Book Review: How To Own The Room by Viv Groskop

How to Own the Room

Viv Groskop has been on my radar for years.  Initially as the person who told me what to read in Red Magazine each month.  Then we had our 3rd children within weeks of each other and exchanged messages on social media about that.  (I had children 2 and 4 within days / weeks of Victoria Beckham, but she was a much less communicative pregnancy twin, although clearly we looked practically identical………)  I’ve always made a conscious effort to seek out Viv’s writing and podcasts (most recently for the dearly departed ‘The Pool’).   I was therefore aware she’d written this new book ‘How To Own The Room’ but had decided it wasn’t really relevant to my day to day life anymore (fool!) as I no longer have to do big presentations or sales pitches as I’d done in my previous working life.

Then my Nan died.

This did not  prompt a Damascene moment, when I decided I should try my hand at being a stand up comedian, or start giving Ted Talks – but I volunteered, as eldest of my sisters,  to speak at the funeral.  I have a 2 minute slot (strictly policed, as we will be fined if we run over at the crem) and I need to make sure I say everything without just weeping – so I was hoping for some advice from Viv’s book.

Here’s the blurb:

“Most books about public speaking don’t tell you what to do when you open your mouth and nothing comes out. And they don’t tell you how to get over the anxiety about performance that most people naturally have. They don’t tell you what to do in the moments when you are made, as a woman, to feel small. They don’t tell you how to own the room. This book does. 

From the way Michelle Obama projects ‘happy high status’, and the power of J.K.Rowling’s understated speaking style, to Virginia Woolf’s leisurely pacing and Oprah Winfrey’s mastery of inner conviction, what is it that our heroines do to make us sit up and listen – really listen – to their every word? And how can you achieve that impact in your own life? Here’s how.”

 

And I wasn’t disappointed!  It was funny, informative, empowering, brilliantly written and really inspiring.  I liked the clever idea of bringing in a different public speaker into each chapter*.  Having just read Michelle Obama’s autobiography I was intrigued by that chapter and how Viv interpreted her changing speaking style over her husband’s tenure and as she gained experience.

But I also liked that the book was very much about finding your own voice – so JK Rowling has a very different, but still effective style to Mrs Obama – and then Angela Merkel is different again.  Even if you don’t speak German, you can guess she’s not going to be wise cracking her way through speeches – but speaks with an organised, calm, in charge demeanour.  I need to find a Mrs Merkel speech on Youtube to notice the finger temple Viv refers to as well!

There’s also practical help.  From power poses (to be done in private in advance of speaking, I don’t plan to be stood at the front of the crematorium like a power hungry politician!) to breathing through your feet.  Viv also talks about practicing loads (which I have done, and made my youngest sister cry on the phone when I practiced on her!) And also about recording yourself to watch yourself / listen to yourself back.  I haven’t done this as yet – and know I will be shocked at how Brummie I sound……

Similarly there’s practical advice about the structure of a speech.  My 2 minutes opens with a joke (Viv actually says a funeral speech is the one time you wouldn’t be expected to do that – but I think it will be fine!), has three themes and then a conclusion.  I am such a teacher’s pet………

Whilst I have memorised my 2 minutes (actually about 1 minute 50 seconds in case there are any LOLs from the congregation) I have it printed out as a security blanket.  Having recently attended Nan’s brother’s funeral – I know I, along with everyone else in the church, was willing his son and Grandson to get through their speeches without breaking down – and I know that it will be the same when I’m stood up there, that the other attendees will want me to speak well and are all there because they loved my Nan – but being prepared is also fundamental.

All in all, reading ‘How to Own The Room’ now has been perfect timing for me – but I can see how it could impact on so many areas of life.  There is the expected public speaking or work presentation – but I also think it would be really valuable at other times.  From a personal point of view I can imagine using the techniques when trying to have a forceful conversation with utility suppliers (admittedly somewhat niche, but the bane of my life at the moment) or to stop getting tearful at my kids’ parents’ evenings (not sure I will ever stop that happening – but I will try!)

I would thoroughly recommend that everyone reads this – female or male.

