Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton- Review

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No matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, you are going to want to read Secretary Hillary Clinton’s newest memoir, Hard Choices. Clinton released the new book about her time as the 67th Secretary of State in June 2014. She discusses what led into her taking the honorable position, her work promoting democracy around the world, and her methods and time diffusing crises around the world.

In Hard Choices, Clinton describes the reluctance she had at first to take the position. She was convinced that there were so many more qualified individuals that should have taken the job, but President-elect Barack Obama made the case to her. He pleaded that she could continue promoting women’s rights all over the world, build America’s international relations with allies, and that, frankly, the Administration would need her. She weighed her options, and then made her decision. The rest is history.

Clinton talks about working with nations in the Asian continent quite a bit. She discusses the reluctance of China to have any real diplomatic influence on its neighbors, and how some of the political leaders in that nation are as opaque as the political system. She also talks about how the fight for democracy in Burma was, at some points… interesting, to say the least. She wrote about what one of the leaders said, finding it just as humorous as when it first was spoken, “The Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, Shwe Mann, another former general, met with me…’We’ve been studying your country trying to understand how to run a Parliament,’ he told me. I asked if he’d read books or consulted with experts. ‘Oh no,’ he said. ‘We’ve been watching the West Wing.’

European nations, and their long-standing relationships with America, are also discussed in Hard Choices. Clinton discusses why Europe’s alliance with the United States dipped before she was sworn in as Secretary. “Most of our European allies disagreed with the decision to invade Iraq.” But, as both America and Europe pursued common interests under the Obama Administration, trust, essential for democracy to thrive, was restored. During the stressful dialogue started with Iran on its nuclear program, on quelling the empty threats by North Korea, and in anti-terror operations, the United States and traditional allies, like Britain and France, regrew the relationship that has existed since the beginning of the Republic.

The operation to take down Osama bin Laden, and bring him to justice, came because of Clinton’s advocation. Her reasoning came because she is no stranger to the pain al-Qaeda brought upon America. As a Senator from New York, she helped secure the very significant $21 billion in funding to rebuild the World Trade Center site. She supported the invasion of Afghanistan, believing that it could simultaneously help root out terrorism and improve the condition of Afghani women. The opportunity to kill bin Laden was not one that came without plenty of patience, but when it did come, Clinton, “laid out the case, including the potential damage to our relationship with Pakistan and the risks of a blown operation.” She then added, “But, I concluded, the chance to get bin Laden was worth it.” The plan went forward, with US Seal Team Six storming the compound, taking down bin Laden, and recovering invaluable intelligence on future al-Qaeda operations. Clinton made the decision, along with President Obama, that trust could be placed in our troops, and it came out a complete success.

The crisis in the area of Gaza in 2012 was one that demanded undivided attention. A long-ensued battle between Israelis and Palestinians came to blows in the tiny 139-sq-ft strip on the Mediterranean one again. A fight that hadn’t been intensified to the point of mass conflict since 2008, when Israel ceased to occupy Gaza, Clinton was on the case from the very beginning. She worked hand-in-hand with (at the time) Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi to bring a ceasefire to the conflict. Over 100 people had already perished in the fighting, many women and children, both Israeli and Palestinian, and the condition of innocents has always gained the attention of Hillary Clinton. Negotiations between Morsi, Clinton, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proceeded, where an agreement was reached that set out a comprehensive plan to end the fighting, and find a final solution to the conflict as a whole. Fighting ended after the agreement, and Clinton said that, “the ceasefire held better than anyone expected.” As now, an end to the current fighting in Gaza, where over 1000 people have died already, is being pursued along the lines of the 2012 ceasefire agreement.
Clinton discusses the issues we face in today’s world. She discusses the dire threat of Russian aggression, which she sees as Vladimir Putin’s goal of “reclaiming the Soviet Empire.” Clinton explains that, “we’re all in this together,” when it comes to Climate Change and energy. She wants the upcoming 2015 International Paris meeting on Climate Change to achieve real and beneficial reductions in our emissions, while helping to grow the US economy through green-collar jobs and new energy exploration, including solar, wind, and geothermal technologies. Finally, she discusses how Cold War-esque diplomacy will not work in the modern world, where both nations and groups pose threats. She explains what she calls “smart power,” which is the advocacy of democracy and freedom though the internet, technology, and human connections with everyday citizens.

