March/April reads

Apologies for the lack of post last month. As well as drowning in lockdown homeschooling, I was also drowning in Sapiens. This book took AGES to finish and I didn’t see the point in doing a post with just 2 books.

THE MILLION COPY BESTSELLER

Fire gave us power. Farming made us hungry for more. Money gave us purpose. Science made us deadly. This is the thrilling account of our extraordinary history – from insignificant apes to rulers of the world.

Earth is 4.5 billion years old. In just a fraction of that time, one species among countless others has conquered it: us.

In this bold and provocative book, Yuval Noah Harari explores who we are, how we got here and where we’re going.

‘I would recommend Sapiens to anyone who’s interested in the history and future of our species’ Bill Gates

Book Club Musings.

Each month on our book club FB group I post 6 books. A mixture of male and female authors, fiction, non fiction, modern and classics. People are invited to vote and the most popular book is read the following month. Sapiens was our choice for March and it won the poll by quite a long way. When it came down to the meeting there were 4 of us there. Only 1 out of 4 had finished the book and that person had read it previously so this time just dipped in an out. This got me thinking…..(Cue Carrie Bradshaw)….is what we think we want to read really what we want to read??? I worry that in this crazy world, where we are running at 100mph, always listening to that little voice in our ear telling us to achieve more, run faster, drink less, we want our reading to reflect that and we think we want to be challenged. People are too embarrassed to sit on the tube reading Jilly Cooper. I think our book group wanted the challenge of reading Sapiens but when it came down to it, hardly anyone managed it. I found it really heavy going. Sapiens is a book which you need to absorb. You need time to think about the mind blowing points that are being made. Trying to absorb Sapiens whilst lying in the bath, at the end of a long day, being constantly interrupted by a 4 year old with an over-active bladder made it quite a frustrating experience. That is my excuse. Other excuses were similar….”I do most of my reading on the tube and this isn’t the kind of book you can read when you have to keep changing trains on the way into work,” “to be honest, at the end of a long day in the office, I just want to read the literary equivalent of Love Is Blind, not something that requires actual brain cells.”

This is a book that doesn’t suffer from a dip in and out way of reading….in fact I think it benefits from it!! Because of this, I’m not sure it is a great choice for a book club. Reading this book to a deadline did not work for us and I think resulted in a disservice to the book. So if you are tempted to pick this up, and you definitely should, give yourself some time. Don’t rush!

  • The Last King Of Scotland by Giles Foden.

What would it be like to become a Idi Amin’s personal physician? Giles Foden’s best selling thriller is the story of a young Scottish doctor drawn into the heart of the Ugandan dictator’s surreal and brutal regime. Privy to Amin’s thoughts and ambitions, he is both fascinated and appalled. As Uganda plunges into civil chaos he realises action is imperative – but which way should he jump?

Generally I find that films don’t live up to the novel. It was the other way round with this book. I have seen the film twice and I urge you to watch it if you are stuck at home and in need of stimulation. Forest Whitaker is INSANELY good and quite rightly won numerous awards. The film is based on the book and has made some significant plot changes. This is historical fiction. The character of Nicholas Garrigan does not exist but he could be based on Bob Astles and Scottish doctor Wilson Carswell. I would say that the book is definitely more historically accurate than the film.

I’m not going to say much about the book because the copy I have is clearly a bit of a dud. I read to page 218 and incredibly annoyingly at this point 33 pages were omitted and replaced with pages 91-122. I am ashamed to say that it took my sleep deprived mind about 10 pages to realise I had read them all before!!! 🤔🤔 Really annoyingly, I think the pages missing were pretty crucial and involved Garrigan’s arrest by Amin. The book resumed at page 251 but by then I felt pretty confused and a little like that thing when something is being explained to you which you don’t understand but you nod, smile and pretend that you do…..to be honest this is my default mode. Anyway, hey ho, definitely watch the film!!!

  • Grown Ups by Marian Keyes.

Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, ththeir beautiful, talented wives and all the kids spend a lot of time together-birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jesse– who has the most money then insists on it.

Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much…

Everything stays under control until Ed’s wife, Cara, gets concussion and can’t keep her thoughts to herself. One careless remark at Jonny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, starts Cara spilling out their secrets.

In the subsequent unravelling, every one of the adults find themselves wondering if it’s time – finally – to grow up?

Book snobbery, book ignorance. Call it what you will but I am guilty of it. My mum sent me this book just after lockdown was announced. I would never have chosen it myself. After reading Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married (also bought by mum*), Marian Keyes had been chucked in Ella’s Small-Minded-Book-Snob-Skip. Keyes languishes in the skip of doom with the likes of Sophie Kinsella, Jane Green and Helen Fielding. Basically anything that I would put in the Chick Lit category. Anything that involves a female protagonist who moans about their weight and finding a man. Any book whose book jacket says something like:

Arabella thought she had it all….a great job, fabulous clothes, a beautiful house. Her only problem??? Men! Why did she always fall for the bad boy?Then she meets Tom and discovers that sometimes it’s hard to make the right choices.

Any book that has a bright pink cover, a loopy-fonted title and a picture of a wedding cake, a nonchalantly discarded stiletto or a discarded tie. All of these books get chucked in the skip.

