Ghost Boy – Martin Pistorius and Megan Lloyd Davies

Published by Simon and Schuster ISBN 978-0-85720-610-7

 In January 1988, aged twelve, Martin Pistorius fell inexplicably sick, and within eighteen months he was mute and wheelchair bound.  Doctors were mystified and Martin’s parents were told an unknown degenerative disease had left him with the mind of a baby.  What nobody knew is that Martin’s mind then began to wakeup, making him a prisoner inside his completely unresponsive body.

 Ten years later, an aromatherapist sensed some part of him was alert and his parents realised that their son was as intelligent as ever. With no memories from before his illness, Martin was still in a wheelchair and unable to speak, but he became brilliantly adept at computer technology.  Since then, against all the odds, he has fallen in love, married and set up a web design business.

This is a story, tragic in the telling.  And on so many levels.  A boy becomes aware of his surroundings, but unable to communicate or move his body is stuck within his own mind, his imagination taking him to places that he cannot.  When it is discovered that he is capable of communication, Martin’s world changed fast.

As I read this book, it was like reading a piece of fiction – how could any of this happen to someone so intelligent, yet his body was unable to respond, and he still cannot speak, but he can express emotions and he has feelings.  He feels pain, anger, hatred, love, happiness beyond measure.  It was hard to believe that this person is real, yet he is a champion – someone who has overcome adversity and lived to tell the tale.

I read with horror some of the things he went through, I laughed and cried when he got engaged to his girlfriend, I felt his parents pain, I felt his pain.

This is a story with a happy ending, I hope the continuing story is happy too.

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Christian the Lion by Ruth Knowles

Based on the story of Anthony (Ace) Bourke and John Rendall, adapted by Ruth Knowles

ISBN 978-1-862-30956-2

For Sale:  lion cubs, in Harrods department store!

Imagine the surprise on shoppers’ faces when they see a pair of beautiful little lion cubs for sale in London!

Two friends, Ace and John, can’t bear to leave the male cub behind, stuck in a tiny cage.

So they take him home with them, and they name him Christian.  But it’s not long before the cheeky lion is getting into all sorts of mischief and sticky situations.

Whatever will they do when Christian changes from a cute and cuddly little cub into a powerful and noble beast…?

This was a book my son got out of the library for me to read to him, and I enjoyed the story too.  We have both seen clips of Christian the Lion meeting Ace and John on Youtube and we had heard some of the story.

This book is a child’s version of the book written originally by Ace and John and tells how they came across the lion cub, how they came to own him, where they lived and some of the adventures they got into until they took him back to Africa.  It was a touching tale, with lots of laughs and moments of dread, but in the end, Christian goes on to create his own pride.

A great story to share with children.

Bite of the Mango – Mariatu Kamara and Susan McClelland

Published by Allen and Unwin

ISBN 978-1-74175-778-0

 Mariatu Kamara grew up in a small village in Sierra Leone, surrounded by family and friends.  At first, rumours of the civil war were no more than a distant worry.  But then the rebels attacked.  Heavily armed soldiers, some no older than twelve-year-old Mariatu herself, attacked her village, torturing her brutally and killing many of the people she loved.  During this senseless violence, they cut off both her hands.

 Miraculously, Mariatu survived.  Then began her journey of recovery, from the African Bush to begging in the streets of Freetown, and ultimately to a new life in North America.

 This is an amazing story of courage, strength and hope.  To start with Mariatu had an ideal upbringing, loved by her family and making plans for her future, but that is all disrupted by the rebels who invade her village and kill many she knew.  She was spared, but had to have a punishment metered out.  They didn’t give her a choice, they cut off her hands.

 With a strength few of us would understand, Mariatu made it through the jungle paths to Port Loko, where she was immediately taken to a hospital.  There she found most of her family and was able to rejoice in being with family once more.

 Once she is recovered, her family are moved toAberdeen, an amputee refugee camp.  Conditions are squalid to say the least.  But here we see a selfish young girl, battling to understand all of the terror and pain that has happened to her.  Her journey from selfishness to healing is remarkable, and one that will haunt me for years to come.

Behind Closed Doors – A startling story of Exclusive Bethren Life by Ngaire Thomas

Published by Random House New Zealand  ISBN 1-86941-730-5

What is the real story behind the Exclusive Bethren Church in New Zealand? This gripping and revealing first hand account tells of one family’s experience in the Exclusive Bethren community in New Zealand. Ngaire Thomas grew up, married, raised her children within the church. In plain, non-judgemental style, Ngaire describes life inside this community, with its strict rules.

