Random Bullet Points of Life

This is random bullet points of life 14. I thought for sure it’d be something like the 19th one.  Obviously I don’t do this sort of entry as often as I’d like.

I said I’d update this Sunday and I would have done but my internet has been mostly down since Sunday night.  So I’ve been relying on using my phone as a portable wifi hotspot and not online as much as I’d like. It’s frustrating because I’ve some online paperwork to do and I can’t.

I went sailing in the rain tonight. It wasn’t a good idea. Basically everyone who went out before they called it off was then soaking wet going “whose idea was this?!” I was pretty soggy afterwards.  I’m dry now but my chair isn’t!

I’m still not sure if I’ll get to sail in the regatta on Friday or not.  My dad suggested going to see on the off chance because we can have bacon sandwiches and talk to people even if I can’t sail.  Suits me. Plus, sausage chips and beans is the usual regatta lunch and that’s always good. I have informed everyone that should it be like it was today there will not be an Emma on the water but an Emma in the clubhouse reading her book.

After two months I feel like I’m getting used to my new CAB days.  I like working with different people on a Thursday for advising.  But I’m still not a fan on the Monday afternoon social policy session.  I always did that on a quiet day in the bureau and Monday afternoons are not a quiet day.  That said I think everyone who did Wednesdays misses them.

I got hit by an idea for a new novel on Friday night.  I’ve got about four and a half thousand words of it written now but I think I need to take an hour or two and sketch it out before I write more because I’m going to end up with half a million words if I don’t pin it down.  But it has got an awesome first line and a great working title.

My plan was that I wasn’t going to buy books in May.  I’ve not bought any books.  But I’ve had five books to review and someone else has lent me one.  Not having actually bought any has helped with the TBR pile of ridiculousness but staying off of netgalley would probably have been a good second step.

 

 

Written in the Stars by Ali Harris

(Yes, another book review. Yes, this is still meant to be a blog about more than books. I’m going to post something that isn’t about books eventually tomorrow. But my life lately seems to have revolved around doing boring run of the mill stuff and reading good books so why not blog about them and share the love?)

I received a free ARC of Written in the Stars by Ali Harris from NetGalley. It’s being published on 5th June.  I’ve read all of Ali’s previous books (Miracle on Regent Street, The First Last Kiss and A Vintage Christmas) – she’s another author that I first became aware of via book reviewing on my blog.  My review on Miracle on Regent Street is here and my review of The First Last Kiss is here.

Some background.  I finished reading and reviewing my previous book (Thirteen Weddings by Paige Toon) right before leaving for sailing on Tuesday night and was wondering what to read next when my friend came to pick me up.  I’d just decided that Written in the Stars was next and was looking forward to starting it.  But as soon as I started thinking about Written in the Stars I got the Elton John/LeAnn Rimes song of the same name stuck in my head and then spent the entire time I was on the water singing that song and then making myself stop.  It wouldn’t have been so bad but I mostly had the line “is this god’s experiment/in which we have no say” stuck and as an atheist in an environment of some very christian people it’s not good.  I’ve got the same bloody song/line stuck in my head as I write this.

Here’s the synopsis:

One decision + two different paths = how many happy endings?
Have you ever wondered ‘What if…?’ What if you’d taken that other job, gone on a date with that sweet guy, moved to a different city? Would an alternative life path have led to a happier ending?
Now imagine if you could have taken both paths…
When Bea Bishop slips while walking down the aisle on her wedding day, she is momentarily knocked unconscious. And in a flash, her world splits and two separate parallel lives take her on two very different journeys. In one, Bea flees back down the aisle and out of the church. In the other, she glides blissfully towards Adam, her intended.
Each path will take her on a very different journey. And each will see her life change for better and for worse. But which story will lead to her happy-ever-after?

On Thursday I saw one of my friends and we were talking of books.  I said that I was liking Written in the Stars but I suspected that Miracle on Regent Street would remain my favourite Ali Harris book.  I’d not got very far with it at that point.  But now I’ve finished it I’m really not sure.  I definitely enjoyed it more than The First Last Kiss (I mean, I loved The First Last Kiss but that was a real tearjerker) but I couldn’t actually decide which I preferred most. All of the books are great but very different from each other and I’d definitely recommend them all. Just don’t ask me which is best. I’m too indecisive for that.

