August Reads

August has been a slow month. The Summer holidays have felt loooooong. I am writing this during the last week of the school holidays. We are on holiday in beautiful Wales. We spent 2 nights in the Celtic Manor. This hotel reminded me of something you would find in the US. Absolutely massive hotel. I don’t think I have ever stayed anywhere with an underground car park and endless escalators. There was lots of stuff for kids to do and eating in the bar in the evening was fab as there were tons of kids so I didn’t feel self conscious being there with a crying baby. The downside was that we were staying in the Manor House which is part of the hotel but the other end….it’s a bit like the Celtic Manor’s poor relation. No escalators in this part of the hotel. Ozzie got proper annoyed with carrying the buggy. We also had a really dark and dingy room. Having a shower was like being at the bottom of a well.

We then spent 3 nights at a glamping site called Wild Wellingtons. This site is just beautifully done. It’s pretty small – 2 pods sleeping about 5, a shepherd hut sleeping 4, a communal kitchen, 2 beautiful bathrooms, fire pit and a great play area. We were in the shepherd’s hut which had 2 bedroom and the most comfy beds. Edie and Ceci had the most wonderful time running all over the place doing what kids do. Tom and Sinead the owners were fab. I was amazed to learn that Tom pretty much built the place by himself. Sinead added tons of brilliant touches – egg boxes for the kids to collect bugs, a beautiful welcome pack, activities for the kids.

We are now staying at a brilliant place called Clydey Cottages. I can’t recommend it enough if you have young kids. Accommodation is lovely and cosy. All cottages have wood burners. Warm pool, play room and soft play for kids. Big DVD library, tons of baby equipment. I feel relaxed and I even finished a book this morning!!!

  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. 5⭐️.

Yegondo, Korea 1911. A club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen-year-old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja falls pregnant by a married yakuza, the family face ruin. But then a Christian minister offers a chance of salvation: a new life in Japan as his wife.

Following a man she barely knows to a hostile country where she has no friends and no home. Sunja’s salvation is just the beginning of her story.

I am a pretty fast reader. I love nothing better than going to bed at the same time as the kids and reading for hrs! Beds are for books not sex!πŸ€£πŸ“šAnyway since the summer holidays started and Maisie was born my bed is just for sleep…and not much of it. 🀬. It has taken me a full month to get through Pachinko πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ. For me to enjoy a book I usually have to get through the first 60 pages in one go so I get hooked. It took me about 5 days to get through the first 60 pages of this book just due to lack of time and absolute exhaustion. That being said this is a 5⭐️ read for me. I have lived with 4 generations of this Korean family for a month now and i feel a little bereft now it’s finished. In many ways this was a quiet book – no major action sequences. It was just a beautiful book about family and how the decisions you make affect future generations. Anyway if you love a family saga pls read this book. I adored it!

  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. 5⭐️.
  • Kamila Shamsie born 13th August 1973.

For as long as they can remember, siblings Isma, Aneeka and Parvaiz have had nothing but each other. But darker, stronger forces will divide Parvaiz from his sisters and drive him to the other side of the world, as he sets out to fulfil the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew.

Wow this book. Just wow!!! It’s been a long time since I have found a book so sad, distressing and moving.

On 18th September 2004, Liverpudlian man Kenneth Bigley was kidnapped by an Islamic extremist group. The group said they would release Bigley and his two colleagues in 48 hours if coalition forces released their Iraqi women prisoners. Bigley’s colleagues were killed when the deadline expired. Ken Bigley was beheaded two weeks later. I remember Mr Bigley’s exhausted and terrified face on the front pages of all the papers. Each morning I woke up hoping that our Government had managed to intervene and save that poor, innocent man. On the 22nd September, the captors released a video of Ken Bigley begging for his life. Despite all efforts to save him, Ken Bigley was beheaded on 7th October.

Shamsie’s Home Fire won the a Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2018. I can honestly say it has been a long time since a book has moved me like this. This is a hard and uncomfortable read but Shamsie handles the subject matter with great sensitivity. Shamsie based the novel on on Sophocles’s play Antigone. Not having studied classics I rushed to Wikipedia….god it’s confusing so I shall save you from my opinions about Sophocles. I did manage to work out that Antigone is represented by Aneeka. Aneeka’s twin has followed in his father’s footsteps and joined ISIS, working in their media unit. Incidentally it’s the media unit that would have been responsible for filming the execution of Ken Bigley. When Parvaiz decides he wants to come back to the UK, Aneeka begins a relationship with Eammon, the son of the Muslim born Home Secretary:

β€œI wanted Eamonn to want to do anything for me before I asked him to do something for my brother. Why shouldn’t I admit it? What would you stop at to help the people you love most?”

This is a a relatively short book that packs an almighty punch. The first 30 pages were a little slow but after that I couldn’t put it down. I knew a story about a Jihadi terrorist was unlikely to end happily but I was unprepared for just how upsetting and moving the book would become and I know this novel will stay with me for a very long time. A book about faith, lack of faith, devotion, love and family. A brilliant read.