 

* since the first of January, Viv has been posting on Instagram her room owning women of 2019.  Some of them are from the book itself – but many are not, and are totally diverse.  It is totally worth following her Instragram for this alone.  I *may* have got quite excited the day that Tea Leoni (Elizabeth McCord in Madam Secretary) featured and brain dumped all of the facts I know about her………  And there’s a definite Brummie bent, with Jess Phillips and Malala (adopted daughter of Birmingham) featuring thus far! Some women I know of already, some are revelations and new heroines – but all are interesting and thought provoking.

 

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Book Review: Little Liar by Lisa Ballantyne

Little Liar

I spotted this book on Netgalley and applied to have an advanced review copy (although I am slightly confused by the dates – as they said it would be published in May 2019, but it appears to be on sale on Amazon already??) Anyway – it looked an interesting read – and the author has previously been on Richard & Judy’s bookclub lists – so I downloaded it to read.

Here is the Amazon blurb:

The accused
While Nick Dean is enjoying an evening at home with his family, he is blissfully unaware that one of his pupils has just placed an allegation of abuse against him – and that Nick’s imminent arrest will see the start of everything he knows and loves disintegrating around him.

Because, mud sticks, right? No matter if you’re innocent or guilty.

The accuser
When Angela Furness decides that enough is enough – she hates her parents, hates her friends and, most of all, despises what has recently happened at school – she does the only thing she knows will get her attention: calls the police. But Angela is unaware that the shocking story she is about to tell will see her life begin to topple.

Because, once you’ve said what you’ve said, there’s no way back, right? No matter if you’re innocent or guilty.

In a gripping tale of two families torn apart by one catastrophic betrayal, Little Liar illustrates the fine line between guilt and innocence, and shows that everyone has their secrets, even those we ought to trust the most…”

I was intrigued with the book from the start.  The chapters are told by different characters – so you jump around from different perspectives – but that adds to the momentum of the storyline.

I have to say I was unsure who to believe – just when you thought you’d got it straight, something else would make you question what you thought!  It really does twist and turn.

It’s also worryingly easy to see how such a thing could happen in real life – an accusation easily made could change someone’s life forever.  A few times I did want to shout at the characters to be honest with each other, as that would make life a lot easier for everyone (although possibly make the book more dull?!)

There is a twist towards the end – which I’d actually guessed beforehand – but that didn’t stop me wanting to read the book to see how it all panned out.   The end feels a little rushed – and not all of the loose ends are tied up – but overall I enjoyed it.

I would definitely read something by Lisa Ballantyne again.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Mum Who’d Had Enough by Fiona Gibson

 

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I follow the author Fiona Gibson on Twitter – and she happened to tweet to say this book was on special on Amazon, so being a sucker for social media ad type stuff, I went to buy it!  Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“After sixteen years of marriage, Nate and Sinead Turner have a nice life. They like their jobs, they like their house and they love their son Flynn. Yes, it’s a very nice life.
Or, at least Nate thinks so. Until, one morning, he wakes to find Sinead gone and a note lying on the kitchen table listing all the things he does wrong or doesn’t do at all.
Nate needs to show Sinead he can be a better husband – fast. But as he works through Sinead’s list, his life changes in unexpected ways. And he starts to wonder whether he wants them to go back to normal after all. Could there be more to life than nice?”

The book has chapters written by different characters – initially Sinead and Nate – but later on in the book by a new character who is introduced – Tanzie.  I liked the way it was told by different people – and their differing views of the same scenes.

I found Sinead incredibly annoying and judgemental – and not a very nice wife, mother, or friend.  She was incredibly self centred and frustrating.  If you’re not happy with something then say something – don’t expect the other person to be psychic – and don’t just flounce off without giving them an option to respond.

Nate was a wet lettuce and needed a good slap, and to just be a bit more motivated to do stuff.

Their son Flynn was a typical teenager, and whilst his cerebral palsy was referenced – it didn’t really affect him as a character.  The teenage interactions (and specifically oreos and such like for breakfast) definitely rang true.

I liked Tanzie the most – but definitely best of a bad bunch!