Behind Closed Doors tells of the struggles Ngaire and her family went through in order to remain within this close but challenging community. She and her husband Denis, a very devout man, had a strong and committed marriage, raised five children and attempted to live a good life within the church. However, they were eventually excommunicated. Here Ngaire describes the trauma of adjusting to life ‘on the outside’ and its devastating effects on her children at the time.

Having been brought up Open Brethren, I was curious about the break away group that was the Exclusives. Once upon a time, Open and Exclusives were part of what was called the Plymouth Brethren, they shared the same views and philosophies. So what made the Exclusives separate themselves from their Brethren and eventually withdraw from the world?

I liked Ngaire’s down to earth style of writing, and the fact that she is able to give such an unbiased view of the church. There was bitterness and anger, but she also tells you what it was like within the church for those who lived in it. And if you were following the rules and loved God, then you were rewarded. If you were a rebellious person, who bucked the system, you were punished. I think this story is more than just about the Exclusives.

It was also a love story. Ngaire and her husband married after 5 months of knowing each other, at a quiet registry office service. Denis loved her unconditionally, and it wasn’t until later that Ngaire discovered just the extent of his love for her. He was devoted to her and gave up his chance of returning to the church because he loved his wife. That says something for a man who was torn between his family and his church.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is curious about life inside the Exclusive Brethren, or anyone interested in learning more about various religions in the world.

Sold – by Tess Stevens

Sold: A Young Girl Betrayed by Her Mother into a Life of Vice

Published by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

ISBN 0340962143 (ISBN13: 9780340962145)

Grace ran a brothel in Croydon just after the War and Tess, a timid child who longed for her mother’s love more than anything, grew up in an atmosphere of sex and depravity.  Dangerous criminals visited the brothel every day, and Tess was groomed from an early age.  Then, when she was 10, her mother began passing her to clients and Tess’s childhood happiness, precarious as it was, shattered into tiny pieces.

This is a biographical novel that was recommended to me by a friend.  I wasn’t sure what to make of it to start with, but I persisted with it and finished it.  It is a sad tale of a girl who so desperately wanted her mother’s love, but the only way she got it was by being manipulated and deceived.  Tess’s life got worse as she got older with abusive relationships with both males and females, prostitution, and jail time for theft.  She deserved better in life, and it wasn’t until she was in her fifties that she found the happiness she craved.

Life was one big learning curve for Tess and once she started to realise that there was more to it than the life she led, she was able to see what happened and where it all went wrong.  The one shining light in Tess’s life was her daughter, whom she was able to love with all of her heart, and it was with Angie’s birth that Tess realised that her mother wasn’t really a mother at all.

A heartbreakingly true story, but one of triumph over pain and adversity.

Cybill Disobedience – Cybill Shepherd and Aimee Lee Ball

Cybill Disobedience : How I Survived Beauty Pageants, Elvis, Sex, Bruce Willis, Lies, Marriage, Motherhood,Hollywood, and the Irrepressible Urge to Say What I Think

ISBN 0060193506 (ISBN13: 9780060193508)

Autobiographys are just grandstanding and grandiosing about a boring life.  Celebrities crank them out to garner more attention in their flagging careers.  And this is my first thought when I heard about the book.  But then I like Cybill Shepherd too much to not take the opportunity to read it.

Cybill’s anything but boring.  A woman who speaks her mind, didn’t live by the conventions of her upbringing and made it through by sheer determination.  She is no saint, and she is the first to admit that!

Cybill Shepherd is a woman I have always admired because of her willingness to call a spade a spade and not sugar coat it.  She confronted woman’s issues on her popular Cybill show.  It was a shame that she happened to annoy the wrong person – that was ultimately the demise – along with her attitude!  Yes Cybill admits that she had some creative differences with people in her time.  Read that as a woman who doesn’t mind standing up for what she believes in, and you have a big problem in old boys school Hollywood.  If anything, this look into her life has made me all the more determined to stay away from people who want to be your friend, but only while the going is good.

Cybill does name drop in the book, but as a celebrity, why shouldn’t she.  What she doesn’t reveal (and because I don’t live in Hollywood, there is no way for me to know) are the names of those that she slept with, or refused to sleep with to protect their families and reputations.  Me, I would have probably just named and shamed them all, but while Cybill has a strange concept of morality, she does protect those that look after her (and those who could harm her career too).

Cybill shares briefly her pain, but she focuses on those areas in her life where people have called her difficult.  But when you have been in the business as long as she has, you would think that she would know a thing or two about the business and would be helpful.  Perhaps she knows enough to be dangerous but not enough to keep herself out of trouble.

I found this a very compelling and interesting read and finished it within 4 hours of reading, a first for me! Four out of 5 stars