Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell

I received a free copy of Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell to review on this blog.

From the No. 1 bestselling author of THE ONE YOU REALLY WANT comes a poignant romantic novel about a young woman whose time is running out. Not to be missed by readers of Jojo Moyes and Erica James.

Jill Mansell’s enchanting new novel will drive readers to seize life with both hands and make the most of every minute…

Hallie has a secret. She’s in love. He’s perfect for her in every way, but he’s seriously out of bounds. And her friends aren’t going to help her because what they do know is that Hallie doesn’t have long to live. Time is running out…

Flo has a dilemma. She really likes Zander. But his scary sister won’t be even faintly amused if she thinks Zander and Flo are becoming friends – let alone anything more.

Tasha has a problem. Her new boyfriend is the adventurous type. And she’s afraid one of his adventures will go badly wrong.

THREE AMAZING THINGS ABOUT YOU begins as Hallie goes on a journey. A donor has been found and she’s about to be given new lungs. But whose?

Here are Three Amazing Things about me:
1) I had a brilliant day catching up with a friend yesterday
2) I was completely and utterly blown away by The Royal Albert Hall and Cirque du Soleil
3) I read this book almost cover to cover whilst on the trains and then finished it when I was home.

OK so those are three amazing things about my day yesterday really. I was very intrigued by the three things idea in this book and might have a think about what my three things actually would be.

I think the most important thing for me to say in this review is: this is a book about a disabled character. But Hallie is not a token crip, she’s more than her disability. And it’s done very well. If you’ve ever heard me rant about the lack of books with disabled characters let alone ones in meaningful roles you’ll know how happy that made me.

This was a lovely book to read and despite its subject matter I didn’t find it sad at all. It did feel poignant at several points and as though you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. Because one of the characters is Hallie’s donor and every so often in the book something would happen and I’d wonder “is this it? Have we got to the transplant? Is this character the donor?” I got invested in the characters but I almost didn’t want to.

Sometimes chicklit has a reputation as being fluffy and light and completely lacking in substance. And that’s definitely true of some books. It’s not true of Three Amazing Things About You which is fun and enjoyable and very definitely chicklit but which has substance and punch and the ability to cover a very sensitive subject in just the right way.

I believe

On Saturday I wrote about our attempts to go see Dirty Dancing in December.

I was going to write about it but then I had another story to share (this story) and I needed to mention in passing the Dirty Dancing disaster. And I ended up writing so much that it took over the entry.

So we tried and failed to go see Dirty Dancing. And then there was much discussion about whether we would try and go see it somewhere else. It had already been to Milton Keynes so that was out.  It’s still to go to Birmingham Hippodrome however. But some of the group point blank couldn’t afford to pay for train all the way to Birmingham and a theatre ticket. And others weren’t bothered about going particularly if it involved the trek into Birmingham (just about an hour and ten minutes from Oxford, roughly two hours from here by the time you’ve waited the twenty ish minutes it usually is between the trains).  Looked like this wasn’t going to happen.

“Arse.” thinks I.

Disappointing but not much I could do.

Then I went to Birmingham and met up with my friend Rachel.  We’ve been friends since my first year at uni and used to meet up regularly. It had been about three years since we last saw each other. One of the things we’ve done there before is go to the theatre.  And Dirty Dancing is one of her favourite films.

“Hmmm… I wonder.” I thought as I remembered that fact while sat on the train..

And after discussion whilst wandering The Bullring and emails once we were back in our respective homes a plan was born.  Eventually the “Get Emma to Dirty Dancing” plan was back on in a very different form.

So I found myself phoning Birmingham Hippodrome.

It took a while to negotiate their various press this for whatever and 2 for that menus and then I found myself on hold.

The hold music was the soundtrack to Shrek the Musical.  I went to see that in Oxford in November otherwise I’d have suggested Rach and I try for that as well as Dirty Dancing.

I love singing along to music.  And I was really excited about the possibility that I really would not only go but actually see Dirty Dancing this time – the Hippodrome has two lifts so broken lifts shouldn’t be a problem there. So I wasn’t really paying too much attention but I was enjoying the Shrek soundtrack as it’s one one I own and sort of vaguely quietly singing/humming along without really thinking about it.  “I believe! I! Believe!” and the like.

Then the call answered and I stopped before they heard.  Tickets booked and an email winging it’s way to Rachel then on with my day.

