Book Review: The Kicking The Bucket List by Cathy Hopkins

Kicking The Bucket List

“Meet the daughters of Iris Parker. Dee; sensitive and big-hearted; Rose uptight and controlled and Fleur the reckless free spirit.
At the reading of their mother’s will, the three estranged women are aghast to discover that their inheritance comes with strings attached. If they are to inherit her wealth, they must spend a series of weekends together over the course of a year and carry out their mother’s ‘bucket list’.

But one year doesn’t seem like nearly enough time for them to move past the decades-old layers of squabbles and misunderstandings. Can they grow up for once and see that Iris’ bucket list was about so much more than money…”

I’m not sure how this ended up on my Kindle (potentially prosecco fueled late night purchase?!?) but I started reading it a few days ago and enjoyed it.

It’s based around 3 sisters – although they’re nothing like me and my 2 sisters so can’t draw any analogies there.

I found it really quite emotional – and sobbed a few times (but then I cry at anything – current fave being the Morrison’s pie advert, so other people might not weep as much!)

The chapters are told from the different sisters’ viewpoints – although fundamentally by Dee (official name Daisy).  I liked Dee (although occasionally wanted to tell her to man up a bit!)

The story ends up much more complicated than it starts off – but I don’t want to give any of the plot twists away, as it would ruin it knowing some of the stuff up front!  Occasionally it felt a bit repetitive – but overall I enjoyed it.

An easy summer read – exactly as it says on the cover!

Not sure where it will fit into my  2017 Reading Challenge (and it could easily have warranted a cat on the front cover which would have been one category sorted!!)

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Strong Woman: The Truth About Getting To The Top by Karren Brady

Karren Brady - Strong Woman

I’ve always liked Karren Brady (despite the fact that I’m a Villa fan!) and remember on more than one occasion, back in the day when I had a ‘corporate’ job, we were the only females on  the train from London Euston to Birmingham International.  A sea of dark suited men  – and me and Ms Brady.

I’ve followed her professional career from when she arrived at Birmingham City – despite them being my football team’s bitterest rivals.

Karren is 5 years older than me – but seemed so much more glamourous and grown up than me when I was doing my A levels.  A real aspirational role model – a successful businesswoman who wasn’t prepared to hide the fact that she was most definitely female!

I’m also incredibly nosy – and so have enjoyed following her personal life – marriage to a footballer (Paul Peschisolido), 2 kids, serious health concern – so I knew the headlines – but was interested to know more.

My 2017 Reading Challenge means I’ve been picking a more varied set of books than normal – so when I needed ‘A book with career advice’ – this seemed an apt choice.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Karren Brady is an inspiration to women everywhere, and her incredible success is borne of her passion, impressive business instinct, ambition, and her very genuine, honest, down-to-earth outlook.

This is Karren’s story… before being Alan Sugar’s aide on The Apprentice and VC of West Ham United, how she started out as a sparky 18 year old at Saatchi & Saatchi and at 23, went on to persuade David Sullivan to buy Birmingham City football club – turning that business round to sell it for an incredible £82 million 12 years later.

Strong Woman tells how she balances her personal life with her professional, her priorities, her life as mother of two and wife. Karren reveals how she coped when doctors told her after a routine scan that she had a brain aneurysm, that she must have a complicated operation immediately and had a 30% chance of not surviving, and how it has since influenced her outlook and priorities.

An overwhelmingly inspiring and real look at work and life, Karren Brady defies convention as a directional business woman in a male industry. This is the truth about how she does it, and through her experience, her drive and her skills – it offers brilliant advice on how you can do it too.”

I have to say I really enjoyed the book – for many different reasons.

I was reading it on holiday in the Caribbean – but whilst there, juggling family life with still working – as we have our own business – and so could empathise with a lot of  the content – about not taking days off, and being permanently ‘on call’.  People often say how ‘lucky’ we are to have the lifestyle that we do – and travel all round the world – but there’s not much luck to it – most is damn hard work, day in and day out, which is just what Karren says.

