effects which I could have done without. Be warned dear friends, if you’re ever prescribed this you run the very real danger of severe constipation. Let’s just say, that even with the additional help of Senna tablets and Dulcolax 6 days felt a long time (especially when you’ve been curious to know whether that too would be blue – it was!)

The much sought after comfort bra, came into play on the second night and I’ve been virtually welded to it. I am a convert to these wonderful things and have since bought 2 more pairs (and yes I will still be stepping in and stepping out).

There’s no danger of lounging around in bed too much, as with the threat of an embolism ringing in your ears, getting up and about is the order of the day. In addition there are also prescribed exercises to help maintain arm and shoulder movement and prevent another hideous list of complications. If I’m honest, I was less bothered by the surgery and more scared of the myriad things that could go wrong:-

  • seroma or fluid build up – seromas can appear about 7 to 10 days after surgery. The breast area involved in the surgery may have a spot that’s swollen and feels like there is liquid under the skin. Most seromas are reabsorbed back into your body in about a month, but in some cases it can take up to a year.
  • cording or axillary web syndrome – you’ll often be able to see and/or feel a web of thick, ropelike structures under the skin of your inner arm. You may first notice them when you’re doing something that involves raising your arm to shoulder level or above your head. If it happens, cording typically occurs anywhere from several days to several weeks after your surgery, although there have been individual cases where it appears many months later. The cords tend to be painful and tight, making it difficult for you to lift your arm any higher than your shoulder or extend the elbow fully. This pain and limited range of motion can have a major impact on your day-to-day life.
  • Lymphoedema – is swelling caused by a build-up of lymph fluid in the surface tissues of the body. This may happen as a result of damage to the lymphatic system because of surgery or radiotherapy to the lymph nodes under the arm (axilla) and surrounding area.

As I am still breathing and showing no symptoms at this stage, I’m assuming I’m safe, only another few days before I can safely dispense with the compression stockings, though the exercises have to carry on a bit longer. I had my first shower after a week which was a vast improvement on getting washed in the sink, and struggling with a jug to wash my hair. Having been banned from using perfumed soap and deodorant on the offending side, I never realised how much you can take such niceties for granted. My OH was very good about it, but I noticed he stayed down wind! I have, thankfully, now had the chance to venture into a town that boasts a Boots and a Holland & Barratt, so I can avail myself of some natural crystal deodorant that should safely do the trick.

After the first few days, I felt remarkably well – as I have done all through this process. It is ironic that in this instance the cancer doesn’t cause the problems as much as the treatment to eradicate it. Sadly, I am fully aware that this is the easy bit and it will get worse further down the line. But I’ll deal with that when I get there – one step at a time.

Right now, I’m feeling fine, just not doing any heavy lifting, driving or anything too strenuous until everything is fully healed inside and out. My only gripe is, that I’ve had two weeks of free time and haven’t read a book (apart from one on Breast Cancer). My concentration seems to have done a runner with Boris, so while I’m pleased to see the back of him, if you spot my mojo can you send it back please.

 

 

Book Haul – week ended 16 September 2017

After a barren week last week it was too much to hope I’d turned over a new leaf, here’s this week’s purchases.

Losing LeahLosing Leah by Sue Welfare (£2.99 was 99p)

On a cold dark February morning. Chris and Leah Hills stop for coffee at an isolated service station a stone’s throw from the Welsh Borders. While Leah heads inside, Chris locks the car and goes in to order them a drink.

She shouldn’t be long, after all they’ve only stopped to stretch their legs.
Minutes pass. Chris waits and waits, but Leah doesn’t come back.

When Sergeant Mel Daley and her boss, Detective Inspector Harry Baker, arrive to begin the search, their investigation calls into question whether Leah ever left Norfolk and unravels a tangle of dark secrets from the past.

