#BookReview: Knowing the Score by Judy Murray @EmmaFinnigan #KnowingTheScore

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About the Book

What happens when you find you have exceptional children?
Do you panic? Put your head in the sand? Or risk everything and jump in head first?

As mother to tennis champions Jamie and Andy Murray, Scottish National Coach, coach of the Fed Cup, and general all-round can-do woman of wonder, Judy Murray is the ultimate role model for believing in yourself and reaching out to ambition. As a parent, coach, leader, she is an inspiration who has revolutionised British tennis.

From the soggy community courts of Dunblane to the white heat of Centre Court at Wimbledon, Judy Murray’s extraordinary memoir charts the challenges she has faced, from desperate finances and growing pains to entrenched sexism.

We all need a story of ‘yes we can’ to make us believe great things are possible. This is that story.

 

My Thoughts

I was thrilled to be sent a copy of Knowing the Score as I’m a big tennis fan.

It’s always been apparent to me that the Murrays are a close family and that Judy is her sons’ greatest supporter. It’s seemed unfair to me over the years how she is perceived in the media as being pushy but until I read this book I had no idea how awfully she had been treated or how difficult it has been for her at times.

Murray has faced the sexism of being in a mainly male-dominated arena and has pushed through to succeed. She has made sure all the way through her career that she promotes other women and encourages girls to take up sport. I loved this aspect of the book, the way she carried on reaching for her goals even when she felt intimidated and when another door had been firmly slammed in her face. I wish it was more well known how much she has done for the tennis world, especially in how passionately she has worked at bringing more young girls into the sport. It was fascinating to learn about her own career as a tennis player, and to find out about the positions she’s held in the tennis world since then. She really is an incredible woman.

You get to see Judy Murray as a fully rounded person in this book. She openly shares the terror she felt on the day of the shootings in Dunblane, the emotions are tangible even all these years later. You get to see the love and pride she has for her two sons, and how she literally spent every penny she had, and then some, in order to help them strive for the goals they were setting themselves in the tennis world. Far from being a pushy mum, she has just always wanted to encourage them in the things they are passionate about. I also really enjoyed reading how she felt about being on Strictly and how much fun she had on that show.

I’m thrilled that Judy Murray has been able to share her story in her own words. She is an incredible woman who has fought for her two sons to have the careers that they wanted, alongside her own career as a brilliant tennis coach and mentor. She has made a point of bringing young coaches and players up with her; she has encouraged and inspired so many people within the industry.

I knew I was going to enjoy this book before I even started reading it but I wasn’t expecting to get so completely absorbed in it. This is a book that I will be keeping hold of as I’m sure I’ll want to re-read it in the future.

Knowing the Score is a must-read for all tennis fans, but for everyone else as well. If you love books about people who push to succeed, who empower and inspire others then this is the book for you. This is an inspirational, fascinating and very enjoyable read – I highly recommend it!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

Knowing the Score by Judy Murray with Alexandra Helmsley is out now and available here.

 

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#BookReview | Spider from Mars: My Life with David Bowie by Woody Woodmansey

spiders-from-mars-by-woody-woodmansey

About the Book

In January 2016, the unexpected death of David Bowie rocked the globe. For millions of people, he was an icon celebrated for his music, his film and theatrical roles, and his trendsetting influence on fashion and gender norms. But no one from her inner circle has told the story of how David Jones—a young folksinger, dancer, and aspiring mime—became one of the most influential artists of our time.
Drummer Woody Woodmansey is the last surviving member of Bowie’s band The Spiders from Mars which helped launch his Ziggy Stardust persona and made David Bowie a sensation.
In this first memoir to follow Bowie’s passing, Spider from Mars reveals what it was like to be at the white-hot center of a star’s self-creation. With never-before-told stories and never-before-seen photographs, Woodmansey offers details of the album sessions for The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and Aladdin Sane: the four albums that made Bowie a cult figure. And, as fame beckoned by eventually consumed Bowie, Woodmansey recalls the wild tours, eccentric characters, and rock ‘n’ roll excess that eventually drove the band apart.
A vivid and unique evocation of a transformative musical era and the enigmatic, visionary musician at the center of it, with a foreword by legendary music producer Tony Visconti and an afterword from Def Leppard’s Joe Elliot, Spider from Mars is for everyone who values David Bowie, by one of the people who knew him best.