I liked the fact that Karren’s family is also, clearly, really important to her.  Like her, I juggle the kids and work – and sometimes feel torn in two, but wouldn’t be without either part of my life.  We have also been lucky with our childcare, like the Peschisolido kids were, having had one nanny for the last 7 years in our case.  It really is the simplest option when you don’t have a 9-5 job (and in our case, LOADS of kids!)  I’ve blogged about this before – and how people somehow seem to think having a nanny means you’re spoilt! The chapter looking back at Karren’s early years was also really interesting (I am just naturally nosy!)

As I said at the outset – historically on the train sometimes the male / female ratio was not very even!  Having been the only girl at my school wanting to do further maths A level, I had to do it at the boys school next door.  Then I did a maths degree at University – and the trained as an accountant with one of the ‘Big 6’ firms (that’s showing my age as there aren’t 6 any more!).  Finally, I’ve ended up running a construction company!  None of it is QUITE as male dominated as working in football – but I can definitely appreciate working in a male environment.  However, to paraphrase Karren slightly, I’m all for people getting a role because they are the best person for the job, not just because they need to fill a quota based on the shape of their genitalia.

The section about TV work – specifically The Apprentice – was also great, really feeling like you were getting a behind the scenes view.  It’s daft – but I’d never thought before about the long hours that the advisers would work as well as the competitors.  Having to fit the ‘day job’ in after filming hours must also be crazy busy.

I found the chapter on Karren’s aneurysm really moving.  It wasn’t written in an over hyped way – but very matter of fact with all of the issues that happened and how they were dealt with.  But still – it makes you think ‘what if?’  Having had a close friend go  through breast cancer over recent months – she said just the same as Karren did – the worst thing was having to tell her children that she was ill. But as with my friend sharing her breast cancer story,  Karren sharing her ‘journey’ with her aneurysm may help someone else going through the same situation – and definitely makes you grateful for your own health.

The photos at the end were fabulous – lovely seeing all the people that have been important to Karren over the years – and obviously the variety of clothes and hair styles! #priorities

This has turned into a bit of a fan girl blog about Ms Brady – having totally empathised with an awful lot of what she said.  I also think this would be a GREAT book for girls and young women thinking about what they want to do with their futures – lots of food for thought and inspiration to be had.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Break by Marian Keyes

The Break

I have blogged before about my love (bordering on total fangirl-ness) for Marian Keyes, and so was very excited when her next book was put on Netgalley – so I downloaded an advanced review copy for free in return for feedback!

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“The Break is the brand new, funny, touching and truly fabulous novel from Marian Keyes . . .

‘Myself and Hugh . . . We’re taking a break.’
‘A city-with-fancy-food sort of break?’

If only.
Amy’s husband Hugh says he isn’t leaving her.
He still loves her, he’s just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in south-east Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it.
Yes, it’s a mid-life crisis, but let’s be clear: a break isn’t a break up – yet . . .
However, for Amy it’s enough to send her – along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers – teetering over the edge.
For a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns if he returns, will he be the same man she married? And will Amy be the same woman?
Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then isn’t she?
The Break isn’t a story about falling in love but about staying in love. It is Marian Keyes at her funniest, wisest and brilliant best.”

The central character is Amy – who at 44, is a very similar age to me, which is always a winner.  She and Hugh seem to have a secure – if slightly complicated – family set up.  I was concerned I’d be confused as to which ‘daughter’ was which – but soon settled in to it.

The extended friends, family and colleagues are also an important part of the storyline – and you feel like you get to know all of them – and most are really likeable in their own way.

I liked Amy a lot (although a couple of times wanted to shout at her to get a grip, or at least stand up to her mother about ‘babysitting’ her Dad when she had such a busy life already) but was always in her corner.

