Books

What Happened – Hillary Rodham Clinton

Reading biographies is not a normal choice of reading for me. The ones I do read are mainly due to the person featured as I have enjoyed their work or been fascinated by them at some point. Politically biographies even less of a choice.

So why on earth would I pick up a book about politics, politics of another country?

Curiosity and fascination.

Towards the end of 2017 I saw the said former first lady, Hillary Clinton being interviewed by Graham Norton. Now he is not your normal highbrow political interviewer but that is what made it accessible and the main reason I went to pick up the book.

And I am so glad I did.

First of all I must admit to being rather lost on some of the US politics and I had to go and have a look at how the basic system of American government works. Then I felt a bit more familiar with what I was reading.

But what Hillary Clinton gets to is the heart of the matter – what happened in that US election which has changed world politics and continues to do so. What happens when you cannot distinguish between what is real and what is fake? What happens when you put every last ounce of strength and belief into something and you still come second? And what it is like to be a woman, trying to breakthrough a highly male dominated world.

Approach this book with an open mind especially if you perhaps do not necessarily agree with her politics. I admire the lady who had to go the inauguration despite having lost. She goes in her role as a former First Lady not because she lost. I remember a small video clip of her taking a deep breath, holding Bill Clinton’s hand and walking out head held high.

I admire her for that action – she knows that America needs to come together again whoever is in power.

Her policies are explained in the book and the whole process of how a campaign works – it is quite unbelievable when in this country, an election can be called on a whim and have a whole country voting within six weeks. A lot of questions are asked and this book tries to answer some of them. I got to the part that the National Rifle Association play in American politics/life at the time of another mass shooting in a school in America. I was reading something which was being played out in real life. That is quite unnerving.

I thought she would win in – and I probably wasn’t the only one. But outside influences seem to have infiltrated into the mass media and everyone in America and beyond seemed to be making different decisions all based on mistakes, lies and what this one man said.

What is strong throughout this book is the role of women. Of course Hillary didn’t break the ultimate glass ceiling in America, but I would like to think she has made enough cracks in it for others not just in America but everywhere to see what is achievable for women everywhere.

What struck me was how it seems she must have been in my office at some point – let me explain.

Hillary states in her book about the role women play, especially when they are in a male dominated world. It is the women who makes sure everyone has a drink, asks after families, children, weekends, holiday plans. Remembers birthdays, worries about everyone else before they even get to their self. And when they do perhaps behave away from what others think a women’s behaviour should be – they are called to question on it. They are given labels, because they are emotive about something. They are easily portrayed as weak. The stronger they become the less they are liked.

I work in a male dominated environment, I think less than 15% of the people I deal with are women. I am a woman, I have an opinion, I know how to do my job effectively and efficiently. I will move with the changes, I can come up with solutions and not ones that will appease everyone, but ones that some people will not like. I know the answers to questions that my boss does not. BUT I have to put up with, everyone talking to my boss first to get the answer, to have my answers questioned as being right or not because I am a woman (and in part a civilian). Being ignored when someone walks into my office, as there is a man in there at the time. YET I am the woman that makes the coffee for my boss every morning. I can count on one hand how many times he has made me coffee in the last 16 years. I am the one that remembers birthdays, asks about family and holiday and how weekends have been. I bake the cakes for sharing with colleagues. I am the one that when there is some sort emotional/medical problem with any of the female staff members I have to deal with it. I fight pretty much every day in some way in my working environment.

There is still a long way to go and if reading this book empowers some women a little bit more as it has me, then all that hard work Hillary put in was not in vain. The glass ceiling may well one day be broken – but I have a funny feeling that it is us women who will have to clear up the mess.

A real interesting read, difficult in parts probably because I am not an American and don’t truly understand its political workings. However, read the book from an outsiders point of view and you get whole different experience.

Thank you Hillary.

I have picked a couple of excerpts from the interview in this piece, but if you have the time google/YouTube more clips.

