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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

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I listened to this audiobook while out running (not in one go, that would have been a LONG run!) and I realised something about the difference in enjoyment for me between physical books and audiobooks. When I’m reading a physical book, I want to be absorbed and completely drawn into it – for me, chicklit does not really do this, because it’s so easy to predict what’s going to happen. But when I’m out running, I just want something to distract me, something to occupy my mind. It doesn’t need to be *too* absorbing – it’s doing the same job as listening to music or podcasts does for others. So I enjoyed this book a lot, while acknowledging that if I was reading a physical copy I would not have liked it half as much.

Sophie Mayhew is married to John, a conservative government minister who is widely expected to be the next prime minister. Known in the papers as ‘Sophie the trophy’, her role is to basically look good on her husband’s arms and support him in all he does. It’s a job she does very well – until a story breaks about an affair her husband has had, and she  *doesn’t* toe the line. Instead she tells the papers precisely what she thinks about her husband’s behaviour and decides she needs time to herself. She ends up in the small Yorkshire village of Little Lost, near where she went to school. There, she finds friendship, acceptance and peace. She befriends Tracey, the local publican, who helps her out with somewhere to stay – and Tracey’s brother Elliot, the handsome local vicar, who sets all the local womens’ hearts racing. As Sophie grows closer to Tracey, Elliot and his little boy Luke, she starts to wish she didn’t have to go back to her old life. But reality is calling – will she answer?

Okay. So it’s chicklit, and that means you can probably guess what happens at the end from the scenario above. But getting there is great fun and there are plenty of other parts to this story, which as Tracey’s love life and Elliot’s estranged wife. I liked hearing about Little Lost and enjoyed the way that life in a small village was portrayed, with everyone pulling together and looking out for each other.

John and his family, as well as Sophie’s own family, were with one exception, all horrible. Selfish, critical and arrogant – I can’t believe that she didn’t walk out years earlier!

If you like chicklit, I would recommend this book. For me, the audiobook was extremely well narrated by Coleen Prendergast, who had a voice that perfectly fitted the story (I’m not surprised to learn that she has narrated the audio versions of Johnson’s other books too).

Overall, it’s not really my genre, but it’s one of the best in it’s own genre, and gets a good rating from me.

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Quickie review: This is a collection of David Mitchell’s** columns in The Observer newspaper from around 2009 – 2013. He has put them into chapters loosely based on particular themes, and a lot of the columns have introductory paragraphs. It can feel quite strange reading about events that were present day news stories at the time but are now almost a decade on.

As with all collections, some of the pieces resonate more than others, but all are infused with Mitchell’s wit, and I did find myself hearing his voice narrate them in my head. In short, if you like his comedy on shows such as Would I Lie To You?, QI, etc., you will probably enjoy this book.

It’s probably more of one to dip in and out of (which is how I read it – a column here and there between full length novels), rather than reading it straight through from beginning to end, but either way, there is plenty here to enjoy.

 

**Note: this is the British comedian David Mitchell, not the author of such works as Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks. It would have been a very different book if that were the case!

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This book has dual time frames told in alternating chapters:

In 1985 in Chicago – and across the United States – AIDS has devastated the gay community. The story starts with a group of friends mourning the AIDS related death of their friend Nico. These chapters are largely told from the point of view of Yale Tishman and through Yale, we witness the ongoing crisis, and it’s effects.

In 2015, Nico’s sister Fiona, now in her early 50s, has gone to Paris to track down her estranged daughter Claire. Through these chapters we learn about the fates of various characters in the earlier timeline, and understand what Fiona went through, watching not only her brother, but so many of their friends die at the hands of a virus which the government at the time seemed largely unbothered about.

This is without question my favourite book that I have read so far this year – and I’d put it into at least my top 10 of all-time favourites. I absolutely adored Yale, and appreciated that Makkai drew so many believable and distinct characters which made up his friendship group and other acquaintances. She does not portray heroes and villains, just incredibly ‘real’ characters, who I felt like I genuinely knew and cared for. I do feel that the early timeline on its own would have made for an interesting and wonderful novel, but the 2015 story added to it, in that we could see what an effect Fiona’s experiences had had on her as an adult.

I could write about this book all day, and good luck to anyone who asks me about it – you’re going to need to set aside a few hours while I wax lyrical! However, I don’t think I could do it justice. It is a beautifully written, heartbreaking, uplifting, thought provoking novel, and I recommend it to literally everyone.

 

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The story of the fall and rise of Dick Cheney, vice President to George W Bush. This film charts the transformation of a young, drunken ne’er-do-well Cheney, into one of the most powerful men in America, and a man who basically played George W. Bush like a violin. It stars Christian Bale (both brilliant and unrecognisable) as Cheney, Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld and Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush. Amy Adams stars as Lynne Cheney, Dick’s wife who is just as detestable and ambitious as her husband. The film aims to tell the truth as far as possible, but there are moments of high comedy and satire which are genuinely laugh-out-loud in places (unexpected in a biography of such a hate-filled and unpleasant character), and certain scenes necessarily take a certain dramatic licence.

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Year of release: 2018

Director: Adam McKay

Writer: Adam McKay

Main cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, Alison Pill, Jesse Plemons, Lily Rabe, Tyler Perry

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Genre: Drama, biography, satire

Highlights: The whole cast are superb

Lowlights: The only lowlight is that Dick Cheney is actually a real person

Overall: Excellent – well acted, well scripted, compelling and even funny in parts. Recommended.

