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Review: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

I must admit this book was a disappointment. I normally love Man Booker shortlisted novels, but this became a slog. Independent (though loosely linked) chapters detail a specific woman – mostly black, mostly non-binary/LGBQT. Each chapter in isolation is well written and interesting. The problem is that with a dozen or so of them, without a running narrative or theme, it’s hard to feel emotion for the women and you end up not particularly caring about them. The book feels like poetry, chapters can be read in any order, but the sum didn’t feel as great as its parts.

Still, I did enjoy the writing, I felt the plot was missing – 4 stars.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

This book is praised everywhere – from Tim Ferriss, Derek Sivers, Seth Godin, the list goes on, so it’s frustrating that I found it a huge struggle. The first half is full of trite, one-paragraph case studies that go along the lines of, “Timmy struggles to adapt, he’s got a fixed mindset”, “Evie likes to learn, she’s got a growth mindset,”, rinse and repeat for a hundred or so pages. The cases shoehorn in the mindset terminology, and were for too repetitive without adding any value. Halfway through the book turns to business and mentoring, particularly children, and these sections were more interesting, provided you skim those case studies.

Each section (there’s eight of them) has a bullet point summary at the end – I did feel the preceding chapter just padded that summary.

Not bad, just too repetitive.

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Review: Equal: A Story of Women, Men and Money by Carrie Gracie

This is an interesting book about Carrie Gracie’s battle to get pay equality at the BBC. I’m a strong believer in equality, whether that be religious, ethnicity, gender, or whatever, everyone should be paid on the merit of their output, and not by any other criteria. At the end of the book, Carrie lists some useful tactics that can be implemented by both employers and employees, and these certainly do have value.

My problem with this kind of book, hence the 4 stars and not 5, is that the arguments need to be unbiased and reasonable. There were several places where inequality was cited, to which I disagree. One huge example was the usefulness of the regulation where employers have to publish the median gender pay gap across their workforce. As Carrie said, “Ryanair topped the table for airlines, with a median gender pay gap of 71.8 per cent.” This is bound to happen – pilots are paid huge sums, and they tend to be male. Ryanair recruit from a talent pool, if there are fewer female pilots seeking work, there will be fewer women flying their planes, and therefore more women on the lower grade, lower paid, roles. Equality in that instance should mean hostesses, male or female, are paid the same, and pilots, whether male or female, are paid the same. There was no discussion in the book about whether those figures can be misleading or worthless – it was always a case of if the number show a disparity, then that must be bad for women.

However, a thought provoking book that needs to be read.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: Body Tourists by Jane Rogers

Jane Rogers’ Body Tourists made me think of Kate Mascarenhas’s The Psychology of Time Travel. Both are traditionally male written genres, and the woman’s perspective gives it twists where a male author would be less likely to go. In Kate’s book, she dipped into what time travel would mean to relationships, how would you be paid, or copy with family deaths, interesting ideas. Body Tourists, likewise, explored relationships – what would you do if you could resolve that dispute you had with somebody who died? The tourists were varied, each bringing something different to the story, but I did feel the end was rushed, and could’ve done with a bit more expansion. A good read nonetheless, and recommended.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

I was torn between giving this 4 or 5 stars. I loved Station Eleven, Emily’s previous novel – and many of the same ingredients are used in this latest outing, The Glass Hotel. Multiple narratives twisted over numerous timelines, held together with beautifully poetic writing. Emily is expert at weaving threads and foreshadowing plot lines, while keeping the story moving forward. My only issue was that I felt some sections were bloated and could’ve done with a trim, but a minor gripe for an otherwise excellent novel, so 5*!

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: Messengers: Who We Listen To, Who We Don’t, and Why by Stephen Martin and Joseph Marks

We all think we’re a good judge of people and aren’t easily influenced, but numerous studies have shown this isn’t true. We’re likely to be more patient if the car in front that doesn’t move when a traffic light turns green is executive, and we’re more likely to listen to Ian Botham tell us how to survive a nuclear attack than a scientist or someone from the military.

Messengers, by journalist Stephen Martin and psychologist Joseph Marks, discusses who influences us most, and why. The personal attributes of a messenger, as with a leader, aren’t particularly surprising (socio-economic position, competence, dominance, attractiveness, warmth, vulnerability, trustworthiness and finally charisma) but the book explores each of these, with plenty of examples from scientific studies.

An interesting book, full of anecdotes and case studies, well worth a read.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde

The End of the Ocean is an interesting book – giving a glimpse of how the world could be after devastating droughts caused by climate change. I did struggle with this book for a couple of reasons. First, it was hugely over-written, especially anything involving sailing. I suspect Maja loves sailing and wanted to incorporate every single nautical reference possible – these sections were massively skimmable, whole pages adding nothing to the narrative. And secondly, I’m not convinced the future would ever be that bleak – yep, there’s going to be significant changes, even if we do change course, and these will cause some pain but I can’t see Europe turning into refugee camps. Still, some nice writing, solid characterisation, so better than a three, so giving a four.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: The Lessons of History by Will Durant, Ariel Durant

Fantastic. 5000 years of history condensed into a 100 pages – not the dates, the changing borders, or the winners and losers, but what history means and how societies evolve. Although written in the 60s, in many ways the topics and conclusions are very current (“Inequality is not only natural and inborn, it grows with the complexity of civilization”) but others are dated, such as his concern that communism may spread westwards throughout Europe. A short book, but every word-perfect sentence offers insight.

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Review: Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History by Kurt Andersen

This is an impressive book. It’s flawed – many chapters could be significantly reduced without damaging the message, the message is often lost amidst rambling anecdotes – but by golly, this is a man who knows how to research. Facts, quotes, conclusions – it’s all here. Kurt Andersen is a journalist by trade, and the quality shows: the writing flows, the arguments are there, though bloated in places, but I’d rather have a skimmable well written book like this than something inferior.

The book starts with the Founding Fathers, skims through the Wild West, and ends with the 45th President of the USA (by both chronology and ranking). With the verbosity, I did feel the thread was often lost but given the history lessons were still interesting, that’s not at all a bad thing. The conclusion was that unkempt religion, unlike the European churches which are reigned in by the controlling powers, allowed people to express themselves uniquely, accepting their own truths and realities.

A fantastic book, highly enlightening for both those within Fantasyland and those who are out.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

I’m a bit torn with this book. I read it to the end, and did enjoy it, but the second half was a struggle and I skimmed a fair bit towards the end. The problem is that this is a first person psychological thriller, so you’re close to the thoughts of the antagonist, and those thoughts became very repetitive and predictable very early on. Another down vote for me was the final third turned into a courtroom drama, something not mentioned at all in the blurb.

Still, some nice writing, better than a three, so rounding up to a 4.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

See review on Goodreads.