After trudging through Sapiens, I decided I deserved something a little easier on the old brain cells. Yes, this book is undoubtedly easier, no major evolutionary chats here!!! I bloody love a book about dysfunctional families/relationships/marriages and that is what this book is all about. It’s also well written with believable and likeable characters. It’s was over 700 pages but I whipped through it.

*Interestingly, although mum has now bought me 2 Keyes novels, I have never seen her reading a Marian Keyes herself.

  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

For years, rumours of the ‘Marsh Girl’ have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she learns to be loved. Went two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens up herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

What kind of books do you want to read in Lockdown? I have been pondering this and I do have a few important criteria:

1. I don’t want anything that involves being on a beach, travelling somewhere fun or looking for adventure.

2. I don’t want anything really challenging. After a day of looking after 3 kids, homeschooling 2 of the little blighters and being ‘mummed’ CONSTANTLY I need something that I can just read. I do not need to feel intellectually challenged. Key Stage 1 fractions are challenging enough.

3. I don’t want anything that takes me ages to get into. I want short chapters and something that hooks me immediately. It also needs to be a book that I can pick up and put down easily.

Crawdads fitted the bill quite nicely thank you. I know people LOVE it. It was a solid 3.5 ⭐️ from me which I rounded up to 4⭐️. I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say it was life changing but I stayed up til 2am reading it and believe me, at the moment not much keeps me awake past 9pm!!!

Anyway I hope you are all safe. Thank you so much for reading.

March Beauty.

Today is Sunday 29th March and I am struggling. Lockdown is hard in the week but it seems so much harder at the weekend. The whole family still have that ‘weekend mindset’ and right now that just leads to disappointment. Every day is the same. It’s like being in Crimbo Limbo but without the turkey and with a terrifying pandemic. In fact, if at Christmas lunch someone had a crystal ball and said that this would be the state of the world come March I would have thought it was the synopsis of a bad channel 5 film.

Three kids under seven including an right month old who is still up three times a night. A month ago I thought I was bossing it. Tired but coping. Three kids under seven and a pandemic is a completely different scenario. Hats off to those who are managing it. I am struggling.

  • La Roche- Posay Redermic R Retinol Cream. £24.00.

This was my first frolic down Retinol Boulevard and I am now a convert as my skin is definitely brighter and smoother since using.

So Retinol/retinoids/vitamin A. There is not much that this bad boy doesn’t do. Acne, aging, pigmentation, scarring, rosacea…. retinol is the skincare golden ticket. I have to admit that I was always a bit wary. Gone are the days of a simple Oil of Olay skincare regime. Retinoids, acids, BHAs, AHAs, they all sound a little terrifying and make me feel like I am back at school struggling with chemistry. So even though this isn’t a doctor prescribed retinol, I was pretty careful. I applied it every other day, I avoided the creases round my nose and just applied to cheeks, forehead and chin. I had no irritation so after a couple of weeks I progressed to every night. You only need a pea sized amount so it will last you. This tube has kept me going for 6 months now. For me, this product has definitely made my skin smoother…no bumpy bits, my skin looks more even- fewer red bits, although my chin still needs work. I can’t say for definite that it has done a Benjamin Button on me and made me look 10 again but right now my skin is in pretty good shape so it’s defo a product that I will continue to use!

  • Yo Glow Wishful. £34.00 *

Yellow!!!! I LOVE yellow. I think if I was in advertising, I would put everything in yellow. It conjures up feelings of happiness, sunshine, warmth, lemons, freshness….basically all good things. The sun is shining permantly at the moment and it’s like Covid19 is giving us all the finger and doing a particularly evil laugh. My way of compensating this is to have daffodils in every room. My little bit of sunshine indoors. ☀️ 🌼 🍋☀️🌼🍋☀️🌼🍋☀️🌼🍋☀️🌼🍋☀️🌼🍋☀️🌼🍋☀️🌼. I was kindly gifted this product so I was already excited about using it and then Caroline Hirons said it was proper good….hopes were high. You apply it to dry skin (this is not a makeup remover) and massage in for about a minute. Scrubs often contain gritty bits but this uses cellulose which combined with fruit acids and the friction of massaging your skin makes little cellulosy balls. This is NOT I repeat NOT bits of your skin. It smells really nice and citrusy. When you rinse it off your skin feels so lovely and smooth. Mine skin felt smoother than a baby’s buttocks and not tight at all. My makeup went on like a dream.

*Kindly gifted.

  • L’Oreal Pro Glow Foundation. £8.35 Amazon Pantry.

Are you guys still wearing makeup?? One of the only good things about being in lockdown is that I am saving tons of money by not wearing any makeup. The other day I taught a singing lesson on Zoom so I decided to put a bit of slap on. Whambam my mood lifted. I felt like I was putting my game face on. Faking it in this instance really did make it.