The way everyday references are brought in are great – social media, vlogging, internet shopping – all used in a totally ‘normal’ way.  I particularly liked the fact that not ‘liking’ a friend’s Facebook posts for over a week clearly showed you were upset with them!!

I also enjoyed the Strictly references – knowing that the author is a superfan (and quite frankly a joy to watch every time she’s on It Takes Two!) – I could almost hear her reading out that section of the book!

There was also an amusing section about people bringing round casseroles in time of trouble (although maybe the casserole is an Irish thing – as when a friend was having a tough time it was mince and tomato based meals in Worcestershire!!) – but the principle was totally the same.

I really enjoyed that throughout the book you didn’t know what was going to happen after ‘The Break’ – exactly as Amy didn’t.  And obviously I won’t give away what does!

There are so many interesting characters in the book, this could quite easily turn into the start of a series??  #wishfulthinking?!

Overall this is another great book from Ms Keyes – I would definitely recommend you read it when it comes out in September.  Now – to see if I can shoehorn it into my 2017 Reading Challenge! 

 

Book Review: The Forever House by Veronica Henry

The Forever House

I have enjoyed Veronica Henry’s books before (although having checked – none since I started reviewing my reading habits on here) – and we have mutual friends on Facebook (practically a claim to fame I know!)  Anyway – when I saw this had come out I downloaded it – although not sure how I can shoehorn it into my 2017 Reading Challenge – maybe there’s a cat hidden on the front somewhere?!

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Hunter’s Moon is the ultimate ‘forever’ house. Nestled by a river in the Peasebrook valley, it has been the Willoughbys’ home for over fifty years, and now estate agent Belinda Baxter is determined to find the perfect family to live there. But the sale of the house unlocks decades of family secrets – and brings Belinda face to face with her own troubled past. . . “

The book cycles between the present day, and present-ish day, and 1967. I enjoyed this aspect – and really wanted to know what was happening in both stories – which are clearly linked – and with ‘Hunter’s Moon’ as a main character in both.  The descriptions of the 60s were great – from fancy London town through to fancy pants clothes – it was all really evocative of the era.

The interactions between the different main characters was also lovely – although a little bit predictable (but lovely predictable, so totally fine!)

I was really rooting for Sally in 1967 and the present day – and Belinda too – both lovely central characters.

I absolutely loved the final chapter – set 4 years on from the bulk of the story – but still want to know what’s happened to everyone subsequently – which is always the sign of a good book.

All in all a perfect, summer, easy, escapist read.

So, to quote Jill Mansell off the front cover, ‘A delight from start to finish’!

 

 

Book Review: Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

PERSONS UNKNOWN.jpg

I read the first Manon Bradshaw book last year and really enjoyed it – so when the sequel came out I HAD to read it – even if it couldn’t slot into a specific category on my 2017 Reading Challenge #shocker (although I will try and fit it in somewhere, of course!!) .

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Manon Bradshaw is back.
As dusk falls a young man staggers through a park, far from home, bleeding from a stab wound. He dies where he falls; cradled by a stranger, a woman’s name on his lips in his last seconds of life.
DI Manon Bradshaw can’t help taking an interest – these days she only handles cold cases, but the man died just yards from the police station where she works.
She’s horrified to discover that both victim and prime suspect are more closely linked to her than she could have imagined. And as the Cambridgeshire police force closes ranks against her, she is forced to contemplate the unthinkable.
How well does she know her loved ones, and are they capable of murder?”

I read this in about three sittings (because I’m on holiday – and I was supervising the children in the pool – AKA reading on a sunbed!!) and it was BRILLIANT!

It follows on from the previous book (although could be read standalone – but I would highly recommend reading ‘Missing Presumed’ first!)  – and Manon remains a tortured soul in many ways (but aren’t all police officers in such books?  I guess crime dramas would be dull if the cops had a normal, stable home life!!