Until I remembered that at CAB it always used to be the case (and may still be but I haven’t done phone advice in several years since they changed the system and it became a specific skill) that when we put the phone on hold the person on the other end couldn’t hear us but we could still hear them.

Yes. That might not have been my finest moment.

I’ve decided to not care and just focus on the “yay! going to see Dirty Dancing.”

But it’s not a mistake I’ll be repeating.

(and for the record the many times since then I’ve had various songs from Shrek blasting out via YouTube and sung along were not mistakes. Even though my upstairs neighbour is probably now well aware of the fact that I’m a believer).

 

Self Care Sunday

I’m beginning to suspect that starting up these Self Care Sunday blog posts again was a mistake.  I don’t feel like I’ve got a lot to say and stopping to think about it can get stressful.

But actually I think I have still done things this week that are self care.  Little things not really worth mentioning but worth doing perhaps? I can’t remember what I wrote here last week but I think it might have been something similar to this.  Next week may well turn out to be a week with more self care because of what it’s planned to involve.  That doesn’t help me with what to write this week though.

Since I last updated about my writing I’ve written a couple of thousand words of my novel which is a good thing and much better than the 0 it had stood at for the few weeks before.

I continue to fill a jar with things to remember about this year. Sometimes I have a default obvious thing to write and others, like today, I don’t seem to have anything. Today’s might well end up being I read fanfic all afternoon. But I’m about to force myself offline and go do some knitting so that might change yet…

And earlier this week I managed a 50 minute session in my standing frame.

Ignoring the negative things I want to write like “I have spent entirely too much time online this week” I think that’s all I’ve got to say on the subject of Self Care for this particular Sunday.

Attitude is Everything

This is the story that didn’t get blogged at the time it happened.  I’ve told several people and I’ve posted snippets on facebook and twitter but I never shared the full story here.  This isn’t really the full story because it misses out the rude questions and inappropriate suggestions and the stress involved.  I wasn’t going to blog it at all but I have another story I wanted to share and it’s easier to explain that if I post this – but they are very different so I’ll post the second one in a few days in a different entry.

In December a group of us were supposed to go and see Dirty Dancing for my birthday.  Two attempts and ridiculous access fail to do with a broken lift and frankly appalling staff attitudes meant we didn’t get to see it.  I spoke with many people and sent several emals and phone calls but it wasn’t to be.  I was really upset.especially because the theatre staff appeared to think that it was my choice not to see the show (they had an alternative access suggestion but it was incredibly dangerous and not safe for a powerchair user – although they deny this)

Ever since I went to uni fighting access battles has been my responsibility.  My family and friends sometimes support me to do so if I need them to, sometimes I don’t need that support and sometimes they suggest I should let things go.  But I’ve always been the one doing the fighting.  And with this particular battle I hit the point of “I can’t get through to them” I was going to leave it, never go to that theatre again because it seemed to me as though they were viewing having a lift as a luxury and I was very much getting the impression from what they were saying they didn’t plan on fixing it (although they never actually said “we’re not getting this fixed”).  My mum however wasn’t having it.  She’s sent many other emails to the staff there.  And I left her to it.    It’s been really weird for me not knowing what’s going on with a complaint but I didn’t have it in me.  The fact that this, finally, is the one thing that has my mum taking over rather than suggesting I leave it is also a sign of how serious and frustrating it is. It’s been a month and I’m not sure but I think she’s also given up on them having not been successful at making them see the point.*

Which is that you can’t put a moveable ramp on a flight of seven steps and then take a powerchair down it safely.  The safety mechanism will kick in and kill all momentum if I even thought about trying to drive it down it. So it would have to be freewheeled (taken out of gear and manually pushed) down.  But it weighs 15 stone by itself. And it doesn’t have a braking system when in freewheel.  Even when we pointed those two facts out they were adament it would be fine and they’ve done it before – they’ve got strong guys. I personally believe trying to do so would have a very high probability of going wrong and had it done so would likely have killed me – seriously injured me if not.

My friends and carers and I went to the theatre several times whilst I was at uni in Stoke.  I’ve been to the theatre a few times a year in the ten years since I came back from uni. Often in Oxford, sometimes elsewhere (Reading, London, Birmingham, Milton Keynes) and many more times a year since the arts centre opened in Didcot with it’s cheap tickets and carers go free.  But that theatre was the one we went to most often. I got on the train every few months and made that journey – got off the train wandered up through town, often via waterstones if we had time to kill, sometimes a stop at Sainsburys for a cheap bottle of water and a chocolate bar and then on to the theatre.