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Books

Lucy’s Little Village Book Club – Emma Davies

Any book that seems to be about books, book clubs, libraries or the way that others are brought together by books always seems to be a good choice to read. If like me you enjoy all these things then this is a book for you.

Lucy, temporary manager of the local library but secretly an aspiring writer thrives on the new book club that she started and the people she has grown fond of as they all arrive for different reasons at her group.

Callum, is escaping from home where he is bullied and cajoled by older brothers and lazy parents. He wants the simple things in life.

Single mum Hattie, needs some adult conversation and has her own demons she needs to work out before becoming her sister’s bridesmaid.

Widowed Oscar, is lonely and misses his wife terribly but also knows that a secret they both kept for their entire married life is about to be the cause of some heartache.

Lia is caring for her mother who has dementia and is slowly retreating into her past. A past where she danced and it seems that Lia has a passion for dancing as well.

As the book progress so do the relationships and friendships between the characters, some interesting secondary characters are introduced to add more depth to the book. There is a lot that goes on, new skills are learnt, past loves are laid to rest, newer loves are found and at the heart of it there is the strength of family and friendship in all their forms.

This is the first Emma Davies novel I have come across and I enjoyed it. I am interested to read her other novels and see is they evoke the same strength of community and friendship in a world which at the moment seems to be lacking in it.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

Lucy’s Little Village Book Club is out now. 

Books

The Trip of a Lifetime – Monica McInerney

Lola Quinlan came to Australia from Ireland more than sixty years ago and she has never been back.

Now she feels the time is right and perhaps the truth about her original reason for coming to Australia needs to be told.

Lola is too old for secrets anymore. But it seems she just can’t help herself.

When she lets slip that a television programme is to be filmed in their hometown, Clare Valley her granddaughter, Bett editor of the local newspaper is rather put out.

Even more so when it seems that Bett is to accompany Lola back to Ireland along with Bett’s niece, Ellen who is becoming more and more like her mother Anna as the days go by.

The adventure begins, but it is fraught with the people and situations they leave behind and when they also arrive in Ireland. Lola realises that maybe she does not want to face the past.

When a tragedy sends Bett and Ellen back to Australia early, Lola’s son, Jim comes across to take their place. Only then do all the secrets that have been running through this family like tumbleweed seem to come out and everything starts to make sense for many of them.

I enjoyed the parts of the book when we were taken back to Ireland and Lola’s strict upbringing and the events which led her to be in Australia, married and pregnant. But the more contemporary story was rather weak and I didn’t feel the characters were perhaps strong enough to hold such a long book – I admit to skim reading many pages.

The plot had an inevitability about it and I was simply just reading to see the predicted events happen and the secrets revealed. Of course many books can be like that and they are still enjoyable, for me it didn’t work with this book.

Disappointed with this read as I have read some really good Monica McInerney books in the past.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

A Trip of A Lifetime is out now

The Quinlan family are also featured in Monica McInerney’s other novels The Alphabet Sisters and Lola’s Secret. 

 

Books

Wedding Bells at The Dog & Duck – Jill Steeples

It has been a while since I have pulled up a bar stool and had a drink in The Dug & Duck in Little Leyton. So when I discovered this book available to review, the third in the series, I realised I had not even got round to the second one – Summer at The Dog & Duck. Which means for a couple of days I was immersed in Little Leyton and all its residents and caught up with what they have all been up to.

Nothing adds pressure to Christmas than hosting it for more than just your family. But that is what Ellie is doing at the pub which she runs in her home village. Add to the mix a strangers stranded in the snow and Ellie being heavily pregnant and you can probably see that this is going to be a Christmas that no one forgets.

Once the snow starts to melt and there is whiff of spring in the air, it turns to Ellie to help organize her friend Polly’s wedding. Of course the venue has to be The Dog & Duck but can Ellie really deal with all this as well as looking after a newborn, her parents returned from abroad, settling into being lady of the manor in her new home with Max as well as maintaining her independence.

It puts a lot of pressure on Ellie as if she didn’t have enough pressure when Max keeps proposing and she keeps saying ….not at the moment.

What if the moment has now suddenly passed?

