March reads

Towards the end of March I had a complete reading epiphany….wait for it…… I am no longer going to read books on my kindle. I absolutely HATE reading on my kindle. It completely take the enjoyment away from me and as dramatic as it sounds, it makes me feel quite depressed. Apart from my children, dog and husband (in that order), reading is my passion….and for me, books go hand in hand with reading. I love the physical act of holding a book, getting more than halfway through and actually seeing the pages go past.

I have also decided that from now on I am going to post my monthly reads on instagram. Not the whole reviews obviously but instead of a review I am just going to put down 3 words or phrases that come to mind when I think of each book. Maybe this will spur someone on to pick one up….or not.

1. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid 3*

Words… magical realism, refugee, love.




*One of Barack Obama’s top ten books of 2017*

The Times Top 10 Bestseller

Guardian Top 10 Bestseller

The New York Times Top 5 Bestseller

Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal 2018 and finalist for the Neustadt Prize 2018

‘Mixing the real and the surreal, using old fairy-tale magic… Compelling, crystalline, unnervingly dystopian’ Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

An extraordinary story of love and hope from the bestselling, Man Booker-shortlisted author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist

This is Nadia. She is fiercely independent with an excellent sense of humour and a love of smoking alone on her balcony late at nightThis is Saeed. He is sweet and shy and kind to strangers. He also has a balcony but he uses his for star-gazing.

This is their story: a love story, but also a story about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow. Saeed and Nadia are falling in love, and their city is falling apart. Here is a world in crisis and two human beings travelling through it.

This was a book club read and one with which I am on the seesaw of 3 and 4*. Its raining today and I am about to change a manky nappy so I am going to put it at 3*. I think even though this book is so relevant right now, members of our book club were quite disappointed . I haven’t read it, but apparently this book doesn’t compare at all to The Optician of Lampedusa, which had great reviews and people say is very moving.

The element of magical realism was also a major problem. The very idea that you could just find a door which would lead you to another world, belittled the whole journey of a refugee. No images akin to those of 3 year old Alan Kurdi in Exit West. For us, the whole element of crisis and desperation was missing.

In conclusion, I think we were all baffled by the accolades this book has received. Is it because the subject matter is so emotive that people aren’t so critical?  Hamid’s idea was interesting and original but at the end of the novel you definitely felt that something was lacking.


2. The Manson Women and Me by Nikki Meredith. 2*

Words……psychology, parents, indoctrination.

In 1969, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel carried out horrific acts of butchery on the orders of cult leader Charles Manson. At their murder trial, the lead prosecutor described them as ‘human monsters.’ But to anyone who knew them growing up, they were bright, promising girls, seemingly incapable of such an crime. Award-winning journalist Nikki Meredith began visiting them in prison to discover how they had changed during their incarceration. The more Meredith got to know them, the more she was lured into a deeper dilemma: What compels ‘normal’ people to do unspeakable things?

Having finished this book, my lasting thought is that it needs editing. Badly. The subject matter really sparked my interest. Although a lot has been written about Manson, I really wanted to know what made the Manson women commit these horrific acts. The interviews between Meredith and Leslie Van Houten and Leslie’s mother were really interesting. Less so with Patricia Krenwinkel who Meredith clearly had less of a rapport with. I wish there had been more interviews and less memoir of Meredith’s life. I would often get to the end of a chapter and think “what was the point in that?” In conclusion, it was a bit ‘meh.’

3. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. 5*

Words….anxiety, depression, humour.


Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again.

A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.

Oh Matt Haig how joyous I am to have found you!!!

As someone who has struggled with depression since I was 16, I have tried counselling, CBT, hypnotherapy, Citalopram and reading every book under the sun about depression and anxiety.  This the first book I have read which I feel has been written for me and me alone. I have found over the years that actually the most effective means at making me feel better, is not trying to ‘fix’ me but basically to have someone say ‘it’s shit, but I understand.’ This is what I get from this book and as a result of Haig’s book, I don’t feel like a failure because I struggle with depression, I feel a sense of positivity that I am not alone and even on my darkest days, things will get better.

I have so much respect for the way this book is written. In a chatty, non judgemental way with just the right amount of statistics and humour. It is really important that this book comes from a male author.

Without a doubt I would recommend this book to anyone whose life is touched by depression but also to men, boys who are scared to voice their fears, anxieties and sadnesses.

4. The Humans by Matt Haig. 4*

Words….hilarious, touching, aliens.

After an ‘incident’ one wet Friday night where Professor Andrew Martin is found walking naked through the streets of Cambridge, he is not feeling quite himself. Food sickens him. Clothes confound him. Even his loving wife and teenage son are repulsive to him. He feels lost amongst a crazy alien species and hates everyone on the planet. Everyone, that is, except Newton – and he’s a dog.

What could possibly make someone change their mind about the human race. .

Book clubs are funny old things aren’t they? Why do you join a book club? To read more? To read outside your comfort zone and forget your prejudices? I ask these questions because this was a book club read. The majority of the group loved this book bar 2 people. When asked why they said “I hate science fiction.” Undoubtedly there is an element of sci-fi….alien life but this is definitely not all that this book is about. I loved it mainly because it made me laugh and that takes a lot on a delayed south west train in the morning. I also found it very touching. Andrew’s relationship with his wife and particularly with his son was very moving and definitely made me sit up and recognise how easy it is to focus on the unimportant things in life and leave the important things to founder.