I really enjoyed the use of facebook statuses to start each section.  It gave a snapshot into what Bea was thinking/feeling/doing as it started and the use of the two versions of her name (Bea Bishop for the bits where she doesn’t get married and her married name Bea Hudson for the timeline in which she went through with the marriage to Adam).  I’d thought it might be difficult to follow the changing perspective of the same character but that made it really easy and really add to my view of who the character was.   If I was going to mention something I didn’t like about this book I’d just have to say the fact it ended.  Not because it had a bad ending – it had a perfect ending but I was really enjoying it and didn’t want it to finish.  In fact I read for much longer this afternoon than I meant to because I wanted to know what happened.  This resulted in my flapping around the house in a panic trying to get food and a change of clothes and out the house in a much shorter amount of time than I really needed. But I didn’t really mind that.

This is actually one of the hardest reviews I’ve written in a long time.  Because I don’t do spoilers in my reviews.  And everything I want to squee about and say I loved is pretty much a spoiler for something in the book.  So perhaps the best I can do is say this may well be my favourite fiction book of the year.  And I’m very much looking forward to reading more by Ali Harris in the future.

 

Thirteen Weddings by Paige Toon

I received a free ARC of Thirteen Weddings by Paige Toon in exchange for this review.  It feels like ages since I’ve had an advance copy of a book and reading it was a lovely way to spend yesterday evening and this afternoon because not only is it a great book, it’s a great book not many other people have had a chance to read yet.  It’s out on 22nd May if reading my review tempts you.  This isn’t the first of Paige Toon’s books that I’ve read – two I’ve reviewed are Baby Be Mine and One Perfect Summer.  I have a couple of Paige’s other books including her new ish YA one waiting to be read and reading Thirteen Weddings has reminded me why I wanted to read them.

here is the synopsis:

Sometimes you have to step out of the light to see clearly again…
Bronte never expected to see Alex after their one night together, but she never stopped thinking of him. So when she arrives at work one day to find that Alex is a new colleague, she is secretly thrilled. The only problem is that Alex is now engaged to Zara, the girl he was on a break from the night they met.
Determined to move on with life, Bronte becomes a part-time wedding photographer, alongside her day job. Surrounded by loving couples, warring couples, tearful bridesmaids, mischievous pageboys and interfering mothers-in-law, she tries to navigate her way through wedding after wedding while her heart is being torn apart.
As Alex’s own wedding day draws ever nearer, Bronte and Alex’s chemistry becomes harder to ignore, and Bronte must decide whether to fight for the man she loves, or to let him go forever.

I liked Thirteen Weddings a lot because it was fun and a great book to switch off with after a stressful day yesterday.  I think every other Paige Toon book I’ve read I’ve done so cover to cover in one day and I really wanted to do the same thing with Thirteen Weddings because it drew me in so much.  I didn’t end up eating dinner until stupidly late last night in part because I just kept reading a few more pages before I went to make it.  But my kindle battery died which was very disappointing as I had to wait for it to recharge before I could continue. It was even more disappointing when one of my friends tweeted me that was what the kindle app on ipad is for and I realised I could have still been reading.  Unfortunately that was too late.  Such is the life of a bookworm. But I totally would have gone through this cover to cover in one evening if not for that.  It just would have been a ridiculously late night.  Worth it though.

One of the things I really liked about Thirteen Weddings was that it wasn’t predictable.  Every time I thought I saw where it was going I then changed my mind and decided something else was going to happen.  But at the same time I loved the way it ended and it felt right for me.  Another thing I really loved was a few of the characters from another Paige Toon book get a brief appearance and as I loved that book it was nice to catch up with them and see where they are now if you know what I mean.  I still want more though.  And I when Bronte was taking photos and talking about them I wanted to go onto facebook and see the sneak peaks she and Rachel were planning too.