  • Caitlin Doughty born 19th August 1984.

As a practicing mortician, Caitlin Doughty has long been fascinated by our pervasive terror of dead bodies. In From Here to Eternity she sets out in search of cultures unburdened by such fears. With curiosity and morbid humour, Doughty introduces us to inspiring death-care innovators, participates in powerful death practices almost entirely unknown in the West and explores new spaces for mourning-including a futuristic glowing -Buddha columbarium in Japan, a candlelit Mexican cemetery, and America’s only open-air pyre. In doing so she expands our sense of what it means to treat the dead with ‘dignity’ and reveals unexpected possibilities for our own death rituals.

My husband’s nan died at the beginning of July. She was 96, so had had a good life. She left behind her 3 daughters, 7 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren. Luckily, she didn’t suffer a long and horrible illness. She slipped away in her sleep surrounded by her family.

The funeral was about a month after nan died. Driving back to London afterwards, my husband and I were feeling reflective. I haven’t been to many funerals and thankfully, I haven’t lost many loved ones, so death isn’t something I think about particularly. I’m not scared by it, more intrigued. It’s something I know I will have to confront…my parents and my own. I only hope that when death comes it will be like Nan’s and those I love, including myself will just slip away.

Last week, sitting in the funeral car, following the hearse at 19 mph, watching dog walkers and postmen remove their hats out of respect, I started to think what I would want, or rather, what kind of sanitised-death-spectacle I want my family and friends to attend. My husband decided he wants to be thrown into the sea and then for everyone to go to the pub and I see his point. I definitely don’t want the sombre funeral home send off – coffin disappearing behind little velvet curtains, undertakers (who I’m sure are lovely but people I have never met) loading my coffin into a slowly moving car. The whole spectacle of a funeral is quite scary. I don’t mean the nice readings, I mean the bare bones (pun intended), the logistics.

Where I live in SW London, there is a funeral home in between a Tesco Express and a Costa Coffee. There is no secret back entrance for bodies to be unloaded or loaded. We pass said funeral home on our way to nursery in the morning. We often have to wait while a coffin is loaded into a hearse. It obviously prompts lots of questions from my daughters. The coffin gets loaded and then people continue their day….taking kids to nursery, picking up milk and bread or buying a latte. It often strikes me weird – a life gone while we continue on. But that is what happens isn’t it?

This gets me onto Caitlin. If you haven’t heard of Caitlin Doughty she is a mortician, blogger, YouTube star and author. I read Smoke Gets In Your Eyes after it was recommended on the brilliant What Should I Read Next podcast. I loved it and have since suggested it to lots of friends. Doughty advocates death acceptance. She encourages us to accept death as something that will happen to all of us. She describes Westerners as ‘death phobic’ and suffering from ‘death anxiety.’ On reading From Here To Eternity it is clear that we are far from embracing death as readily as other cultures. I am happy that nan got the funeral she wanted….I’m not sure as a culture we are ready to live with our corpses like in Indonesia but it was definitely an illuminating read and provided food for thought!

Thanks for reading this month!!!

August beauty

Hi all. Pamper wise this month has been a bit lacklustre. No lying in the bath with a face mask and a chilled glass of white. More like trowelling on concealer to hide my eye bags and more often than not realising I have forgotten to put deodorant on. I also stink of breastmilk which in all honesty is a smell that makes me heave. Anyway, the only way is up from here!!!

  • Midnight Recovery Concentrate. Kiehls. Β£38.00.

Oh sleep how I miss you!!! Last night Ozzie and I had high expectations for a stay at home date night. He was going to cook and we were going to watch a film. πŸ’ͺπŸ’ͺ By 5 pm he had been puked on by Maisie and I had been pooed on. We were in pjs before the kids. πŸ’ͺπŸ’ͺAt 4:30 we sat down for a romantic meal with the children… nuggets and beans. #winningatlife. I did manage a bath thank god and a tankard of wine. 🍷🍷🍷🍷So my prerequisite for a pampering product is that it has to smell lush. If it’s an oil it’s a bonus. This midnight recovery ticks both boxes. Smells of lavender which instantly calms me down. If you are an oil virgin give it a whirl…it’s quite light so you don’t go to sleep feeling like a chip and you wake up to glowy, clear skin. Lush.

  • Fushi Really Good Hair Oil. Β£18.00.

I rant about my hair a lot on this blog. First world problems and all but it is a tough gig having dyed blonde hair. The reason it’s tough is mainly down to my laziness. The whole point of these beauty blogs is to highlight products that work for people who haven’t got time or money to waste on products that, well, don’t. Although being blonde isn’t a product, obvs, for me it just doesn’t work. This month I had a massive hair disaster. I decided that now was the time to go darker. Not mega dark but dark enough that when the roots come through children at the park don’t ask me why I dye the top of my hair darker than the middle and bottom.

