Book Review – The Dark Circle by Linda Grant…

The Second World War is over, a new decade is beginning but for an East End teenage brother and sister living on the edge of the law, life has been suspended. Sent away to a tuberculosis sanatorium in Kent to learn the way of the patient, they find themselves in the company of army and air force officers, a car salesman, a young university graduate, a mysterious German woman, a member of the aristocracy and an American merchant seaman. They discover that a cure is tantalisingly just out of reach and only by inciting wholesale rebellion can freedom be snatched.
I was given an ARC by NetGalley in return for a fair and honest review.
The book starts out in post war London and we meet Lenny and Miriam. They are Jewish 18 year old twins working in London. There is a wave of growing anti-semetism that they have to face. Lenny is a brash character who likes the ladies and he loves his twin sister fiercely.
What we learn at the start is that there is a huge amount out ignorance surrounding TB. The treatments that were given at the time were on the verge of cruelty.
There is a strict regime at the sanatorium and for years it was never threatened. With the arrival of the new patients, things slowly start to change. You see that even in the face of strict control, there are those proud and brave enough to stand against it and fight for what is right for them.
The story has been reasonably well researched and the characters very well crafted. Definitely worth a read it really is.
A four out of five star read.
I am profoundly grateful to NetGalley and the Little Brown Book Group for my copy.

Book Review – Rather Be The Devil by Ian Rankine…

Some cases never leave you.For John Rebus, forty years may have passed, but the death of beautiful, promiscuous Maria Turquand still preys on his mind. Murdered in her hotel room on the night a famous rock star and his entourage were staying there, Maria’s killer has never been found.
Meanwhile, the dark heart of Edinburgh remains up for grabs. A young pretender, Darryl Christie, may have staked his claim, but a vicious attack leaves him weakened and vulnerable, and an inquiry into a major money laundering scheme threatens his position. Has old-time crime boss Big Ger Cafferty really given up the ghost, or is he biding his time until Edinburgh is once more ripe for the picking?
I was given an ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I’ve heard of Rebus and watched the TV show, but have never before read one of the books.
He is a gritty character who seems unable to let go of his life as a policeman. He is gruff but he cares a great deal about the people in his life. He is a strong protagonist who definitely gives the book a strong sense of realism.
As the story progresses, I feel like I have known Rebus and the other characters as well for much longer than I have. That is testament to the descriptive skills of the author. Everything is so alive.
The cases that are the backbone of this story are so cleverly woven together that they seem to become just one. As a newbie to Ian Rankine’s writing, I’m pretty impressed.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading his other work.
A five out of five star read.
I’m profoundly grateful to NetGalley and Orion for my copy.

An Open Letter To My Sons About Donald Trump…

A letter to my sons.
Hey boys. Your aged mother (well, I’m 44) needs to get this off her chest.
I’ve been a little bit upset since Wednesday. I’ve cried a lot and I’ve been very grumpy. Yes, I know. Grumpier than normal. That’s baaaaad right? There is a very serious reason for all of this. That cheese Dorito coloured asshat Donald Trump has been elected as President of the United States of America. That’s filled me with a sense of fear and disbelief.
Now, I’ll get a fair amount (if that many people read this) of abuse for telling you that I’m scared. Well tough. You are 18 and 16 so you are old enough to hear this and to cope with the occasional profanity that may come out of my mouth. You are my kids and I decide what I say to you, not some keyboard warrior with nothing better to do.
On the 9th November, we woke up to the unthinkable news that Donald J Trump had become the 45th president of the United States of America. I remember that I just went icy cold, started shaking and burst into tears. How could this happen? Everyone was so sure (myself included) that we would be waking up to the words “Madam President”. Yet against all the odds, the ever orange one with shares in L’Oreal hairspray had won.
Why did this happen? How could so many women, Hispanics, people of colour, Muslims, environmentalists and LGBTQ all vote for Trump? By their vote alone, Hillary should have romped home. She should have been tap dancing up the White House lawn. But this didn’t happen. Why didn’t it?
Here is one thing we know: Donald Trump, against all odds, will be the next President of the United States.