This was such a fun good book and perfect for a sunny evening in the garden and a grayer afternoon lying on the bed as well.  I prefered the sunny reading however.

Perfect by Rachel Joyce

I received a review copy of Perfect by Rachel Joyce via NetGalley. I’m not compensated for this review beyond my free copy and this review is in no way influenced by the fact I was asked to write it.

Here is the synopsis:

In 1972, two seconds were added to time. It was in order to balance clock time with the movement of the earth. Byron Hemming knows this because James Lowe has told him and James is the cleverest boy at school. But how can time change? The steady movement of hands around a clock is as certain as their golden futures.

Then Byron’s mother, late for the school run, makes a devastating mistake. Byron’s perfect world is shattered. Were those two extra seconds to blame? Can what follows ever be set righ

OK so first I must admit that I thought the two second thing was a fictional joke and at the end of the book would turn out not to be true. It turns out however it’s real and since 1972 when they were first added 25 leap seconds have been added to our clocks. You can read more about that here. But my mind? Officially blown.

This is the first review I’ve written in a long time where I’m not quite sure what to say.  All the way through reading this book I was really liking it and thinking how good and powerful it was. This is Rachel Joyce’s second book.  Her first is The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry.  I’ve not read that and as I was reading Perfect I kept thinking “I need to read her other book really soon.” and wondering if I was right in thinking my Mum has read it (answer: I don’t know, I kept forgetting to ask her).

Mental health issues play a huge role in the plot and whilst the ones covered aren’t similar to my own struggles with depression and anxiety I did think they were realistic and I could relate to some of what the characters were going through.  For at least one of the characters in the book their mental health was very disabling and their experiences of being “different” don’t match mine in that my own disabilities are physical but bits rang a bell.  I must say that the need for disabled characters in books who are realistic, not the stereotypical object of pity, inspiration or the hero or villian is something I truly believe I need and something I’ve blogged about a few times before (probably more than a few times come to think of it).  There do seem to be a lot more books out there nowadays that not only attempt this but manage to do it and do it very well.  And I’m really, really pleased about that.  But it seems to me that the focus is solely on either autism or mental health problems.  Both are important conditions  and both should be included in fiction and films and the media because it does help to show that disability is just a normal thing that happens and doesn’t need to be hidden away or feared or pitied or whatever.  But I do wonder where they physically disabled characters are?  Where are the people like me?

When I got to the end of the book there was a big twist as there often is in a book.  I didn’t guess it and in fact I’m relatively confident in saying it’s so obscure I doubt anyone could.  I felt a bit put out by that twist though because it didn’t seem to do anything… and I’m not sure I understood what the point of it was.  So it’s a bit disappointing and has left me wondering if the message I want to give in this review is “this is a good book that I liked” or “the ending was so confusing I don’t think it’s worth reading.”  And I’m not sure if I do still want to read Harold Fry either because the internet rumour has it there’s a similar WTF twist in that.

Unwell by Marie Chow

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Unwell by Marie Chow.  She kindly sent me a free copy in exchange for an honest review.  I also had an interview with Marie which I posted in a separate post earlier today.

This is the synopsis from Amazon and I actually think Unwell is better than this makes it seem it will be: (I think I’ve read a different synopsis somewhere else maybe?)

How do you tell your child that you won’t be there when they grow up? UNWELL is the raw, honest story of a mother who writes to her unborn child, sharing her decision of choosing not to be a mother. She doesn’t choose abortion. Nor does she consider adoption. Instead, she decides to give her child a fighting chance in life, without the angst and drama that’s shaped her own bittersweet life.

With a poignant lack of emotion, the young mother shares her life story. As the child of Asian parents who moved to America early in her life, the mother shares how her life disintegrated after her parents’ divorce. From upper middle class suburban to sharing her mean aunt’s house to a one bedroom apartment in a shabby neighborhood, this mother endures the indignity that comes with the change of status. From her father’s absence to her mother becoming a married man’s mistress, her story reads like a tragic Victorian novel set in the 21st century, but that’s where the similarity ends—she is definitely not a shy country miss and she certainly did not take the easy way out.