5. A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin. 4*

Words…..America, university, old-school-thriller.

Dorothy meets a handsome young man with an eye for her inheritance while she is in her sophomore year. They are to be married and her life will be blissful; but Dorothy is pregnant and her fiancé’s plans are ruined, for Dorothy would be disinherited if her father discovered the truth. So the young man provides his bride to be with some pills that will solve the problem. Soon there will be no baby – and perhaps no Dorothy either… A Kiss before Dying, Levin’s first novel, earned him the 1954 Edgar Award for Best First Novel and is regarded as a modern classic.

This was an unplanned read for me this month. My mother in law came to stay last week. This is tremendous because she is undoubtedly the MOST helpful woman in history. She always offers to do the school run for me which I always accept. For all exhausted mothers out there, you will know what a treat this is. The only snag with this situation is I then feel like I am on holiday and that I have all the time in the world to get myself ready for work….as a result I am always late. On this particular day, I was still leisurely eating a bagel 15 minutes before I was due to leave the house. Admittedly my standards are lower and I definitely don’t look as coiffed heading into work as I used to but I can get ready to leave in 15 mins at a push. What screwed it on this particular day is that my potty training 2 year old decided to piss all over my bed. I left the house feeling grumpy and harassed. I also discovered I had left my book at home. HORROR. I hot footed it into the charity shop and my eye spied Ira Levin.

The legendary Levin has never disappointed. I have listened to Rosemary’s Baby and The Boys from Brazil on audio book and I can honestly say that in my memory of audio books, these 2 really held my concentration.

I whipped through this book is 2 sittings. These are the kind of thrillers I love to read. Like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, this book kept me guessing. Who do you trust? I bloody love an unreliable narrator. I haven’t yet watched the film but in my mind it will be like an Alfred Hitchcock. 1950s America is a time period I love reading. I have such a vivid picture in my mind of how the film will look…I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

6. Crooked Letter Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. 4*

Words…..Deep South, racism, acceptance.

Amos, Mississippi, is a quiet town. Silas Jones is its sole law enforcement officer. The last excitement here was nearly twenty years ago, when a teenage girl disappeared on a date with Larry Ott, Silas’s one-time boyhood friend. The law couldn’t prove Larry guilty, but the whole town has shunned him ever since. Then the town’s peace is shattered when someone tries to kill the reclusive Ott, another young woman goes missing, and the town’s drug dealer is murdered. Woven through the tautly written murder story is the unspoken secret that hangs over the lives of two men – one black, one white.

This is a book I am definitely going to buy for my dad. I completely associate my dad with American fiction, particularly that set in the Deep South. He has always been interested in the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement. If I had masses of money, I would love to pay for dad to do a road trip round the Deep South. I think he would fully immerse himself in the culture, food and music. It would also be a trip I would adore to make.

Franklin’s book is not without its accolades. It won the Crime Novel of the Year in 2010. This book so completely evoked the sights, smells and tastes of the South that reading it often felt like I was watching it on screen. The plot is great, but it definitely comes secondary to the brilliant characters.  Larry Ott is a character, which even now, 2 weeks after finishing the book, I still feel a lump in my throat when I think of him. The small town setting, combined with racial tensions and prejudices, made the book feel almost suffocating. In the middle of all these emotions, is Ott who is the brunt of everyone’s suspicion when it comes to the disappearance of the two girls. A painful but great read.

7. Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth. 5*.

Words….1950s, slum, hardship.

Jennifer Worth trained as a nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, and was later ward sister at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in London, then the Marie Curie Hospital, also in London. Music had always been her passion, and in 1973 she left nursing in order to study music intensively, teaching piano and singing for about twenty-five years. Jennifer died in May 2011 after a short illness, leaving her husband Philip, two daughters and three grandchildren. Her books have all been bestsellers.

Before having children, I used to be an avid fan of the a TV programme One Born Every Minute. I just loved the birth stories and seeing the beautiful babies. Even the sadder episodes I would watch and although I would be moved, the stories didn’t affect me too deeply. Then my own children arrived and my emotional level went through the roof. No longer could I watch films or read stories where children were anything other than happy. Now, even poor Charlie Bucket being unable to buy a bar of chocolate leaves me in bits. If One Born Every Minute or Call the Midwife comes in the TV, I have to switch off. Seeing women in labour is a very different thing when you have been through it yourself.

My youngest daughter was born 2.5 years ago so when a colleague recommended the novel Call the Midwife to me, I started reading with some trepidation.

I was very quickly hooked. Although the first scene of labour made me cross my legs a little, Worth’s writing about the East End, the characters she treated there and the nuns with whom she lived was wonderful. The chapters about Mrs Jenkins and the workhouse were utterly utterly heartbreaking. It has been a very long time since a book has made me cry. Life for the paupers in post war London was completely unbearable but yet families still persevered against the odds to look after their families. I have to say, the book hasn’t made me want to watch the tv series as thanks to Worth, I have such a strong image of 1950s London in my head. I am definitely planning on reading the rest of the books in the series.

8. We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. 4*

Words…..chimps, memory, siblings.

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014

The Million Copy Best-Seller

Rosemary’s young, just at college, and she’s decided not to tell anyone a thing about her family. So we’re not going to tell you too much either: you’ll have to find out for yourselves, round about page 77, what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other.

Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone – vanished from her life. There’s something unique about Rosemary’s sister, Fern. And it was this decision, made by her parents, to give Rosemary a sister like no other, that began all of Rosemary’s trouble. So now she’s telling her story: full of hilarious asides and brilliantly spiky lines, it’s a looping narrative that begins towards the end, and then goes back to the beginning. Twice.

I read this book in 4 days. If you asked me 3 days ago what I was thinking, I would have said I was close to giving up. Why????? SPOILER ALERT!!!!!! Because of the monkey business. I don’t mind the fact that Fern is a chimp, in fact, it is this very reason that I grew to love the book. I hated that this major plot point wasn’t explained until page 77!!! 77!!!!! Yes, I understand why she did it, but in all honesty, it just pissed me off. If there weren’t so many good books in the world, I would have gone back and re-read pages 1-76 to see what I had missed when I had been spending the first third of the book thinking Fern was a human, but there ARE too many good books!

Ignoring monkey-gate, when this book finally dropped its cloak of ambiguity, I really enjoyed it and I admit I shed a tear on the last page. I also really enjoyed Fowler’s writing of Rosemary’s memory.  This, yet again is ambiguous, but I guess memory is isn’t it? Do you remember things correctly and in the right order??? I bet my early memories of situations are very different to my parent’s memories of the same situation. Its a really interesting idea and one I felt that Fowler explored really well.


Until next month!

March Beauty. Hit, miss or maybe

Before jumping in with this month’s products I think it is important that I clarify my headings. Hit-with products in this category they are things I think are absolutely wicked. I may put in products that I have posted about before….this is basically a bullying tactic by me to convince you of the severe hittyness of the hit. Miss – these are products that are pants, crap, rubbish and are things no one should buy. Maybe – these are products which aren’t necessarily bad, but are things that aren’t really suited to me.


  • Flexitol Heel Balm. £5.99

OK, OK this is not a glamourous, bathroom display product but neither is scaly hobbit feet and this stuff will defo banish feet from the Shire. It’s thick stuff. Smear it on at bed time, put on a pair of those not sexy but oh so comfy bed socks and your feet will be delish by morning .

  • Caudalie Vinosource SOS Thirst Quenching Serum. £29.99

This is a really lovely serum that provides results immediately. Firstly , the smell is gorge. It’s one of those really happy, uplifting citrusy scents. It’s a really light texture which you could also use as a primer. It sinks in really quickly and feels like a real treat, particularly when dealing with the crazy weather we have been having the last month. Buy it. It’s brill.

  • Rosalena Rock and Rose Facial Oil. £42.99

Oooooooh bloody hell this stuff is lush. My skin laps it up like my mouth laps up Cadbury’s fruit and nut. It smells amazing….rose, geranium and Jasmin. It contains only good things…no chemicals. Prickly pear oil to encourage collagen, evening primrose oil to help with ageing and grape seed oil to leave skin hydrated. My skin looks brill. Radiant and feels plumped.

  • Oils of Life. The Body Shop. £30

The only downside of this product is it’s stupid name which sounds like something from a kid’s adventure cartoon. Could they honestly not come up with a better name?!?!

Anyway, name aside, this is a really lovely facial oil. I use it at night after a serum and my skin definitely feels nourished in the morning .


  • Moa Fortifying Green Bath Potion. £4.00 for a 10ml ‘shot’ or £28.00 for 100ml

I began writing this post just after I had poured my ‘shot’ of potion into the water. Immediately I could smell the peppermint and my sinuses felt clearer. I had also been for a run today and my legs felt invigorated after this bath. Why it is only a maybe is because I am a lady who likes her bath bubbly. I don’t really want to feel invigorated after a bath, I want to feel moisturised by tons of luxurious bubbles.

  • Korres White Tea Facial Fluid Gel Cleanser. £15.00

This seemed to do the job. My make-up came off effectively and my skin wasn’t tight afterwards. I thought it was really nightly scented and £15 is quite a lot to spend on a cleanser in my opinion.

Quite a positive month all in all. No Misses and a few hits that I will definitely buy again.

I hope you all have a lovely Easter.

A month of reading: February.

The start of February’s reading saw me completely embedded in the 17th century. You know that feeling when you find a book so comforting that you want to retain some of that comfort in your next read???? For some reason I found plague and witch hunts comforting?!?!? Maybe it was the candlelight and mead .

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. 4*

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of ‘March’ and ‘People of the Book’. A young woman’s struggle to save her family and her soul during the extraordinary year of 1666, when plague suddenly struck a small Derbyshire village. In 1666, plague swept through London, driving the King and his court to Oxford, and Samuel Pepys to Greenwich, in an attempt to escape contagion. The north of England remained untouched until, in a small community of leadminers and hill farmers, a bolt of cloth arrived from the capital. The tailor who cut the cloth had no way of knowing that the damp fabric carried with it bubonic infection. So begins the Year of Wonders, in which a Pennine village of 350 souls confronts a scourge beyond remedy or understanding. Desperate, the villagers turn to sorcery, herb lore, and murderous witch-hunting. Then, led by a young and charismatic preacher, they elect to isolate themselves in a fatal quarantine. The story is told through the eyes of Anna Frith who, at only 18, must contend with the death of her family, the disintegration of her society, and the lure of a dangerous and illicit attraction. Geraldine Brooks’s novel explores love and learning, fear and fanaticism, and the struggle of 17th century science and religion to deal with a seemingly diabolical pestilence. ‘Year of Wonders’ is also an eloquent memorial to the real-life Derbyshire villagers who chose to suffer alone during England’s last great plague.