That’s a fact. How exactly it came to be is an open question. There will be dozens of books written about the real estate magnate’s path to the White House. From his trampling of the Republican primary field to a convincing electoral victory over Hillary Clinton after a shockingly nasty general election campaign, some could arrive in volumes.

1. He won because of Facebook and its inability or unwillingness to crack down on fake news

Via New York Magazine: The social network and others like it became a clearinghouse for fake news. Not simple partisan spin, but outright lies peddled as objective truth by shady actors both inside the US and abroad. 

2. Because of social media, generally

Via right-wing commentator Stefan Molyneux: The medium made the man — much as radio won the presidency for Franklin Roosevelt and television boosted John Kennedy, social media allowed Trump and his allies to drive the narrative.

3. Because of low voter turnout

Via multiple sources on social media: For a variety of reasons, from an enthusiasm gap to voter suppression, turnout in 2016 was lower across the board, but especially among Democrats. And it cost Clinton the election.

4. Because celebrity outlasts substance

Via Quartz: Trump’s name ID, celebrity and media-savvy overmatched Clinton’s policy acumen and data-driven turnout operation. 

5. Because of white women 

Via Slate: They were just as “racist” as their white male counterparts, with whom they identify more than women from minority groups. 

6. Because of white male resentment

Via The Nation: Forget economic anxiety — exit polls show people making the least money voted for Clinton — and focus on identity. The best evidence lies in Trump and his supporters’ calls to “take our country back.” 

7. Because of Russia after all?

Via The Washington Post: The Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said in an interview with state media that, contrary to Trump’s denials, “quite a few” people from his “entourage” have “been staying in touch with Russian representatives.”

8. Because the left and coastal elites shamed Trump supporters

Via The New York Times: The left has pressed on with an “ideology of shame” directed at the right, most notably now Trump supporters. 

In short: “The racism, sexism and xenophobia used by Mr. Trump to advance his candidacy does not reveal an inherent malice in the majority of Americans.”

9. Because rural Midwesterners don’t get out of the house enough

Via Patrick Thornton of Roll Call: It’s not just that elites are abandoning or ignoring Middle America — the “rural midwest” is doing the same, becoming more isolated and resistant to the diversity (of identity and thought) on the coasts.

10. Because the Democratic Party establishment didn’t push Bernie Sanders

Via The Huffington Post: By raising up Clinton over Sanders, the Democratic Party establishment (and its voters?) showed they favored the company and support of comfortable professionals over those beset by economic injustice. 

11. Because Reagan Democrats surged in Michigan and Midwest

Via former U.N. ambassador John Bolton: The so-called “Reagan Democrats” — white, working class voters who tend to lean Democrat but bend right for special candidates like Ronald Reagan and, now, Trump — are the story of this election. 

12. Not because of millennials

Via the Boston Globe: But do blame the media for focusing too much on them and not enough on the older white males who were the great, underreported story of 2016.

13. Because of Gary Johnson and Jill Stein

Via Vanity Fair: Clinton lost for lots of reasons, most notably the millions of voters who turned out for Johnson and Stein, thus denying the Democratic support she might have received in narrowly lost states like Pennsylvania. 

14. Because political correctness set off a nasty backlash

Via Reason: Trump’s promise to “destroy” political correctness, which has run rampant on college campuses and other more liberal enclaves, won him the culture war and, thus, the presidency.

15. Because he simply listened to the American people

Via right radio host John Cardillo: The political class (on the coasts) did not listen to or care enough for Middle America. Trump did. So he won.

16. Because college educated Americans are out of touch

Via the Alaska Dispatch News: Trump spoke to working-class voters, here mostly defined as those without college degrees, about the things they cared about: religion, liberty, marriage, sexuality, abortion and gun rights. And because “professorial sorts” who have spent time at universities drift into an “insular political culture,” their candidate was doomed to lose.

17. Because Americans are biased — but not against any race, ethnicity or gender

Via The Resurgent: The election was, simply, a referendum on the ruling class in Washington, D.C. None of the other issues, be they cultural or racial, came close to mattering as much.