Perhaps Polly’s simple wedding will make Ellie see that perhaps taking a risk at marriage is one worth taking?

Or maybe it is a risk too far?

I assume that this is the final book of the series, it has that finality to it with all the right loose ends tied up but enough to know that their lives will continue once the reader has finished reading. I maybe wrong?

This is an entertaining novel that you can while away a couple of hours.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

All of the Dog & Duck series are out now to buy. 

 

Books

The Long Walk Back – Rachel Dove

Kate is a surgeon, wanting a challenge she goes to war as an army theatre surgeon. She leaves behind her husband, Neil and her son Jamie.

Captain Thomas Cooper, faces challenges every day – but this is the life he has chosen and the army is his family. Nothing and no one else is going to change that. Until one fateful day.

Cooper and Kate meet.

Cooper knows his own mind. He knows whether he wants to live or to die.

Kate knows her own mind and everyone must live.

But what if you go against someone’s wishes and give them a second chance when they didn’t want it?

Second chances can then lead to more chances, one action causes several reactions.

Will Cooper benefit from the action that Kate took?

This book is hard-hitting from the beginning, if you want to get a close up on war and its devastating effects then you get this with the opening few pages. What is hard to believe is that an author that you know on the whole to have written women’s fiction comes back with a book so far removed from a ‘rosy’ world normally created in such genres. It hits you right between the eyes – and I loved it.

So much is packed into this book, I couldn’t begin to try and unpick it as that would spoil it for anyone else picking it up to read. Character driven with two very pig-headed, stubborn, driven and strong personalities that leapt off the page for me. I thought Cooper was great and I recognised the military ethos that is ingrained in some of our servicemen and women no matter what circumstances they are thrust into.

Kate, I wanted to slap at various times not because of the portrayal of the character but because of it. Well written, I constantly questioned as to whether I was meant to feel sorry for her or not? Was the situation she in unique or did bad luck seem to follow her around? I was not expecting the twist and once the background to an event was filled in, I perhaps felt something else for her. I just couldn’t make my mind up about her and whilst some readers might find that annoying, I enjoyed the uncertainty of it all.

A different read, a bit of an emotional rollercoaster – but worth it to the very end.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

The Long Walk Back is out now. 

Books

Never Greener – Ruth Jones

Kate was twenty-two and had a mad passionate all-consuming affair with Callum. He was married, she didn’t care and thought that he was the man for her.

It wasn’t to be and Kate’s life took a very different path but she remembers Callum and how she felt.

She married Matt and became a mother to Tallulah. She had it all, family, home, money, recognition as a famous actress. Her life was perfect from the outside.

But for Kate, it wasn’t perfect because she had given up the one thing she wanted…..Callum.

A chance meeting seventeen years later, Kate gets to wonder what might have been.

Is the grass really greener on the other side? And if you get to have another go, will it work?

This novel, drew me right in from the beginning and I was hooked. We are launched into the actions that Kate takes which sets off the whole tone of the book. Brought screamingly up to date we then see her in as a wife, mother and actress. In fact to me Kate is nothing but and actress, she is playing the part of wife, of mother, of whichever character she happens to be. Her true self is when she is with Callum and that bit shocked me the most. I despised her for affecting so many people with her actions. Even when I got to the end, I never changed my mind about her. Powerful writing from Ruth Jones which kept me hooked long into the night.

She is a narcissist, unless it is all about her then she doesn’t really want to know. Callum on the other hand was portrayed as weak, he easily falls for Kate’s spell but whilst a flawed character he was the only one able to see what Kate was doing even if he was caught up in the middle of it all. I don’t deny he hurt people, but he could see what he had done – Kate on the other hand……

Of course with any great read, there are supplementary and supporting characters in the book and here they are just as well-rounded and thought out as the two main protagonists. The book is full of angst, of humour, strong emotions which cause upheaval for everyone and of course the age-old questions what if things had turned out differently.