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Aaron Eckhart is Nick Naylor, spokesman and spin doctor for a big tobacco company, who has to balance his career with trying to be a good example for his young son. Naturally his job causes a lot of bad feeling towards him, with some surprising repercussions.

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Year of release: 2006 (UK)

Director: Jason Reitman

Writers: Christopher Buckley (novel), Jason Reitman

Main cast: Aaron Eckhart, J K Simmons, Cameron Bright, Maria Bello, David Koechner

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Genre: Comedy, satire

Highlights: The comedy parts are REALLY funny. Aaron Eckhart is perfect in the role

Lowlights: Um…none?

Overall: Great satirical movie, which doesn’t take sides on the non-smoking argument. Really enjoyed it and definitely recommend it

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This is an epistolary novel, told by the main character Balram (who calls himself the White Tiger) to the prime minister of China, who is coming to India for a visit. Balram was born in an extremely poor part of India and was destined to live a life of labour or servitude, but as we find out at the beginning of the story he is a successful business. We also find out right at the beginning that he also murdered his killed his former master Ashok. The book tells Balram’s story and explains why he did what he did.

I am still not entirely sure how I feel about this book. I definitely enjoyed it, in that it was written well and I liked it’s very descriptive chronicle of life in India. (Note: this book does not romanticise India in ANY way, shape or form). It was often witty, and the writing flowed well. I found it an undemanding read that kept me interested – but for all that, I never felt fully engaged with the characters and always felt a slight detachment from Balram.

Nonetheless if this is a genre you like, I would recommend this book and if it is different kind of novel to what you would normally choose, you might like this change of scene.

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The Campaign is a satirical (although satire is fast becoming reality with Trump as President) political comedy. Will Ferrell is Cam Brady, a Democratic Congressmen who is running unopposed for his fifth term. His campaign is damaged by a mistaken phone call, and the corrupt businessmen, the Kotch brothers (John Lithgow and Dan Ackroyd) seize the opportunity to persuade Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) – an honest but somewhat naive local tourism director – to run against Cam as a Republican candidate.

What follows is a campaign that gets progressively nastier and more violent as both men are determined to win. It’s very funny and not as ridiculous as it would have been ten years ago, given that we now have a man in the White House, who knows no limits whatsoever regarding what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Both leads are excellent even if Galifianakis reminded me of Nick Offerman throughout, and the supporting cast also do an excellent job. Highly recommended if you fancy a good belly laugh, or something to take your mind off how screwed up the American presidency is right at the moment. Great fun.

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As the back of the book states, in this story, “A vain, outlandish, anti-immigrant demagogue runs for President of the United States … and wins.” If that sounds horribly familiar to today, pause for a moment and realise that this book was written in 1935.

In an alternative timeline to what happened in real life, Buzz Windrip wins the Democratic nomination for president over FDR, and runs a campaign claiming that he will make America great again, appealing mainly to angry Americans who have suffered from the Great Depression. To Doremus Jessup, mild-mannered newspaper editor, the thought of Windrip as President is bemusing, but even as they hear reports of fascists like Hitler and Mussolini rising to power in Europe, he and like minded friends tell themselves and each other, “It can’t happen here.” And then it does.

When Windrip takes power, bemusement turns to anger and horror as innocent people have their jobs and homes taken away, and people are put into prison or tortured – or worse – for daring to disagree with the regime.

The writing style doesn’t always flow easily, and the book did take a few chapters to get going, but despite this I found myself absorbed, and I urge others to read this book. It makes for uncomfortable and extremely thought-provoking reading, even if afterwards I found I needed, in fact craved, something more light-hearted.

Definitely recommended, especially in light of today’s political climate.

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Just a short review for my final book of this year…it’s a look back at the crazy events of 2016, focussing a lot on two huge shock decisions – the Brexit Vote in the UK and the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the USA.

Read it and weep…and laugh! It’s very funny and very scathing – but it does take a chapter to remind us that there have been far worse years in the past, and some good things around the world did take place this year.

One word of warning – if you don’t like bad language, this is a book to avoid. It is peppered with swearing and lot of very inventive insults!

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In this enchanting true story, Tom Michell relates how in the 1970s, when he was in his early 20s and teaching in an Agentinian boys boarding school, he encountered a penguin who became his best friend. He saw the penguin on a beach covered in oil and near death as the result of a recent oil slick and on an impulse decided to rescue him and clean him up, with the intention of then releasing him back into the wild. However, the penguin refused to leave his side, and so after naming him Juan Salvador, Michell became the proud adopter (or adoptee?) of his new feathered friend.

Juan Salvador soon becomes a favourite among staff and students alike at the boarding school and brings a little magic into all of their lives. Through his and Tom Michell’s story, the reader also learns a little about the Argentinian political situation at the time, and how badly inflation was affecting the poorest in the country, and there is also some insight into life in the boarding school.

Mostly though, this is Juan Salvador’s story; it is he who is the true focus of the book, and what a delight he is. Michell describes the penguin’s own little personality and quirks and really brings him to life on the page.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book – it’s a quick read, both because it is only just over 200 pages, and also because I didn’t want to put it down. Highly recommended.

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