Although pregnancy has left me with 3 incredible daughters, it has also left me with hair that knows it’s own mind and will not be told how to behave (slightly like my daughters actually). A few months ago the wonderful Elthia (my hairdresser) noticed a black streak in my hair – just like I had slipped with the mascara wand. I hadn’t….it must have been those crazy pregnancy hormones. So, 3 weeks ago Elthia turned up ready to get my hair back to basics. We agreed on lightish brown with some honey streaks. All was going well until after the toner was applied. On removal of the towel my hair was grey!!! Proper granny grey. πŸ‘΅πŸ»! Elthia and I both started to perspire. We decided to warm it up a bit and take out the ashy colour. The result….ginger. Proper Geri Halliwell ginger. We decided not to put my hair through anymore that day so I have invested in some of those massive hair bands to cover a lot of the damage. I have to say it has faded and I am now quite used to it. I couldn’t really tell you what colour it is now…a pinkish, reddish, blonde but I don’t have roots which is a bonus!

As a result of the hair carnage I have been deep conditioning like a loon. A loon I tell you! So I received this Really Good Hair Oil to review. Firstly I would like to say as soon as a company choose to name their product ‘Really Good’ I think you are onto a bit of a losing streak. For me, I would name this product Pretty Mediocre Hair Oil. I mean it was ok, but just ok. To be honest I couldn’t be arsed with the faff of putting it on and then getting a steaming towel to put on my head for 30 mins. I don’t have 30 mins to sit with towels on my head.

Nope, for me nowt has compared to this brilliant product which L’Oreal need to rename as Proper Mega Deep Conditioning Masque.

If you haven’t tried it….DO! NOW!

  • Olay Deep Hydrating Eye Gel. Β£18.00
  • I have to say that out of all beauty products, I struggle to get excited by eye cream. Wrongly, the lazy tart in me relies on my facial moisturiser to keep my eye bags hydrated. I also believe that dark circles are often genetic or caused by being utterly knackered so unless I change my genes or get rid of my 3 kids I have to embrace my exhausted eyes.
  • This eye gel has made me a convert. It contains hyaluronic acid to plump and hydrate, cucumber extract to soothe, and witch hazel to combat puffiness. It is gorgeous straight out of the fridge for an instant cooling effect and it is absorbed really quickly. You only need a little bit so the pot lasts ages. Brilliant.
  • Thanks for reading.

    August Kids Reads

    Hi all. I hope you have had a good summer….I can’t believe it is nearly over. Next thing we know it will be Christmas….hasn’t this year just flown by???? So this time last month I was pretty intimidated by the prospect of a summer looking after a 6 yr old, a 3 yr old and a newborn. Well I am proud to say I survived relatively unscathed. My days were sponsored by berocca in the morning and a glass of wine at night and then bed fit me at 8pm. Book wise, August has been poor and for this I apologise. I am sad to say that after a day of fun-filled activities with 3 kids, I have fallen asleep before story time on numerous nights or if not asleep, I am feeding the baby so have plonked the other two in front of the TV. I am hoping September will be an improvement.

    • Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam. The Diamond Chase by Tracey Corderoy.

    There are diamonds galore at the grand ball and detective dogs Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam are cooking on the job when disaster strikes!

    Somebody’s swiped Lady Kate’s Tiara! But who can it be? And can the doggy duo catch the thief before he scarpers?

    My girls and I love this series. Good pictures and brilliant rhymes. Always a moral in the story and always encourages the conversation about apologies helping to make things right. Ceci, 3 is definitely not a fan of the wordsorry.’

    My girls love a search in a book and it becomes pretty competitive to find the little πŸ•·. As a mum I am happy as there are lots of opportunities to practice my acting skills and work on my accents. πŸ€£πŸ€£πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ

    • The Great Fairytale Search by Chuck Whelon.

    A truly magical search book brimming with enchanting scenes from kids’ favourite fairytales. Children can find Cinderella’s glass slipper, seven little lamps in the cottage of the seven dwarves and even the Big Bad Wolf hiding in the forest.

    • Spot the dinosaur on the Island by Stella Maidment.

    From spiky stegosauruses to speedy velociraptors, there is so much to see on Dinosaur Island!

    With a hidden baby T.Rex to find in every scene and fun facts to discover throughout, step inside for hours of entertainment.

    • Where’s the Mermaid by Chuck Whelon.

    Join Meria and her friends on their exciting adventure around the world.

    Explore 16 amazing locations -from the Mer- Kingdom deep under the waves, to a paradise island, the frozen Arctic, a hectic circus and a scary sushi bar.