My Thoughts

I couldn’t resist requesting this book when it was available on NetGalley. I’m a huge David Bowie fan and love every era of his including Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. Woody Woodmansey is from a place near where I’m originally from so I feel like I was aware of the Spiders from Mars from a really young age.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a real insight into Woody’s life and his time with the Spiders from Mars. It’s a candid look back over the years and it felt very open and honest. The way the Spiders came to be and how Woody end up a part of the band was really interesting. It’s obvious that there was a genuine camaraderie between the band and Bowie during their early days together, and I loved reading the stories. I enjoyed reading about David Bowie their recording process and how the songs came to be.

There are a lot of funny stories in this memoir too – the way the band felt when Bowie first suggested some of the more outrageous stage outfits is amusing. The ways they would wind each other up in the early days just shows how for a time they were just normal young men in a band trying to make it big. There is a real warmth in the way Woodmansey tells his story.

Bowie famously killed off Ziggy Stardust on stage at the Hammersmith Apollo on the last night of the tour, which came as a shock to the Spiders from Mars and Woodmansey gives his side of the story in this memoir. It obviously became quite tumultuous for everyone as David Bowie’s fame grew and the cracks began to show between him and the rest of the Spiders from Mars, which is plain to see was very painful for Woodmansey.

It’s incredibly moving to read about the deaths of members of the Spiders from Mars – Mick Ronson and later Trevor Bolder, and I hadn’t realised before that Woodmansey’s current band Holy Holy were on tour in America when the news broke that David Bowie had died. The chapter covering how he found out and his reflections on his friend were incredibly moving – it really did make me cry.

This memoir is about Woody Woodmansey looking back at his life and in particular his time in the Spiders from Mars, and David Bowie is a part of that but it’s very much Woodmansey’s life story. It’s another perspective on that incredible period of time in music. There are also some great photos in this book that I hadn’t seen before and I loved having the chance to see those.

After finishing the book I immediately had to listen to the albums from this period out of the Five Years vinyl boxset to really immerse myself, yet again, in the amazing music of David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars

I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Spider from Mars: My Life with David Bowie is out now and available from all good book shops.

 

Review: Shame by Jasvinder Sanghera

Shame by Javinder Sanghera (My Pic)

When she was fourteen, Jasvinder Sanghera was shown a photo of the man chosen to be her husband. She was terrified. She’d witnessed the torment her sisters endured in their arranged marriages, so she ran away from home, grief-stricken when her parents disowned her. Shame” is the heart-rending true story of a young girl’s attempt to escape from a cruel, claustrophobic world where family honour mattered more than anything — sometimes more than life itself. Jasvinder’s story is one of terrible oppression, a harrowing struggle against a punitive code of honour — and, finally, triumph over adversity.

I’ve been really drawn to non-fiction recently, and have picked up quite a lot of memoirs. Shame is about a muslim woman, Jasvinder, who ran away from home in order to escape an arranged marriage and was then disowned by her family. All Jasvinder wanted was to be with the man she loved and to be able to have a relationship with her family but the two were mutually exclusive in the religion she was born in to.

Shame is really quite a shocking read at times, it’s very hard to read about how Jasvinder was treated in her early life by her parents, and then throughout her life by her siblings. I understand that it is part of the culture she lived in then but it is still very hard to understand how siblings can turn their back in such a way.

The stories that Jasvinder has shared in this book about other muslim women are very shocking. I was horrified reading about her sister and what happened to her, and also the way that nothing could be done afterwards to try and help prevent it happening to other women.