The final discussion in Hard Choices is focused upon human rights, which Clinton calls the “unfinished business” of the 21st Century. Back in 1995, in a famous speech in Beijing, Clinton proclaimed that, “human rights are women’s rights and women’ rights are human rights.” She also discusses the fact that the growth in women’s job holdings in the US from 37% in 1979 to 47% in 2009 attributed to “more than $3.5 trillion in GDP growth over four decades.” Another argument that is made in Hard Choices is the fact that when women are a part of peace processes, “they tend to focus discussion on issues like human rights, justice, national reconciliation, and economic renewal.” Hillary Clinton, as she has done for her entire life, is nowhere near stopping now in her work pursuing rights for women here in America and abroad.

All in all, Secretary Hillary Clinton’s memoir of her time as Secretary of State is candid, revealing, and truly a testament to the challenges we face in today’s world. Time will tell if future ambitions exist, but one thing is certain: Clinton isn’t done yet.

Author Biography- Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton:

Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton served as the First Lady of the United States to the 42nd President, Bill Clinton. She went on to become a U.S. Secretary of State and U.S. Senator from New York. In the 2008 election, Clinton was a leading candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination. (Credit to The White House)

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Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner Recaptures The Life Of The First Businesswoman

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MC cover

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was the world’s first businesswoman. Rising from the bottom, Chanel used her innate ingenuity and work-ethic to build one of the most recognisable and successful businesses ever. To paraphrase Chanel, she created her life because she was unhappy with it. Despite all of this, however, jealous competitors and misogynists have attempted to slander her legacy. The time has finally come that Coco Chanel is done justice, and that has come with C.W. Gortner’s Mademoiselle Chanel.

Gabrielle Chanel was born in Saumur, France into deep poverty to a deadbeat father and a physically ill mother. This loneliness only got worse after her mother died when Gabrielle turned 12 and when she was sent to Aubazine, a convent. Gabrielle turned her despair into application and effort when she learned the sewing at the convent and where the sisters helped turn her passion into a successful work venture.

At the age of 18 Chanel was sent to live at the boarding school in Moulins. While in Moulins she both pursued sewing and stage performing, which is when she became “Coco”, based off of the popular song  “Qui qu’a vu Coco”. In 1906, after failing to find success as a stage singer in Vichy, she returned to Moulins dedicated to her sewing.

Moulins was where Coco met the ex-military officer and aristocrat Etienne Balsan, and where she became his mistress. Coco replaced famous courtesan Emilienne d’Alencon, who ironically later became something of a business asset for Chanel, for Balsan, and there never really was any love shared between Chanel and Balsan. This time, however, brought Chanel to realize that her fate was to put her entire being into her work, despite all of the negatives Balsan said to her about it. This is the time when Chanel also learned the foreign but fine art of making powerful friends.

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Some of the research I did for this review: Sampling Chanel No. 5, Coco, and Bleu de Chanel.

In 1908 Chanel began an affair with Arthur “Boy” Capel, one of Balsan’s friends. Chanel found a new feeling, something that she had never felt before, with Capel: love. This relationship also proved to be one of business as well, which put Chanel’s talent together with Capel’s money to open her first boutique at 21 rue Cambon Paris, which really put Chanel’s effort and determination into tangible results.