    I thought I would curb my jealousy of those who are jetting away to sunnier climes and feature some books that could while away some holiday hours or times on the plane. ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️My kids love a book with a search. I give them each about 5 things to look for and it keeps them quiet for at least 5 mins until they try to get super competitive with eachother. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ Ceci 3, loves the dinosaur and fairytale book. πŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ¦–πŸ¦•πŸ§šπŸ»β€β™‚οΈπŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ¦•πŸ¦–πŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ§šπŸ»β€β™‚οΈπŸ¦•πŸ¦–πŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈEdie 6, loves a bit of πŸ§œπŸΌβ€β™€οΈ action. All 3 are massive hits and give me enough time to drink a hot cuppa or a chilled glass of white.

    • The Queen’s Orangutan by David Walliams.
    • David Walliams born 20th August 1971.

    Written exclusively for Comic Relief 2015 by David Walliams. From Number One bestselling picture book duo, David Walliams and Tony Ross, comes this spectacularly funny story for children of 3 and up.

    A bored queen.

    A birthday wish.

    An outrageous orang-utan.

    Everything’s about to go bananas!

    Written by David Walliams as an exclusive children’s picture book especially for Comic Relief – David will be giving all of his proceeds from the book to the charity. The illustrator, Tony Ross, will waive his royalties and HarperCollins UK will also donate all profits from the publishing of the book – at least Β£3 from each copy sold will go to Comic Relief.

    The Queen’s Orangutan is our book du jour at the moment. This basically means that I read it to my kids every night.πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’ Usually reading the same book EVERY night makes me want to kill someone but I honestly find it impossible to have murderous thoughts about the wonderful Walliams. This book is a really fun read with tons of opportunity to work on your royal voices!!🀣Illustrations by Tony Ross are brilliant as always and pokes fun at the royals…Prince Phillip is a little red-nosed and looks like he enjoys the occasional bevy. 🀣. As you can see from the pic, Cill thinks it’s hilarious…or it could be the fact that Maisie had just filled her nappy!

    Thanks for reading all. It is now 18:25 so I am going to get ready for bed!!πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ

    July Beauty

    Ooooooh I am feeling the need for a good old pamper this month! Sleep deprivation thanks to a newborn is making me look a little like a zombie. I am also constantly covered in vom or puke….not my own. Sadly, I am too tired to care.

    • L’Oreal Absolut Repair Lipidum Masque. Β£16.05 for 500 Ml.

    Yes the hair saga continues. During pregnancy my hair was a bit nuts. Not so much the texture (it was a little drier than usual) but the colour went mental. Yes, yes the blonde moaner again!! πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ. You know as a blonde when your mascara wand slips and you paint a bit of your hair by mistake???? Yes so I had a completely random black streak….black….in blonde hair. Also whenI got my hair coloured a few weeks ago, by the first hair wash I already had roots!!!!! WTF!?!? So my remedy, wash it less (yuk) and condition it really well. This deep conditioner is so gorgeous. I am a texture fanatic and it’s like smearing your hair with a Greek yogurt or custard! So thick, gloopy and yellow. It also only needs to be on for 5 minutes which is a bonus if you are pushed for time. As always there is a jargon word ‘lipidium.’ So ‘lipidium’ is a combo of lactic Acid, phyto-keratin and ceramides that when combined apparently ‘form a barrier film on hair to lock in actives and essential nutrients, which coats hair against new aggressors.’ πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈNo one has time for aggressors!!!! Anyway all I know is…it feels lush, smells lush, lasts ages and works so buy it. Aggressors be gone! πŸ˜‚

    • Herbivore Rose Hibiscus Hydrating Face Mist. Β£28.00.

    This is the brand that you will have seen all over Instagram. It is very easy to take a beautiful pic of Herbivore products because quite simply, they look lush.

    This facial spritz contains coconut water to hydrate πŸ₯₯ , hibiscus flower to even your skin tone, rose to reduce redness 🌹, witch hazel to tighten and aloe Vera to heal and soothe. It’s totally gorgeous when it’s straight out the fridge and applied liberally to a sweaty face and it works a treat after applying makeup to fix it in place and to give a slightly dewy look. It also smells beautiful. I have to say however, it’s pretty punchy price wise and as much as it’s a lovely product, I’m sure I could find something just as good but a little cheaper.

    • Herbivore Emerald Moisture Glow Oil. Β£42.00.

    Herbivore products really do get massive dressing table points. How lush do they look?!?!?!??

    Facial oil is something I cannot and won’t do without. I think it is my way of apologising to my skin for using Oxy10 as a moisturiser in my teenage years. 😱😱😱😱😱

    Let’s talk about cannabis. Recently it has become a bit of a buzz word in the beauty industry. I have to say that I was initially put off. It takes me right back to my student days of sitting in manky bedrooms eating dodgy takeaways while the stench of weed covered our hair, clothes and chicken with cashew nuts. Rank! Beauty manufacturers have extracted the non psychoactive (so not the bits that make you feel like a student again) elements of cannabis to provide a ton of good stuff to your skin. So what can it do????Right, got your clipboard ready????CBD is anti aging, helps to prevent acne, treats psoriasis and eczema, and is rich in omega 3,6,9 .