And now it’s somewhere we can’t go any more.  I’m no longer welcome.  I was upset not to see the show.  And I was upset that my friends and family didn’t see it either – I felt I’d let them down (although I know they didn’t want to see it without me).  It feels like a big part of my life has been taken away.

I don’t like it.

Earlier this week I was at a CAB meeting. People were there from many different bureaux and I was talking to someone who worked at a different bureau.  She asked me what the hardest thing to deal with about being disabled is.  And I said “people’s attitudes.”

I mostly said that because her attitude had annoyed me.  I’d just met her and she had asked me personal questions about my disability. I don’t mind answering if they have a point like they have a disability too or have a newly diagnosed friend or family member and are wondering if we share a diagnosis. But really “have you always used a wheelchair?”  and the like should not be your opening the conversation questions if we’ve not met before.

The thing is though as much as my response about attitudes was because I was annoyed with the person asking it is the truth.  Because the sad fact is the biggest problem with what happened with the theatre wasn’t that the lift was broken.  It was the attitudes of most of the four staff I dealt with and their responses to me.  Because those attitudes are what’s making it unsafe for me to go back to something I’ve loved and do it as often as I used too.

 

 

*Actually, after I wrote this I talked to Mum and she said the theatre told her the lift has been fixed.

Self Care Sunday

I’m sure there are plenty of things I’ve done this week that can be considered taking care of myself but mostly all I can think of right now is I took a nap this afternoon and I’ve got a dinner in the oven I’m looking forward too.  I’m still quite sleepy to be honest.

I have in a miniscule way eaten slightly healthier this week. But lets not pretend that my diet could ever be called actually healthy.

Oh and I’ve had my Just Dance 2015 out and used it on several days so that’s exercise. Plus, three uses of the standing frame.  Although the standing frame is very definitely physio and not exercise. Physio is important.

This is quite a disjointed blog entry to be honest but sometimes days and weeks are like that and that means the blog entries about them are too.

I’ve just remembered what it was I was going to write about for Self Care Sunday.

Today is the second day this week I’ve been a homebody and chilled rather than going out.  That’s unusual for me at any time of year. It’s even more unusual at this time of year when the always present fear of bad weather leaving me housebound for several days exists Tuesday I was home mostly because of the weather, today because I had nowhere to go and kept thinking “I’ll go for a wander in a bit” and never made it out.  It got to 4pm and I was on the phone to mum. She pointed out if I was going for that wander I should go soon before it got dark. I admitted to myself that leaving the house wasn’t going to happen because I just didn’t want to and went to bed instead.

Too early in the morning to blog safely

This was going to be a random bullet points of life blog entry but reading it back I think it’s probably not.

I think this is likely to be the only blog entry this year that I start writing before  9 in th morning. Usually if I post a blog before say, 10 am, it’s because I wrote it in advance and scheduled it in advance.  However this one is coming to you live you could say.

Judging by how many typos I’m making and the sentences I’ve had to rewrite to make sense it’s probably a good job I started my writing today with my blog and not my novel.  I also had a much better sentence in mind than “However this one is coming to you live you could say.” it was basically that sentence but with a different ending. By the time I got to the point of writing it it was gone.

I’m waiting for a repair to my flat which is why I’m blogging this early – usually I’d only just be getting up at this time on a Friday.  And unlikely last Friday it’s actually today they’re coming.  Although I still swear when they called me they said they were coming last week.  But the paperwork says differently.

This would be the paperwork I didn’t read properly until after I spent the entire morning wondering just when they’d get here.  It’s also a bit of an example why as a CAB adviser my advice is more “do as I say” not “do as I do”.  But no one that knows me well is surprised by that.

Writing is going well but I do need to be doing more on my novel than anything else.  I’ve been writing a lot of articles which is brilliant but it’s not my novel and that’s a priority this year.  Now I’ve written that I think maybe I mentioned that in a blog entry last week? And after checking I see I did, last Friday.  Here’s a promise to be back here next Friday writing the opposite!

When I went to the Books and the City Creative Writing Masterclass I met some great people, several of whom I’ve kept in touch with.  One of them, Heidi-Jo Swain, has a writer’s blog. And she invited me to post on there about my writing resolutions for the year.  Thinking and writing about those was a very useful exercise for me and I’ll probably update here about my progress with them next week too.