Boutiques in Deauville and Biarritz opened subsequently, which is the period when many influential people saw Chanel’s fashion as revolutionary and loved it. 1919 marked the most tragic event of her life when Boy was killed in an automobile accident. In 1921 Coco opened the first modern boutique at 31 rue Cambon and just 6 years later owned almost the entire rue Cambon. Continuing the rise that Chanel was taking, she made business contacts with Pierre Wertheimer, who introduced her Chanel No. 5 perfume in his department stores but who Chanel referred to as the “bandit who screwed me.”

Chanel worked her way into association with the British aristocracy in 1923 and for the next decade continued close relationships with it. Chanel closed her shops at the advent of World War II and the occupation of Paris, and in 1947 became one of the richest women in the world with a new profits deal with the Parfums Chanel line.

After having moved to Switzerland in 1945, Chanel returned to Paris in 1954. With her reemergence came her greatest popularity in Britain and America, which continues now all around the world. Coco Chanel died in 1971.

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Les parfums de Chanel- Photo credit to Seize the Moment.

Now, with this background stated, we can delve into Gortner’s writing:

First, let us look at the great understanding of Chanel’s personality and spirit Gortner shows in this book. We understand that Chanel, growing up unstable and lonely, learned that money is true freedom. We also learn that Chanel neither hated men nor believed women to be superior; she was simply fiercely independent and determined to build her own life, not to be taken care of. The greatest thing Gortner succeeds in showing about Chanel’s personality is that she was constituted of great determination, which both helped her build the Chanel empire but also made many jealous, which was a great source of loneliness for Coco. Gortner really became Chanel herself, not the grand icon Chanel, not the stoic businesswoman. He wrote of the true, everyday, and genuine Coco Chanel, which is more important to her legacy than anything else.

Next, we must address how Gortner describes the setting around Chanel’s life. Gortner is a master of developing both multi-layered characters and environments in his novels, but Mademoiselle Chanel brings this skill to another level. Whether it be the forests of rural France or the urban streets of Paris, Gortner brings to life the world Coco Chanel lived in, which adds an aspect into understanding the legend, her era, and her work.

Finally Mademoiselle Chanel is a kind of biography that really hasn’t been seen before. In the same vein as Jack Kennedy, Chanel is unique in that no one can ever truly and completely understand every aspect of her life. Gortner, with great skill and intellect, recognises this and doesn’t attempt to achieve the impossible. Instead, he takes on what I consider to be a more daunting task: writing a biography that shows the genuine Coco Chanel and wanting us to base our opinions of the icon on that truth. Gortner achieves this magnificently, and makes Mademoiselle Chanel ingenious and revolutionary, just as Coco Chanel’s life was.

As intoxicating as the jasmine aromas of Chanel No. 5 and as revolutionary as the Little Black Dress, C. W. Gortner’s Mademoiselle Chanel reclaims the legacy of the world’s first businesswoman and shows the genuine Coco Chanel.

Mademoiselle Chanel, Synopsis~

(historical fiction)

Release date: March 17, 2015
at William-Morrow/HarperCollins

384 pages

ISBN: 978-0062356406

For readers of “The Paris Wife” and “Z” comes this vivid novel full of drama, passion, tragedy, and beauty that stunningly imagines the life of iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel—the ambitious, gifted laundrywoman’s daughter who revolutionized fashion, built an international empire, and became one of the most influential and controversial figures of the twentieth century.

Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to an orphanage after their mother’s death. The sisters nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.

Transforming herself into Coco—a seamstress and sometime torch singer—the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.

Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her.

An enthralling novel of an extraordinary designer who created the life she desired, Mademoiselle Chanel explores the inner world of a woman of staggering ambition whose strength, passion and artistic vision would become her trademark.

Author Biography: C.W. Gortner

CW Gortner

C.W. Gortner is the international bestselling author of six historical novels, translated in over twenty-five languages to date.

His new novel, Mademoiselle Chanel, traces the tumultuous rise to fame of iconic fashion designer, Coco Chanel.

In 2016, Random House will publish his eighth novel, “Vatican Princess”, about Lucrezia Borgia.