    I haven’t been bothering with make up much this month so have been wearing it am and pm and enjoying the glow it gives me. If I was going to put on make up, I wouldn’t use the oil as it does take a while to sink in. Apart from a MAHOOSIVE mozzie bite on my face (thanks to an evening walk in the woods) my skin is spot free and looking pretty good considering I am so cream crackered!

    Looking forward to August’s post. I am trialing a new face oil and a hair mask which I can already tell you isn’t a patch on the one above!!!

    Thank you for reading.

    July Reads

    Well I have to say I am pretty chuffed with this months reading. I feel I got through a decent amount. The majority of reading happened before baby Maisie arrived and the other 2 girls were still in school and nursery. Since Maisie’s arrival, I think I have read a grand total of about 2 pages a day of Pachinko which pains me as I have been looking forward to reading it for ages but I just can’t keep my eyes open at the end of the day. Having said that, a less enjoyable book I would have kicked to the curb so that is a positive.

    • Still Life by Louise Penny. 4⭐️.
    • Louise Penny born 1st July 1958.

    The award-winning first novel from worldwide phenomenon Louise Penny.

    The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships. Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines – a place so free from crime it doesn’t even have its own police force.

    But Gamache knows that evil is lurking somewhere behind the white picket fences and that, if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will start to give up its dark secrets .

    Happy Birthday to Louise Penny born on 1st July 1958 which is also Canada Day. πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦ πŸŽ‚πŸŽˆπŸŽ‚πŸŽˆπŸŽ‚πŸŽˆπŸŽ‚πŸŽˆπŸŽ‚ I finally picked up this book after frequent recommendations on my favourite bookish podcast @whatshouldireadnext. If you enjoy reading you should definitely check it out. Each week a guest talks about their three favourite books, one book they disliked and what they are currently reading. The host, Anne Bogle then gives them three recommendations. I really enjoy it as does my Amazon account.

    So, onto Louise Penny. Can a murder mystery be comforting??? According to Hilary Clinton, Penny’s books gave her solace after her election defeat. I understand what she means. This was a really comforting read and according to google, there are still 19 I haven’t read!!!!πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ Inspector Gamache is actually a nice guy. He is happily married. He (so far) doesn’t seem dark and twisty with a substance abuse problem and skeletons in his closet. How refreshing! This book reminded me of the tremendous Agatha Christie. It wasn’t brutal and Penny is obviously going to take her time introducing us to the inhabitants of Three Pines. 🌲🌲🌲. If you like you murder mysteries without gore and smattered with picket fences, brioche and maple syrup, give this a whirl. 🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁

    • Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig. DNF.
    • Matt Haig born 3rd July 1975.

    The world is messing with our minds. What if there was something we could do about it?

    Looking at sleep, news, social media addiction, work and play, Matt Haig invites us to feel calmer, happier and question the habits of the digital age. This book might even change the way you spend your precious time on Earth.

    Oh Matt, I am sorry to say I have given up!!!! I picked up this book after LOVING Matt Haig’s work. I adored Reasons to Stay Alive and The Humans was one of my favourite books of last year. I started it whilst lying in the bath brimming with anticipation. After 15 pages I felt a little irritated. I agree with a lot of his points….the world is going mad. We do spend to much time on social media. We are inundated with filtered images of people with perfect lives, families, jobs and bodies. I agree and I’m aware of this and I try not to let it bother me. Reading a book that constantly repeats this point left me feeling stressed, anxious and frustrated!!!! I decided that I needed to dilute my reading experience by picking up another book and reading a little of Matt every day. The other book I picked up was The Road. If you know this book you know it is a depressing read. It’s bleak. I found The Road less bleak than Matt’s. Picking up Nervous Planet made me grumpy so on page 86 I called it a day.

    Matt says:

    I am trying to write about the messiness of the world and the messiness of minds by writing a deliberately messy book.

    It’s format is similar to Reasons To Stay Alive – short chapters, lists and musings, presumably to hold our attention in a world where we are so distracted. The point he makes is correct – modern life, the pace, the news, social media is having a direct impact on our mental health. All this I agree with. We need to take some time and regroup. My husband and I are aware of the fact that we shouldn’t sit in bed on our phones. But you know what…..sometimes, after a long day in work and an evening with the kids and the drama that ensues with bathtime, you just want to do something mindless like checking Facebook. I’m not going to feel guilty for that and it doesn’t make me in the least bit anxious. What did make me anxious was signing up to an app that constantly told me how much time I spent on my phone. I am aware, I don’t do it when my kids are around and I’m getting into the habit of leaving my phone upstairs.

    The great thing about reading is that it’s so subjective. Looking on Goodreads, I am in the minority of people who didn’t get on with this book. If you are someone who struggles with anxiety, pick this up….seeing Matt express his worries may make you feel better. Also, by reading it, your mobile phone is hopefully on the bedside table and not in your hand so all is good!!!!!