The way that Jasvinder was so shunned by her community, even after she had married, was really uncomfortable to read. I found it incredible how Jasvinder found the inner strength to pick herself up time and time again and how determined she has been to make something of her life, and to give her children a better life than she had had.

Jasvinder is very open and honest in this book, she shares many aspects of her life even the ones that perhaps don’t show her in the greatest light. I really valued that honesty, it would have been easy for her to just write about the way she was treated by other people and not to mention her own actions. I think all the things that happened to Jasvinder and to her family, combined with the things that she herself did are what made her who she is now. I was in awe of her reading about how she worked so hard to set up  a place for music women to get advice and help, and ultimately founded a place of safety where they could go. It’s such an incredible achievement and you can’t fail to be moved and inspired by this story.

Ultimately, this is a very inspiring read. Jasvinder worked hard to get an education despite all the odds and then she made it her mission in life to help other women who had experienced what she had. She has achieved such great things and is an incredible woman.

I rate this book 4 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

Shame is out now and available from all good bookshops.

I received a copy of this book from Hodder via Book Bridgr in exchange for an honest review.

Q&A with Greg Cope White (author of The Pink Marine)

 


Today I’m delighted to welcome screenwriter and author Greg Cope White to my blog. I’m sharing an interview I recently did with him about his memoir The Pink Marine and his career as a TV sitcom writer.
Please tell my readers a little bit about yourself.

I’m an old writer with a new book. 

What is The Pink Marine about?

It’s my memoir about the summer I spent in United States Marine Corps boot camp with my best friend, when we were teenagers. I had no idea what the military was like – I just thought we were going to summer camp.  

I see from your bio that you normally write TV sitcoms – what made you decide to branch out and write your book The Pink Marine?

The stories of teenagers being bullied. Some of the tortured chose to end their lives and I want to tell others that it does get better – that we have to stand up and resist mean people. Often peacefully and quietly; but everyone has the right to a happy life. I learned to go get mine. If the military was the place I went to find my definition of masculinity in a world I didn’t feel I fit in, then good on them for providing that. If I can become a US Marine, anyone can do anything.  

As far as sitcoms go, and this is a hard shift here – the book is funny. Look at my photo and imagine me a Marine. I was a fish out of water. No matter what the storytelling format, I want my voice to come through. All the sitcom experience helps me trust that my sense of humor will balance the pathos on paper.   

How did writing your book differ from writing for TV? Was it an easy transition?

To get my point across in a script, I have to paint a clear picture in a few lines. On my blog, or in my books, if I want to describe the subtle blues of the sky at different times of the day – I can fill pages on only that subject. There is so much more time in a book. TV is choppy.  

Blogging helped me make the transition from writing scripts to writing the book. I wrote short stories, some related to the book, and both found my narrative voice and fell in love with the luxury of more words. That also helped me build a marketing platform. 

Are you still working as a TV writer or do you hope to be a full time author?

I do both, as well as write my two blogs (EatGregEat and GoGregGo) and contribute to Huffington Post and Good Men Project Magazine. And I’m always looking for more outlets on which to publish. I also cook and host a show on Food Network’s Cooking Channel (and write that material). TV is seasonal and sporadic. I think of TV as disposable journalism, so I love the permanence of long-form storytelling that writing books offers.

Where do you get your inspiration from for TV writing and for your books?  

Everything really happens. If I pause during a crazy moment, or right after, and commit to memory my emotions that the event caused — the smell, the colors, the way my heart raced when you tossed your hair and made that bird fly away – I’ll pull from that bank later. Add the dialogue of everything I wished I’d said in that moment and… scene. 

I live in gratitude with open eyes. The Marine Corps (and probably my grandmother) gave me boundless energy. I do everything I can, travel as much as possible – and spend time with my friends. If you tell me a story, it may end up in a book. I need material. I believe a colorful life leads to a flavorful plate. 

What is your writing routine like?

