Book Review: I’m Absolutely Fine! : A Manual For Imperfect Women by Annabel Rivkin and Emilie McMeekan of The Midult

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‘I have been waiting for this book my entire life. It’s brilliant.’ – Claudia Winkleman

‘A genius book. So funny, so wise, so cool and above all so USEFUL. I couldn’t love it more. I am buying it for every one of my friends.’ – India Knight

‘I’m absolutely fine but I slightly need to pee, I followed the road less travelled and now I don’t know where the hell I am, I may bleed to death shaving my legs, my soul aches, another week has ended without me becoming accidentally rich, I just put my keys in the fridge, unexpected object in the bagging area, I’ll have a café mocha vodka Valium latte to go please, where’s my phone? My anxieties have anxieties, no… not like that – here, I’ll do it, do I have to do everything? WTF?’

Is it just me? We gnaw on that, don’t we? Is it just me? Well, look around. Look at the rage, the resolution, the ‘hear me roar’, the panic, the power, the chin hairs, the shame, the empathy, the conversation, the sheer potential.

Welcome to Midulthood. A place where we recognise that we are all more alike than we are unalike. Of course it’s not just you. If we’re not in it together, we’re not in it at all…

From sex (What Could Possibly Go Wrong) to self-image (Does This Straightjacket Make Me Look Fat?), I’m Absolutely Fine is a wry look at real life, real wisdom and real information framed in fun.”

 

 

A few weeks ago I was in hospital having (yet another) surgery on my piles – and whilst scrolling through Instagram spotted a competition to win a copy of this book on the lovely doesmybumlook40’s page:

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So, obviously I had to reply:

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A few days later I got a message saying I’d won copies for me and my friend and asking for our addresses – how exciting!

When it arrived (signed, get me!) I started reading straight away. In fact, I left it by the toilet as it was perfect to dip in and out of with my numerous post surgery toilet trips. (Although I DEFINITELY don’t think it was written as a toilet book, in fact who would have books in the toilet nowadays *whistles nonchalantly*)

On a geeky book loving note – it is a beautiful weight, and has a ribbon bookmark inside – retro and gorgeous!

Now I expected to LOVE this – the recommendations by Claudia Winkelman and India Knight added to my expectations (I secretly want to be BFFs with them both) and I really did enjoy lots of it.  Some of the lists had me crying laughing – just soooooo accurate.

This one in particular has been in the press loads, so I don’t feel guilty sharing it:

“20 THINGS YOU KNOW IF YOU’RE A MIDULT

1. Nothing good happens at three in the morning.

2. You should never buy the smallest size you can get into.

3. Everyone needs therapy.

4. Grey hair is beautiful, grey roots make you look deranged.

5. Time flies.

6. You are probably a little bit of an alcoholic. Unless you are actually an alcoholic, in which case you may have given up drinking.

7. You are always hungry.

8. If you check out of technology, you are checking out of life. Don’t do it.

9. If someone has no old friends, there is a problem.

10. Infidelity doesn’t necessarily mean it’s over. Contempt does.

11. Things get stuck in your teeth.

12. Something always hurts.

13. And then you think it’s cancer.

14. You know more and less at the same time. You think they might cancel each other out. So where does that leave us?

15. Good sleep is better than good sex.

16. Moths make you panic. Even talking about them: panic.

17. You have 25 different kinds of herbal tea. You don’t much like any of them. You’d rather have a Diet Coke. But you probably won’t.

18. Swearing f***ing helps.

19. This is the rush hour of life: we have spots, wrinkles and possibly braces.

20. If you need to cancel, you need to cancel.”

But lots of the other lists are even funnier (and ruder!) but you need to buy the book for those #nospoilershere!!

I guess the fact I overshadow ridiculously means I often know things aren’t just me (I was amazed how many friends had period issues / had had endometrial ablations and privately messaged me when I publicly discussed them) but I still enjoyed empathising no end.

Most of the book I absolutely loved – but occasional chapters I felt were a bit neurotic and self indulgent. Maybe if I was at a different stage in my life I may have empathised more – but it seemed like a totally different world that I didn’t quite get. I feel bad writing that – especially when it was a lovely free copy – but I do like to be honest.

Overall, though, I definitely enjoyed it – and will dip in and out of it again in the future – and probably quote the lists incessantly to people!

I now follow The Midult on social media – and totally concur with most of their posts – so I’m very glad to have found them.  This would make a perfect Christmas present for ‘women of a certain age’!!

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Piles of rubbish

So – the aforementioned piles op happened a week ago. There has been an unexpected whizz back to the hospital for an overnight stay for some post op bleeding – but I’m now at home and feeling loads better.

I am, however, using laxatives and lots of fruit and veg to ensure everything keeps ‘moving’ and my internal wounds can heal.

