Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

I received a copy of Florence Grace by Tracy Rees to review as a part of Quercus Summer.

Florrie Buckley is an orphan, living on the wind-blasted moors of Cornwall. It’s a hard existence but Florrie is content; she runs wild in the mysterious landscape. She thinks her destiny is set in stone. But when Florrie is fifteen, she inherits a never-imagined secret. She is related to a wealthy and notorious London family, the Graces. Overnight, Florrie’s life changes and she moves from country to city, from poverty to wealth. Cut off from everyone she has ever known, Florrie struggles to learn the rules of this strange new world. And then she must try to fathom her destructive pull towards the enigmatic and troubled Turlington Grace, a man with many dark secrets of his own.

Florence Grace is, for me, one of the books that makes book blogging great.  It’s on the face of it a very me book and I really enjoyed it.  But I don’t think I’d have discovered it if I hadn’t been sent it.  Although I like historical fiction a lot my tastes tend to run a little later (post 1900 usually). So I could easily have missed this and I’d have missed a brilliant read that I found hard to put down.  Seriously I spent an entire Saturday morning  in bed finishing this. I got up a couple of times for the loo or a drink and each time I was like “I’ll get dressed and go do my shopping and finish this later.” and each time I ended up back in bed reading more.

One of the best things about this book was it’s twists and turns.  At least twice I was absolutely convinced I knew what was going to happen.  And I was wrong each time.  But it still ended in a way that I loved and thought worked really well.  If you read one historical fiction book this year you wouldn’t go wrong with Florence Grace.

At the moment I’m really trying to make a big dent in my TBR pile of ridiculousness.  It’s mostly going well.  I think reading Florence Grace will cause a bit of a slip up though – Tracy Rees has written another book and I’m a little bit tempted.


Wheeling on Broken Glass

I have solid tyres on my wheelchairs. It’s one of the key things I insist on in a wheelchair. I’ve not had a chair with air tyres since my first year at uni and I’ve never had a powerchair with air tyres.  I know a lot of people aren’t keen on solids and find them uncomfortable but I’ve never noticed any difference between comfort of air or solid tyres.

Mentally however it’s huge.  I feel safe with solid tyres and it’s not something I have to worry about.

I remember the last time I got a puncture in a wheelchair really clearly.  I was at uni (in my first year) and we were leaving the students union late one night when I must have caught some glass or something and it punctured. Disaster.

My carer found where it was and my housemate (who was a full time powerchair user) let me borrow her manual.  The disability coordinator popped round the next morning and patched it for me with a repair kit. And off I went along with my day. Then it went again a little while later. He came back and changed the inner tube.  And off I went along with my day.  But it blew again.

And I think it went for a fourth time before I called my GP at uni in despair and begged the receptionist to find out for me who the NHS wheelchair repair contractor was for the area.  I’d not needed them since I’d moved.  She called me back, gave me the number and told me she’d already spoken to them and an NHS wheelchair tech was on his way for an emergency call out.  He replaced the whole tyre (in fact I think he replaced both tyres) and then I really was off along with my day with no problems.  Apart from the fact it’d taken the whole day and a lot of being rescued.

I had a reassessment for a new wheelchair not long after that.  And the one thing I didn’t have to think about was the suggestion that I have solid tyres – I never wanted to have a puncture ever again.

The loan chair I have at the moment has air tyres however.  And they make me really anxious.  I spent the first several days I had it keep wondering if I’d got a puncture and stopping to check (I’m not sure what the point of it was).  I’ve got over that now.

But all I keep noticing is just how much broken glass there is all over the roads and the paths.  I’m completely horrified by it and seem to have developed the ability to hone in on the smallest spec from several metres away.  And yet, the rational part of me is sure when I stop and think about it,that there isn’t any more broken glass around than there was when I had my own chair with it’s solid tyres.

Being back on a pair of solid tyres isn’t the thing I’m looking forward to the most about getting my new powerchair.  It’s definitely top 5 though.  And I’m looking forward to not worrying about wheeling on broken glass.

Geek Girl: Sunny Side Up by Holly Smale

I’ve now reviewed so many of the Geek Girl series of books by Holly Smale that I should probably set up a “geek girl” category on my blog.  What can I say? I love them.

“My name is Harriet Manners, and I am a geek.”

A brand new summer story from the no. 1 bestselling and award-winning GEEK GIRL series!

Harriet Manners knows many facts.

And she knows everything there is to know about Paris… except what to do when you’re the hottest new model at Fashion Week.

Can Harriet find her je ne sais quoi or will it be sacré bleu! on the runway?

Find out in this hilarious summer special GEEK GIRL novella from the no. 1 bestselling author Holly Smale.

This is going to be a super short review because I’ve raved about these books on my blog so many times before.

Sunny Side Up is a Geek Girl special.  It’s a novella and fits between books four and five in the series.  I really enjoyed it the same as I’ve loved all of the other books in the series.  But I think I may have enjoyed it more had I read it before book 5 as I was a little confused when one or two things that happened in book 5 hadn’t happened yet.