I’m writing by 6am. I have a book, three or four stories, couple of scripts and blog posts going all the time. Whichever one glows brightest at me pre-dawn gets my attention. I write till 3PM, take a break and cook, then resume writing at 8PM. Now if I stuck to that schedule 100%, I’d have thirty books written…. 

What has your journey to publication been like?

It was a dark and stormy night. A publisher bought the book last year, but within two months I knew he was the wrong one to bring it to market. I hated his style, his taste, and he wasn’t savvy. My agent and I tried to cancel the contract back in December but it wasn’t until I had a heart attack this January that I successfully canceled it. Done in one email. 

And then the sun rose on a new day. I’m a US Marine – so I stayed on brand and handled the situation. While I recuperated, I formed my own press (AboutFace Books), contracted with Ingram to distribute, and organized the first leg of a book tour. I auditioned for Audible to record the audio book – and got the part playing…. me. I had a blast in the studio, performing the other Marines voices too. That format dropped April 5th, so now The Pink Marine is available in e-book, paperback, hardcover and audio. I’d bake it into a pie and come feed it to each reader if I could. 

Lesson learned: authors have direct access to exciting platforms. (My health has recovered very well, I’m happy to report.) I’m speaking about my book and writing memoir on a panel at the YA festival YALLWEST end of April. 

I have a website with tour info, past links and videos. I live in Los Angeles, so when I run into a celebrity, I ask them to make a supportive video. People are running away from me at parties now. Visit the site and find easy-to-see links to your favorite online retailers to buy the book: www.thepinkmarine.com

Is there a question that you wish an interviewer would ask that you’ve never been asked? What’s your answer to that question?

Is any subject in your life that’s off limits in a story? Yes, since I write in memoir, I’d never expose someone’s secret or kill off the love interest and/or hero. 

How can people connect with you on social media?

I’m @EatGregEat on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter and whatever platform gets invented next. 


 

About the Author:

greg cope white (the pink marine)

 

Author of The Pink Marine, blogger, television writer, world traveler, and inveterate bon vivant, Greg Cope White is a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a bi-coastal, polo-playing, sixth-generation Texan with a voracious appetite for life. See him on this season’s Cooking Channel show, Unique Sweets.

 

 


 

About the Book:

The Pink Marine by Greg Cope White

When Greg Cope White’s best friend tells him he is spending his summer in Marine Corps boot camp, all Greg hears is “summer” and “camp.”

 Despite dire warnings from his friend, Greg vows to join him in recruit training. He is eighteen, underweight, he’s never run a mile—and he is gay.

 It’s long before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Supreme Court marriage equality ruling, and with no LGBT rights in place in most states, and the Marines having a very definite expulsion policy in place for gay people when it comes to military personnel, will Greg even survive? 

 The Pink Marine is the story—full of hilarity and heartbreak—of how a teenage boy who struggles with self-acceptance and his sexuality and doesn’t fit the traditional definition of manliness finds acceptance and self-worth in Marine Corps boot camp. 

 

Review: Sky Lantern by Matt Mikalatos

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Sky Lantern is the story of a man who finds a sky lantern at the end of his driveway, and on picking it up to put it in the bin notices a message written on it. The message is from someone called Steph and she has written it to her father about how much she misses him. Matt can’t help but think and reflect about how his own young daughters would feel if he were no longer with them, and it leads to him writing an open letter to Steph on his blog in the hope that one day she, or even his own daughters, might find the letter and be comforted.

Matt’s open letter is very moving. He deliberately made it quite non-specific so that it would apply universally but he talks about how proud a father is of his daughter and how much he loved her. He gives life advice about finding those who love you and filling your life with them. He explains that he knows you miss your father and that you can’t replace him but that you have to keep moving forward. I was crying by this point in the book, my mum died a few years ago and it made me think of her because it’s the sort of letter that I know she would have written if she had had more time. Matt’s letter reminded me a little of Mary Schmich’s commencement speech (that was later turned into a song by Baz Luhrmann called Wear Sunscreen). It’s a life-affirming letter that everyone will be able to take something from even if not all of it relates to them.