My stomach sounds like there is some kind of chemistry experiment going on in there with loads of fizzing and gurgling,

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and I fear I may never be able to fart again for the fear of horrific follow through.

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#neverknowinglyundershared

Oh, so tired…..*

* To the tune of Bjork’s ‘Oh, so quiet’
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Comes to something when you’re looking forward to your piles operation next week because you get a general anaesthetic and a chance to lie around in a hospital room for the day………………………

 

Book Review: Happier Thinking by Lana Grace Riva

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I was emailed by the author of this book asking if I’d like a copy to read and review.  Never one to turn down a free book I said yes!  Here’s the blurb:

“Changing how you think is possible. I wasn’t always so sure that was true until I experienced it myself, but I know now we don’t have to just accept unhappiness. Not always anyway. This book is my collection of tips and suggestions that have helped me achieve happier thinking. It’s sort of a gym for my mind. I’d love to tell you it was easier than the real gym but well… it’s not really. It takes time, effort, and practice but it’s absolutely well worth the rewards.”

It is a little book and I read it in a couple of sittings.  Nothing in it is earth shattering, and you’ve probably read similar in magazine articles about positive thinking and being happy – but it was great having it all in one place.

I found myself thinking about what Lana had said later in the day.  Things like, just because the day started badly, you don’t have to assume the whole 24 hours will be a write off.

I can immediately think of a number of ‘glass half empty’ people that this book would be great for.  I can also imagine it’s the sort of book I need to read relatively regularly just to remind myself to be more positive and see the best in situations.

I don’t want to share too much of it – as that would ruin it if you read it.  The summary at the end is also the chapter titles – and a really good aide memoir for positive thinking.

Whilst I don’t think this is a world changing book – it could definitely be a mood changing book, and if it helps one person – then it’s definitely a good thing.

 

 

 

 

University (Parcel) Challenge

We have just seen my eldest niece for the final time before she goes off to a foreign country for University (Wales!).

a) How can she be old enough to leave home?
b) What excitement can we send her through the post?!

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There is actually form for this where her family is concerned.  When her Dad, my brother in law, was on tour (with the RAF – he wasn’t in a pop band, despite how good he is at karaoke!) we took great pleasure in sending him ‘interesting’ parcels.  The first – which he was quite chuffed and possibly a little smug about (before he opened it) was a Cliff Richard calendar!!  That stayed on the wall in the mess long after he came back home.  We also sent a bucket and spade when he was in the desert (and some sensible stuff too I promise!)

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Back when I was at uni – a quarter of a century ago – there was no social media or smart phones to stay in touch with family and friends at home.  Your options were to queue up for the payphone (with your fancy pants card that meant you could phone home cheaper than using cash) or rely on Royal Mail.  I remember being so excited whenever I got post.  My Nan would send chocolate, Auntie Mavis would send stamps, and my sister (my niece’s Mum) once sent me a letter with a little plastic bag inside with her nail clippings and the weird bits she’d pulled off her verucca using whatever the 90s equivalent of Bazuka was.  I am hoping her parcel sending will have improved since she was 13, or my poor niece is going to be very disturbed ………

So what to add to the first care package? I’m thinking multivitamins, ear plugs, alka seltzer, antibacterial handwash, Berocca, Pot Noodles, an ironic 90s indie poster to go on her wall, a pair of Doc Martens (all students still wear them, right?), sick bags, spare mobile phone for when she loses hers, name stickers for her contents in shared fridge, family photo, cuddly toy, sink unblocker (although she has a fancy pants en suite – none of the ‘sink in the corner of your room’ to vomit in and block), air freshener, Febreeze, can of Red Bull…….

and possibly a fake passport and a wad of cash in case my husband and one of her other Uncles do go down to fresher’s week like they’re ‘promising / threatening’ so she can leave the country very quickly…….

 

 

 

Book Review: The House We Called Home by Jenny Oliver

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I have to confess to being a bit of a fan girl of Jenny Oliver’s (when I met her in real life I was a) a bit drunk and b) a bit embarrassing by introducing myself as THE Libby Price (as she’d named a character after me in a previous book after my husband bid for it in a charity auction!) )  She is a friend of a friend – and I believe this book in hard copy has dedication to the aforementioned friend – but I couldn’t find that on the Kindle version (which is currently 99p – what a bargain!)