    • Runaway by Alice Munro. 3⭐️.
    • Alice Munro born 10th July 1931.

    The matchless Munro makes art out of everyday lives in this dazzling new collection. Here men and women of wildly different times and circumstances, their lives made vividly palpable by the nuance and empathy of Munro’s writing. Runaway is about the power and betrayals of love, about lost children, lost chances. There is pain and desolation beneath the surface, like a needle in the heart, which makes Runaway more potent and compelling than anything she has written before.

    This is my second book this month which is written by a Canadian author and my second recommendation from the What Should I Read Next Podcast.

    I really enjoy a short story. If I’m ever in a bit of a reading slump I find short stories so much easier to embark on as opposed to a novel. I always finish a short story compilation by asking myself is it harder to write short stories or a full novel???? When you think about books you have read that have been 5⭐️ reads, I am sure there are the odd 40 pages that didn’t work for you but you judge the book as a whole and still award it a good score. With short stories, I feel that the stakes are higher. If there are 40 pages that you dislike, that is often a whole story that left you cold. As an author you have less time to turn it around and make it right!

    Right off the bat I want to apologise to Alice Munro. I read this compilation the week before my baby was born. I was grumpy, hot and not sleeping. I enjoyed it but I didn’t LOVE it. Solid 3⭐️ from me. Writing this, 3 weeks later, a lot of the stories I have forgotten. I really enjoyed Tricks, Passion and the three stories involving Juliet.

    I feel in a less-sleep-deprived state I would enjoy Munro more. Maybe this isn’t her best compilation but I know I will give her more of a chance.

    • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.

    Yegondo, Korea 1911. A club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen-year-old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja falls pregnant by a married yakuza, the family face ruin. But then a Christian minister offers a chance of salvation: a new life in Japan as his wife.

    Following a man she barely knows to a hostile country where she has no friends and no home. Sunja’s salvation is just the beginning of her story.

    This is my current read and I’m sad to say there isn’t a hope I will finish it by the end of the month! Having been a reading machine at the beginning of July, baby Maisie has turned me into a zombie who averages a paragraph a day. So far, there hasn’t been a paragraph of this book that I haven’t loved so that is promising. Review to follow next month….or the month after that…..or the month after that. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€£

    • The Road by Cormac McCarthy. 4⭐️.
    • Cormac McCarthy born July 20th 1933.

    A father and his young son walk alone through burned America, heading slowly for the coast. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. They have nothing but a pistol to defend themselves against the men who stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food – and eachother.

    This book has been sat on my shelf for years! I have suggested it as a read for numerous book clubs and it has always been turned down on account of the ‘depressing’ factor. OK, yes. It certainly wasn’t a laugh a minute….I mean I don’t think I laughed once but obviously that is not the point of this book. There are pretty much only two characters, minimal fast-paced action sequences but I honestly could not stop reading. I LOVED this book. The writing was beautiful in an utterly unpretentious way. No long, flowery sentences for McCarthy, but quite simplistic prose that only emphasised the stark simplicity of the story….a father and a son’s struggle to live.

    The word struggle is how I would describe this book. The imagery of trudging through all weather – shoes breaking, clothes sodden, starving, pushing a shopping trolley with all your worldly possessions and for what? To get to the coast and for what? What will you do when you arrive? As a reader, it is impossible not to be moved and feel complete pity for their hopeless plight. Brilliant, beautiful, moving book.

    • Educated by Tara Westover.

    Tara Westover and her family grew up preparing for the End of Days but, according to the government, she didn’t exist. She hasn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she never set foot in a classroom, an no medical records because her father didn’t believe in hospitals.

    As she grew older, her father became more radical and her brother more violent. At sixteen, Tara knew she would have to leave home. In doing so she discovered both the transformative power of education, and the price she had to pay for it.

    Educated was this month’s bookclub choice. Unfortunately I am not going to the meeting due to the new baby but I know that it will be one of those meetings where everyone says how much they loved the book. This is our first non-fiction/memoir and at first there was a fair bit of resistance to it. However, even those who come to book club to read the Russian Classics enjoyed this. Maybe there are some similarities….Educated is certainly not short of heart wrenching passages but I love the fact that Westover writes without a hint of melodrama.

    Westover is without a doubt a great female role model. Her resilience and strength she shows not only when faced with her physically and mentally abusive family but also with regards to her education is mind blowing. Westover is undoubtably a victim but this isn’t a ‘pity me’ memoir. What Westover has achieved is empowering.

    Thank you for bearing with me this month. As I say I am a little sleep deprived but very happy.

    See you next month.