18. Because voters believed the system was corrupt

Via The (UK) Daily Telegraph: Voters believed their political apparatus was corrupt and Trump was the only one who reliably affirmed that belief and promised to fix it.

19. Because he remembered ‘forgotten men, women’ of America

Via FirstPost: While Hillary Clinton held campaign rallies with Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Trump was out talking about the “forgotten” working class, which in turn exacted a “revenge” on the political elite by voting for him. 

20. Because Democrats focused more on turning out supporters than growing the base

Via In These Times: The party and the left “have given up/abandoned/lost touch with the working class” — as evidenced by their lame effort to persuade people outside their base. By focusing on them, Democrats ceded all else. 

21. Because the Democratic National Committee selected the less competitive candidate 

Via WikiLeaks on Twitter: The party tipped the scales for Clinton, thus “defeating the purpose of running a primary” and in turn denying Sanders, a better candidate, the chance to win.

22. Not because of racism

Via Bloomberg View: Never mind the backlash to the country’s first African-American president, this wasn’t about race in the slightest. If race were an issue, then Obama wouldn’t have won two terms and many of the states Trump himself prevailed in on Tuesday.

23. Because of Comey

Via USA Today: The FBI director’s decision to revive the Clinton email circus with a letter to Congress two weeks before Election Day killed the Democrat’s momentum and derailed her plans to finish the campaign with a more uplifting message. It also distracted from things like Trump’s comments in the “Access Hollywood” tape.

24. Not because of Comey

Via The Washington Post: Clinton lost because exit polls showed more than half of voters believed she was “corrupt.” And that was her own fault, not Comey’s.

Any one of these suggestions could be the reason that he won. It could be a combination of some or all of them. Whatever the reasons, I am sickened by the fact he won. Each and every person who voted for him ought to hang their heads in shame and disgust.

What we are saying by a Trump vote is that it is OK to verbally or physically attack someone because of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Bullshit! Fuck that!!! It is so NOT ok! It is not OK to yell racist taunts or touch a woman without her consent. It is not OK to put your hands on another person without their consent. Ever.

People tell me I have no right to be scared of Trump because I’m Scottish. Well excuse me for being afraid of a psychopath with the nuclear codes in his pocket. World peace is EVERYBODY’S business, it really is!

Why have I written this letter? I want you to know that it is OK to say HELL NO!!! It is OK to rage against the dying of the light. It is OK to fight back!!!

As I write this, people across the USA are protesting against Trump and his presidency. They are fighting back. What we have to do is stand with them. We have to speak out against Trump and do it globally!

If he builds that wall, then we have to be ready to tear it down.

I want you to read this and know that we will never stop fighting. All it takes for evil to prosper is that good men do nothing.

Love you boys.

Mum.x

Book Review – Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple…

Eleanor Flood is going to clean up her act, only change into yoga clothes for yoga, which today she will actually attend, and be a better version of herself. But then, as it always does, life…
Eleanor’s husband is missing, and their son, Timby, is wearing eye shadow to school and getting into fashion battles on the playground. (It’s true that it’s Eleanor’s fault: She did put makeup in his Christmas stocking.) Just when it seems like things can’t get weirder or more in the way of Eleanor’s personal transformation, a graphic memoir called The Flood Sisters surfaces, and the dramatic story it tells reveals long-buried secrets and a sister to whom Eleanor never speaks. 
I was given an ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. I just couldn’t get my head into it. I couldn’t warm to the main character and the plot was all over the place and impossible to pin down.
A one out of five star read.
I’m profoundly grateful to NetGalley and Orion for my copy.

Book Review – The Witches Kiss by Katharine Corr and Elizabeth Corr…

Sixteeen-year-old Meredith is fed-up with her feuding family and feeling invisible at school – not to mention the witch magic that shoots out of her fingernails when she’s stressed. Then sweet, sensitive Jack comes into her life and she falls for him hard. The only problem is that he is periodically possessed by a destructive centuries-old curse. Meredith has lost her heart, but will she also lose her life? Or in true fairytale tradition, can true love’s kiss save the day?
I was given the advance chapters by NetGalley in return for a fair and honest review.
The five chapters that I read were (sad to say) rather mundane and sadly not a very good advert for the rest of the book. Sorry.
A two out of five star read.

