Month: July 2016

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman (3/5)

Posted July 29, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman (3/5)Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
Published by Spiegel & Grau on 2010
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs, Social Science, Penology
Pages: 298
Format: Kindle
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NOW A NETFLIX ORIGINAL SERIES * #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER   With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187-424--one of the millions of people who disappear "down the rabbit hole" of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman's story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison--why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they're there.   Praise for Orange Is the New Black   "Fascinating . . . The true subject of this unforgettable book is female bonding and the ties that even bars can't unbind."--People (four stars)   "I loved this book. It's a story rich with humor, pathos, and redemption. What I did not expect from this memoir was the affection, compassion, and even reverence that Piper Kerman demonstrates for all the women she encountered while she was locked away in jail. I will never forget it."--Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love   "This book is impossible to put down because [Kerman] could be you. Or your best friend. Or your daughter."--Los Angeles Times   "Moving . . . transcends the memoir genre's usual self-centeredness to explore how human beings can always surprise you."--USA Today   "It's a compelling awakening, and a harrowing one--both for the reader and for Kerman."--Newsweek.com

I’m a huge fan of the Netflix TV series of the same name, so I was keen to read the original book which sparked the OITNB craze.

This is a good read. You can definitely pick out characters from the TV show from the book – although some names have been changed. The Piper in the book is even more privileged and princessy that the one from the Netflix series, and although prison is not an experience you would choose to go through, she does seem to have a relatively easy time of things.

It’s an easy read, but it ends very suddenly which left me surprised. I suppose in real life you don’t have the luxury of scripted cliff-hangers, and being so closely associated with the TV series, you kind of expect more from the book.

It’s a good read. But I think I’ll go back to re-watching the series on Netflix!

Buy me the Sky by Xinran (1/5)

Posted July 26, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

Buy me the Sky by Xinran (1/5)Buy Me the Sky by Xinran
Published by Random House on April 7th 2016
Pages: 320
Format: Kindle
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"'Fast-paced and punchy ... accomplished' Independent With journalistic acumen and a novelist's flair, Xinran tells the remarkable stories of men and women born in China after 1979 - the recent generations raised under China's single-child policy. At a time when the country continues to transform at the speed of light, these generations of precious 'one and onlies' are burdened with expectation, yet have often been brought up without any sense of responsibility. Within their families, they are revered as 'little emperors' and 'suns', although such cosseting can come at a high price: isolation, confusion and an inability to deal with life's challenges. From the businessman's son unable to pack his own suitcase, to the PhD student who pulled herself out of extreme rural poverty, Xinran shows how these generations embody the hopes and fears of a great nation at a time of unprecedented change. It is a time of fragmentation, heart-breaking and inspiring in equal measure, in which capitalism vies with communism, the city with the countryside and Western opportunity with Eastern tradition. Through the fascinating stories of these only children, we catch a startling glimpse of the emerging face of China."

Xinran is a somewhat obvious choice for completing “X” on my 2016 Author A-Z challenge, but it’s an author whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Buy me the Sky, Xinran’s investigations on China’s “one child policy”.

This book follows the first generation of only children, to see what impact the policy has had on their family life. However, without exception the stories turned out to be detailed exposés of selfish children, their ineffectual parents, and how Xinran could sweep in at a moment’s notice to save them both. The stories were formulaic and I have to say that by the time I got 60% of the way through the book, I had given up.

Personally it would have been more interesting to follow the second generation of only children. The ones who were truly alone without aunts, uncles or cousins. I’m sure this must have changed the dynamic even further. But this wasn’t a book I could get into – despite my love of all things China.