The chapters are told from different perspectives – I think (from memory, and I can’t be bothered to go and find my Kindle!)  Manon, her colleague Davy and Birdie. Initially you don’t realise how Birdie is going to fit into it – but it all intertwines cleverly.  It mixes the domestic lives of the main characters alongside the main ‘crime’ and keeps a real pace so you’re permanently excited to see what’s going to happen next!  There are twists and turns – and overall a really enjoyable book – especially if you’re a crime drama fan. I really hope this series continues!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review (and confessional): Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon

Mad Girl

I had seen ‘Mad Girl’ reviewed a number of times – and knew of Bryony Gordon from her newspaper and magazine writing – so wanted to shoe horn this in to my Reading Challenge!

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Bryony Gordon has OCD.
It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty.
A hugely successful columnist for the Telegraph, a bestselling author, and a happily married mother of an adorable daughter, Bryony has managed to laugh and live well while simultaneously grappling with her illness. Now it’s time for her to speak out. Writing with her characteristic warmth and dark humour, Bryony explores her relationship with her OCD and depression as only she can.
Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness.”

People often comment about my husband’s OCD – and whilst mostly this is in jest (as he’s a neat freak) I do wonder if it’s quite so innocent, as I know when he’s stressed by external factors (work, family, health) he will bleach toilets and hoover excessively. Bryony’s OCD isn’t neat freak – it’s about imagining she’s done things and forgotten about it, or rituals or phrases she has to repeat to ensure bad things don’t happen.  Now this is something I totally empathise with (although would never have considered it OCD) – doesn’t everyone have to make sure the light switches are facing the right way before they go to bed?  Or check the children at bedtime in ascending or descending age order?  Obviously if the light switches are out of sync or the kids are checked in a random order, something bad will happen over night?  But I’d already been made aware of other people’s experiences with PROPER OCD – counting things being the major one (tiles in a classroom ceiling then turning into number of times they’d swallowed in a day etc)  and knew this could be really debilitating – and Bryony’s OCD definitely falls in to the latter category.

The book charts her experiences and how the OCD has effected life from a child, through teenage years, early 20s and working life.  It is interesting throughout – and really feels like you know what Bryony went through – but it’s done in an amusing and self deprecating way,  It felt like I was in the pub with Bryony having a chat as I read it (although with less booze and illegal drugs than Bryony had when she was in the pub at some points in her life, so at least I could remember it afterwards).

Half way through reading the book,  I was reading my monthly Red Magazine – and came across a letter written by Bryony to ‘lovely Red reader’ – which clearly was written just for me!!  I ended up sobbing reading it on a plane (which slightly freaked out my 5 year old daughter who also commandeered the magazine to read – but preferred the pictures of pretty clothes!)

Red Mag On Plane

Partly it was the spookiness of it (I had weighed myself that morning – and weighed EXACTLY the weight that Bryony had got to when she’d been eating away her pain (although in my case this wasn’t the peak, the peak had been a stone further up a few weeks before)).  I Tweeted Bryony about this and she replied ‘I may be heavy but I am also strong’.  This was JUST what I needed to hear.  I should be proud of my body – it’s borne me 4 beautiful children (admittedly so have Victoria Beckham’s and Heidi Klum’s!) – and heavier people are harder to kidnap and all that?!

Bryony also talked both in the magazine article and in the epilogue of her book about how running has helped her mental health – which was something I was already very familiar with as a friend who is bipolar credits running with keeping himself sane – literally (http://www.runningformylife.uk/).  For me, it’s boxing.  An hour of boxing drills and sparring leaves me energised – and aching – but feeling strong and powerful too.

I think it was clearly meant to be that I read the magazine article whilst reading the book – as motivation to me to stop feeding my issues (literally) and do something about them.  I’m lucky that I don’t have OCD, it hasn’t caused me additional issues, like it did for Bryony – but I need to take care of myself and my own health – not just that of my family, friends, staff etc.