This was my second reading of this book. The first time was after a recommendation by a colleague. He thought it was AMAZING. I read it and thought it was a bit meh. A solid 3*. I think I have a thing that if a book is crazy popular I almost don’t allow myself to enjoy it….it’s almost like I don’t want to relinquish control and let myself enjoy it as much as I should. So, I had to reread it for February’s Book club and this time I loved it. It’s not a 5* but it’s a solid 4* from me. Maybe I was just in a different place, maybe because it hadn’t been massively bigged up, I actually allowed myself to enjoy it without looking for faults. Anyway it was good. A few little niggles….Anna is a great character but I wonder if she was just too modern for the time and although this book was a massive book club hit we all agreed that the ending was slightly ridiculous and seemed to come from nowhere.

The Witch Finder’s Sister by Beth Underdown. 3.5 *

When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?

And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

After finishing Year of Wonders I felt pretty invested in the 17th century so I picked up Underdown’s novel. Although Alice Hopkins is a fictional character, her brother Matthew was the the infamous Witch Finder General, which was a role never acknowledged by Parliament but one he adopted never the less. This was a really interesting and enjoyable read. Such a terrifying time when any woman could be accused of witch craft and once suspected it was impossible to prove you weren’t guilty. A baby dies, people would look at a woman to blame, a man strays from his marriage bed and it would be the woman who had used magic to bewitch him. In a time when women had no voice in society it truly must have been a terrifying time to have been alive.

Like Year of Wonders I would recommend this atmospheric read to fans of historical fiction.

Mills and Boon Month

To celebrate Valentine’s Day I decided to buy a Mills and Boon for ever member of both Book clubs. Crazy generous of me!!!! I heard an absolutely hilarious podcast a few years ago where the three presenters of the show read the same Mills and Boon copy and then discussed it. Unfortunately I struggled to find 40 copies of the same book but after a quick eBay search, I bought a job lot of different titles. The books arrived and titles ranged from The Fireman and the Single Mother, The Boss’s Virgin and Stranded, Seduced…Pregnant. Everyone received a copy and armed with bit of Mills and Boon research, read voraciously. So…..Mills and Boon started publishing in 1908 and was bought by Harlequin in 1971. They publish a set amount of books each month. Any unsold copies get withdrawn and pulped. This means that if you are after a specific title, you have to buy second hand. According to Wikipedia, in 2008, 200 million Mills and Boon novels were sold and every 6.6 seconds, a Mills and Boon paperback is sold.

We had a hilarious meeting, reading aloud the scenes we found particularly funny. Yes, without a doubt, the story lines are formulaic but to be completely honest, I didn’t hate my book (Island Pleasures by Susan Napier) anymore than I hated 50 Shades of Grey. I think this was probably because my heroine in Island Pleasures didn’t have an inner goddess and I am slightly embarrassed to say that I actually found it sexier. Disclaimer….when I read 50 S of G it was pre kids and my husband and I still had a sex life based on lust rather than that feeling that you just should because you haven’t done it in YONKS.

Anyway, highly recommend doing a Mills and Boon month is you have a book club.

A Map of the Dark by Karen Ellis. 2.5*

FBI Agent Elsa Myers finds missing people.

She knows how it feels to be lost…

Though her father lies dying in a hospital north of New York City, Elsa cannot refuse a call for help. A teenage girl has gone missing from Forest Hills, Queens, and during the critical first hours of the case, a series of false leads hides the fact that she did not go willingly.

With each passing hour, as the hunt for Ruby deepens into a search for a man who may have been killing for years, the case starts to get underneath Elsa’s skin. Everything she has buried – her fraught relationship with her sister and niece, her self-destructive past, her mother’s death – threatens to resurface, with devastating consequences.

In order to save the missing girl, she may have to lose herself…and return to the darkness she’s been hiding from for years.

I shall start this review with the word ‘hmmmmmm.’ I have literally just read the last page and that is the feeling I am left with. I often think that writing reviews for books that are a bit ‘meh’ is much harder than writing reviews for books you loved or hated. Then, either way, at least you are passionate .

In my opinion, this book is just a bit paint by numbers. We have the damaged, tortured FBI agent whole is simultaneously dealing with her own demons whilst trying to save girls from a killer. We have the lovely sidekick, who recognises his partners brilliance and fragility. We have the potential love interest who doesn’t care about Elsa’s past and just wants to love her. The plot twists and turns were obvious and predictable. I feel bad because so far, this is quite a scathing review but I do feel that Ellis needs to up her game if she want to compete with other authors in the genre. Having said that, this book is the start of a series so I’m sure the plots will improve. Unfortunately, this book did not intrigue me enough to see the series out to the end.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This is going to be the only book in this blog post which doesn’t get a rating. Why????? Wait for it…… I didn’t finish it. I gave up. I am a Night Circus Failure. I admit that I am mortified by these statements. I have read so many reviews and this book is LOVED. Just not by me. I’m sorry. The reason is, I am just not a fan of books about magic, witches and wizards etc. Now for another controversial statement….I didn’t love Harry Potter. I thought it was ok. But as the books got thicker and thicker I just couldn’t be arsed. If Night Circus had been half its length I may have persevered but I guess we’ll never know.