I’m Still Here by Clélie Avit (5/5)

Posted July 26, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

I’m Still Here by Clélie Avit (5/5)I'm Still Here by Clélie Avit, Lucy Foster
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on July 14th 2016
Pages: 304
Format: Hardback
Source: BookBridgr
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A modern-day Sleeping Beauty story of love and hope, for fans of Jojo Moyes.
Elsa has been in a coma for five months. With all hope of reviving her gone, her family and doctors are having to face the devastating fact that it might be time to turn off her life support... They don't realise that in the past few weeks Elsa has regained partial consciousness; she knows where she is and can hear everyone talking around her bed, but she has no way of telling them she's there.
Thibault is in the same hospital visiting his brother, a drunk driver responsible for the deaths of two teenage girls. Thibault's emotions are in turmoil and, needing a retreat, he finds his way into Elsa's room. Seeing her lying there so peacefully, he finds it hard to believe she is not just sleeping.
Thibault begins to visit Elsa regularly. As he learns more about her through her family and friends, he begins to realise that he is developing feelings for her. And when he talks to her, he can't help feeling that she can hear his every word...
For Elsa, his visits are like a breath of fresh air. Here is finally someone who speaks to her as if she is a real life person. Who makes her laugh. And who gives her something to fight for...
And so begins a love story that might just save both their lives...
Biographical Notes
Clélie Avit was born in 1986 and grew up in Auvergne. She went to school in Lyon before becoming a physics and chemistry professor. She is also a dance teacher.

This is a fantastic book. I would give it 6 stars if I could!

I’m no great fan of soppy books like the recently heralded Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, to which I gave 2 stars out of 5 when I read it at the start of the year. The emotion was sorely lacking for me in that book and I found it tedious and dragging.

I’m Still Here could not be further from that. This is the first book of Avit’s to be translated from her native French to English and it is a stunning book. The characters are warm and engaging, and the ending had me literally holding my breath and racing through the pages to find out what would happen.

Elsa is in a coma after being caught in an avalance. Thibault is in the same hospital visiting his brother who was hurt in a drunk driving accident after killing two teenagers. Thibault can’t help but thing it should be his brother in the coma, not Elsa.

No-one realises that Elsa can hear what’s going on. And although she’s still caught in the coma in every other sense, her ability to hear means she starts to form a bond with Thibault during his visits.

This is a beautiful book which is extremely well written and translated. I cannot praise it highly enough and would recommend it to anyone who likes a warm love story. In the future Moyes’ books should come with a “For fans of Clélie Avit” recommendation on the front!!

A worth 5 out of 5, and a contender for the best book of the year.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Posted July 24, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

The Princess Bride by William GoldmanThe Princess Bride by William Goldman
on 2nd May 2013
Genres: Action & Adventure
Pages: 336
Format: Kindle
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A tale of true love and high adventure, pirates, princesses, giants, miracles, fencing, and a frightening assortment of wild beasts — The Princess Bride is a modern storytelling classic.
As Florin and Guilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchmen, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this dazzling adventure, she’ll meet Vizzini — the criminal philosopher who’ll do anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik — the gentle giant; Inigo — the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen — the evil mastermind behind it all. Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup’s one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate.

As part of Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge I had to read a book published in the decade in which I was born. For this challenge I chose The Princess Bride by William Goldman, published in 1973 – the year I was born.

I’m afraid this comes under the same category as Stardust by Neil Gaiman for me – LOVED the film … HATED the book!

I’m not much of a fantasy reader – so maybe that’s why? But I just couldn’t engage with this. Even the characters I so love in the film seemed flat and uninteresting on the pages. I also couldn’t get into the back-and-forth, narrator/editor style of the book. The epilogue/additional content (Buttercup’s Child) was also unnecessary and didn’t add anything to the story for me.

I know I’ll probably get hung, drawn and quartered for a 1* review of this favoured classic. But I do love the film – honest! The book just left me flat.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (3/5)

Posted July 23, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (3/5)Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Published by Ballantine Books on October 11th 2016
Pages: 480
Format: ARC, Kindle
Source: NetGalley
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Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years' experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy's counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other's trust, and come to see that what they've been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.
With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn't offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

I received this book as part of Hodder Books’ #readwithoutprejudice promotion where the title and author was obscured, meaning I had no idea who the author was while I was reading it. I have to say when I found out it was Picoult it wasn’t hugely surprising as the storyline is great and the characters are engaging, like so many other of Picoult’s books.