Anyway, THIS FOUNDATION!!!!!! I love this foundation. Pre-Corona mornings in my house were totally nuts. Edie is always desperate for an intricate hairstyle with ‘no bumps.’ Ceci is usually livid that her Weetabix is too wet (honestly the weetabix saturation point is a big deal for Cill) and Maisie invariably is still wearing last night’s nappy. I have just about managed a shower long enough to wash off the ridiculous night sweats that I am coping with. I smear some makeup on my face, grab my trusty jogging bottoms and manoeuvre the massive buggy, grumpy cilla + scooter and Edie with her bump free hair to school. I am ALWAYS sweaty and stressed.

When I get home I get 5 mins to take my first look at my face. When wearing this foundation I am always pleasantly surprised. I actually look ok. In fact my skin looks…..(dare I say it without sounding like an arrogant tit)……good. Really good. It looks clear, glowy and not like I have been up all night feeding my ridiculous 8 month old who is still incapable of sleeping any longer than 2 hrs. As well as being a cleanser junkie I am a foundation junkie. I have tons of the stuff but hands down THIS IS THE BEST. Only available on Amazon at the mo. If you are haggard and knackered give this a whirl. Doesn’t feel too heavy, really glowy and lasts through a really sweaty and stressed school run.

Thank you for reading. Stay safe!!! Wash hands!

March Kids Reads

Well. I almost miss the halcyon days of Brexit dominating the news. Day 1 of the UK being in lockdown and I have just finished day 6 of homeschooling. My kids were off last week as Ceci had a cough. I honestly feel a little broken and completely overwhelmed by the task ahead. I look through this post and see that my last entry was all about going back to work and now I have no idea when that will be. It seems like the world has gone mad. Teachers, you have my unflinching respect. You are all amazing.

  • The Spy Who Loved School Dinners by Pamala Butchart. Illustrated by Thomas Flintham.
  • Reading age 6-8.

Izzy is really pleased to have been put in charge of the new girl at school. Mathilde is French, and Izzy and her friends can’t wait to show her the den and it’s moth, and to help her avoid school dinners (also known as poison). But Mathilde loves school dinners and even has seconds! And that’s when they know. Matilda is a spy and she has come to find out their secrets. They must stop her before it’s too late!!!

Like her mother, Edie is a sucker for packaging and this bright pink cover was a hit. This book won Best Story in the 2015 Blue Peter Book Awards. Edie lapped it up. She was overjoyed to discover that Izzy’s teacher was called Miss Jones which is the name of her current Year 2 teacher and she also has a friend called Maisie which is the name of Edie’s little sister. To be honest I think the colour of the cover and the coincidence of the names was enough to make Edie love the book….it seems that my daughter is easily pleased. As she got further into the story she kept telling me that is was so exciting and every chapter ended on a mountain. After probing this somewhat I discovered she means ‘cliff hanger.’ Edie also loved the fact that Mathilde is French so she loved impressing us with her knowledge of French vocab.

When I was finally allowed to read it myself, I was really impressed with how well Butchart captured the children’s voices:

Mrs Kidd always makes us eat stuff we don’t want to. And she’s always moaning at us. Things like “Take your coat off! Or you won’t get the benefit when you go outside!” (Which doesn’t make sense). Or: “Izzy were you born in a barn?” And to begin with I just said “I don’t know,” because I wasn’t sure. But then I checked with mum and I wasn’t.

This is a great option for KS1 who are confident readers. I have read reviews who say it is a little girly. I disagree. Although the cover is bright pink, there is nothing ‘girly’ in the storyline and Izzy’s friend Zach is great fun. We will definitely be reading the rest of the series.

  • Anisha Accidental Detective by Serena Patel. Illustrated by Emma McCann.
  • Reading age 6-8.


Help! My super dramatic Aunty Bindi is getting married tomorrow and she’s having a mega meltdown. But ssssh! I’ve just found a ransom note, push through the letterbox, saying Uncle Tony, Bindi’s husband to be, has been kidnapped, and will only be freed if the wedding is cancelled! I have to keep this a secret otherwise it’ll be panic central… I guess it’s up to me Anisha- Accidental Detective, to save the day.

This is the second book with a bright pink cover that Edie has read this month. She has decided that all bright pink books are brilliant….I fear she is going to be setting herself up for disappointment somewhere down the line but not this time!!!

In 2017, Reflecting Realities Survey concluded that only 1% of children’s books have BAME main characters, and that only one children’s book published that year was a comedy. Thanks to this book, children from Hindu families will find a character they can relate to. Anisha is brilliant. She is clever, witty, funny and great role model to girls. Edith is a 6 year old who just loves love and the fact that this book was about a wedding really appealed to her romantic mind!!!! She loved Aunty Bindi and all her face masks, makeup and beautiful clothes. Serena Patel adds footnotes to a lot of the pages to explain elements of Indian language, food and customs. We learnt the meaning of Bhagavan, Didi, Saath saath and also wedding customs like Mehndi. We also learned a lot about lobsters….do you know they wee out of their faces?!?!?!?!

The story zipped along and was a really good mystery. Patel created some brilliant secondary characters….Granny Jas is my fave! Emma McCann’s illustrations are really funny. We look forward to reading more in the series.

Thanks to a Usborne for the copy.

  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox. Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.