 

Kilimanjaro DiariesKilimanjaro Diaries by Eva Melusine Thieme (£4.49 was free)

When expat blogger and mother of four Eva Melusine Thieme first harbors the idea of ringing out her three years in Africa on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, it sounds easy. In fact, it has all the trappings of a dream vacation: no cooking, no fighting kids, and an army of porters to lug everything up the mountain. What can go wrong?

Tag along as Eva takes you on her journey up the slopes of Kilimanjaro together with her teenage son and a group of hilarious South African friends. From planning the trip to shopping for supplies to trudging uphill wishing with all her heart for an ice cold sip of water untainted by chlorination tablets, you will follow her step by step on her quest to scale the world’s highest free-standing mountain. But the list of challenges is long: sub-zero temperatures, blistered feet, long drop toilets (of which, you may learn, the drops are not nearly as long as they have once been, if you get the drift), and the ever-threatening altitude sickness no one can quite escape from. Eva’s climb turns into the most difficult test she has ever faced, and ultimately she must make a fateful decision on that mountain.

Thieme’s debut travel memoir is equally poignant and laugh-out-loud funny. Part guide book, part travel memoir, and part history lesson, her story will keep you hooked until the last page – whether you’re a seasoned hiker nodding your head in recognition, an aspiring Kilimanjaro trekker searching for tips, or an armchair traveler reveling in adventure stories from the comfort of your home.

 

Fourth FriendThe Fourth Friend by Joy Ellis (99p)

FOUR LOST FRIENDS. FOUR TASKS TO COMPLETE. ONE BIG MYSTERY LEFT.

Police detective Carter McLean is the only survivor of a plane crash that kills his four best friends. He returns to work but he is left full of guilt and terrible flashbacks. So for each of his four friends he decides to complete something that they left unfinished.

Eighteen months before the crash, Suzanne Holland disappeared, leaving a room with traces of blood, but no other leads. Suzanne was the wife of one of Carter’s four best friends.

Adding to the pressure, the boss’s daughter has a stalker. Due to the sensitivity of the Holland case, Carter is put on this investigation.

DS Marie Evans is the only person Carter can confide in. But even she begins to doubt whether he can really cope and whether he is actually losing his mind.

DI Jackman and DS Evans of the Fenland police face a battle to untangle three mysteries, and can they really believe their friend and colleague Carter?

 

Smoke and MirrorsSmoke and Mirrors by Leo McNeir (free)

It began as a simple process, the relocation of an ancient burial into the village churchyard. An injustice was being righted after 350 years…

But everything changes with the discovery of human remains on top of the earlier coffin. Whose body is it? How long has it been in the ground? Who put it there? For Marnie Walker this is all a mystery, but essentially someone else’s problem. Against her will and her better judgement she becomes drawn into the investigation at a time when the authorities begin taking steps to conceal the truth.

Meanwhile a major archaeological dig raises uncomfortable issues relating to witchcraft in and around the supposedly idyllic village where Marnie lives. And when bodies are found in shallow graves close to her canal-side home, the police demand answers to some tough questions.

With the arrival in the area of a bizarre boat and its strange owner, matters start to get out of hand. Conflicts ancient and modern clash and Marnie runs into problems of her own making that have the potential to ruin an important part of her life forever.

The final twists reveal that there are more secrets surrounding Marnie and those close to her than she or they had ever imagined. Once again in her life, nothing is quite what it seems…

 

Wired InWired In by Toby Neal (free)

Special Agent Sophie Ang’s emotions are battered by a child kidnapping case that goes badly wrong. In tracking the criminal ring, her rogue data analysis program D.A.V.I.D. identifies an anomaly that leads her into a cat-and-mouse game online with a deadly enemy whose motives are unclear. The chase lures her through dark corridors of cyberspace into a confrontation with the violence from her past that sent her fleeing to the United States. She’ll need every skill she’s learned to defeat her worst nightmare–and the stakes couldn’t be higher. 

Can Sophie both defeat her past, and protect her heart from a fascinating cyber vigilante?