Here’s the blurb:

“The house where Stella and her sister Amy grew up never changes – the red front door, the breath-taking view over the Cornish coast, her parents in their usual spots on the sofa. Except this summer, things feel a little different…
Stella’s father is nowhere to be seen, yet her mother – in suspiciously new Per Una jeans – seems curiously unfazed by his absence, and more eager to talk about her mysterious dog-walking buddy Mitch.
Stella’s sister Amy has returned home with a new boyfriend she can barely stand and a secret to hide, and Stella’s husband Jack has something he wants to get off his chest too. Even Frank Sinatra, the dog, has a guilty air about him.
This summer, change is in the air for the Whitethorns…
Warm, funny and gloriously feel-good, this is the perfect summer read for fans of Veronica Henry and Milly Johnson.”

I really enjoyed this from the start.  Stella is having difficulties with a  challenging 13 year old son – and I totally empathise with that! Not that I’ve dumped mine at my parents – yet!

I liked the fact that the book revolved around the extended family – and so there were lots of central characters. Whilst Stella was the one I empathised with most – I liked most of them – although wanted to slap some of the on a number of occasions!!

A chunk of the book is based on competitive swimming – we have good friends who swim in that world (ridiculous pun most definitely intended!) and so I could empathise with some of that too!

Having holidayed in Cornwall and Portugal in the last few months I had some of the locations in the bag already too – which is always useful!  I’m a sucker for any story that includes a pastel de nata reference! #Portuguesecustardtart

I have to admit that a couple of friends had said this was utterly amazing and they had wept through it – and maybe I’m a hard hearted cow – but I didn’t find it that emotional – but I did really enjoy it.

For 99p – you can’t go wrong!

P.S. Whilst I can concur with the Veronica Henry reference in the blurb – this blows any Milly Johnson I’ve ever read out of the water!!!

 

 

 

Prosecco woes

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My Sunday night revealed my not so scientific experiment that prosecco and a fancy HP slice desktop don’t combine to make a palatable cocktail.  In fact – the prosecco destroys the computer within SECONDS, even if it’s less than an inch of spillage out of the top of your flute much like the photo (although it was my hand rather than a second glass it was chinking against!)

Anyway – the WONDERFUL IT support company we used managed to rescue the hard drive (the fizz had completely screwed the mother board but not got as far as the data) and transferred it all on to a new machine for me.  Admittedly it isn’t now the fancy pants one you can charge your phone just by leaving it on the top of – but given my phone doesn’t have that functionality anyway, it doesn’t matter all that much.  And most importantly, they sorted it out by close of play on Tuesday – which is excellent service.

** This is not a paid plug for Infuse Technology, but just credit where credit is due.**

So I think everything is sorted, ok, the printer isn’t working yet, and I can’t access the work server, and I’ve lost half of my calendar appointments – but at least I can post on Facebook and Twitter and do the internet shopping.

However now comes the major stress – trying to remember all of the passwords to the websites that were just saved on my previous computer.  There are various combinations of different people and places – and my husband helpfully asks why I don’t just have the same one for everything – but there are the ones you have to change regularly, the ones that specify certain numbers of upper case / lower case / special symbols, the ones that have to be a certain length, the ones that can’t be anything you use for anything else – it just goes on and on.  I’m trying to ruin just the one evening by sorting as many as possible in one go and logging on to every website I ever use.

I will be the person rocking in the corner, nursing a drink, but keeping it well away from the computer….

 

 

 

Book Review: The Songs Of Us by Emma Cooper

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This is another book I saw reviewed in a magazine and then actively sought an advance review copy on NetGalley.   And I was so pleased I did – this book is FAB-U-LOUS.  I think it’s my favourite read since Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – and that is saying something.

Here’s the blurb:

“If Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.
If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life’s heart.
But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.”

Melody is a single Mum – trying to do the best for her 2 children – but with the added complication of a condition that makes her sing songs when she’s nervous.  The eclectic mix of songs she chooses is just brilliant – and the fact she doesn’t get the lyrics right all of the time is amusing and endearing. Both Flynn and Rose have ‘complications’ to deal with – linked too, or probably because of, their father’s disappearance – but all wrapped up in your standard teenage angst.  I thought this particularly well observed and written (mostly because of having teenagers myself!).

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away – and there is a HUGE plot change in the middle that takes the wind out of your sails – but it only adds to the amazing roller coaster the book takes you on.

Whilst the major plot lines revolve around the immediate family – the peripheral characters are also really important and fundamental to the story line in lots of ways.  It was good to see how their stories panned out too.  How people deal with a crisis can be so different – and whilst you can see that, for example, Melody’s Mum has the best of intentions – she does like any crisis to be firmly centred on the impact on her rather than the main protagonist for that specific issue.

I really didn’t want to put this down – even though the final 15% had me weeping LOADS – but it is great.  It’s written well – but not in a ‘I’m a really high brow novel’ kind of way – but in a ‘fun, clever, witty, emotional, entertaining, but still written with eloquence and care’ kind of way.  I can also definitely see this being made into a film / TV series – the soundtrack would be immense!