Penance by Kinae Minato. Translated by Philip Gabriel. 2.5 *

When a group of young girls are approached by a stranger, they cannot know that the encounter will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Hours later, Emily is dead. The surviving girls alone can identify the killer. But not one of them remembers his face…

Driven mad by grief, the victim’s mother demands the girls find the murderer or else atone for their crimes. If they do neither, she will have her revenge. She will make them pay…

I feel that the blurb on this book is quite misleading. This book is not about a mother’s revenge. This book is about how a very disturbing murder of a child affects the lives of the other children present. I thought the book started really well and I found it very dark and well written, but after the initial chapter, it was just a formulaic, chapter by chapter account of each girl’s view of the murder and how it affected their life. I’m sure it is worth mentioning that maybe something may have been lost in the translation, but all in all, it wasn’t as good as I was expecting it to be.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty. 4*

At the beginning of the year my best friend’s dad died. I hadn’t seen him since Sal got married a couple of years ago. During my sixth form, I went to boarding school in North Yorkshire. Sal’s dad was the maths teacher. When I was diagnosed with depression in my first year, I often went over for sunday lunch. I have memories of us all sitting round the dining table playing a game called bridges….you pour melted sugar over ice-cream and try to eat the ice-cream without breaking the ‘bridge’ formed by the sugar. Sal’s dad was happy being in the great outdoors, clay pigeon shooting or propping up the bar at the local boozer. He wasn’t very loud but he had a wicked sense of humour. He found out that his skin cancer was terminal in september 2017 and he died, at home a few weeks ago.

Sal came over for lunch yesterday and we had a few glasses of wine and a good cry. We have been lucky so far in that death isn’t really something we have had to deal with directly. Until now, no-one close to us has died but death is a funny thing as it is something we are all going to deal with….the death of others and ultimately our own. Yet, what happens when we die still seems to be a taboo. We deal with it and we don’t touch on it again.

I picked up this book having heard a few podcast reviews and I wasn’t disappointed. We should be grateful for people like Doughty coming forward and giving their opinions on the subject of a ‘good death.’ Initially Doughty’s writing seemed a bit blasé but after a few chapters I was completely immersed. Why should death be taboo. It is the one great leveller. No matter how rich, poor, famous, infamous, horrible or lovely….we will all ultimately end up as dust. It is a sobering thought but I do believe it is a thought we ought to have and be aware of. This book has made me think a lot about what I want for the end of my life. The only reason this isn’t a 5* is the chapter on babies. I can make my peace with adults dying but I can’t handle a baby dying who has had no chance of life and I found this chapter a real struggle.

Thanks for reading and have a great reading March.

February Beauty. Hit, miss or maybe

How often do you walk into a shop and steer clear of their own named brands??? I have to admit that I do. Wrongly, I assume that own brands don’t have the gravitas and provide the results of specific brands.

This month’s post proves how wrong I have been. Boots has come out top trumps. Really, really top quality, providing brilliant results at even better prices. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to pay!!!!


  • Boots L;ft Bounce Back Night Re-hydrating Cream. £11.99

Smells absolutely lovely. Thick, velvety and luxurious. Lovely packaging. Feels much more expensive than it is. In the morning my skin was plumped and lush.

  • Boots L;ft Moisturising Day Cream. £11.99

I have nothing negative to say about this. Smells lovely, nice packaging, really moisturising and quirky absorbed.

  • Boots L;ft Buff and Glow 60 Second Polish. £12.99

Top product. Love it. Massage the gel onto dry skin for 60 seconds and it buffs away the dead skin. Use 3 times a week. Skin feels really smooth and definitely looks brighter.

  • Boots Lasting Perfection Foundation. £5.99

I was given this as a freebie from the make up artist at work. To be honest I thought it would be pants so I decided to just wear it on stage. I was wrong. I bloody love this stuff and considering the price it’s a major bargain. Its full coverage which I need. Hides the redness, open pores and dark circles without looking cakey and blends like a dream.

  • Kiko Pure Clean Scrub and Peel Wipes. £5.90

This came as a recommendation from a friend who knows my love of a scrub that SCRUBS. None of these namby, pamby scrubs for me. I like a scrub to buff away past sins. This is such a scrub you can only use it twice a week but by gum does it work. The wipes are double sided. One side is the scrubby side (and it’s really not for the faint hearted) and the other side, wipe over after you’ve scrubbed. No more dull skin for me. And at a bargain price.


  • Origins. Plantscription Powerful Lifting Cream. £46.80

Hmmmmm. For the price and the title of this cream I was expecting MIRACULOUS results. I was not as impressed as I felt I should have been. Firstly a disclaimer and it is quite a large disclaimer. I don’t have particularly saggy skin or many lines so maybe I am being unfair. I was sent this to review and so it probably wouldn’t be something I would usually buy. I liked the smell of this cream and I also liked the texture. I just felt that for me, the price of this cream is expensive and to be honest I don’t think it produced better results than the £11.99 cream I reviewed earlier.


  • Clinique All About The Eyes Serum. £26.75

Particularly lovely if you put in the fridge and want a nice, soothing and cooling eye serum. Roller ball feels nice. I just feel that I need something more moisturising.