‘But the next baby born was truly divine, a sweet little child who was mine, all mine.’ I’m not a particularly sentimental person but reading this to Maisie this morning made me a bit tearful. 😢😢😢😢 I am starting to think about going back to work so looking into childcare. I have been off the longest with Maisie and I’m due to go back in August which is obviously the WORST month with summer holidays. I know every parent feels torn about working and leaving their kids. 💔💔💔💔💔💔💔. I adore my job. I love the people and feel utterly privileged to get paid to stand on the most beautiful stage and sing for a living. It has to be said that it is a tough job when you have little ones. Endless school pick ups missed, endless bedtimes missed. At the moment I feel utterly torn about what is the right thing for my kids, husband and myself. I have missed singing so much the last few months but I know my children have massively benefitted from having a parent at home. Argh!!!!! 😢😢😢

I hope you are all staying safe.

Thanks for reading.

January Beauty

Hi all. It’s been a while since I have done a beauty post. In fact I started this one in January!!! I am not someone who starts the year with resolutions to diet, not drink, exercise, put my phone down. In all honesty January is miserable enough without berating myself every time I reach for the biscuit tin. I am of the mind that everything in moderation is all good. Which brings me nicely onto the topic of this post. Moderation is not in my vocabulary when it comes to cleansers. I bloody love a cleanser. Working in the theatre, wearing a face of heavy makeup, under hot lights and also being a bit of a sweaty lady means I crave the feeling of clean skin. I can’t take my make up off fast enough. I am more than happy to sit on the tube or do the school run with a clean, make up free face.

So this post is about taking off the glitter and getting down to the bare essentials. So here are my cleansing faves.

  • Wonder Balm by A Pony Called Steve. From £12.

I must admit that it was the name of this company that enticed me to buy….my husband calls me an easy sell. Anyway A Pony Called Steve….incredible name and I bought a pot for my sister for Xmas thinking it would make her laugh. As I did my research about this company, I just liked the product more and more. The company is the brain child of Emma and Aminah and Steve is Aminah’s Shetland pony. 🐴. The company has been operational for 5 years. They sold their products to loads of UK retailers but last year they decided to stop trading with retail outlets and to devote their time to their best product… The Wonder Balm. If you are someone who loves a small, personal business then you need to check this out. They make the product at home and not in a massive factory. All the ingredients are natural and it’s in a recyclable tin. The best bit is that it is completely lush!! It’s a really nourishing balm that smells all citrusy. You warm it into you hands and then massage it onto dry skin. It feels thick and pampering. It totally dissolves all make up and is completely fine to use on your eyes. You need a cloth to remove it but once washed off skin is soft, moisturised and glowing.

If you like this product you can sign up to a subscription so you never run out and UK shipping is free!!!

  • Jordan Samuel The After Show Treatment Cleanser. £20.00.

During this maternity leave, to satisfy my performer urges I have joined adult tap. Every Wednesday evening, my sister and I don the lycra, down some wine and mosey down the road to work on our time step. I’m going to be honest, I am pretty shit. I think this is mainly because I can’t stop giggling (wine induced) and because my body is now haggard and exhausted and no longer works like it did 10 years ago. Anyway we go down and prick about like Miranda Hart….our teacher, Miss Emma is probably too young to know who Miranda Hart is!

So this is one for all you footlight fannies out there. Jordan Samuel skincare has just landed in the UK and you can get hold of it at Cultbeauty. People RAVE about it. Jordan Samuel was a professional ballet dancer. He was becoming increasingly frustrated by the havoc stage lights, sweat and heavy makeup were causing to his skin. He therefore decided to make his own brand – bloody love a proactive man.

This cleanser is a dream at getting off makeup….particularly heavy eye makeup. It comes out the tube as a clear gel and to me it smells slightly citrusy. As soon as you put it on your skin it becomes an oil. You then rinse it off. Not only does it remove make up but it also contains fruit acids to gently exfoliate. This product is ideal for dry or combination skins but there is also a sensitive skin version without the fruit acids. Just completely lush.

Right off to work on my pick-ups

  • The Body Shop Camomile Cleansing Butter. £11.

Wow, the Body Shop has come a long way from the beloved bath pearls and 🍓 soap of my youth. Without a doubt the Camomile Cleansing Butter is my absolute fave cleansing balm. It feels lighter than the balm from A Pony Called Steve. The fragrance is quite subtle and it removes make up speedier than a speedy thing. Doesn’t sting or irritate the eyes and is suitable for sensitive skin. A recent article in The Sun newspaper also said it worked brilliantly at protecting scalp from hair dye, ridding babies of cradle cap and removing stains from carpet. Whilst I cannot comment on its carpet cleaning capabilities (there is absolutely no way I am smearing it all over my carpet), I did dye my eyelashes and brows at the weekend. I used this balm instead of Vaseline to protect the skin and it worked brilliantly. Tippity top!

  • Natura Siberica Soap for Deep Facial Cleansing. £11.98.