A friend has just FINALLY passed her driving test – and so I quite enjoyed that element of the storyline because it’s something that’s been on my radar recently.

The book was an easy read – and I did want to know what happened – but it’s not going to win any prizes.  It’s nothing taxing – so if you fancy something like that, then it’s fine – but having just read some amazing books, it all felt a bit flat and done before.  I’m just glad I didn’t pay full price for it!

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

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I’ve read, and enjoyed, books by Lucy Foley before – so when I saw someone raving about this new one on Twitter, I hopped on to Netgalley to try and nab an advanced review copy – but couldn’t find it.  I shared my despondency on Twitter, and the lovely Lucy Foley herself sent me a link to it on Netgalley where I could download it.

The previous books by Ms Foley that I’ve read have been fabulous epic novels straddling eras and continents – but this was a departure, her first crime / thriller book.  I have to say, I had high expectations.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“A shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.
All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.
During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands–the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.
They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.
Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.
The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.
Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.
Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?”

I loved it from the start!  It flicks between who is narrating – sometimes it’s one of the female guests or the female staff member (in the first person) or one of the male members of staff (the only one in the third person) – and it also flicks between before and after the murder.  This jumping around keeps you on your toes and builds the suspense brilliantly.  There are clues throughout as to who the victim is – but it’s not actually revealed until near the very end – which really does keep you guessing.  It also meant I couldn’t put it down and read far too late into the night!

As with Ms Foley’s previous books, the descriptions of the geographical landscapes are incredible and stunningly atmospheric – you really feel like you’re snowed in somewhere in the Highlands too.

The group of friends, who have mostly known each other since being at Oxford Uni together – apart from relative newcomer Emma – aren’t that nice!  There wasn’t a single one that I was rooting for particularly – but that didn’t lessen my interest in the book. There are lots of underlying tensions – between partners and between friends – which means any of them could be victim or murderer, and there are other people in the frame as well.  The staff seem to have hidden pasts for various reasons, and there are a couple of Scandi’s thrown in for good measure – only adding to the intrigue. It’s like a modern day Agatha Christie and would make a perfect Sunday night drama on TV – or even feature film.

Yet again I like the cleverness and intricacy of the plot, and feel like a lot of thought has gone into writing it both in the structure, content and use of language.  Ms Foley is a very talented writer indeed. In a world of ‘disposable’ fiction, this feels like a book that will stand the test of time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

becoming

“In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America – the first African-American to serve in that role – she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her – from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it – in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations – and whose story inspires us to do the same.”

It would appear that I – along with a large proportion of the UK and US based on the book charts – read Becoming by Michelle Obama over the festive period!

I have to say I really enjoyed it.  From her early years in Chicago (which I visited some years ago – so I could picture some of the settings), through her own career, her relationship with Barack, becoming a Mum – and then, what she is most famous for, becoming First Lady.  And not just any First Lady – but the first African American First Lady and all of the extra scrutiny and pressures that came with that.

It was interesting to see how Michelle’s early years and upbringing affected all of her decisions as she got older.  Her love for her family shines out of the pages.  I hadn’t realised that her mother had relocated to the White House with them and was such a help when the Obama girls were growing up as part of the First Family.

As a working Mum, I also appreciated the fact that the similar ‘working Mum guilt’ affects even the most famous people in the world!!

The parts in the UK – or UK related – are also really interesting – and Michelle’s connection with the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school in London is discussed a couple of times – along with her meeting of our Queen Elizabeth too.  The famous Carpool Karaoke with James Corden is also featured – she (Mrs Obama, not the Queen) seemed such a natural doing that – I hadn’t even considered she’d spent time practising!

Seeing it all written down makes you appreciate how much change the Obamas brought to the White House and Government as a whole – making everywhere a lot less old, white and male – and also how the appointment of the 45th president of the US has reversed lots of that………..

I quite often beg and borrow (I haven’t quite resorted to stealing yet!) books – but I actually paid for this with my own hard earned cash, as I was keen to read it – and I’m glad I did.  The book finishes when the Obamas handed over the presidency to the Trumps, and I look forward to a sequel in the future to find out what Michelle’s life was like post the White House……..