 

Trouble with WordsThe Trouble with Words by Suzie Tullett (free)

Annabel is desperate to have a baby – there’s just one problem. She’s single and after losing her husband in a hit and run accident, she’s just not ready for another relationship. 

Dan is on the hunt for the perfect woman but when his mother drops a bombshell, he starts to feel the pressure.

When Dan and Annabel’s worlds collide, both start to think that maybe they’ve found the solution to their problems. But things are about to get messy.

Can Dan and Annabel get what they want?

Both will soon find out that the trouble with words is finding the right thing to say.

 

Under a Tuscan SkyUnder a Tuscan Sky by Karen Aldous (99p)

A summer she’ll never forget…

When Olivia Montague’s grandmother passes away, she decides it’s finally time to make some changes in her own life. So she breaks up with her ‘going nowhere’ boyfriend and embarks on a journey to her Nonna’s home in Tuscany.

Until now, Olivia has always believed that she’s incapable of love, after being abandoned by her parents as a baby. But with each day spent at the gorgeous villa nestled in the rolling Italian hills, she feels her heart begin to flutter…

And when handsome antiques dealer Hugh St. James arrives on the scene, she realises things might be about to change forever!

 

Endless PossibilitiesEndless Possibilities by Craig Briggs (£3.99 was free)

Life in the Spanish region of Galicia just keeps getting better for Craig Briggs, his wife Melanie and their faithful hound, Jazz. This is the third book in ‘The Journey’ series which began with Craig’s bestselling travel memoir JOURNEY TO A DREAM.

In ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES Craig’s attempts at winemaking produce mixed results but fail to dampen his enthusiasm. Life in the Galician countryside is rarely uneventful and when Melanie is rushed to A&E it’s Craig who has to pick himself up off the floor.

Having successfully bought, renovated, and sold a property they decide to seek out a new project. After months of searching they eventually find their prize, a romantically appealing farmhouse in a ruinous condition. When the slow turning wheels of Spanish bureaucracy threaten to scupper their plans they’re forced to hold their nerve.

More adventures follow. A birthday surprise ends with Melanie in tears and a festive break to Lanzarote puts Jazz in a spin.

Tasked with preparing their friends’ house for holiday letting, Craig and Melanie find themselves in a race against time. Broken bones and blocked drains conspire to defeat their efforts. With confirmed reservations just weeks away, they have little choice but to soldier on.

 

Night StalkerThe Night Stalker by Robert Bryndza (99p)

If the Night Stalker is watching, you’re already dead…

In the dead of a swelteringly hot summer’s night, Detective Erika Foster is called to a murder scene. The victim, a doctor, is found suffocated in bed. His wrists are bound and his eyes bulging through a clear plastic bag tied tight over his head.

A few days later, another victim is found dead, in exactly the same circumstances. As Erika and her team start digging deeper, they discover a calculated serial killer – stalking their victims before choosing the right moment to strike.

The victims are all single men, with very private lives. Why are their pasts shrouded in secrecy? And what links them to the killer?

As a heat wave descends upon London, Erika will do everything to stop the Night Stalker before the body count rises, even if it means risking her job. But the victims might not be the only ones being watched… Erika’s own life could be on the line.

 

Murder in the Latin QuarterMurder in the Latin Quarter by Susan Kiernan-Lewis (free)

Maggie’s much anticipated Paris holiday takes a dark turn when she ventures into the city’s famed Latin Quarter to visit Laurent’s ailing aunt—only to find a very healthy aunt and a very dead body.
Does the murder have something to do with Aunt Delphine? Was she the intended victim? With her new baby daughter in tow, Maggie struggles to find the answers. In the process she learns more about Laurent’s family—and stumbles across a terrible secret that would tempt anybody to commit murder.

Can Maggie find the murderer without destroying the Dernier family name? And can she do it before the killer catches her in a dark, lonely alleyway in the Latin Quarter?

 

Three-Martini LunchThree Martini-Lunch by Suzanne Rindell (99p)‘Back in those days My Old Man was king of what they called the three-martini lunch. This meant that in dimly lit steakhouses all over Manhattan my father made bold, impetuous deals over gin and oysters. That was how it was done.’