This product is described as a deep cleanse which I try to do about twice a week in my quest to purge the pores. You apply it like a mask onto dry skin and then rinse with warm water. I have to admit that often being pushed for time, I sometimes just apply in the shower and use as a normal face wash – sorry Natura Siberica. It feels surprisingly light and lathers up a little which I like. As a deep cleanse I was expecting a bit of tingling, maybe a slight tight feeling but happily this didn’t happen. My skin felt soft and moisturised after using. The INCI list is full of natural ingredients, none of which you need a chemistry degree to decipher. Top of the list is oblepikha (sea buckthorn) oil which is rich in vitamin C to regenerate the skin and also soften. The product also contains Siberian Cedar Oil which is rich in vitamin E which adds to the moisturising factor. The full list can easily be obtained on t’internet but do not be put off by the word ‘soap’ – this product will not make your skin tingle, feel tight or dry. It has a definite scent. To me it smells slightly almondy. The price isn’t prohibitive and my little tub has lasted two months and is still going strong. One thing I will say…..make sure you wash off properly. Twice I have come back from the school run, looked in the mirror and seen remnants in my sideburns (😂) and around my jawline…..however if the chimney sweep look is your bag, that that is obviously all good.

  • Beauty Pie Japanfusion Pure Transforming Cleanser. Typical Price £25. Members pay £6.

I have been toying with the idea of joining Beauty Pie for a few months now and before Xmas I finally did it. I pay £10 a month which gives me a £100 a month spending limit, and this is the important bit, based on their typical price for a product. This sounds like a lot of money to spend but actually it doesn’t go that far. The typical price for a nail polish is £15, a lipstick £20 and the Japanfusion cleanser £25. As you can see it does eat up your spending limit. I think of you paid the £5 a month subscription you would get 3 products max. That being said, I have loved every product I have received so far.

So, Japanfusion….firstly I would like to say that I love the packaging. It’s like a big, squeezy, pink toothpaste tube. You can cut it in half to make sure you get every last drop out so you aren’t left with that annoying feeling of chucking something away with some of the precious stuff still lurking at the bottom.

This stuff is like a superhero chameleon. You apply it to dry skin and it feels like a really rich moisturiser, after massaging for about a few seconds it transforms into an oil. At this point, if you add water to emulsify, it becomes a milk. It’s like 3 for the price of 1. It’s unperfumed and leaves your skin soft, moisturised and without that tight feeling. Brillo.

Thanks for reading.

February Reads

Hello all. Apologies that this post is a couple of days late. I have decided to give myself a bit of a break and stop telling myself off if I don’t manage to post at exactly the right time every month. The end of the month gives me the feeling of stress I used to have on a Sunday night when I was at school and I had to hand in my homework the next day. So instead of rushing to get my thoughts in order, in between looking after the kids, I am just going to take my time and stress less. I hope that is ok!!

  • Sunburn by Laura Lippman. 3🌟.

They meet by chance in a local bar in a small town in Delaware. Polly is heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through. Yet she stays and so does he – drawn to this mysterious redhead who unnerves and excites him. Over the course of one hot summer, they abandon themselves to a steamy affair. But each holds back something from the other – dangerous, even lethal, secrets….

Who writes the blurb on the back of book jackets? Is it someone in marketing??? I really enjoyed Sunburn by Laura Lippman bit if it hadn’t come recommended (from the brilliant podcast What should I read next) I would NEVER have picked it up. The blurb on the back of the book jacket makes it sound like a trashy Mills and Boon- steamy affair, dangerous secrets 🤮. I think the book description does the book a bit of a disservice….I would not call it steamy but this lack of steam relieved me somewhat – who wants to read about shaking headboards when your sex life is currently deader than a dead thing. Anyway it was a pretty good read. A solid 3/4 star. Perfect for a holiday when you don’t want anything too taxing. The moral of this post is to buy your books based on recommendation and not on the blurb on the back .

  • Peach by Emma Glass. 3🌟.

Peach is a teenage girl like any other. She has college, and her friends, and her parents and the new baby, and a lovely boyfriend Green. She has her friend Sandy, and Sid the cat, and homework to do.

But something has happened-something unspeakable – and the world has become unfamiliar, fractured into strange textures and patterns. Reading through her refracted universe, Peach knows that the people she loves are in danger, real danger. If she is not to be swallowed hole Peach must summon all her courage and find something nameless and strange that lies within her.

What are your thoughts on books that are a bit different? I originally used the word ‘odd’ instead of ‘different’ but it goes without saying ‘different’ is different for everyone. For me this book was different. My husband bought it for me and he always seems to buy me books that I wouldn’t necessarily pick up myself. I am a typical cancerian and by this I mean that I am comfortable in my comfort zone. With books it means that I know what I like and that is what I gravitate towards. Anyway, Coming Through Slaughter (which I reviewed a few months ago) and Peach were both my husband’s picks, they were both out of my comfort zone, both very poetic, both almost like a stream of consciousness. Both reminded me of those dreams you have when you have had a bit too much to drink and everything seems a bit weird. 🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷Both books were short so I just buckled in and allowed myself to be taken for a ride. It’s definitely good to challenge myself when it comes to reading. This is the main reason why I enjoy book club….I am currently trudging through Sapiens which is a book club read and definitely not something I would have picked up otherwise.

