Friday, 10 July 2020

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk - Kathleen Rooney

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
Description

She took 1930s New York by storm, working her way up writing copy for Macy's department store to become the highest paid advertising woman in the world.

Now it is the last night of 1984 and Lillian, 85 years old but just as sharp as ever, is on her way to a party. It's chilly enough for her mink coat and Manhattan is grittier but the quick-tongued poet has never been one to scare easily. On a walk that takes her over 10 miles around the city, she meets bartenders, shopkeepers, criminals, parents, and parents-to-be, while reviewing a life of excitement and adversity, passion and heartbreak, illuminating all the ways New York has changed - and endured.

A love letter to city life in all its guts and grandeur, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.

Based on the life of Margaret Fishback, a protofeminist and pioneering ad woman.

Review

I just listened to this book courtesy of my library. I found it by chance as I was looking for something else on borrowbox. Intrigued I decided to listen to an excerpt and straightway knew it was going to be a book I loved. Xe Sands who narrates the book has the best American accent, so suited to the character and her fast talking just brought the witticisms alive.

Lillian recounts her life back from the age of 85 in 1984 as she walks the streets of New York on New Years Eve. We get to hear about her moving into a new apartment building just finished in 1926. Her glimpses from her office window of the newly erected Empire State Building and all the new names they have for her beloved areas and streets of New York. We also get a glimpse of the 1980s New York, when it was battling crime and people were scared on the streets - but not Lillian.

The book is just full of witticisms, early on we hear about Olive who Lillian thinks, why would someone name their child after a cocktail accompaniment, when it is empty and bitter. She's a fast talking lady and she's also an accomplished copywriter. So she decides she and others should be paid the same as her male counterparts and I'll leave you to read (or hear) how that ends. As was the way back then when she becomes pregnant she has to leave her beloved job, maybe this is what starts her life to go on a spiral. Later she is invited onto TV to talk about advertising, when a bright young thing tells her, things have changed since her day and advertising means so much more than it did. To her credit she ups and walks out of the interview, not without saying her piece in a clear and succinct manner.

Listening to the audio really brought the book alive as Lillian likes to talk to whomever she meets whether they be chauffeur, bartender or shopkeeper. In the main they are all charmed by her in one way or another as is the reader. 

I'm really going to miss hearing Lillian's reminiscing.

I'm giving this audio version 5 out of 5 stars. 

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Outraged - Ashley 'Dotty' Charles




Description

Ours is a society where many exploit the outrage of others in order to gain power - and we all too quickly take the bait. But by shouting about everything, we are in fact creating a world where outrage is without consequence.

There is still much to be outraged by in our final frontier, but in order to enact change and become more effective online, we must learn to channel our responses.

This is the essential guide to living through the age of outrage.



Review

I don't think I was really the target audience for this book. My idea of outrage is more along the Victor Meldrew vein, and I never engage in outrage on Twitter. However, I did like the style of writing, certainly humorous whilst getting the point across. 

Mainly set around outrage on Twitter the book looks at people such as Katie Hopkins and Piers Morgan who often incite outrage and holds a telephone interview with Katie. She also looks at some past news stories and debates whether people are right to be outraged or not.

Only 176 pages so not an overlong read, although at times the same ground did seem to be covered more than once. At times thought provoking and definitely interesting to read the real life experiences of the author herself. 

I'm giving this book 3 out of 5 stars. My thanks to Pigeonhole for the daily staves to read and review.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Rodham - Curtis Sittenfeld


Really happy to be a part of the Random Things Tour for this book today.

Description

‘Awfully opinionated for a girl’ is what they call Hillary as she grows up in her Chicago suburb.

Smart, diligent, and a bit plain, that’s the general consensus. Then Hillary goes to college, and her star rises. At Yale Law School, she continues to be a leader— and catches the eye of driven, handsome and charismatic Bill. But when he asks her to marry him, Hillary gives him a firm No.

How might things have turned out for them, for America, for the world itself, if Hillary Rodham had really turned down Bill Clinton?

With her sharp but always compassionate eye, Sittenfeld explores the loneliness, moral ambivalence and iron determination that characterise the quest for high office, as well as the painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world ruled by men.

Review

‘Awfully opinionated for a girl’ was the quote that made me want to read this book. I'm not really into politics and certainly not those in the USA, but I was drawn to want to read this novel. My only concern for myself is that I recall the events in this book as fact in the future and doubts on my sanity would prevail!