Cliff Nelson, the privileged son of a New York publishing house editor, is slumming it around Greenwich village in 1958, enjoying the booze, drugs and the idea that he’s the next Kerouac.

Fresh-faced Eden Katz arrives in New York with the ultimate ambition to become an editor, but she’s shocked at the stumbling blocks she encounters.Miles Tillman, a black publishing house messenger boy, is an aspiring writer who feels he straddles various worlds and belongs to none.

Their choices, concealments and betrayals ripple outwards leaving none of them unchanged.

 

Nine Folds Make a Paper SwanNine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan (99p)

At the start of the twentieth century, a young girl and her family emigrate from the continent in search of a better life in America, only to pitch up in Ireland by mistake. In 1958, a mute boy locked away in a mental institution outside of Dublin forms an unlikely friendship with a man consumed by the story of the love he lost nearly two decades earlier. And in present-day London, an Irish journalist is forced to confront her conflicting notions of identity and family when her Jewish boyfriend asks her to make a true leap of faith. Spanning generations and braiding together three unforgettable voices, Nine Folds Make a Paper Swanshows us what it means to belong, and how storytelling can redeem us all.

 

 

 

 

#ThrowbackThursday – The Doll’s House by M J Arlidge – 4*s – #Review

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday was designed as an opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. As I started reviewing on Goodreads long before I started my blog, it seemed a great way of sharing my earlier reviews (which I hope have improved since the early days).

So this week I’m revisiting The Doll’s House by M J Arlidge – first reviewed in February 2015.

Doll's House.jpg

 

A young woman wakes up in a cold, dark cellar, with no idea how she got there or who her kidnapper is. So begins her terrible nightmare.

Nearby, the body of another young woman is discovered buried on a remote beach. But the dead girl was never reported missing – her estranged family having received regular texts from her over the years. Someone has been keeping her alive from beyond the grave.

For Detective Inspector Helen Grace it’s chilling evidence that she’s searching for a monster who is not just twisted but also clever and resourceful – a predator who’s killed before.

And as Helen struggles to understand the killer’s motivation, she begins to realize that she’s in a desperate race against time . . .

My Review

I came late to the party with this series and have just read this one as my first. For other readers doing the same, it can be read as a stand alone, but you would be creating spoilers for yourself if you intend to go back and read the previous books.

Having read several books recently where the book was, in my opinion, not worthy of the hype I did worry that this might fall into the same category given the buzz about the previous books namely Eeny Meeny and Pop Goes the Weasel. Thankfully I was not disappointed and this really was a good thriller, in a must read the next chapter page turning sort of way.

When a young woman’s dead body is found buried on the beach, DI Helen Grace fears this will not be the firs, especially when another young woman, Ruby, goes missing. Her instinct is correct and when more bodies are found, it becomes a race against time to find the missing woman before it’s too late.

I enjoyed the book because it was an interesting mix of police procedural along with the ubiquitous police jealousies, point scoring and back stabbing; coupled with the unravelling back story of the perpetrator and his suffering victim/s.

The story alternates from the viewpoint of the main protagonists which not only progresses the plot but also allows their characters to come to the fore. The only one we get to hear from, but not know the identity of, is the killer. Despite several close shaves with you thinking you know who he is, the mystery remains until the reveal.

I now need to go back and read the previous two to make sense of the references and relationships that impinged on this story. If they’re half as good as this I can’t wait.

I received a free ARC via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Tea, toast and compression stockings, or saying goodbye to Boris.

 

Emily Dickinson quote

 

Well time for an update as it’s all been happening since I last shared my views on bras, bullet, comfort or otherwise.