  • Dr Organic Body Polish Pre Tan Exfoliator. £8.99

Disclaimer. I am not a fake tan fan so I was using this for the sole purpose of a body exfoliator/polish. It was fine. A bit meh. I wouldn’t buy this over a coffee scrub which are literally the best things ever.

Thanks for reading.

It’s the little things…..

Today I woke up with a funny feeling….positivity. Sadly and worryingly this is something I rarely feel. Granted it’s a Saturday and the day didn’t begin with the mad rush of school uniform, arguments about hairstyles and temperature of porridge but today I honestly feel good.

Due to this mad feeling of euphoria, I think it’s important that I write down why it is that I feel good.


  • I went out for a drink last night after the show. Usually I can’t be arsed and I just want to go to my bed but the key here is that it was a spontaneous drink. I happened to see a friend on my way out of the theatre who suggested a drink and I thought ‘yup.’ I didn’t have time to talk myself out of it by mentally listing the reasons why it wasn’t a good idea. I just went and I laughed and I had fun with my friends.
  • My children let my sleep this morning. Due to my inconsistent working hours my children definitely lack routine. Each week is different and my kids definitely suffer as a result of it. Sometimes I can pick them up from school, sometimes not. Sometimes I have a day at home, sometimes not. As a result, the girls are MEGA clingy. When I am home they want me. It’s lovely and I know there will be a time when they are indifferent but at the moment when they are both under 5 and struggling with the concept of sharing, I literally feel pulled in all directions. Today, however they went downstairs with daddy with no tears and I slept!!!!
  • I went for a run. Yet again this word spontaneous is going to pop up. I didn’t have time to talk myself out of it. I went into the sunshine and just ran. Maybe that is the thing….as a parent who works full time, spontaneity is word that is never used. Mums have no time for spontaneity. I know parenting is something we signed up for and I love it, but having the freedom to be spontaneous is really important. I could have spent the morning cleaning my fridge and hoovering (which was on my to do list) but I did something for me and it felt freeing and invigorating.
  • I went to the charity shop and bought tons of lovely books.
  • Today I have a matinee and no evening show. This is a major thing. Tonight I will have a ‘normal’ Saturday night with my husband. We will get a takeaway and watch a movie. This is not something to be sniffed at. There is something slightly depressing coming into work on a Friday night. Going up the escalator at Charing Cross and watching all the other people with that ‘Friday Feeling’ heading down the escalator to go home for their weekend is strange. I love my job and I am very lucky but weekends aren’t weekends when you are going into work. You miss your family and friends.
  • I found an unused £20 off voucher in my ASOS account. WIN.

So as a result, occasionally being spontaneous is wonderful for my mental health. I will have to remember this but ironically I will have to remember that I can’t plan to be spontaneous.

Have a lovely weekend.

Four New Children’s Books

I have been lucky enough to have been sent 4 children’s books to review this month. I absolutely love reviewing kids titles as Edith (4.5) takes the job really seriously. She is in her first year of school and has just started reading so to ask her opinions on new books makes her feel really important. Ceci (2.5) doesn’t seem to understand a lot of the stories but she always seems to pick out something that Edith and I hadn’t noticed.

The Wardrobe Monster by Bryony Thomson

What’s that knocking sound coming from the wardrobe? Every night, it makes Dora and her toy friends afraid to go to bed and every morning they are grumpy through lack of sleep. Eventually, they summon up the courage to face their fear together and open the wardrobe door…what falls out provides a humorous and reassuring story for all children who imagine monsters in the darkness.

Bryony Thomson is a Surrey based illustrator and writer. The Wardrobe Monster is her first book.

Both my daughters LOVED this book. What’s not to love???? There is the scare factor….the monster in the wardrobe and there is pink. This shouldn’t put boys off the book but there is a fair bit of pink. Dora’s hair is a tremendous shade of pink which has caused a few arguments with Edith (4.5) who thinks she should now have pink hair. I have to say that the pink is a lovely addition to the pictures and it really makes the colours pop. As soon as Ceci (2.5) saw the monster, she decided that because he was green and pink he couldn’t really be scary.

Edith was a big fan of the penguin who spends a lot of the book watching the proceedings and blinking. As the adult, the penguin was definitely my favourite character.

This book deals with the ever present night fears in a brilliant, unpatronising way. Firstly, we all laughed at the excuses Dora uses to delay going to bed. ‘I do that mummy’ were the cries from both my girls. The idea that the Wardrobe Monster was scared of noises coming from outside his wardrobe was fabulous. Ceci  was very concerned that he was lonely and now, the whole idea of night terrors has been turned on its head.


Amelia Fang and the Unicorn Lords by Laura Ellen Anderson

Amelia Fang is the biggest hearted vampiress you’ll ever meet. In this adventure, she and her friends Florence the yeti (DON’T CALL HER BEAST), Grimaldi the Death and Prince Tangine (reformed spoiled sprout), along with her pet pumpkin Squashy, must brave the journey to the terrifying Kingdom of the Light to try to find Tangine’s missing mother, Queen Fairyweather.

But with unicorns, fairies and angel-kittens lurking around every corner, who can they trust? And will they finally uncover the real villain keeping the kingdoms of Light and Dark as mortal enemies?

Join Amelia on her latest adventure. She won’t bite!