I don’t usually leave long gaps between when I read a book and when I review it.  But I actually read this a couple of weeks ago during Dewey’s Readathon.  So I wrote a little bit about it in my update post for that.  I’ll try to expand on that in my review.

Unwell isn’t an easy book.  By that I don’t mean that it’s a hard slog you have to force yourself through but that it’s one that makes you think and covers different subjects so you can’t just skim and drift through it as escapism.  That actually is one of the best things about the book – the fact that it does that but still manages to be on that’s hard to put down and can be blown through in a short period of time (or at least it was for me).  Because this covers the main character’s life of diferent periods as she looks back on her life it changes in it’s feel as you read to represent this.  But it does it so well you almost don’t notice and it just feels right.

I was bugged by a couple of things in the book though – specifically that this is a book where we never find out the main character’s name (something which seems to be getting more common) and that we don’t find out what happens to the mother – is my feeling of what she planned to do correct or is it something else?  Often in my reviews I muse on the possibility of a sequel.  I have to saw in the case of Unwell I hope there isn’t a sequel because as much as I’m wondering and a bit bugged by the loose ends  I also really like that and I can’t help but feel going back would ruin it or at least make it lose the impact it had on me.

I noticed two things when I went on Amazon to get the synopsis and link

1) another reviewer had described it as unforgettable.  It’s not the word I would have thought to use but it’s definitely the right term to describe it!

2) it’s currently a really good low price and very very definitely worth it even if you’re not sure it’s the sort of book for you.

I wasn’t sure if Unwell would be for me when I first saw the blog tour but I thought it sounded intriguing and why not give it a go?  It then sat on my TBR for quite some time.  If I’d had any indication of just how much I’d enjoy it I wouldn’t have hesitated to ask for it and I’d have started reading as soon as I got it.

An Interview with Author Marie Chow

I was lucky enough to receive a free copy of Unwell by Marie Chow to review. That will be up later today. Marie was kind enough to answer some questions for me too. I have to post the review and the interview in separate posts to stop them being ridiculously long. And I got too distracted by facebook to get both sorted out before my lunch is ready! Ooops!

This is probably a tricky one but can you describe Unwell in six words or less?

 

In Memory of a Failed Life

 

Where did the idea for Unwell come from?

I had a moment of panic when I was pregnant with my first child. I wasn’t sure I was ready, I wasn’t sure I was prepared. I wasn’t sure I could go through with it. Options and thoughts that I had never once considered started to float through my head.
My moment of panic eventually subsided, and I am now the proud (and long-suffering) mother of two very spirited… toddlers. But the idea of being trapped by motherhood, of being unwilling to give up the part of your identity that does seem to get inevitably subsumed by being a parent, was an idea that stayed with me. Eventually, after marinating for long enough, it became this book.

 

 

Without wanting to spoil anyone who hasn’t read it, what’s your favourite part of the book? I really liked it for lots of different reasons but especially liked the bits where she talks about the writing class she took.

First, I’m so happy you liked that part! It’s near the beginning, where I made the biggest and deepest editorial cuts (about 30 pages from the initial introduction), and it was a huge internal debate for me, whether to hang onto that scene. In most ways, it really doesn’t push the narrative forward, but I felt it was a solid introduction to the protagonist, and I was just really attached to the Guy character.

 

My other favorite scenes are: the introduction to Barbara (yet another professor), and the very end.

 

 

I enjoy writing and was wondering if you have any writing tips for me?

I’m new to blogging, but one of my favorite guest posts I’ve done, originally entitled the Pros and Cons of Indie Publishing, really turned into what’s become a bit of a mantra for me: Quit or Commit! It’s been such a tough road: learning how to self-publish, trying to figure out this marketing thing, committing to putting yourself out there, and then realizing that even your best effort sometimes isn’t enough. I’ve had both wonderful and scathing reviews from strangers, people who said they loved it, but it disturbed them, people who thought they maybe hated it, but then weren’t sure. It’s been an up and down journey and I feel like the one thing I’ve learned is, you have to pretty much write through everything. The ups and downs of the actual process, the joy and agony of reading and receiving reviews, and everything in-between.