I think the perfect end to this blog post is to quote Bryony directly:

“All I want to do is let you know that if I can do it, anyone can. 
This is how you become more powerful than you could ever imagine,  You become unapologetically you on full beam, turned up to 11, you with the mega wattage,  Like a summer house boarded up for the winter, the sockets turned off, you have always had the power,  Not you just need to go and switch it on.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Party by Elizabeth Day

The Party

I’ve been meaning to read an Elizabeth Day book for some time – as I really like her when I see her on TV – and also because as a 5 year old I aspired to be Elisabeth Day, as the boy I loved at school had that surname!!  (We coincidentally ended up working for the same accountancy firm after graduation, and he and his lovely family live in the next village to us now – but my marital aspirations towards him are no more!)

I have read rave reviews in Red Magazine and on social media about ‘The Party’ – and as it seemed that it would fit into my 2017 Reading Challenge in the category ‘A book set in two different time periods’ – I pre ordered it for my summer travelling reading.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“‘As the train pressed on, I realised that my life was in the process of taking a different direction, plotted according to a new constellation. Because, although I didn’t know it yet, I was about to meet Ben and nothing would ever be the same again.’
Martin Gilmour is an outsider. When he wins a scholarship to Burtonbury School, he doesn’t wear the right clothes or speak with the right kind of accent. But then he meets the dazzling, popular and wealthy Ben Fitzmaurice, and gains admission to an exclusive world. Soon Martin is enjoying tennis parties and Easter egg hunts at the Fitzmaurice family’s estate, as Ben becomes the brother he never had.
But Martin has a secret. He knows something about Ben, something he will never tell. It is a secret that will bind the two of them together for the best part of 25 years.
At Ben’s 40th birthday party, the great and the good of British society are gathering to celebrate in a haze of champagne, drugs and glamour. Amid the hundreds of guests – the politicians, the celebrities, the old-money and newly rich – Martin once again feels that disturbing pang of not-quite belonging. His wife, Lucy, has her reservations too. There is disquiet in the air. But Ben wouldn’t do anything to damage their friendship.
Would he?”

I started reading this on a transatlantic flight – and devoured it all in one sitting – foregoing all of British Airways’s film offerings – which I think says a lot about how much I enjoyed it!

The book cycles between Martin’s life growing up, Ben’s 40th party and the aftermath of it – told in turn by Martin and his wife Lucy.  It’s very intricate (which made me think how good the editor must have been as well as the author – I am such a geek!) and the pace builds up brilliantly.

It is very clever – and similarities with real life people I am sure are totally deliberate!  Boys from posh schools, going on to Oxbridge and then becoming MPs and Prime Minister and including their mates in their political inner circle – remind you of anyone?!

The university period is exactly when I was at uni – albeit not Cambridge (my Head of Sixth Form never did forgive me for not going to my Newnham interview!) – so I enjoyed the reminiscing!

Despite the clear personality defects of all of the main characters at different times, I was always rooting for Martin and Lucy – in different ways.  Lucy was initially cast as the dowdy wife – but her quick thinking smart comebacks to some of the other characters were just perfect.

I don’t want to give too much away – I hate reviews that ruin the story for others – but would definitely recommend you read this book!  And I will definitely be reading more by Ms Day – clever, sharp, well written and very enjoyable.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

Iron Duke

My 2017 Reading Challenge was all about reading books out of my comfort zone – and ‘A Steampunk novel’ was a particular challenge as I hadn’t got a clue what it meant!

A bit of Googling, and good old Wikipedia revealed this:

“Steampunk is a subgenre of fantasy and speculative fiction that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes works set in an era or world wherein steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date. Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of “the path not taken” of such technology as dirigibles or analog computers; these frequently are presented in an idealized light, or with a presumption of functionality.”