The story follows the life of Ruth, a respected midwife who is faced with the ultimate test when a white supremacist couple come to her ward expecting their first baby. When things go tragically wrong, Ruth is in the firing line. But is it because of her race? Or is it because of something she did?

This is a great criminal thriller. I must admit it took me a second attempt to get into it as it didn’t grab me straight away. If it hadn’t been for the #readwithoutprejudice promotion, I’m not sure it would be a book I would pick up from the shelves. But that said, I did enjoy it and fans of Picoult are sure to devour this latest offering when it’s released.

How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (1/5)

Posted July 20, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (1/5)How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Published by Random House on 2012
Genres: Humor, General, Social Science, Ethnic Studies, African American Studies
Pages: 312
Format: Paperback
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Selected by Emma Watson for her feminist book club âe~Our Shared Shelfâe(tm)
It's a good time to be a woman: we have the vote and the Pill, and we haven't been burnt as witches since 1727. However, a few nagging questions do remain...
Why are we supposed to get Brazilians? Should we use Botox? Do men secretly hate us? And why does everyone ask you when you're going to have a baby?
Part memoir, part rant, Caitlin answers the questions that every modern woman is asking.

This book … where to start?!

Well – I’m doing Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge and item 19 says “Read a non-fiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes.” … so here I am.

What a load of drivel!!!!!!!!!

I started working in a very (very!) male dominated area in the late 1990’s. I was one of only two women in my intake, and used to have clients who would decide they were only speaking to my (exceedingly junior) male counterpart rather than me because they were men (ug) and men (ug) didn’t speak to women (ug *beat chest*). Funnily enough – I not only had to deal with it ™, I had to “deal” with the fact that I was one of only two women in my intake and I had to “deal” with the fact that all the men wanted to (and did) bugger off to the local strip joint to “talk business” while me and the other “girl” were left out. It happened. I dealt with it. It didn’t stymie my career.

Amazingly – I also managed to do all this without a book TELLING me “How to be a woman” *roll eyes*

I was never going to like this book, but I was fully prepared to dislike it less than I was expecting. I have to say for the first half, Moran pretty much managed the brief. Don’t like getting Brazilians?! Don’t get one!! It’s not exactly earth-shattering, but hey ho, maybe some women need to be told it’s OK to have something “down there”.

But then, in the second half, it started to wander. The chapter on fashion confused me!

I’m not being a proper woman, I think, staring at my wardrobe

(p197) I started to wonder if I’d missed something. Am I *not* a “proper” woman because of how I dress?! Who decides such ludicrous things (and can I have a copy of the “rules”)?? Followed (weakly) by the chapter “Why you should have children” which seemed very apologetic for the mere fact that a woman may want a child. Followed by the equally apologetic chapter on “Why you shouldn’t have children” which was written (from what I could discern) only to balance the previous chapter, but with no sympathy for a woman who was in either position (wanting to have a child and not being able; or having a child they didn’t want).

Then there’s the inexplicable diatribe on Katie Price who she seems to dislike purely because she is a female entrepreneur, making her own way in the world. Albeit in a manner to which Moran disapproves. But after chapter upon chapter of “do what you want to do” messages, it seems that’s only valid when “do what you want to do” meets Moran’s guidance on what is acceptable.

Believe you me, I am no huge fan of Katie Price. But you have to admire someone who can make a multi-million pound living from nothing. If men have a predilection to pay for what she’s offering, and she’s happy to offer it, who’s to say it’s wrong?!!

I was somewhat relived to discover that I DON’T need a book to tell me “How to be a Woman”. I just feel slightly sorry for those who do!

The Short Drop by Matthew FitzSimmons

Posted July 19, 2016 by Babs in Book Review / 0 Comments
The Short Drop by Matthew FitzSimmons

I chose this as one of my Kindle First picks, and I’m really glad that I did. This debut author has produced a fantastic tight-knit, political thriller, which was pretty unputdownable once I got into it. If I had any criticism it would be that the ending dragged just a little too much. But overall this […]