Matt’s letter ended up around the world, he received many letters from people who weren’t Steph but who appreciated the letter all the same and found comfort in it. He received many letters from women who believed they were the Steph who sent the lantern but even while Matt wasn’t sure they were the right Steph, he still wrote back and showed real kindness and compassion.

Throughout this book, Matt learns lessons himself about not taking his loved ones for granted. He is obviously a lovely dad to his children, but as is the case with all of us, life gets busy and sometimes we brush off a loved one wanting a few minutes of our time. Matt’s book is a reminder to always tell the people we love that we love them.

If I was to be at all critical it would be to say that at times this book does feel a little drawn out; I’m not sure that there was enough to make a full-length book out of this experience. Having said that, it is a very moving and life-affirming read and I’m sure it will offer great comfort to people who have been bereaved. I cried over a chapter where Matt wrote about loss and how we make sense of it and how our lives can never be the same. It’s the silly thing of still picking up the phone to call a loved one who has been gone for a while but in that moment our brains forget for an instant until the phone is in our hand. I did this so many times after my mum died so it resonated greatly for me.

It is wonderful that a new friendship came from Matt finding the sky lantern, and that he helped not just one woman find solace but hundreds or even thousands of people who were comforted by reading his letter. This beautiful book really is a lesson to us all that showing a little more kindness to others can go a really long way.

I rated this book 4 out of 5.

I received this book from Howard Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Sky Lantern is out today and available from Amazon.

Review: The Record Store of the Mind by Josh Rosenthal

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I’m a child of the 80s so I grew up listening to my mum’s records but by the time I was old enough to buy music of my own vinyl was rapidly disappearing to be replaced by cassette tapes, and actually not long after that CDs began to appear in the shops. I still have such nostalgia for my mum’s records though. So when my husband started talking about getting a new sound system, it was a no brainer that we’d look for a turntable. Now we’re slowly building up quite a collection of records, and everywhere we go we keep an eye out for record stores. I love reading about record stores too so when I spotted The Record Store of the Mind on Net Galley recently, I simply had to request it!

In the introduction, Rosenthal immediately evokes the feeling of being in a record store and the feeling you get when you inspire someone else to look through the crates of records. It’s a joy to read about how he took his children around record stores and flea markets looking for a gem.

It’s also a wonderful thing to read about how many record stores are still going strong in America. There is a revival happening in the UK and it’s a great thing to see; new independent record stores are beginning to appear on the high streets once more and even the chain retailers are putting in vinyl sections once again. It makes your heart sing and one can only hope that vinyl sales continue to grow!

Rosenthal then takes the reader, chapter by chapter, through his journey in music. He shares stories of musicians he’s met and worked with, and records he’s bought and loved. He brings to our attention a mix of well-known musicians and some you many not know so much about. I’ll be honest and admit that I hadn’t heard of many of the musicians in this book but I very much enjoyed discovering them and will be seeking out some of their music next time I’m in a record store. The sheer joy and passion that Rosenthal has for music and for the musicians he has known just radiates from the page, which makes this book such an engaging read.

In amongst the chapters devoted to musicians themselves there are chapters that have a wider subject matters such as one about gigs, one devoted to the period between 1989-1997. These chapters were perhaps a little more of interest as I felt my own knowledge and reference points  helped my understanding and enjoyment. Nevertheless, the book as a whole is a joy to read and has definitely widened my interest in music even further.

This book is a reflection of thirty years of work in the music industry. This year Rosenthal celebrated the tenth anniversary of his own label Tompkins Square. His book is partly a memoir and partly a critical look over the music industry. It’s also part love letter to his own treasured collection of records, as throughout the book he often refers back to his own private collection. It was heartbreaking to read of how he lost part of his record collection and music memorabilia in hurricane Sandy.