I love this quote from the book – it sum’s the book up most perfectly and it makes you think:

‘We spend most of our lives wishing we were somewhere else or someone else, or looking forward or harping back. Always thinking the grass is greener on the other side. But it never is. It’s still grass. Just a different patch of it, that’s all.’

An excellent piece of writing from a debut author. I am always skeptical about actresses/famous people crossing over into writing fiction but Ruth Jones does this well. Clearly her ability to write sitcoms for television, create ideas and projects and characters transfers perfectly into fiction writing and if this is the quality of the writing then I want to read more!

Never Greener is out on 5th April in Hardback. 

Thank you to Alison Barrow from Penguin Random House for the ARC copy of the book. 

 

Books · Jottings

March Roundup

I just went back and read what I wrote about in the 2017 March Roundup, this line made me smile:

…… when so many lovely books have been appearing on netgalley. I am determined to get that feedback ratio to a better number!

Ironically I am still trying to do that, and I am so conscious of what I am asking for and also whether I am reading real books i.e. in my hand and not on kindle that nothing much has changed for March 2018!

I sort of set myself a task of reading a book from netgalley that has been downloaded more than 3 months ago, then one in the current 3 months and at last read some books of my shelves. Something makes me say I haven’t achieved this!

So what did I read – well thanks to netgalley I got Jill Steeples – Wedding Bells at The Dog and Duck, the third in the series. Having yet to read the second I of course had to go back to Jill Steeples – Summer at The Dog and Duck. I am not sure as to whether I am perhaps done with The Dog and Duck?

I revisited Castle Court for the third time Holly Hepburn – Stormy Weather at Castle Court. The more I read books in this serial format, the more I dislike them and so now I am trying to be more careful when I pick them as sometimes once you are hooked you have to keep waiting – though I rather think that is the point!

I did not mind going back to the Scilly Isles with Phillipa Ashley – Spring on the Little Cornish Isles: The Flower Farm. I think it is one place I would love to go to visit. In the meantime, the books bring the place to life for me.

I revisited Cornwall to catch up with Emma Burstall – Tremarnock Summer an author I have been following and reading for a long time – so now I am set up to read her next one.

No one likes visiting the doctor unless they have to but I could not resist making another appointment with Penny Parkes – Best Practice. 

I recognised the characters in Monica McInerney – The Trip of a Lifetime and it turns out I had read about them in a previous novel, which for me was much better than this one. As it was one of the last I finished in March, I was rather disappointed.

What I was not disappointed with was Ruth Jones – Never Greener. A real page turner, and I was always dubious about so-called ‘celebrities’ writing fiction. No need to be dubious on this occasion as it was excellent.

I have had Hazel Gaynor – A Memory of Violets on my shelf for a long while and decided I wanted something a bit more less contemporary and more historical. This book satisfied all this and I have discovered an author who I would like to read more of. Handy as I know I have one of her books on my netgalley to read list!

Something completely different was Rachel Dove – The Long Walk Back in a change from perhaps more women’s fiction that she is known for – this was a hard-hitting book, about war and the aftermath that it can create for those who are all affected by it.

Of course writing fiction about another fictional character seems rather absurd, but for some reason in Laurie R King – The Beekeeper’s Apprentice it works. This is the first in a series of books which feature Mary Russell and her tutor, a man you may have heard of: Sherlock Holmes. Not sure whether I will go back and read anymore but I know they will be enjoyable reads.

Lynne Truss – A Shot in the Dark was a good murder mystery somewhere in between the pages. A great sense of humour and irony in there somewhere, but it was not for me. It might be for you though.

And I ended the month, with a book that I have read before. Looking back I haven’t reread any books in over ten years or more. Notwithstanding revisiting childhood books. But I wanted to reread this one Mary Ann Shaffer – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. The film is due out in April and I wanted to refresh myself with the story. I am so glad I did, I laughed, cried and gasped in all the same places and had forgotten what a wonderful way letters can be in telling a story.

I read the book, long before this blog was created but I did review it for Amazon so look out for the review at some point in the coming weeks. I will endeavour to write about the film adaptation too.

So that’s it for March – more of the same for April I think.