Anyway, onto Peach. This book comes with massive triggers for sexual assault, animal cruelty, cannibalism. When you think that the book is only 112 pages long you are in for a pretty intense ride. I found it visceral, brutal and disturbing. There were times where I literally winced when reading. Like Peach, Emma Glass is a vegetarian. To research the book, she forced herself to cook a sausage: the gristle, fat and slime disgusted her and consequently Peach’s rapist becomes a sausage. Is he a literal sausage or in Peach’s disturbed mind does he just have sausage attributes? The same with Mr Custard and Green. Indeed, all the characters are ‘things.’ Initially, I was frustrated by this but as the book went on, I discovered that it didn’t really matter. Enjoyable??? No, this book is not enjoyable. Disturbing?? Yes and definitely a book that will stay with me. 🍑 🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑

  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. 4🌟.
  • Charles Dickens born 7th February 1812.

Dark, mysterious and mordantly funny, Oliver Twist features some of the most memorably drawn villains in all of fiction – the treacherous gang master Fagin, the menacing thug Bill Sikes, the Artful Dodger at their den of thieves in the grimy London backstreets. Dickens’s novel is both an angry indictment of poverty, and an adventure filled with an air of threat and pervasive evil.

I am embarrassed to say that it has taken me so long to read this book because having seen Carol Reed‘s film Oliver, I thought I knew the story. 😯😯🙄🙄. DON’T ASSUME YOU KNOW A BOOK BECAUSE YOU HAVE SEEN THE MOVIE. As a ridiculously keen reader, and this being a book blog, I am MORTIFIED to admit that I am GUILTY. Mr Dickens, I humbly apologise. If you are a fool like me and think you know the story because you have seen the film, I urge you to REVIEW THE SITUATION. 😂🤣

On reading the novel, I am surprised that it lends itself so well to a musical. The book is really dark and Dickens uses it to highlight his opinions on child labour, poverty and the Poor Laws. Unlike the musical,although Oliver is the title character, he is not the most featured character. On finishing the book, I don’t really have much of a sense of who Oliver is….apart from a young, naive orphan who wants to be good.

I don’t think you can mention the novel without talking about anti-semitism. According to the font of all knowledge….Wikipedia, Fagin is referred to as ‘The Jew’ 274 times in the first 38 chapters. When criticised by the Jewish Chronicle, Dickens responded:  “it unfortunately was true, of the time to which the story refers, that that class of criminal almost invariably was a Jew.” After numerous criticisms, Dickens changed the rest of the text and for the remaining chapters Fagin is barely called ‘the Jew.’ Being a big fan of the musical, I was interested to read that Ron Moody also struggled with the anti semitism. Of Fagin he said:

….. as a Jew, I could never play such an evil, corrupting character. So I made him into a clown and turned the songs, which Lionel Bart had intended to be sung straight, into comedy. To me, numbers such as I’m Reviewing the Situation leapt off the page as comic turns, but Bart accused me of ruining the show.

Without a doubt the difference in character between Dickens’s Fagin and Moody’s was a shock. In the novel there is nothing of the ‘clown’ about him. He is the brains behind the criminality in the book and Sikes is essentially just a big thug.

I love Dickens’s writing. Granted, there are a few long-winded passages (the quote below is one of the longest sentences I have ever read), but I loved the flow and pace of the novel.

Dickens is an author who has the ability to terrify, amuse and to pull on the heart strings . The chapter when Fagin is awaiting his execution is really affecting. Few books have made me cry but I found this passage from Nancy really upsetting. Here, I think Dickens completely summed up why people often stay in abusive relationships. So very sad.

‘When ladies as a young, and good, and beautiful as you are,’ replied the girl steadily, ‘give away your hearts, love will carry you all lengths – even such as you who have home, friends, other admirers, everything to fill them. When such as me, who have no certain roof but the Coffin lid, and no friend in sickness or death but the hospital nurse, set of rotten hearts on any man, and let him fill the place that parents, homr, and friends filled once, or that has been a blank through all our wretched lives, who can hope to cure us? Pity us, lady,-pity us for having only one feeling of the woman left, and for having that turned by a heavy judgement from a comfort and pride into a new means of violence and suffering.

Until next month. Thank you so much for reading .

February Kids Reads

Hello all. Being a bit of a lazy bones this morning and writing this while sat in bed. Maisie in the next room asleep. I am listening to the wind giving our roof a battering. We are in the middle of roof angst as we seem to have rain pouring in!!!! 😳😳😳 We only got our loft extension done a couple of years ago and it’s clearly not fit for purpose!!!

So this month all three books are faves of my eldest daughter Edie, who is 6. Next month I will make sure I include some of Ceci’s faves.

  • The Nothing to see Here Hotel by Steven Butler. Illustrated by Steven Lenton.

Welcome to The Nothing to see Here Hotel for magical creatures, where weird is normal for Frankie Banister and his parents who run the hotel. When a messenger arrives announcing the imminent arrival of the goblin prince Grogbah, Frankie and his family rush into action to get ready for their important guest. But it soon becomes obvious that the Banister family are going to have their work cut out with the demanding prince and his never ending entourage, especially and it turns out the rude little prince is hiding a secret.…

The only downside of Edie having caught the reading bug is that she no longer wants me to read to her at night. She gets into bed with her torch and reads aloud to herself (and her poor sister) for a good hour every evening. I have to holler up the stairs every 15 mins to tell her to go to sleep….it’s true, we all turn into our parents. As a result, in order to write reviews for Edie-age books I have to read them myself. In all honesty this is quite good as it quickly ups my Goodreads total and it means Edes and I have a mini book club ourselves.