 

Ivy Lane by Cathy Bramley

Yay! First book review of 2015.  Also my first finished read of 2015.  Not my first book – I’m in the middle of a very long, very good book and an audiobook but I needed to read something on my Kindle to save carting a nearly 700 page paperback on the train to Birmingham.  And I had an advance copy of Ivy Lane by Cathy Bramley from the publisher (via NetGalley) for review.  It turned out to be a very good choice.

Ivy Lane was first released as an ebook only in four sections – Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter –  one every few months over the last year.  The complete novel is being released as both a paperback and an ebook in February (the ebook slightly before the paperback)

From spring to summer, autumn to winter, a lot can happen in a single year . . .
Tilly Parker needs a fresh start, fresh air and a fresh attitude if she is ever to leave the past behind and move on with her life. As she seeks out peace and quiet in a new town, taking on a plot at Ivy Lane allotments seems like the perfect solution.
But the friendly Ivy Lane community has other ideas and gradually draw Tilly in to their cosy, comforting world of planting seedlings, organizing bake sales and planning seasonal parties.
As the seasons pass, will Tilly learn to stop hiding amongst the sweetpeas and let people back into her life – and her heart?
A charming and romantic story certain to make you smile – perfect for fans of Carole Matthews, Trisha Ashley and Katie Fforde.

I loved Tilly as a character.  In fact I loved pretty much all of the characters in Ivy Lane.  And I really enjoyed the book.  It kept me happily occupied on the journey to and from Birmingham and interested enough that when I got home I put it down long enough for the five minute roll (powerchair) from the station to my flat and to make a sandwich before picking it up agaijn and finishing it off.  So much for my planned night lazing in front of the telly (well, I did get some of that in after I finished it).

I kept hearing about Ivy Lane as each of the installments came out and thinking I should get them and give them a go.  I read Cathy Bramley’s first book Conditional Love late in 2013 (that link goes to my review) and liked it so I thought I’d like Ivy Lane and was keen to give it a read.  But I never quite got round to buying the installments.  And now I think that was probably a good thing because it’s a brilliant book and I enjoyed it a lot.  However each of the installments ends on a bit of a cliffhanger type moment and frankly I think having to wait ages for the next bit to come out would have driven me crazy.  I’m not a huge cliffhanger fan, much better when all you have to do is turn the page to resolve it.

Ivy Lane was a fun read and although in one or two places I thought “I wonder if this is what’s happening…” I wasn’t always right and even when I was it kept me guessing.  Whcih is good! Sometimes I think I’ve read too many books and am becoming jaded about them and writing reviews. Not this one.

Cathy Bramley’s next book will be Appleby Farm it’s also going to be released as a serial. And the main character of it was a minor character in Ivy Lane.  I’m looking forward to reading that and hoping we might find out a little about what happened next to Tilly and some of the other Ivy Lane characters along the way.

Self Care Sunday

A weekly moment to stop and think about what I’ve done in the past seven days that could be considered taking care of myself.

This week I think self care has been about friends. I’ve been feeling for a while that I’m a bit lacking in friends. One or two have moved away over the last few years, others I’ve lost touch with or otherwise don’t have contact with. Drifted away, that sort of thing.  I’ve been thinking about ways I might meet some new friends but I’ve also been trying to keep in touch with those old ones too.

I finally remembered to text one of those drifted friends and see if she wants to meet up.  We used to see each other every week at a regular activity but since the summer it’s only been two minute chats in passing if we bumped into each other. I’ve been telling the others who go that I was going to text her and check in but then I’d get home and forget… So I’m pleased I finally remembered

I’ve started making arrangements to meet up with a friend for coffee later this month. She’s one of those who used to live here but moved away. I’m going to be in her part of the world with my mum for the day and I won’t have a lot of time but I’ve come to the conclusion I can leave home a little early and we can have a drink and a catch up for an hour or so before Mum and I dive off to the part of the city we’re visiting.

Ever since I’ve had this powerchair I’ve been putting off going to Birmingham because I wasn’t sure if I could get my chair on those trains (if the ramps would be too steep and cause the safety mechanism to kick in which stops me tipping the chair on steep things by killing my moment).  I’ve practically (next month) had this chair three years.  And that’s meant I’ve not seen some of my old uni friends for three years – because we all used to get the train and meet in Birmingham.  Then I was out of the habit and….