The pre-op assessment on Friday 1st September was a walk in the park, it appears I’m in excellent health – barring the obvious flaw in that statement. For the first time ever I also got away without a comment on my weight – I think the nurse took pity and figured I’d got bigger fish to fry. Other than that I appear to have shrunk half an inch – that’s aging for you. The even better news, despite my op being scheduled for the afternoon, I was still down as a day patient, barring disasters in the operating theatre there was no reason for keeping me in overnight.

I had anticipated a quiet, if not subdued weekend, but a surprise visit from my Spanish tutor on Saturday morning, was followed by my Brother in law and his wife who came to take us out to lunch. It was exactly what we needed and really helped to take our minds off the impending events. Sunday was spent doing the things I’d planned for Saturday, a rather mundane food shop and returning the various pyjamas etc I’d bought while labouring under the misapprehension that an overnight stay might be a possibility

My first hurdle came on Monday when I was dispatched to the Nuclear Medicine Department at Royal Stoke University Hospital for my radio isotope injection. I will admit I was feeling apprehensive about this and not particularly looking forward to it. The squeamish among you might want to pass on the next bit which explains why.

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

The injection was to facilitate the sentinel lymph node biopsy performed during my breast cancer surgery to help figure out if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.   A small amount of radioactive fluid is injected into the breast and this fluid is carried into the armpit by the lymph and trapped in the sentinel lymph node. During the operation a hand-held gamma probe is moved over the skin and guides the surgeon to the lymph glands, which have radioactive material in them. Sounds lovely doesn’t it. The whole procedure thankfully didn’t actually take more than 10 mins, it was the getting there/back and the usual hanging around that took the time. Once locked (which was a worry) into the treatment room and made to confirm 3 times that we were definitely injecting my right breast, I was all for having them feel Boris and check out my biopsy scar while shouting out just bloody get on with it. In an attempt to re-assure me, I was told it would feel like a bee sting. This was no re-assurance at all, for one I’ve never been stung by a bee and if I had I doubt it would have been anywhere near my nipple! I can confirm it does indeed sting, but thankfully not for long and that was that. Driving back home listening to the radio discussing radioisotopes and  Kim Jong-un’s recent nuclear assault was a bit disconcerting considering what was sloshing round inside me.

Bye Bye Boris

The big day got off to an early start as if I wanted breakfast it had to be by 7 o’clock, so it was an early alarm call so I could have some tea and toast. That left a lot of time to kill before we headed off for the hospital and our midday check in. It was another subdued ride to the hospital and a small wait at reception while Mrs Jobsworth finished her clearly private conversation, before demanding my admissions letter. Of course, it was in the car, in every other part of the process I have never been asked for the corresponding piece of paper until now. Like who in their right mind would pretend to be someone else and put themselves through this. Anyway she clearly felt she should make up for her less than exemplary customer service and let me off with confirming the usual details. So we then had a short wait in reception. Here we were treated to another conversation between a nurse and her patient that should, in our opinion have been conducted in private. I’m not sure whether we are getting more curmudgeonly or whether people don’t have any sense of privacy any more – says she who is sharing all with the world!  It was a heartfelt (but not teary) goodbye to the OH in reception before I was whisked off to admissions.

I was checked in, by a lovely 15-year-old – OK I exaggerate but not much, and the pattern was set for the afternoon as I repeatedly went through my General Surgery form. Once I’d been ankle tagged and sent through to change into a regulation gown, I was handed a bag to put all my personal belongings in. I was beginning to think I’d wandered into an episode of Prisoner Cell Block H, the only difference being we could wear our own dressing gowns – hurray. The next stage was being taken to a holding area, where I delighted to see H one of the ladies who’d been ‘nuked’ at the same time as me yesterday.  What followed was a like a bizarre version of hospital speed dating as I was called in and out of various rooms to meet my surgeon, assistant surgeon and anaesthetist and confirm my medical details; that I still had my lump, and more worryingly that I understood all the things that could go wrong before I signed my consent form. The final joy was to be despatched with a cardboard bowl to provide a sample. Easier said than done when you’ve not drunk since 10:30am and you made the mistake of going to the loo earlier.