After finishing this book a couple of days ago, I went on Goodreads to update. I decided not to give it a star rating because it is written for kids and a middle aged woman is definitely not the target audience. Sadly, I saw a few low star ratings and negative reviews written by adults who felt the book was offensive because of the racial connotations. Indeed it’s true that Prince Grogbah wears a turban and has three goblin wives but do people really think that Steven Butler is trying to make a negative statement about people from the Middle East????I am loathe to succumb to this snowflake attitude where literally anything and everything offends someone somewhere. The bottom line is that this is a book written for children and it has to be reviewed as such. My 6 year old (and this 38 year old) loved it. The story is fast paced and hilarious with some brilliant characters. The Molar Sisters and Berol Dunch who is an old wrinkly mermaid who insists on wearing a tiny bikini top were our faves. If your kids love the film Hotel Transylvania, they will ADORE this book. Steven Lenton who we love thanks to his illustrations for Shifty Mcgifty has done a brilliant job. Nearly every page has a fabulous picture with tons of things to spot. Edith (and myself) will definitely be reading the rest of the series!

  • A Book of Bears by Katie Viggers.

Meet the bears! Learn all about the eight different their families, their likes, their homes and more. Who is the biggest and who is the smallest? Which one is the honey monster and which one has anti-slip feet? Fun facts combined with Katie Viggers’ charming illustrations make this the perfect introduction to bears around the world.

Hands down the nicest book I have bought in a really long time. Thanks @luggylibrary for the recommendation. Because of this book, what Edie doesn’t know about Spectacled 👓 bears ain’t worth knowing. 🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓🤓This beautiful hard back book takes you through 8 bear families – Sloth🐻, Brown 🐻, Giant 🐼, American Black 🐻,

Spectacled 🐻, Polar 🐻, Asiatic Black 🐻 and the Sun 🐻. We learn about each family – how well they swim, climb and run and also if they hibernate. Katie Viggers’ illustrations are absolutely brilliant – beautiful but also funny. Edie particular enjoyed the Sloth Bear hair salon….apparently sloth bears have a lot of thick, black, shaggy hair around their faces…who knew?!? I love that there is enough humour to keep a 7 year old entertained but also enough factual content to engage older children. Anyway this is an absolutely beautiful book to buy as a pressie or add to your collection.

  • Meet the Twitches by Hayley Scott. Illustrated by Pippa Curnick.

Meet the Twitches, four tiny toy rabbits who live inside a Teacup House. 

They belong to a girl called Stevie and she loves playing with them. But guess what? These toy rabbits have a secret. They come alive when Stevie isn’t looking! 

Open up the Teacup House – and meet four little rabbit heroes with big ideas!

I had one of those soft-focus mum moments the other night when I found Edie (6) reading this book. I remember reading it to her a couple of years ago and now she is picking it up and reading it herself. I had a quick skim through to remind myself of what happened but the gist is that when Stevie moves house she is gifted a teacup-shaped dolls house with 4 little rabbit dolls. They come to life, get lost, need rescuing….you know the drill. Edie loves the illustrations. I think this book satisfies her need to read ‘big girls books’ but also appeals to her little girl head because it is full of colour illustrations. Hilariously when asked what she likes best she replied “the quality of the paper.” It’s nice paper to be fair….kinda glossy if you know what I mean. Edie loves the descriptions of Stevie’s outfits, and the detail of the teacup house. I remember loving the fact that Stevie’s mum is a single parent. Refreshing to read a book that isn’t about a mummy, daddy, son and daughter.

Anyway, if your 6 year old is in the market for a book with lovely paper, about little rabbits, cute outfits and fried egg jelly sweets, you should pick this up!!

Thanks for reading. X

January reads.

Happy New Year all! I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas and received tons of good books. Surprisingly, books were a bit of a rare present for me this year but I now do an excellent line in jumpers. Probably one of my highlights of the festive period was my sister in law organising my Monica Geller Book Cupboard of Doom. It now looks beautiful and I can see exactly what is in there!!!!

  • Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout. 5 🌟

Olive, Again follows the blunt, contradictory, yet deeply lovable Olive Kitteridge as she grows older, navigating the second half of her life as she comes to terms with the changes-sometimes welcome, sometimes not-in her own existence and in those around her.

Olive adjust to her new life with her second husband, challenges her estranged son and his family to except him, experiences loss and loneliness, witnesses the triumphs and heartbreaks of her friends and neighbours in the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine and, finally, open herself to new lessons about life.

Its hard to put into words what makes Elizabeth Strout’s writing so utterly perfect. Her books aren’t fireworks and cliff hangers. They are just a perfect parcel of beautifully well-observed characters living their ‘normal’ life.

I think it is often a dangerous thing for an author, actor,director to revisit a character. The age-old problem of a sequel never being quite as good as the original. Not so with Olive Again. I just loved every minute I spent reading about this cantankerous, gruff but completely loveable woman.