 

 

 

 

The Prices Do Australia

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I said last month that I would ‘blog the sh*t’ out of our trip to Australia – but guess what, I was too busy having the holiday of a lifetime to do any blogging at all!!

But – I really want to – I want to remember every little bit of the holiday for the future – which was one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place, to have a permanent record of family ‘stuff’.

I want to remember:

the amazing Christmas lights at our friends’ house in Bunbury,

the fabulous new game for Christmas Day ‘find Daddy’s phone that he’s dropped in the ocean’,

snorkelling and diving at the Great Barrier Reef (although perhaps not the ultra unflattering photos of me in a stinger suit – which my husband has ‘kindly’ now got as his computer screen saver),

the 7 year old getting confused and asking why the kangaroo Daddy had for lunch was called Phillip (it was actually a kangaroo fillet)

the fireworks to see 2018 out and 2019 in from our hotel room overlooking Sydney harbour,

2/3rds of the family climbing Sydney harbour bridge

and lots and lots and lots more.

So my one and only New Year Resolution is to get all of the above documented properly to remember forever.

The Price family loved Australia and we will definitely be back (well, depending if we all survive the whole jetlag thing – the little 2 have been up since 3am…………….)

 

 

Book Review: You Let Me In by Lucy Clarke

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“Nothing has felt right since Elle rented out her house . . .
I’M IN YOUR HOUSE
There’s a new coldness. A shift in the atmosphere. The prickling feeling that someone is watching her every move from the shadows.
I’M IN YOUR HEAD
Maybe it’s all in Elle’s mind? She’s a writer – her imagination, after all, is her strength. And yet every threat seems personal. As if someone has discovered the secrets that keep her awake at night.
AND NOW I KNOW YOUR SECRET
As fear and paranoia close in, Elle’s own home becomes a prison. Someone is unlocking her past – and she’s given them the key…”

A friend recommended this in our reading group – and I needed an easy read, and it was only 99p for Kindle – so I downloaded it and devoured it really quickly!

It’s written in 3 different ways – from Elle’s point of view now, in the 3rd person looking at Elle historically, and through the eyes of the person in the house. This keeps it twisting and turning.

A few times you have to suspend belief as the coincidences are just too great – but it doesn’t completely ruin the book.

I have to say I found Elle quite annoying as a main character – and was shouting ‘change the locks’ at her way before she actually did.  There wasn’t really any character I particularly liked – but it still kept me wanting to read to find out what happened.

Overall an easy read that keeps you guessing and wanting to read on.

I’m not sure where this will fit – if anywhere – in my 2018 Reading Challenge – but with only a week to go, and loads of categories unfulfilled – I don’t think that’s the end of the world!!

 

 

 

 

Book Review: I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara

I'll Be Gone In The Dark

I have been trying to complete a reading challenge for 2018 (although have recently accepted I won’t manage it – but hey, life is too short to read books you don’t want to!)  One of the categories is ‘True Crime’ so I asked my reading group (sounds fancier than it is, just some mates on Facebook really!) for recommendations, and one of my friends recommended this.  We have very similar tastes in many things (those people who know us IRL will appreciate that comment #injoke #actuallymid90sreference) so I expected to enjoy it too.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer – the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorised California for over a decade – from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

‘You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.’

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called the Golden State Killer. Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death – offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic – and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.”

I enjoyed this at the start – finding the attention to detail in the reporting of all of the different cases really interesting.  And knowing it was all real making it all the more disturbing.

However, I have to confess it got a bit repetitive and boring and didn’t really seem to have any answers.  I kept thinking it would build to it all being solved, but #spoileralert it doesn’t…….

This sounds bad – but I just didn’t really see the point of the book.  I know the author died whilst writing the book – and so I thought that the irony would be that someone else solved it after her death.  But that doesn’t happen.

I guess that reading true crime means it’s not going to have all of the loose ends tied up – but consequently I found that reading it felt like a waste of time!  Perhaps I am just ungrateful – and should have appreciated it for what it was – but definitely not my bag!

But hey – another category ticked off the reading list!!!