The book begins with what actually happened - that is Hillary met Bill. It was so realistic that I actually thought I was reading an autobiography and had to keep reminding myself it was a work of fiction. 

Next comes what is essentially a sliding doors moment for Hillary. She doesn't marry Bill and we see her progress through her life, mainly on the campaign trail. It was these parts of the book I loved the most as it felt like real fly on the wall stuff. How her team protected her and discussed what she would say - novel or not, I had my eyes opened. 

Some of the book does have facts woven into it, albeit in an alternate history. When Bill Clinton does the famous 60 minute interview, this time Hillary is viewing it on TV, only with Bill and his wife where Hillary in real life by his side. As the book progresses Hillary ponders what would life have been like had she married Bill? It felt a little surreal at this point, as of course we know! I thought this was just genius writing by the author.

Some other hints of realism occur when Trump enters the book. I felt part of it sounded just like him and I think the author had lifted some of what he says from a real speech he gave. There was just enough of "entry level" politics that I knew what was happening, if you are more of a buff then there is a more depth too. I found I could just read the politics without too much comprehension of the whys and wherefores and it didn't affect my understanding of the book at all. 

I just marvelled at the autobiographical style of telling a story that is in fact fiction. There are many, many little details, that I kept thinking why would you think to include them, but they just made the book so real. So real in fact that at the end of it all I had a tear in my eye! To tell you why would be a spoiler, so just go and read it for yourself, it's amazing. 

I'm giving this fantastically crafted book 5 out of 5 stars.

Hardcover is out 9 July, the kindle version is available now.

My thanks to Random Things Tours for the invite to the book tour. Thanks also to Random House,Transworld Publishers and netgalley for the ARC to review.

About The Author:

Curtis Sittenfeld is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Prep, The Man of My Dreams, American Wife, Sisterland, and Eligible, and the story collection You Think It, I’ll Say It, which have been translated into thirty languages. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Washington Post Magazine, Esquire, and The Best American Short Stories, of which she was the 2020 guest editor.Her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Time, and Vanity Fair, and on public radio’s This American Life.


Thursday, 2 July 2020

The Wayward Girls - Amanda Mason

The Wayward Girls

Description

THEN
1976. Loo and her sister Bee live in a run-down cottage in the middle of nowhere, with their artistic parents and wild siblings. Their mother, Cathy, had hoped to escape to a simpler life; instead the family find themselves isolated and shunned by their neighbours. At the height of the stifling summer, unexplained noises and occurrences in the house begin to disturb the family, until they intrude on every waking moment . . .

NOW
Loo, now Lucy, is called back to her childhood home. A group of strangers are looking to discover the truth about the house and the people who lived there. But is Lucy ready to confront what really happened all those years ago?

Review

This book was chosen by a virtual library book club I've just joined, meaning I haven't chosen the book myself. It seemed like an interesting read, so I thought I would give it a go.

The story flips between "Then" which is 1976 and "Now" which is present day (whenever that may be). Most of the time the flip between the timelines was ok, and it is certainly headed up in the chapter. However, I still found myself getting a little confused, until I hooked onto the fact that Loo is now calling herself Lucy but she is also called Lucia in 1976. Too many names.

I do have a pretty vivid imagination so when the strange goings on ramped up in 1976 I did wonder whether it was the right book to have read before I went to sleep. I found these scenes the ones with the most life about them, they were well written and a little scary. 

Slowly ties between 1976 other than Loo/Lucy emerge and I wondered if a secondary story was about to present itself. More information about what happened in 1976 is forthcoming from Loo/Lucy and the plot thickened. 

I found it an ok read. I'm giving it 4 out of 5 stars. My fellow bookworms didn't really seem to warm to this one. 



Sunday, 28 June 2020

The Hunting Party - Lucy Foley

The Hunting Party: A Must Read for all Lovers of Crime Fiction and Thrillers, from the Author of Best Sellers like The Guest List by [Lucy Foley]

Description

EVERYONE’S INVITED.
EVERYONE’S A SUSPECT.
AND EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT IT.

Ripping, riveting’ A. J. Finn
‘Clever, twisty and sleek’ Daily Mail
Unputdownable’ John Boyne
Foley is superb’ The Times
Chilling’ Adele Parks
‘Terrific, riveting’ Dinah Jefferies

In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.

The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.