Given I don’t like science fiction or historical novels this was always going to be a challenge!  I had a search on Amazon for something with good reviews – but also the beginning of a series in case I loved it…

I went for The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook.  Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power – and fear – of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession.
Mina can’t afford his interest, however. Horde blood runs through her veins, and becoming Rhys’s lover would destroy both her career and her family, yet the investigation prevents her from avoiding him.
But when Mina uncovers the victim’s identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England. To save them, Mina and Rhys must race across zombie-infested wastelands and treacherous oceans – and Mina discovers the danger is not only to her countrymen as she finds herself tempted to give up everything to the Iron Duke.”

Well…………………..

It was all really complicated setting the scene – and I wasn’t sure how much I was struggling because I’ve never read this genre before – and how much because the author explains everything in minute and complicated detail.  And how much because I just didn’t care about any of it!

I tried – I considered giving up at 10% and 20% – but by the time I got to 30% I just could not be bothered to carry on any more.

I thought this would be a genre I would dislike – and I was not wrong!

Life is too short to finish books you’re not enjoying #apartfromTheGoldfinch…..

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Postcard by Fern Britton

The Postcard

 

I was lucky enough to be given a copy of this by Netgalley to review – and then asked to be part of Fern’s blog tour – which was very very exciting!!

I hadn’t read the blurb before I read the book (based on the fact I’ve enjoyed all of Fern’s previous books) – but here is it is for you:

“The new witty and warm novel from the Sunday Times best-selling author and TV presenter, Fern Britton.

Secrets. Sisters. The summer that changed everything . . .

Life in the Cornish village of Pendruggan isn’t always picture perfect. Penny Leighton has never told anyone why she’s estranged from her mother and sister. For years she’s kept her family secrets locked away in her heart, but they’ve been quietly eating away at her. When an unwelcome visitor blows in, Penny is brought face to face with the past. And a postcard, tucked away in a long-hidden case, holds the truth that could change everything.

Young Ella has come back to the place where she spent a happy childhood with her grandmother. Now she’s here to search for everything missing in her life. Taken under Penny’s broken wing for the summer, the safe haven of Pendruggan feels like the place for a fresh start. Soon, however, Ella starts to wonder if perhaps her real legacy doesn’t lie in the past at all.”

I was DELIGHTED when I started reading to find out it was set in Pendruggan again – and revisiting characters we’d met before.  It felt like meeting up with old friends.  The previous books set in this village of Cornwall have always left me wanting to know more – and I was about to find out more – hoorah!

This time it centres, initially, on Penny. She’s a new Mum, vicar’s wife and TV exec – not necessarily always in that order.  The story follows her current and historic relationships with her family and the impact each has on the other. It also looks at quite serious issues of postnatal depression and the fact that women are expected to want to ‘have it all’ – and just how tough that can be for families.

Ella is then introduced – firstly in London and then moving down to Cornwall.  Her story interweaves with Penny’s – and it is interesting to see their relationship develop, along with Ella’s relationships with other villagers.

I really enjoyed this easy, escapist read and the gentles  twists and turns of the story.  It really evokes the feeling of being in Cornwall – and the village fete was very reminiscent of our own – albeit ours is in Worcestershire!

I don’t want to give too much of the story away (I hate it when I read a review that gives away something fundamental) but you really are rooting for Penny and Ella in different ways.

My only very slight criticism is that the ending seems a bit rushed. After a perfectly paced majority of the book, the loose ends for Penny are all tied up super quickly in the final chapter.   However, that’s not the case for Ella – and there is practically an Eastenders – duff, duff, duff at the end of the epilogue for her!  I can only hope that means we’ll be revisiting Pendruggan with its characters again soon!