Raised in Spain and a long-time resident of the Bay Area, C.W. is also dedicated to companion animal rescue from overcrowded shelters.

Visit his website. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter

Subscribe to his newsletter

Buy the book: HarperCollins | IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

GIVEAWAY / GIVEAWAY / GIVEAWAY

You can enter the giveaway here or on the book blogs participating in this tour (just click on the badge below to follow the stops on the tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook; they are listed in the entry form below.

Click on “Entry-Form” below to enter:

Entry-Form

Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form]

6 winners and open to US only:
5 printed copies + 1 beautiful, handcrafted beaded bracelet inspired by Coco’s
black-and-white signature colors and camellia design

Mademoiselle Chanel bracelet

Click on the banner here to follow the other stops on the tour:

Mademoiselle Chanel banner

Good Morning, Mr. Mandela By Zelda la Grange Tells The Human Side Of The South African Icon

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Nelson Mandela…Madiba…was a truly great man. He had the strength to not cower away when things got bad, and did not allow himself to fall into despair even after 27 years imprisoned on Robbins Island. His soul was not overwhelmed with evil, even though so many others were. He righted a wrong, and freed many people in his own nation of South Africa, along with many people’s souls around the world. There will never be another like Madiba.

The sad fact is, we only see Madiba as a towering icon instead of a real person, with love and loss, success and pain…until now. Good Morning, Mr. Mandela is a remarkable achievement by Madiba’s honorary granddaughter Zelda la Grange. la Grange is a white Afrikaaner, bred believing that Mandela was a “terrorist.” Growing up in apartheid, she was raised believing that the system was correct.

But, as the nation changed, so did she. In 1994, she became an employee at the office of President Mandela as a senior ministerial typist. As South Africa transitioned from a poverty-stricken nation to a developing one, la Grange also changed, realizing that Madiba was not the man that his haters told her and countless others. She found a man full of compassion, courage, and love for all people, and someone who was willing to make her, a white Afrikaaner, an aide, even after all the things the Afrikaaners did to the black Africans.

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Zelda la Grange and Madiba.

In 2002, la Grange became Mandela’s personal assistant at the Nelson Mandela Foundation. This is where the book gets really interesting, where we see how Madiba reacts to all the international places he traveled as a humanitarian. Everything from dining with the King in Saudi Arabia to visiting celebrity friends like Bono, President Bill Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey, la Grange was there, right by his side. For over 2 decades.

One of the funniest stories Zelda la Grange told was the fact that, due to their great friendship, when Madiba visited Buckingham Palace, he called the Queen “Elizabeth.”

“I think he was one of the very few people who called her by her first name and she seemed to be amused by it. I was entertained by these interactions,” La Grange writes. “When he was questioned one day by Mrs. Machel and told that it was not proper to call the Queen by her first name, he responded: ‘But she calls me Nelson.’ On one occasion when he saw her he said, ‘Oh Elizabeth, you’ve lost weight!’ Not something everybody gets to tell the Queen of England.”

Good Morning, Mr. Mandela is a testament to both of the main figures in the memoir: to Nelson Mandela’s pure heart and trustworthiness, and to Zelda la Grange’s benevolence to the man she called Khulu, or “Grandfather.” la Grange writes with precision, expertise, and vigor that make the book informative and at the same time exciting to read. la Grange reveals the human side of Madiba like none other.

Nelson Mandela may be gone from this world, but his vast legacy remains. Did he ever really die, then, if his deeds still live on through leaders like President Obama? In any event, I believe that we all can agree with Zelda la Grange’s words of goodbye:

“Tot weersiens Khulu!” – “Until we meet again, Grandfather.”

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Zelda la Grange~ Author Bio:

Zelda la Grange was born in 1970 in Boksburg, South Africa, and began working as a secretary for the South African government in 1992, in the Department of State Expenditure. In 1993 she moved to the Human Resources division, and in 1994 she joined the office of the first democratically elected president of South Africa as a senior ministerial typist. She became one of President Mandela’s three private secretaries in 1997. In 2002 she left government and became a full-time employee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. She lives in Pretoria, South Africa.