Review


It's taken me a while to get around to reading this book. I initially didn't buy it because of all the hype and some comparisons to Agatha Christie, which I couldn't believe it would be as good as her work. Well I was wrong! Move over Agatha Christie this is the best writing I have read that could really knock Agatha Christie off the Queen of crime throne.


The books has a set of characters that are as unlikeable as you are ever likely to meet, certainly all together at one time. From privileged backgrounds in the main, this is certainly similar to an AC novel. Why do you hate them all so much? Because of the wonderful writing and character development.


The book begins with the party of friends arriving in Scotland for the New Year. It also tells the back story of two of the employees of the estate they are to party at. Flipping between present (a shifting timeline) and before the murder we get to see the story unfold from different perspectives. 


It was a slow starter, but once the tension rose it was so hard to put down, in fact I didn't, I just kept reading and was so engrossed. 


I'm giving this book 5 out of 5 stars.  

Thursday, 25 June 2020

The Last Wife - Karen Hamilton

The Last Wife: The addictive and unforgettable new thriller from the Sunday Times bestseller by [Karen Hamilton]

Description

Two women. A dying wish. And a web of lies that will bring their world crashing down.

Nina and Marie were best friends-until Nina was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before she died, Nina asked Marie to fulfill her final wishes.

But her mistake was in thinking Marie was someone she could trust.

What Nina didn't know was that Marie always wanted her beautiful life, and that Marie has an agenda of her own. She'll do anything to get what she wants.

Marie thinks she can keep her promise to her friend's family on her own terms. But what she doesn't know is that Nina was hiding explosive secrets of her own.

Review

This was a book with so many twists and turns. I changed my mind several times throughout reading the book about what was happening and who was doing what. 

Initially I had very little sympathy for Marie, could you trust anything she told you as she was the narrator of the story and a self confessed liar. It was quite scary the way Marie had decided that she wanted Nina's old life and the means she used to get it.

As the story progressed and other lies were revealed (or were they lies, if Marie was lying...) it began to get really intriguing and a real puzzle. Soon it becomes apparent that Marie may be not the only liar. Will Marie regret wanting what she thought was a perfect life? 

The writing was well paced and whilst you may not like the characters this is certainly a slice of life that I will remember. I'm giving this book 5 out of 5 stars.

My thanks to Pigeonhole for the daily staves and the chance to read along with Karen.

The Cat and the City - Nick Bradley


Description

A stray cat dances through Tokyo, connecting a group of apparent strangers, in this inventive literary debut.

In Tokyo - one of the world's largest megacities - a stray cat is wending her way through the back alleys. And, with each detour, she brushes up against the seemingly disparate lives of the city-dwellers, connecting them in unexpected ways. But the city is changing. As it does, it pushes her to the margins where she chances upon a series of apparent strangers - from a homeless man squatting in an abandoned hotel, to a shut-in hermit afraid to leave his house, to a convenience store worker searching for love. The cat orbits Tokyo's denizens, drawing them ever closer.

In a series of spellbinding, interlocking narratives - with styles ranging from manga to footnotes - Nick Bradley has hewn a novel of interplay and estrangement; of survival and self-destruction; of the desire to belong and the need to escape.

Formally inventive and slyly political, The Cat and The City is a lithe thrill-ride through the less-glimpsed streets of Tokyo.

Review

It's hard to believe that this is the author's first book or that it is not in fact written by someone who is Japanese. The writing is just brilliant and certainly evoked memories of my trip to Japan. I have to say I never visited the seedy side of Roppongi district in Tokyo so I can't vouch for that, and some may find some of that side of the book not to their taste.

When the author wrote this book he would have no reason to doubt that the Olympics would not be going ahead in 2020 and so you do have to go along with the references of Tokyo preparing for the Olympics and people flying in for them.

Seemingly full of short stories, as you begin to read further into the book one or two of the characters are repeated and so you start to see the connections. The main connection throughout is of course the cat in the city. My only trouble was the mixed up time line - when you meet the characters again it could be before or after you last read about them. I almost want to read it again and really get to know them all better.

I loved the part about the American translator and it was so clever the way her footnotes were built into the tale she translated. I also loved the "cat scan" and could sense where that part of the story was heading. 

The book does contain a lot of Japanese words - most of which I was familiar with and got the "jokes", but don't let that put you off as the story flows without knowing what they mean. It even contains a bit of manga, which I found difficult to read on the kindle. 

I'm giving this book 4 out of 5 stars. My thanks to netgalley for the ARC to review.