This gloriously ghostly new series from the creator of EVIL EMPEROR PENGUIN  is perfect for 7-9 year olds and fans of THE WORST WITCH and WITCH WARS. Amelia Fang is a modern Wednesday Addams – but much more loveable!

This was a hit in our house with my 4.5 year old and her 7 year old cousin. Edith (4.5) loved the fact that it looked like a ‘big girls book.’ I thought it was beautifully presented with purple edged paper and shiny purple on the front cover. We all loved the very Tim Burtonesque illustrations. In fact, my 2.5 year old LOVED the pictures. Particularly Amelia’s teeth, Florence and Fabio.

All the girls are massive fans of Hotel Transylvania so they are used to the idea of vampires as comedy characters but the addition of fairies, pumpkins and unicorns meant the girls were in magical heaven.

I read the book aloud to my 5 year old. I made some simplifications but it is great to read to kids….ample opportunity for a funny voice. Emily (7) read it herself and she loved it. The chapter lengths are short enough to feel she is making progress and there is enough action and pictures to hold interest. Another massive hit were the fart, poo, sweat and pus gags. It shouldn’t be underestimated how much these appeal to kids….when Squashy pooed down the well, Edith cried with laughter.

Erik the Lone Wolf by Sarah Finan

Erik had had enough of the wolf pack and it’s silly rules. “That’s it!”he muttered to himself. “I’m going to be a lone wolf.” And when no one was looking, he walked away.

Now nothing could stop Erik having fun…could it?

This book is about Erik, a young wolf who is sick of being told what to do and always being surrounded by his pack. So one day he decides to go it alone. He has a great time until he falls down a crevasse (quite a complicated word for children). He realises that he can’t climb out and just when he was starting to get scared, the wolf pack show up and rescue him, proving that he no longer wants to be alone.

Interestingly, on our initial reading of this book, Edith was very concerned that Erik had decided to leave his family. She seemed upset that Erik was on his own (even though in the beginning, Erik was quite happy). Edith is quite clingy so the idea that Erik would choose to leave his pack seemed totally alien to her. She almost seemed smug when Erik fell down the crevasse…..”see mummy…bad things happen if you run away.” She was really relieved when the pack arrived to rescue Erik. Ceci  was the complete opppsite. She LOVED Erik on his skis, doing what he wanted with no one to stop him. I guess that just goes to show how independent younger siblings often are.

Lovely, heartwarming story with beautiful illustrations.

Baby Bird by Andrew Gibbs and Zosienka

‘All birds are born to fly,’ thinks Baby Bird, watching the other hatchlings leave the nest. ‘I suppose it’s now or never…’ But one of Baby’s wings is twisted and shrunken and not at all like the other one. Instead of flying, Baby plummets to the ground. There, Baby makes a new friend, and learns that sometimes you have to find unexpected ways to achieve your dreams.

Both the girls enjoyed this story. Ceci (2.5) really enjoyed the pictures. Finding the caterpillar on the first page is her new game. She also loved the birds eating the worm. Ceci and I had lots of conversations revolving about Baby Bird hurting himself. “Ouch” has been a very overused word when discussing this book. Ceci fell off her scooter yesterday and she told me she was like Baby Bird.

Edith got onto the deeper meaning of the story….we are not all the same, some are better at some things than others. However, she was sad that Baby Bird couldn’t fly with her brothers and sisters and I have to say that I agree with her. The idea that Baby Bird practised and practised and was still unable to fly was a little depressing, particularly when that was combined with his family flying away.

Having said all of that, the illustrations are completely beautiful. We particularly liked the birds eye view of the countryside.

Three Great YA Novels

Last year I read 6 YA novels. 10% of my years reading was YA. I discovered some amazing authors…Neil Gaiman and Patrick Ness to name a couple. How had I not read these authors before??? Since discovering Neil Gaiman, I have bought The Ocean at the End of the Lane for loads of friends who have also fallen in love with his writing.

So what kind of YA novels do I enjoy? Nothing that resembles Twilight. I have no urge to read books about teenagers discovering their hormones and sex drives. I like dark books, mostly about real subjects and also the protagonist is important to me. No insipid women, no pathetic girly girls. Virginia Zimmerman, professor of English Literature at Bucknell University says

People might to go to YA literature to sink into a reality different than their own, but I think they sink into that reality to encounter feelings, challenges, and relationships they recognize from their own lives.

I was listening to a podcast the other day about book recommendations. A lady was looking for a YA book without any triggers. She wanted a ‘happy’ YA book to give to her son who was struggling with depression. The podcasters discovered that this was a rare phenomenon…happy YA doesn’t exist. YA books often deal with triggers and the struggles of growing up.


The Hazel Wood

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this novel.

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate – the Hazel Wood – Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. Her mother is stolen away – by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD.
To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began .

I think I am too much of a control freak to read fantasy. The lack of ‘rules’ frustrates me. I often feel that authors of Fantasy have free reign to write whatever they like. If the world is made up and the people are magic what is to stop the author writing whatever thoughts are in their head at the time. I found this particularly true of The Hazelwood. I really enjoyed the beginning of the book. The part of the story which was set in New York. I loved the creepy idea that Alice was being watched by people from the Hinterland. For me it all became a bit of a mess when Alice managed to break into the Hinterland. From this point, the book read like a tangle of necklaces that I had to unpick – so many ideas squashed into the pages. I felt frustrated and like I was suffering from sensory overload.