 

Since I know I’m not ready (or even able right now) to quit writing, I have to commit to the process: which means that I write a minimum of 2,000 words a day, even if it means starting a new project, even if it means sitting in front of my computer and listening to the same song on repeat until something, anything, starts clicking.

 

Is there something you’ve always wanted to write but haven’t yet?

I have something like 6 novels in progress. I know full-well which one I most want to finish writing, and it’s the one that I am struggling with the most. It’s set in a different time period, and the research required is immense. It was a story that was told to me (and that I was asked to write) and so the emotional burden there is also… intense. To distract myself, I’ve started a variety of other books and projects, but I know what my priority is, it’s just difficult getting there.

 

I absolutely love reading and would love to know what your favourite book is – I’m always looking for recommendations of things to read.

Margaret Atwood’s Blind Assassin*

Richard Russo’s Empire Falls

Jhumpa Lahiri’s short stories, specifically “Sexy” and “A Temporary Matter”

Tobias Wolff’s short stories, specifically “A Bullet in the Brain” and “Say Yes”

 

I see you’ve also written a children’s book.  Which was easier writing for children or writing for adults and which would prefer to do in future? Or do you hope to continue to do both?

What a great series of questions – I find it easier to write books for adults (and then edit later). For the children’s books, I either have an idea or I don’t! I don’t have an active children’s book I’m writing (though there are three that are “done” and just getting illustrated and I do have a young adult book). I would love to write

 

**Note from me: I’ve already read The Blind Assassin, I read it last year and really liked it so if you’re looking at Marie’s recommendations and thinking of trying one I’d suggest that one.  Not read any of the others yet 🙂

Hate isn’t Funny Part Three

It’s not really appropriate to call this post Hate Isn’t Funny part three because I don’t think it was really about hate just about clueless people not thinking things through properly.  But the two posts I wrote on the same subject in February were about hate and I called them Hate isn’t Funny so it feels right to use that title for this and continue the series even if it probably isn’t the best title for this particular anecdote. /end nonsensical ramble about blog titles.

Back in February I went to see Omid Djalili and his show was quite ableist and frankly in a couple of places full of hate.  I wrote about that in Hate isn’t Funny and then had some discussion with him via twitter which I wrote about in Hate isn’t Funny part two. That saga didn’t have the ending I wanted it to have but it had the best ending it was probably possible for it to have if that makes sense.

I’ve been to a couple of musicals since then and one comedy show which was funny and generally not noteworthy at all in terms of disability.

On Sunday my friend Angela and I went to see Showstopper – the improvised musical.  Generally I liked it.  For me personally it could have been better simply because they asked the audience to list several musicals which would influence the show.  The ones chosen by the audience were all older ones – none of which I’d seen and only one or two I’d heard of.  So several of the references went over my head which was a shame.  Angela said to me afterwards that one of the musicals she thought the cast didn’t know either. But the singing was good and I liked the improvised plot they came up with and how it ended up.

Every so often they would stop and ask how they should show they’d been influenced by  a particular musical and for one of the musicals (Tommy) someone shouted out a character should be blind.  So for the rest of the show one of the characters was pretending to be blind and frankly overkilling it and coming across and pretty damn ableist.  Amongst other things frequently nearly walking into the audience or props or whatever and having to be grabbed.  For about the first couple of minutes it was OK and then it got to be inappropriate and ridiculous.

Then it was the interval and they asked that people tweet them with suggestions of how the show should continue.  I tweeted:

 

This is somewhat made worse by the fact that a lady I didn’t know followed me and Angela into the lift to go down to the bar and heard me comment about the inappropriateness of the blind bit. She commented that she has a visual impairment and felt like she was being mocked. It’s not my disability so I didn’t feel I was being mocked personally but I thought it was a good description for what it seemed they were doing. We talked to her for a bit and did general interval stuff.

And then we went back in the show and they read various tweets out and continued on and it was mostly good but they really needed to kill the cripping up going on it the blind bit and kill it dead.