I sucked up my courage and made plans to meet one of them.  I was quite unsure if it would work with the train issue and the weather was windy and horrid and it’d been so long since we met I didn’t feel much like it early yesterday morning when I had to leave the house.  But I went and I got on the train with no problems (if you ignore the bit where I nearly injured a child when I was half way up the ramp onto the train and her dad let her run in front of him down it).  I wandered around the shops for an hour until my friend’s train got in then went back to the station (it’s only a couple of minutes away) to meet up.  We got pizza and chatted loads, wandered around the shops a bit, went to starbucks, chatted more, wandered around some more (neither of us bought anything though) and then went back to the station and went our separate ways.

She said she was just as unsure and not keen as I was. We had a brilliant time and it wasn’t awkward at all. It’s a bit cliche but it was like we’d just seen each other the day before.  And we don’t have a definite date to meet again just yet but we’ll be back in Birmingham meeting up again in a few months I think – if things work out we’ll be seeing Dirty Dancing which is the musical I tried to see for my birthday in December here in Oxford when access fail rather spectacularly put paid to that.

I feel pretty good this week.

 

Emma, Elsewhere

I’ve been doing lots of writing lately.  Lots of writing in places other than this.  So I thought I should probably come and share a few links here.  There are a couple more articles I’m waiting to be posted and at least one I’ve yet to write.  It’s all good writing wise so far this year but I really need to write some of my novel as I’ve not touched that since I think the day after New Year’s Day.  I don’t want to turn down blogging or writing opportunites but I may need to find some balance between those and novelling.

Before Christmas I spent some time writing for Disability Horizons which resulted in a Boxing Day – 10 Things To Do If You’re Bored.  I’m obviously very late posting that link here on my blog but some of them are probably still relevant on a bored day anytime of year.  The one about pimping a mobility aid with Christmas decorations probably isn’t though.  Unless you’re going to a fancy dress party dressed as a Christmas Tree.

I did that once during my a’levels. I forgot (or never got round to sorting out, I can’t remember which) that we were supposed to be having a fancy dress thing during our weekly general tutorial session. It was December and at the last minute – practically as my taxi to college arrived and I was going out the door –  mum sent me off with a bag of Christmas decorations. Once I got there I chucked a load over me and my chair, called it done and told everyone I was a Christmas Tree.  I won one of the prizes too.  If memory serves however the person who won over all had dressed up as one of the tutors.

Anyway, I should get back on topic.

I’ve started doing a memory jar this year.  It’s interesting but having decided that I’ll put something in there for everyday I did flounder a little bit for what to put yesterday. I suspect that might be the case on mundane average days fairly regularly but I want to do the jar and when I stop to think about it I can usually find something worth remembering fairly quickly.  I wrote about the idea for the jar and why I’m doing it over on the Greener Soha blog.

Finally (for now) a while ago a few people on twitter set up a blog for writing about the Social Model of Disability.  I agreed to contribute and then within a few days forgot about it (which, judging by the blog everyone else did too – or they’ve not had anything to say).  It’s called No, That’s Not What The Social Model of Disability Means.

Anyway recently I was reading a post on a disability group and getting a bit annoyed about what they claimed about the social model.  Which made me remember that blog.  I’ve not written about that incident yet – I keep changing my mind about whether I should.  But I have reposted something I wrote and posted here late in 2013 about the models of disability – Quick and Dirty Disability Theory

 

Self Care Sunday

I promised myself I’d make more of my blogging this year.  And one of the things I wanted to bring back (again, I think this will be the third time) is Self Care Sunday.  Where I take the time to focus on the good things of the week and what I’ve been doing to take care of myself.

I’ve had a good day today. I slept late.  Later than I expected to be honest. I got up at at 8 for the loo and a drink and expected to just doze a bit for an hour or so.  But I fell deeply asleep again for three hours (I was having really bizarre dreams about travelling and my brother was in one and I think my Nanny might have been).

And I’ve been chilling, doing some writing, reading a good book and hanging out online.  I’ve mostly been chilling since the New Year in fact although I did go into Reading shopping.  Didn’t get much but I did treat myself to a very yummy cooked breakfast.  I think I might make that a monthly treat.

I feel a lot more relaxed and better than I did at the end of last year.  But I’m not sure I’m ready to go back to CAB and all the other routines of daily life tomorrow.  That could just be because I have a ridiculously busy week coming up.

Self care this week has been easy but I think it might be trickier in the week that’s coming up…