I’m profoundly grateful to NetGalley and HarperCollins UK for my copy.

Book Review – Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult…

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.
What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.
I was given an ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review…
I have never read a Jodi Picoult novel before as I have a violent allergy to chick lit. However, the premise of this book looked like it had slightly more back bone than her other dire efforts, so I wanted to give it a try and see it I was being unfair to her writing style or not. I felt, during the course of this book that I was being taught a “social lesson” about white supremacy and racism. If I want to be taught a social lesson about these subjects, I will read non fiction books. I don’t appreciate moral lessons in my fiction at all.
The story gives us the basic history of Ruth, our female protagonist and how she came into nursing.
Right from the off, I’m filled with a bitter dislike for the white supremacists in the story. I am a card carrying tree hugging hippy after all. I have admiration for anyone who tries to alert the world to the wrongness of the far right and their viscous prejudice. I have faced sexism in my job as a nurse but never anything like this. I learned to be a nurse in a predominantly Asian area of the country and was called “white bitch” many times. Racists are idiots no matter what their colour. I warmed to the female protagonist Ruth right away. She is a woman of strength and character. A woman who is fiercely proud and loves her son with all her heart and soul.
A combination of bitter grief and hatred forces Turk Bauer to take the actions he did after his son’s death. I tried hard to compartmentalise my feelings about his politics so that I could proffer sympathy, but I just couldn’t. Maybe that says more about me and my hatred of racism.
As the story moves along, we see the interaction between the characters in the courtroom and those related to the main characters. The story builds as the court case moves along. I find myself hating the coloured prosecutor almost as much as I hate the white supremacist characters involved. She seemed so cold and impersonal. Maybe that’s just a job thing though.
I found myself enjoying this book more than I thought I would, and the ending is a bit of a shocker.
Certainly worth a read
A four out of five star read.
I’m profoundly grateful to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for my copy.

Tiptoeing around chronic physical/mental health issues and pain…

Seriously. Enough already! People need to stop tiptoeing around these issues. I am quite open about the fact that I have severe physical health issues and also mental health issues. I’m very lucky to have a small, close knit group of friends who understand what I am going through because they, like me, have seen the film and got the t-shirt. They really help to keep me from losing it.

I can talk to them. Every single day we can talk about what ails us. We can talk about our pain safe in the knowledge that someone is going to be there to hold us up and give us the love and support that we need at any given time. With our mental health issues too. We can talk about our bogeymen and our demons without anyone judging or laughing at us.

Yet if we talk about any of those things outside of our group, then eyes get rolled and people tut. We are accused of moaning and complaining. We are told that we should suck it up and suffer in silence. People who do not understand will tiptoe around these issues and expect us to bury our complaints and tiptoe around the illness and it’s symptoms. Well hell no!!!

Enough already. People can bitch to the world that they have a cold and how ill they feel. Yet we must suffer in silence and on top of that, also sugar coat what we say so that it’s palatable for other people to swallow.

Enough. We should not have to hide how we suffer just to make other people feel better. Like now. I’ll tell you that it feels like all my muscles are wrapped in barbed wire and each and every one of my nerves feels like they have been dipped in acid. To cap it off it feels like little men with crowbars are trying to prise open my joints and I have a pride of lions chewing in my lumbar spine. That’s pretty much every day for me.

Oh, lets talk about the elephant in the room – mental health. I have just about clawed my way back from being on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I’m thinking about things and I feel so physically sick that my mind is fractured and shattered into thousands of tiny pieces. Paranoia haunts me. I feel like I’m a useless fat lump. I hate myself. PTSD from a lifetime of abuse from the two men who should have loved and protected me more than any others. That rages in my mind. Bipolar type 1 also rules me. But I have to fight as hard as I can. They will not beat me. Those men took my innocence but they will not take my life.

So anyone with chronic health issues, hear me. Be loud and proud. You don’t have to sugar coat how you feel to make other people feel better!