As we left and wandered out Angela’s route to her car and my route to my flat both taking us the same way for a couple of minutes I shared with her that I should probably blog about the incident and do something about it (more of a complaint) but I really couldn’t be bothered to. Because it felt like once again something I could fight and wouldn’t get anywhere and I’d waste energy on something unnecessary. Better to just decide that I didn’t want to see them again if they were going to be ableist was my thinking.

Then Monday afternoon I went on twitter and found this tweet in my mentions:

I tweeted them back to say thank you and I appreciated it. I included my email and a day or two later (I forget which day) I got an email from one of their team admitting that when they looked back at the show could see they got it wrong. They’re going to work on it in rehearsal I understand. I thanked them and made various comments including that it would have helped to just stopped the whole blind bit after a few minutes if they couldn’t include it in a more appropriate way.

This was never as bad as the situation I blogged about with Omid Djalili, it was always about someone working in a high pressure situation and getting it wrong and hurting people. And I’m more than pleasantly surprised by the outcome. I wouldn’t go and see The Showstoppers again anytime soon but I’ve taken them off my list of inappropriate shows and my list of shows I don’t want to see again – if they were back here in a year or two I might well go back.

There have been many times I’ve flagged up ableism in various circumstances and not got a good response or been fobbed off by token gestures after long complaints and huge effort. I’m really glad to see one small thing – one tweet – have a positive outcome. And even more glad to hear someone admit that yeah actually they did get it wrong.

But it also pisses me off.

Because why can’t more people do that?

Shades of Titanic

Sailing was rubbish last night and I wish I hadn’t gone.

But there were definite shades of Titanic to the evening.  Because by the end of the evening we had someone doing a “king of the world impression” and a boat with a hole in it.  Plus I swear I heard one of the kids who was also on the water singing part of My Heart Will Go On

Not such an equal “ism” #BADD2014

There is a project called Everyday Sexism.  It was started by a journalist on twitter.  It describes itself as

Documenting experiences of sexism,harassment and assault to show how bad the problem is & create solidarity.

I know of it through twitter (there account is @everydaysexism and the hashtag is #EverydaySexism) but they also have a website.  It’s had quite a lot of attention online and in the media and a lot of people are participating in it. The tweets on the hashtag are an interesting mix between the harrowing, the role your eyes and nod your head in frustrated recognition and a nice smattering of friendly support and community in a way that only twitter can do.  In short it feels like a brilliant project.  It’s not one I’ve participated in.  I have, as a woman, obviously experienced some sexism in my life.  But it feels to me as though ableism is a much bigger problem for me.  Because the comments I get about “needing someone to take care of me” don’t relate to my gender but to my wheels. Apparently my wheels are a more of a target for abuse and hate than the fact I own a pair of boobs.

Just in the last week I was asked by someone who knows me and my Dad where my dad was and when I said “he didn’t give me a lift this week” they demanded to know who was looking after me. Now they could have said “how come he didn’t bring you this week?” because he often does give me a lift or “oh so how did you get here?” but know I, obviously, needed to have someone looking after me and they had to know who it was. I’ve got both boobs and wheels I’m clearly helpless. Actually screw it as a wheelie the fact I’ve got boobs is probably irrelevant. I replied “I’m looking after myself. If you meant who gave me a lift then so and so did but she’s gone off to something else”  They didn’t seem to know how to respond.

 

A couple of weeks ago I was in a book shop and I spotted that there is now an Everyday Sexism book.  And that’s amazing.  The project deserves to be shared and a book like that can only help impact and bring change and share the project even further.  That needs to be celebrated.  And although I’ve not read the book, it’s one I’m very keen to.

There are several spin offs from the everyday sexism project.  One I’m following is Everyday Ableism (@everydayableism  and #everydayableism).  Again a good project and good discussions.  But not so much support from the press and hype about it.  Or at least not that I’ve heard.

I’m glad that my “ism” if you will – ableism – is getting more attention and talked about more.  I’m glad that it’s being thought and that things are improving.  But as I sat in Foyles looking at Everyday Sexism the book I couldn’t help but get a little sad.  Because no one’s going to take Everyday Ableism that seriously.  It’s not as important or as equal.

But it’s just as bloody painful.