 

 

 

Going Down Under

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Just over 19 years ago (eek!) I worked in Sydney for 3 months. I had an amazing time being an accountant by day and a tourist by night and at the weekends.  I had an inane grin on my face every day when I caught the bus (yes, Libby on a bus!) across the harbour bridge from my flat in North Sydney to the Deloitte office on George Street.  Thankfully there was no social media back then, so not much permanent evidence! This photo is when one of my BFFs came to visit as she’d been working on secondment too, up the coast in Brisbane. How young do we both look?!?! We didn’t look quite that fresh faced after a big night out last week I can tell you!!

The husband and I returned in 2006 when we had the eldest 2 kids. We had a great holiday on the east coast – here’s us on a rainy Bondi Beach and the children in Port Douglas – I’ve actually kept this photo in my wallet ever since (to remind me of when they actually liked each other!!)

Now we’re heading Down Under as a family of 6. We’re doing the recently started 17 hour direct flight to Perth – and catching up with some friends who emigrated a fair few years ago. We’re then flying cross country and time zones to the Great Barrier Reef for Christmas, and then, in proper bucket list style, Sydney for New Year!

I. CAN. NOT. WAIT! Given the festive stress levels, the 17 hour flight to sit (lie) down and drink fizz whilst watching films sounds idyllic – and there should be plenty of sunshine when we get there.

Obviously I will be blogging the sh*t out of the whole trip – so watch this space!!

Although not sure how many more of my husband’s Down Under jokes I can deal with…………………….

 

 

 

 

Book Review: This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay

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This book had been on my radar since it became a bestseller when first released – but I hadn’t got round to buying / downloading it.  I’d talked about it to a lovely friend – and next thing I know, Mr Amazon delivered me a hard copy through the post.   I love getting exciting post – especially books (although I did have a minor panic that I’d been ordering stuff after drinking again – so had to check with my friend that she was the sender!!)

Here is the blurb:

“Welcome to the life of a junior doctor: 97-hour weeks, life and death decisions, a constant tsunami of bodily fluids, and the hospital parking meter earns more than you.

Scribbled in secret after endless days, sleepless nights and missed weekends, Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt provides a no-holds-barred account of his time on the NHS front line. Hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking, this diary is everything you wanted to know – and more than a few things you didn’t – about life on and off the hospital ward.”

This book is BRILLIANT – I loved it from start to finish.  Yes, Adam Kay is sarcastic, a tiny bit evil sometimes, and uses foul language – but that pretty much sums up me and my friends too!!

A large proportion of the book is set in labour wards.  Having been there 4 times myself it brings it all back.  I had 2 children on the NHS and paid privately for 2 to be delivered – in fact there’s a whole new blog post that’s sat in my drafts for months just about that subject (I bet my 15 year old daughter’s mates who stalk my blog can’t wait for that one!!) But the one thing I just have to comment on is that Adam talks about delivering a baby for a private consultant, when it would be the consultant getting paid a wedge for doing it – and it’s not like he’d give a refund.  Well!  When child number 3 was born, I’d been induced, and the private consultant decided he’d got time to go back to his office to do some paperwork.  The baby had other ideas and made a very swift arrival – ably delivered by the resident midwife.  The incredibly guilty consultant turned up afterwards – but did write us a 50% refund cheque!!  (Although the cynic in me would say that’s because he already knew we were planning number 4 and he didn’t want to miss out on those fees…….)

Whilst being very cleverly written, and an entertaining read, this book is also a real insight into the life of a doctor.  In fact, just after I’d started reading it, I went to an A Levels option evening for the aforementioned daughter – and was chatting to one of the other Mums whose daughter wants to be a medic.  A GP friend of theirs had given the 15 year old a copy of this book to show her what life as a junior doctor really was like.  Who knew it could be used for recruitment (or possibly anti-recruitment) as well as being an excellent read!

Don’t read this book if you’re easily offended or don’t like bad language – but otherwise, it’s a must read.

As soon as I’d finished it I passed it on to a friend, as I was sure she and her husband (who co-incidentally is also a clever, caustic, anti religion Adam!) would love it. I think wanting to share it is definitely the sign of a good book.