That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate how clever the book was. The idea that if a character leaves a story, all the other players are stuck

The musician’s tormented playing of the same wild notes. The woman in a heavy headdress, lifting a knife to her mouth, then lowering it, then again. The man who threw his head back and laughed, a gutsy sound, scraping dryly over a throat that must be bloody-raw.

I really enjoyed Albert’s imagery. This is a novel I can imagine being made into a film directed by Tim Burton. Indeed, a lot of the book reminded me of Alice in Wonderland.

I also really enjoyed Albert’s fairytales. I think she is onto a winner here and would love her to release a book of Tales from the Hinterland. She is obviously an author of incredible imagination, I just felt she was trying to put all her ideas into the first novel. I have an image of her sitting at her desk getting idea after idea and writing each one into the book in case she forgets them .

The fact that this novel is going to be the first in a trilogy poses some questions for me. Will I read the next one??? I think for me this depends on the content. I really would love to read more about Ella and her childhood and how she left. Why she stole Alice. I think her story has a lot of unanswered questions that really interest me.

The teenage me would have loved this book and I can imagine it will be ridiculously popular. Albert’s use of pop culture is also brilliant….so many Harry Potter references so she is clearly aiming for the Hogwarts fans!!!!

All in all, a solid 3* from me.

What if the world’s worst serial killer…was your dad?

Jasper (Jazz) Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he’s also the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could–from the criminal’s point of view.

And now bodies are piling up in Lobo’s Nod.

In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret–could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

I massively enjoyed this book. This is Lyga’s first in the Jasper Dent trilogy and I will definitely be reading all three. I found the subject matter completely gripping. Much like Good Me Bad Me we are dealing with the child of a psychopath. A killer, and in this case, one of America’s most infamous serial killers, Billy Dent. After his father’s arrest, Jazz requests to live with his grandma. This is so he can stay in his home town, nurse his senile grandmother and be near his best friend Howie and his girlfriend Connie. Jazz tries to continue his life in the way ‘normal’ teenagers do. Going to school, dating, joining drama club, all the while being haunted by his father’s words and the very real fear that he himself could commit crimes akin to his father’s. When a copycat killer starts a murder spree around the town, Jazz uses the knowledge of his father’s crimes to catch the killer.

I really liked Jazz as a character and considering what he had been through, I thought he was remarkably well adjusted….almost unbelievably so!!! He has just the right amount of vulnerability and humour to make him instantly likeable. even though he had the most appalling upbringing, he acknowledged that he wasn’t the only victim of his father. Jazz had a chance of a life which Billy’s other 50 victims were denied. There was no hint of Jazz wanting anyone to feel sorry for him.

I think it is important to acknowledge that obviously this is a book which contains pretty dark subject matter. This isn’t fantasy. This is real life and real people killing each other in very brutal ways. The methods of killing are quite elaborate and I definitely don’t think this book is aimed at younger teenagers.


The Hate U Give

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

This was my first 5* read of the year and although it is still early February I would be surprised if I read anything else this year that will move me as much as this novel. This is a book that needs to be read. The social and political messages in this novel, combined with the wonderful writing and characters make this book so important.

I am a mother of two daughters. We live in South West London. Both my husband and I work full time. I don’t consider us rich by any means but we definitely are stereotype white middle class. My children are brought up to know that the police catch the baddies. If they are ever lost, a policeman will help. For Starr, the female protagonist in this novel, she is taught that because of the colour of her skin and the neighbourhood in which she lives, nine times out of ten the police will think she is up to no good. She is taught to shut up to avoid being arrested or even shot. This is the very situation Starr finds herself in when she is being driven home from a party by her friend Kahlil. They get pulled over by a police officer and Kahlil gets fatally shot.

Angie Thomas says the book was inspired by the shooting of Oscar Grant who was a black teenager killed by a police officer.

At the time I was living in my mostly black, poor neighborhood in Jackson, Mississippi while attending a mostly white upper-middle class college. There was a 10-minute drive between my house and my school but in 10 minutes I drove out of one world and into another. I went from seeing Church’s Chicken on every corner to seeing Starbucks on every corner. And I heard two conversations about Oscar Grant. At home, he was one of our own — I saw kids like him every day who were trying to get their lives right but who had mistakes in their past. And at school, I heard people talk about how maybe Oscar deserved it or wondering why people were so upset about an ex-con. Oscar was dehumanized because he had a record. I was angry and hurt and frustrated. It felt like people at school were saying that someone from my neighborhood deserved to die.

This book completely opened up my eyes to the Black Lives Matter movement, the Black Panthers and idea of THUG life. So interesting and I really feel I learned a lot. Thomas’s writing is absolutely wonderful. The language is brilliant. I could hear each characters voice so clearly and her writing of Starr’s family dynamic was wonderful. Each character and their relationships with eachother was utterly believable and so well observed.

Starr is a wonderful protagonist. Her struggle to come to terms with what she has witnessed, her grief and then ultimately her anger of the injustice of the system is utterly inspiring. She is a character who demands respect. Juggling her life in her neighbourhood where drive-by shootings are the norm with her life as one of the few pupils of colour at her privileged school. It is also wonderful to see her mature throughout the novel. Through this awful event happening to her, she finds her own voice and the courage to stand up for justice. She is an awe inspiring character and a great role model.

A definite 5* from me.