Praise for Zelda la Grange:

“In Good Morning, Mr. Mandela, Zelda la Grange recounts her remarkable life at the right hand of the man we both knew and loved. It’s a tribute to both of them—to Madiba’s eye for talent and his capacity for trust and to Zelda’s courage to take on a great challenge and her capacity for growth. This story proves the power of making politics personal and is an important reminder of the lessons Madiba taught us all.”
—President Bill Clinton

“President Nelson Mandela’s choice of the young Afrikaner typist Zelda la Grange as his most trusted aide embodied his commitment to reconciliation in South Africa. She repaid his trust with loyalty and integrity. I have the highest regard for her.”
—Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

“Zelda la Grange has a singular perspective on Nelson Mandela, having served as his longtime personal aide, confidante and close friend. She is a dear friend to both of us and a touchstone to all of us who loved Madiba. Her story of their journey together demonstrates how a man who transformed an entire nation also had the power to transform the life of one extraordinary woman.”
—Morgan Freeman and Lori McCreary, actor, producer of Invictus

Dead Giveaway By Charles Ramsey Is A Thrill Ride Of A Life Story

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When I had heard that the 3 Cleveland women were being rescued as I watched on TV, it was an awful but also inspiring day. It was heart-wrenching thinking that those women, those girls, were locked in a house with a monster 60 miles north of where I live. It truly was a story of courage and triumph. Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus survived that awful prison, and did not ever let Ariel Castro win. A man, with a past that wasn’t squeaky clean, stood up, mustered up courage, and became the women’s saviors. His name is Charles Ramsey.

We all know Charles Ramsey. I live in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and I remember seeing the very “Dead Giveaway” moment on Channel 3 (WKYC) even before the thousands of remixes and memes. Even people who don’t live in Northeast Ohio area know this hilarious character, quick with a joke and a hero. As TMZ said, “Charles Ramsey is the best kind of hero…the kind that saves lives, and makes you laugh your a** off.”

Now, Charles Ramsey has released his first book, entitled Dead Giveaway. Ramsey’s autobiography talks about his experiences throughout his life. He talks about how he has worked as everything from an onion-peeler to a dishwasher. Ramsey discusses his experiences with drug-dealing, earning a 0.00 GPA in the first semester of college to rebel against his father, and prison stints.

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Ramsey In An Interview With Anderson Cooper Right After The Rescue

But, for all the darkness Charles Ramsey has experienced throughout his life, he doesn’t neglect to talk about the good (and some frankly funny) events that came after his rescue of the girls. He writes about how he was made into an instant celebrity, and how that led to his phone being blasted with thousands of text messages and calls, so much that it drove him to throw his phone in the Hudson River. He also reveals his friendship with Snoop Dogg that has developed after the heroic act, and how he has received accolades from Anderson Cooper, John Walsh, Valerie Bertinelli, President Obama, and more public figures.

The best part of Dead Giveaway, at least for me, was Ramsey’s brutal honesty. He does not sugar-coat the events of his life, and it reads perfectly. It is important stories, like Charles Ramsey’s, deserve, and need, to be told, lest we forget what so many of our fellow Americans experience day-to-day in the inner city.

Charles Ramsey’s story is just beginning. We all thought that 3 survivors emerged on May 6th, 2013. I believe that 4 people were actually rescued that day, and now they all have a chance to live their full life stories. I commend Charles Ramsey for his bravery, sense of humor, and frankness expressed in Dead Giveaway. I look forward to seeing what he accomplishes next.

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Charles Ramsey~ Author Bio:

Charles Ramsey became an unlikely international celebrity on May 6, 2013 when he helped rescue three kidnapped women in Cleveland, Ohio. National media and fans called him a “hero.” He says no, he just did what anybody should have done. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.