There is something comforting about Strout’s writing. Reading Strout is like sitting in a massive, squishy chair with a perfect hot chocolate. All her characters are completely believable and relatable. Olive reminds me of my secondary school English teacher. When we were divided into sets for our lessons, this teacher was the one who no one wanted. Everyone wanted the cool teacher who peppered his sentences with words like ‘shit’ and ‘bollocks.’ We wanted the cool sweary guy to teach us. No one wanted the real life Olive Kitteridge, but this was the teacher we ended up loving…..not someone who suffered fools but ultimately fair and with a heart of gold.

So yes, if you like a book about real people, with real lives, pick this up. Don’t expect twists and turns and exciting plot devices……Strout doesn’t need gimmicks to create a perfect and moving story.

  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. 4🌟.

Danny Conroy grows up in the Dutch House, a lavish folly in small-town Pennsylvania taken on by his property developer father. Though his father is distant and his mother is absent, Danny has his beloved sister Maeve: Maeve, with her wall of black hair, her delicacy, her brilliant. Life is comfortable and coherent, played out under the watchful eyes of the house’s former owners in the frames of their oil paintings.

Then one day their father brings Andrea home. Her arrival will exact a banishment: a banishment whose reverberations will echo for the rest of their lives.

As decades pass, Danny and his sister are drawn back time and again to the place they can never enter, knocking in vain on the locked door of the past. For behind the mystery of their own enforced Exile is that of their mother’s self imposed one: an absence more powerful than any presence they have known.

One thing I have definitely noticed since starting my maternity leave is how few books I am getting through. BM (before Maisie) I was averaging about 8 books a month. Commuting into work, sitting in the dressing room and reading in bed at night meant I could devour books. Now I am averaging about 1 book a month….not conducive to a book blog. This is going to sound quite melodramatic but I think this lack of reading time massively affects my mental health. Reading is my self-care. It’s my ‘me time.’ It means I can escape into a world where no one is going to ask me for a bottle of milk or to wipe their bottoms. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mum but having some time for myself each day makes me a much better parent. The sense of achievement I feel when I finish a book is immense. The fact The Dutch House took me a whole month to read makes me a little sad. Books are like a good wine….you need to lap them up not sip them for a whole month. 😂. For me, sipping a book leads to a disjointed, unenjoyable read. When I look back on the books I have loved, they are often holiday reads….books that I have been able to immerse myself in for a few lazy days.

Having said all the above, a sipped book which still achieves a 4 🌟 rating must mean it’s a goodun’. This book had all the ingredients of a great read for me….brilliant characters (some I hated, some I loved), a family saga and beautiful writing. The book almost felt like a fairy tale: the idea that the children had to essentially fend for themselves due to the evil stepmother, the death of the father and the absence of the ridiculous mother who chose to travel the world to help others rather than look after and nurture her children. I think I despised Elna more that Andrea. I thought Maeve was a brilliant character. I loved all her decisions and I felt she was utterly relatable. It was also lovely to read about such a strong sibling bond. Really good book and I will definitely be reading more Patchett.

  • My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier. 4🌟.

Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in making Philip his heir, knowing that he will treasure his beautiful Cornish estate. But Phillip’s world is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries – and then dies suddenly in suspicious circumstances.

Before long, the new widow-Phillips cousin Rachel-arrives in England. Despite himself, he is drawn to the beautiful, mysterious woman. But could she be Ambrose’s killer?

Ooooooh Daphne you are my fave. Rachel is a strong, complicated, worldly and intelligent woman. She may or may not be a murderer but let’s not pick holes in the poor woman shall we?

This was our book club pick for January and I am happy to report that the great Du Maurier definitely challenged people’s preconceptions on classic literature. I think a lot of people were quite daunted by the ‘classic’ connotations of this book and wonderfully, everyone who read it, absolutely loved it.

For me, the book isn’t really a ‘did she, didn’t she?’ story. This book is about sex and the power sex has to manipulate and control. Sadly, I am very unforgiving of women in literature. I’m sure it makes me seem very small minded and unkind but I loathe female characters who are stupid, ridiculous about men, overly girly and vacuous. Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey did my head in. Constant referral to her ‘inner goddess’ and her submission to a man made me HATE her. So, in this novel, I can forgive Rachel for the fact that she may have murdered a man….she is intelligent and she clearly rules the roost. She is interesting….I wanted to know more about her.

Can you actually change a man??? In the spirit of New Year New You I am going to attempt to change my husband. Sex* in 2020 is off the cards as 6 month old Maisie has decided that the only way she will sleep for a 2 hr stretch is if she sleeps between us, so I have just raided the charity shop for some books to entice Ozzie to put the iPhone down. I am fully expecting all these books to be in the same position on the bedside table in June although they will be covered in dust and cobwebs. Come on Ozzie, read a book, you’ll like it.

*Edith, Ceci and Maisie if you ever grow up and read this post, we have only ever had sex 3 times and you guys were the result. It was horrible and awful but we had to do it it create life, to create you. Sometimes it was worth it. 😂

Anyway that is all for this month. Thanks for reading.