    July Kids Reads

    Well July has been a crazy month. Maisie was born on the 3rd….thankfully I didn’t have to wait until I was 41 weeks. I am so relieved that she is finally here. The past 38 weeks were full of anxiety that I would be told those fateful words again….’I’m sorry but it’s not good news.’ I think the pessimist in me was always preparing myself to hear those words so when Maisie was born I was quite shocked. Ceci and Edie are being brilliant big sisters. Very hands on….VERY!!πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ. I have to say that I’m slightly daunted by 6 weeks of summer holidays with 3 kids buy hey ‘Go hard or go home.’

    • Heidi by Johanna Spyri
    • Johanna Spyri died 7th July 1901.

    I remember having a VHS tape with the Shirley Temple film of Heidi. It was black and white and I thought it was mega dull. I mean black and white?!?!? I would always press fast forward to get to The Sound of Music which was also recorded on the same tape.

    I have bought a few of these Usborne books for Edie. She loves them. Lovely pictures, short chapters and a simplified story. Since becoming a big big sister she has taken to reading a story to Ceci and Maisie at night. Although this adds an extra 20 minutes to the bedtime routine it is not something I want to discourage….in fact I hid outside their bedroom with my glass of wine feeling pretty proud! πŸ₯°

    • Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs by Giles Andreae and Russell Ayto.

    When Flinn discovers a pirate hiding in a cupboard, it’s all aboard, me hearties, for a real live pirate adventure! But there are some mean baddies on the loose……

    Will fearless Flinn be able to captain the ship and defeat the Pirate Dinosaurs?

    The other day I did a post about what I look for in a children’s book. If I’m going to read it every night I appreciate a good rhyme, fun illustrations and the opportunity to indulge my inner actress with some epic voices. My lovely friend sent me these 3 books which were adored by her children. My girls LOVE them! No rhymes but brilliant pics and my Cornish Captain Stubble voice is already worthy of an Oscar…..sorry to brag. πŸ΄β€β˜ οΈ πŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈThese book are high-octane, swash buckling adventures so make sure you follow it with something suitably dull or the kids will never go to bed!!!

      Grandmas from Mars by Michelle Robinson. Illustrations by Fred Blunt.

    Fred and Nell’s parents are off to a meeting. But first they tell Grandma, “Here’s what they’ll be eating. It’s school in the morning, they can’t be up late. So: homework, a bath – and in bed before eight.”

    But, HANG ON, there’s something not quite right about Fred and Nell’s Grandma. In fact, she’s acting very strangely indeed. And is that a spare eyeball? A tail? A striped tongue? That’s not their grandma, it’s an ALIEN….RUUUUUUUUNNN!

    Yesssssssssss! It rhymes, it’s pacy, it has opportunity for melodramatic voices and the illustrations are great. It’s a hit from the kids and more importantly from ME!!!! We love this book. Ceci (3) finds it just the right amount of scary and proudly told her Grandpa that her new favourite book is the ‘scariest thing in the world.’ It’s really not!

    Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a great summer.

    See you next month.

    June Kids Reads

    Hi all. Can’t believe we are almost in July!!!! We are currently having a bit of a heatwave in the UK and I am being typically English about it….I mean we complain when it’s cold AND when it’s hot. 🀣. No pleasing us Brits!

    • Richard Scarry born 5th June 1919.

    When I was a child we had a second hand copy of What Do People Do All Day. It was hardback with a yellow cover and in my mind it was massive (it probably wasn’t, I was little). I remember on nights that I could sleep, this would be my go to book of choice. There was a story about a little bunny going to the hospital to have her tonsils taken out. After the op she had a big mound or strawberry ice cream to eat. I remember thinking that was the coolest thing ever.

    A couple of years ago, I bought a pack of Scarry books to give out instead of party bags at Edie’s birthday. I still love looking at the books and spotting Lowly the Worm. My girls love them. The illustrations are brilliant and there is always something new to notice.

    • Kicking a Ball by Allan Ahlberg.
    • Allan Ahlberg born 5th June 1938.

    For anyone who can’t see a ball without wanting to kick it, head it, shoot it, or boot it! ‘Not eating an ice-cream Or riding a bike No – kicking a ball Is what I like.’ ‘What I like best, yes, most of all in my whole life is . . . kicking a ball. A wonderful rhyming story to read aloud, Kicking A Ball will not disappoint fans of Allan Ahlberg. First written as a poem, the little boy in the story has been brought to life perfectly by artist Sebastien Braun. Every parent will be able to immediately relate to the simple joy felt by a boy simply kicking a ball, and how there is nothing else quite like it. The incomparable Allan Ahlberg takes us on a journey from childhood to fatherhood full of humour, warmth, friendship . . . and football.