After reading this book I want to go to Paris and see some of the things Harriet did (never mind the fact that I don’t know if they’re open to the public and at least one of them definitely wouldn’t be wheelchair accessible).  Letting Harriet loose in Paris was a genius move.  Madcap, hilarious and just plain geeky with a side of tourist thrown in.  And you know Harriet makes an excellent teenage tourist.

I was sad with this being so short we didn’t get to see Harriet’s Dad very much as he’s a character that cracks me up.  But I loved getting to go back to the world of Geek Girl for a vist.  And as always, I can’t wait for the next one.

Can You Read Without Prejudice?

A few weeks ago on twitter I started hearing about a concept called Read Without Prejudice.  This is a book being made available to bloggers (and publishing 1st October). It doesn’t have a title and the author is given as anonymous. It doesn’t have a cover and it has a two line synopsis:

There are two points in life when we are all equal: at the moment of birth and at the moment of death. It is how we live in between that defines us.

As the publisher put it “We want you to immerse yourself in this dazzling novel, free from any preconceptions that a cover, title or author can bring. We ask you simply to #readwithoutprejudice.”

I was really intrigued by this concept and immediately requested a copy on NetGalley.  And within the first few pages I was hooked.

But it turns out I can’t, actually, read without prejudice.

I started to think that I’d read books by this author before and when I googled it turned out that author is published by the same people as read without prejudice.  I suspected it had to be a well established author you see.  Someone else told me they thought it was the author I did as well.

And then my reading got interrupted right as I hit a rather predictable twist in story.  I suspected I could see where it was going and couldn’t be bothered to pick it up again.  If it was the author I thought it was I’d read loads of their books and they were one of my favourite authors for years before I started going off of them because they all started to feel a bit samey.

It turns out my guess as to the author was correct – for as much as this is being marketed as “anonymous” I saw on twitter that the copyright notice at the back gave the author’s name so I looked. And immediately thought “I knew that’s who it was.”

I would like to pick this up again and finish it because the beginning was so great and powerful. But I know I wouldn’t have picked this up had it been published as by <authors name> as opposed to by anonymous.  And that’s putting me off a little.

As a concept I love it.  But I’m really surprised how much figuring out who wrote this has changed the book for me.  I thought reading without prejudice would be easy. And I really wish I could have made it all the way through before I realised because I think I’d be here raving about it rather than feeling “meh” and trying to get round to finishing it.


It’s not what you say

As a wheelchair user there are certain comments, questions, and even jokes about my disability and/or being a wheelchair user that I hear often.  And that’s sort of OK.  I’m used to it and over being bothered by them in most cases.

People (strangers) will ask why I’m in a wheelchair, have I been disabled long, that sort of thing.  Sometimes I answer, sometimes I ask why they want to know.  That usually depends on whether they take me by surprise or not and how feisty and argumentative I’m feeling. And answers to my replying “Why do you want to know?” tend to be interesting too.

But this week I’ve been thinking a lot about how the thing that makes so much of what’s said to me inappropriate isn’t what was said but how and what was said and also when it was said.

Someone I’d just met noticed I have a problem with my feet – which it’s true I have a very noticable problem with my feet and the fact the loan powerchair footplates are in a weird position is probably making it more noticeable.  The comment they made was “that’s a very interesting problem you’ve got with your feet.”  It made me really annoyed.  Now, had that been phrased as a question like “Do you mind if I ask what’s wrong with your feet?” or “my so and so relative has lymphodema is that what you’ve got?” (it is) I would have found it more acceptable.  My condition being described as interesting was not. It’s a judgement and a hint of entertainment (in reality I suspect it was made from a place where the other person was uncomfortable with the situation and trying to make small talk)

And then on another day this week I heard someone else make a comment in a different situation. One I hear variants of all the time.  It’s a jokey one but it’s old and it’s no longer funny (not that it really was in the first place…).

It’s not a comment that’s meant to be ableist but it ends up being so because as a friend pointed out yesterday an able-bodied person would never hear it made to them.

It’s the suggestion (made usually as I reverse my powerchair) that I need to get one of those things that beeps as lorries reverse installed on my chair.

I usually just want to roll my eyes and suggest that said suggestion is a bad idea.  Would they like to be sharing a hotel room with me at two in the morning when I need to get up for a wee and my chair has a reverseing beep? Strangely they always say no.

I’m deliberately not mentioning where I was.  But what I will say was a it was a long, difficult and upsetting day.  And the person who made that comment (complete with actual beep! beep! beep!ing for the first time ever) was there in an official professional capacity and knew that is a situation which everyone finds upsetting.

It really wasn’t the time or place for any form of joke.  It even more so wasn’t the time or place for a disability joke and as I said to another friend I can’t decided if it’s horrific that it happened or if it’s so hideously inappropriate and not funny that it’s become a little bit funny.

A lot of the time I can deal with the comments that people make.  But it would be a lot easier if they realised that they so rarely are new or funny and there really is a time and a place for them.