It was then just a case of clock watching which was actually marginally more exciting than what was being broadcast on the TV. I have never watched an episode of Judge Rinder before and won’t be chomping at the bit to watch it again. I did at least get to see his verdict to put me (literally) out of my misery before I was measured for my compression stockings. My complimentary 2 pairs of regulation tortuous white stockings were duly ‘prescribed’ and added to my personal belongings bag – fat chance of those going missing.

Finally it was my ‘turn’ and I was led through the other side of the swing doors, allotted a trolley and taken through for theatre. My auxiliary nurse was lovely, and I’ll admit at this point that when she’d finished securing my canula for the anaesthetic, patted my arm and asked if I was OK I was the nearest I’ve been to crying. It was suddenly very real, time for the joking to stop and hopefully come out the other side Boris and cancer free.

Another technical bit for the squeamish to gloss over

Wide Local Excision

My surgery comprised a Wide Local Excision (or lumpectomy as we older ladies would know it as). This is surgery to remove breast cancer along with a margin (border) of normal, healthy breast tissue. It’s a type of breast-conserving surgery which aims to keep as much of your breast as possible, while ensuring the cancer has been completely removed. It’s important that the cancer is removed with an area (margin) of healthy breast tissue around it to make sure no cancer cells have been left behind.

The breast tissue removed during surgery will be tested to check the margin around the cancer.

  • Negative (clear) margins mean no cancer cells were seen at the outer edge of the tissue removed.
  • Positive margins mean the cancer cells are very close to or reach the edge of the tissue.

In addition to further facilitate the Sentinel Lymph Node biopsy there is the Blue Dye Injection, performed once you are asleep in theatre. This dye stains the sentinel lymph node or nodes blue, which helps the surgeon to find the correct lymph node. This dye can have some side effects some more dramatic (and thankfully rarer) than others

More commonly :-
• The blue dye may be visible around your scar following surgery – but this usually disappears over the following weeks or months.
• The blue dye can initially make your urine and your stools appear blue in colour, but this will settle. – Yes is does.
• After your operation your skin colour may appear a very pale colour sometimes with a tinge of blue. This is nothing to be alarmed about and usually settles within 24 hours.
More rarely :-
• Urticaria (skin reactions)
• An anaphylaxis allergic reaction can occur.

Are you still awake? Well thankfully after all that so was I. I came round about 2 hours later and had a chat with the nurse tasked with making sure I was still breathing and compos mentis. You would all have been so proud of me as somehow the subject got round to books and reading. We swapped our favourite authors and genres and I even managed to mention my blog which she duly noted. If only I was so vocal at other times I’d increase my stats no end!

The next stage was the recovery ward where I met up with my compatriots from this afternoons holding area. We were all looking mightily relieved to have survived theatre and were now on water watch to make sure we were drinking and not dehydrated. Although I somehow managed to miss that stage and was offered tea and toast virtually straight away. Manna from heaven and not one cup but two (must have known I was from Yorkshire, all that was missing was the intravenous drip to guarantee speedy absorption). The toast was very welcome but did highlight a symptom I’d not immediately been aware of, a distinctly sore throat, thanks to being inchubated in surgery. The tea performed a secondary function in softening aforementioned toast and washing it down. As if by magic another two cups of tea appeared – much to the dismay of the others who seemed to have not had the same luck.

As my bed fellows all started to leave, it was the breast cancer patients that were last to be released. We needed to wait around to make sure there was no adverse reaction to the blue dye. Though we could confirm it does indeed colour ones urine and the general concensus was that it’s a lovely shade of toilet duck blue. A quick lesson in how to put on our compression stockings (for the next two weeks!) and a final injection in the stomach of blood thinner to prevent blood clots and finally I was allowed home. My OH was mightily relieved to see I was not a quivering wreck and looked an ashen gray rather than the fetching shade of Smurf like blue I’d been hoping for.

If anyone is still with me at this stage – you deserve a merit badge as this has been a long one. Hopefully the next one will be shorter.