I loved the Of Musical Interest chapter, and the Listen Up list and the Tompkins Square Discography at the end of this book, I’m definitely going to be looking out for some of the records referred to in this book. I’m always interested to try new music and find new singers and bands to listen to. This is a book that can be used as a wonderful reference after you’ve read it, I know it’s one that I will come back to again and again.

This is a book for anyone who loves, or has ever loved, listening to music on vinyl. I rated it 8 out of 10 and highly recommend it.

I received this book from Tompkins Square Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

The Record Store of the Mind is out today and available from Amazon!

Review: Bulletproof by Maci Bookout

Maci Bookout

Following my recent binge-watch of all the Teen Mom episodes I couldn’t resist buying Maci’s autobiography as she was my favourite of the girls and her story was most interesting to me.

Throughout Teen Mom, Maci always seemed like the most together of all of the girls, parenting seemed to come very naturally to her but I often wondered how much of what we saw was her keeping a protective wall around her about how she felt in certain situations. Maci never seemed to lose her cool, even when her son’s father was being incredibly rude to her. So, she intrigued me.

Bulletproof covers everything that happened to Maci throughout Teen Mom but it gives much more insight into what was going on in her head. As I suspected, she was panicking and sad many times when she appeared so calm and in control. For a fan of the show it really gives much more rounded insight into Maci’s life.

Maci talks about her previous boyfriends – her son’s father, Ryan and also Kyle, but for all they didn’t treat her all that well, she mostly sticks to an account of what happened rather than bad-mouthing them. It is very apparent that what Maci wants most of all is for her son, Bentley to have stability in his life, and that includes her wish that his father would be around more.

It was interesting to read what happened in Maci’s life between the end of season four of Teen Mom and the start of season five. I started watching season five and had no idea that Maci and Kyle had broken up, that Maci had a new long-term boyfriend or that she was pregnant again, so it was good to be able to read what happened and fill in the gaps. It’s uplifting to read just how happy Maci is in her life, she’s an inspiration to young people.

Bulletproof is mainly straightforward autobiography but Maci has included some of her poetry within the book, which was fascinating to read. It’s very apparent that Maci loved creative writing and that it helped her work through her worries. I think so many people will identify with her poems, it’d be really interesting to read more of them.

This book is a great companion piece to the Teen Mom series. There isn’t a lot of new stuff in the book that isn’t seen on screen but it complements it very well in that we get to see Maci’s thoughts and feelings that she tends to hide on screen.

I’m sure fans of MTV’s Teen Mom, and 16 and Pregnant will enjoy reading this book. I found it to be an enjoyable read and rate it 7 out of 10.

Review: Never Too Late by Amber Portwood

Nevertoolate

I’ve recently been binge-watching Teen Mom on Amazon Video while recovering from illness and I couldn’t resist buying this autobiography when it appeared in an Amazon email.

Never Too Late is Amber’s story, in her own words, about what really happened behind the scenes of MTV’s Teen Mom, and gives added insight into what led up to events that were shown on screen. This book covers Amber’s difficult childhood, her battle with addiction and her struggle to overcome severe anxiety and depression.

Amber is very candid throughout this book; she doesn’t shy away from the more distressing things that have happened in her life and she accepts responsibility for the things she did wrong. It would be very hard not to have sympathy for a lot of what Amber has been through, and all credit to her for being so open in this autobiography.

Never Too Late isn’t set out like a traditional autobiography, the style is very chatty and as a result some parts are a bit repetitive, and in other parts events that have happened have just been skimmed over. The timeline of her life is a little difficult to follow in places too, but again I think that’s because of the style of writing. Amber’s story feels authentic though, it is as if Amber is talking to her readers about her life rather than it being a structured account of her life.

I’m sure this book will be enjoyed by anyone who watched MTV’s 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom, and of course to all fans of Amber Portwood.

I rated this book 6 out of 10.

Never Too Late is out now and available from Amazon