I need to slot this into my 2017 Reading Challenge – and I’m going for the category ‘A book you bought on a trip’ as I downloaded it whilst we were at Centerparcs.  I realise that is slightly tenuous – but I can’t possibly read something and not tick a category off!!  We’re almost half way through the year and I’ve only managed 14 of the 40 categories – good job the summer holidays are coming up.  #readingheaven

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Lean In

My 2017 Reading Challenge is making me move away from my usual style of books and dip into other genres. I needed to read ‘a book with career advice’ and ‘Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead’ has been on my radar since it was written.  I read something Sheryl Sandberg wrote more recently about grief – after losing her husband suddenly last year – and I thought it very well written, the crux of it being that option A for her life plan was no longer there, so she had to kick the ass out of option B. Anyway – I digress – but her style of writing made me want to read her first book ‘Lean In’  (her second book, ‘Option B’ – the title from the above anecdote – is also out now, so that is on my TBR pile).

I had read in the press that ‘Lean In’ has been criticised for being too white and too privileged – but given I fall in to both of those categories, I didn’t let that put me off.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is a massive cultural phenomenon and its title has become an instant catchphrase for empowering women. The book soared to the top of bestseller lists internationally, igniting global conversations about women and ambition. Sandberg packed theatres, dominated opinion pages, appeared on every major television show and on the cover of Time magazine, and sparked ferocious debate about women and leadership.

Ask most women whether they have the right to equality at work and the answer will be a resounding yes, but ask the same women whether they’d feel confident asking for a raise, a promotion, or equal pay, and some reticence creeps in.

The statistics, although an improvement on previous decades, are certainly not in women’s favour – of 197 heads of state, only twenty-two are women. Women hold just 20 percent of seats in parliaments globally, and in the world of big business, a meagre eighteen of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women.

In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg – Facebook COO and one of Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women in Business – draws on her own experience of working in some of the world’s most successful businesses and looks at what women can do to help themselves, and make the small changes in their life that can effect change on a more universal scale.”

Overall I really enjoyed it. The geek in my liked the fact that every quote of facts and figures was cross referenced to its source – with a large chunk of the back of the book housing these references.

I found, for a lot of it, running our own small business meant it wasn’t applicable – and would have been much more applicable when I worked for one of the Big 4 (although back then it was Big 6 #showingmyage) accountancy firms.  Specifically things like mentoring.  I think this should be required reading for everyone, male and female,  in their early 20s before they make big life decisions and particularly those entering the corporate world.

Some of it I have witnessed in action – women making career decisions based on the fact they would probably get married and have kids in the future – rather than seizing the career progression at the time and worrying about the ‘what ifs’ later.  There were also simple suggestions about asking for what you want!  If you want part time work but the dream role you’re being offered is only full time then can you ask for a part time option to be considered?  Or change your support network outside of work?  I’m really lucky that my husband is massively hands on with the kids and around the house (in fact his cleaning OCD is legendary!) – but I have friends who have jobs as full on and high pressured as their husband’s, but still it’s them who have to sort the ill child / weekend playdates / shopping / cooking / buying gifts for parties – often with a side order of sleep deprivation thrown in.  Having a partnership at home is a key factor to a woman – and I guess mother in particular – having the ability and will to lead outside the home.

There were some interesting discussions about mothers who go out to work, or chose to work in the home.  Before I had kids I though stay at home Mums had an easy life – then I realised I was going to work for a rest!  The over riding issue is that women should support each other and not judge other people’s life choices.  Sheryl quoted a woman in the US Navy who’d initially been concerned about being the only woman on a submarine – but the blokes on board were all great and respectful of her authority – it was the men’s wives who were horrible – and judgmental – to her.

The partnership Sheryl had with her husband Dave also shines out right through the book – which was made all the more poignant knowing that between this being written and me reading it, he’d passed away.

I think the ending of the book sums it up perfectly:

“I look toward the world I want for all children – and my own.  My greatest hope is that my son and my daughter will be able to choose what to do with their lives without external or internal obstacles slowing them down or making them question their choices.  If my son wants to do the important work if raising children full-time, I hope he is respected and supported. And if my daughter wants to work full-time outside her home, I hope she is not just respected and supported, but also liked for her achievements.
I hope they both end up exactly where they want to be.  And when they find where their true passions lie, I hope they both lean in – all the way.”