I’d decided to slot this into my 2018 Reading Challenge as A Book About Mental Health – but is it???

The Songs of Us is published in September – but you can pre-order a copy now.  Thank you Netgalley for my copy.

ETA – have just seen you can download it for Kindle NOW – and it’s only 99p.  DO IT, you won’t regret it!!! 

ETA (again!) – there is a Spotify playlist that goes with the book which is a) brilliant and b) reminds you of the bit of the book where each track appears, which is just lovely! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: One Day In December by Josie Silver

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I saw this book reviewed and it sounded great, so I popped onto NetGalley and saw I could get an advance review copy – which was very exciting.  Here’s the blurb that enticed me:

“Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist. After all, life isn’t a scene from the movies, is it?
But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.
Laurie thinks she’ll never see the boy from the bus again. But at their Christmas party a year later, her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus.
Determined to let him go, Laurie gets on with her life.
But what if fate has other plans?

Following Laurie, Sarah and Jack through ten years of love, heartbreak and friendship, One Day in December is a joyous, heart-warming and immensely moving love story that you’ll want to escape into forever, for fans of Jojo Moyes, Lucy Diamond and Nicholas Sparks.”

I LOVED this book right from  the start!  I expected it to be a bit like ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls, and be about the same single day in December spanning the decade – but it wasn’t.  It was written either from Laurie or Jack’s point of view and jumped weeks / months at a time.  Because of that every chapter was really important – to compare it to an album, it was all killer and no filler!

I have to say I  guessed roughly what the ending would be – but wondered how the author would get us there without the main protagonists hating each other or being complete sh*tbags to each other.  It twists and turns dramatically – and I don’t want to give too much of the story away (I loathe reviews that do that) – but it really did keep me enthralled.  So much so that my husband thought I may have fallen asleep / drowned in the bath – but actually I was just lying in lukewarm water wanting to finish the book before I got out! (Apologies for the visuals that may have created…….)

Laurie was a great central character, and I really liked her and was rooting for her from the start.  She was a lot younger than me – but that didn’t stop me enjoying the book. The ending of the book is wonderful – and in fact the last few chapters did have me weeping for many different reasons (good job I was in the bath!)

I’ve read that the author wanted to write a Christmassy novel that would be the literary equivalent of festive films like ‘Love Actually’ or ‘The Holiday’ – and she has most definitely succeeded.  However I also think One Day In December would make a fabulous film…………

I wasn’t sure how to shoe horn this into my 2018 Reading Challenge – so, I am taking a bit of a flyer on ‘A book from a local author’! In the book Laurie’s parents live in a village in the suburbs of Birmingham (as do I) and her Dad is an Aston Villa fan (as am I).  People aren’t often written as Villa fans unless there is a local connection – so my fingers are firmly crossed that Josie Silver is local(ish!).  Her bio says she lives in a small Midlands town – so hopefully within 20 miles of Alvechurch and that can count as local!!

If I were you I would definitely pre order this ready for a festive read this Christmas.

 

 

 

Book Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls

 

“Three girls. Three tragedies. One unthinkable secret.
The media calls them the Final Girls – Quincy, Sam, Lisa – the infamous group that no one wants to be part of. The sole survivors of three separate killing sprees, they are linked by their shared trauma.
But when Lisa dies in mysterious circumstances and Sam shows up unannounced on her doorstep, Quincy must admit that she doesn’t really know anything about the other Final Girls. Can she trust them? Or can there only ever be one?
All Quincy knows is one thing: she is next.”

FINALLY – a book I can review in real time – hoorah!  This was out last year, but a lovely friend just let me borrow it – and it’s good!!!

It cycles between Quincy’s current life – written in the first person – and historic events, written in the third person.  I liked this different style of writing (but I am such a geek!)

Quincy lives in New York, and I enjoyed that it felt quite familiar having been there a few times recently.  The descriptions of Central Park in particular were great – both in the daytime and at night.  I can imagine it being a very different place after dark – but I don’t plan to find this out.

I liked Quincy and was rooting for her from the start – although sometimes she needed a bit of a shake!!

The story twists and turns significantly – in a good way – and some of the twists are very unpredictable – particularly towards the end – but it kept me intrigued and consequently I devoured it in just a few days.

The descriptions of some of the crimes are quite gruesome – needed for the story – but still quite vicious, so don’t read this book if you’re of a sensitive disposition!!

I’m not sure where this will fit into my 2018 Reading Challenge as yet. One of the categories is a female author writing under a male pseudonym – but this is the exact opposite!  Riley Sager is a gender neutral name chosen by a male author who had previously been published, but apparently felt this new genre would be more readily accepted as a ‘female’ author.  Interesting!