    Oh god this book!!!! Ok I am a bit of an emotional wreck at the moment. 3 weeks left of this pregnancy 🀰 and I am going through all those feelings of Will it be ok??? Will I turn into a grumpy monster??? Will my girls enjoy having a sister???😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍My husband Ozzie, is definitely a boys boy. Massively into football, cycling etc. I don’t think he ever would have imagined 3 daughters in his future. Thank god the dog is a boy!!πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚The reaction to expecting out 3rd girl has been an interesting one….will you try again for a boy?? Poor Ozzie??? And my fave….are you disappointed?!?! 😱😱😱😱My dream has always been 3 girls. If we had had a boy that would have been totally brill but I am overjoyed and grateful for my daughters. I know Ozzie is the same. I think Edith’s infatuation with lipstick and being in love baffles him slightly but its all a learning curve right?! πŸ’–πŸ’™πŸ’–πŸ’™πŸ’–My mum bought this book when Edie was born…I think mainly for Ozzie. It’s about a boy who loves everything about the beautiful game. As he grows up he still loves ⚽️ and his love of football is passed down to his daughter. It’s a beautiful book and means a lot to our family. So happy birthday to Allan Ahlberg 5th June 1938. Thank you for your beautiful book which means so much to us. P.S. Ozzie’s fave Father’s Day moment yesterday??? Kicking a ball in the pouring rain with our Edie who was wearing a beautiful pink lipstick. πŸ’„πŸ’„πŸŽˆβš½οΈπŸŽˆβš½οΈ

    • The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.
    • Robert Munsch born 11th June 1945.

    The Princess Elizabeth is slated to marry Prince Ronald when a dragon attacks the castle and kidnaps Ronald. In resourceful and humorous fashion, Elizabeth finds the dragon, outsmarts him, and rescues Ronald–who is less than pleased at her un-princess-like appearance. 

    β€œRonald” said Elizabeth, β€œyour clothes are really pretty and your hair is very neat. You look like a real prince, but you are a bum. They didn’t get married after all.

    πŸ€΄πŸ‘Έ πŸ‰πŸ€΄πŸ‘ΈπŸ‰πŸ€΄. Happy Birthday to the wonderful Robert Munsch born 11th June 1945. 🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈My mum read this wonderful book to my sister and I when we were little and it definitely stands the test of time. My girls love it. Munsch was preaching feminism long before the Spice Girls. If I could urge you to buy one book this month it would be this. I adore reading this to me kids although I have to repeat the last page about Ronald being a bum at least 6 times in each sitting. The girls think it’s hysterical.

      Stone Underpants by Rebecca Lisle. Illustrated by Richard Watson.

    Pod lives in the Stone Age and finds that he often has a cold bottom! So he invents underpants! Unfortunately his choice of material is not always practical. Will he find something that is both warm and flexbile, so he can play with his friends? 

    I have included these last two books because we have read them pretty much EVERY NIGHT. Do your kids ever get fixated on a book? This is a question I already know the answer to. YES. Not just books….films. I remember my youngest daughter going through a phase when she would quite happily watch Sing about 3 times a day….. I realise this doesn’t say much for my parenting….πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€£. I guess that is why Peppa Pig does so well. Kids seem to be happy to sit through the same episode, film or read the same book again and again. For the last month, Stone Underpants has been Ceci’s favourite. I now know it off by heart. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ

  • Ceci just LOVES this book. Is it the mention of bottoms? Pants??? I have no idea. All I know is that right now I hate it (sorry Rebecca Lisle) but that is only because we read it every night. In fact last night I was so desperate for a night off I paid my husband Β£5 to read it to her. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ Anyway, if you have a 3 year old, buy it and know that you will be reciting it in your sleep.
    • Naughty Naughty Monster by Kaye Umansky.

    I’M A NAUGHTY NAUGHTY MONSTER! ARE YOU READY? HERE I COME! I AM HUNGRY FOR MY DINNER AND I WANT YOU IN MY TUM! The Naughty Naughty Monster is looking for for a tasty meal to fill his monstrous belly. He rampages through woodland, farm and town, scaring all of the happy little animals that he thinks could make a good snack, but he runs into a fairy who is NOT happy with him at all! Will Naughty Naughty Monster learn his lesson and change his naughty ways? Kaye Umansky has written over 130 books for children and her work ranges from picture books to novels. She is best known for the Pongwiffy series. Greg Abbott is a talented new illustrator. Naughty, Naughty Monster is his first picture book.

    Reading aloud with kids. As a parent what do you like to read to your children? Due to my kids obsessions with the same reading material, it’s always risky introducing them to a new book. If I know a book is going to be a good one I know we are going to have to read it EVERY night for the next few weeks. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ˜±πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ˜±πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ˜±πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ˜±πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ˜±πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ˜±πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ To keep me entertained I need 2 things…a good rhyme and the opportunity for some entertaining voices. Naughty Naughty Monster by Kaye Umansky definitely has both of these. πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘I often find that with rhyming books there always seems to be one clunky page that doesn’t quite work…..not with this one. Ceci also loves the fact that she looks like the fairy. πŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈReally brilliant book. Edie (6) and Ceci (4) LOVE it….as does their mum…..even after the 21st consecutive read. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ

    Thanks for reading. See you in July unless I have melted!

    Synopses taken from lovereading4kids and Goodreads.