November/December Reads

Hello all. I hope you had a Merry Christmas.

I didn’t do my November round up last month because I am well and truly in a reading slump. It’s definitely hormonal and I’m sure it will pass in a few weeks but right now I am completely and utterly struggling to concentrate on anything. At the end of November I looked back at what I had achieved reading wise and it was utterly minimal. My way round this was to lump Nov and Dec together in the hope that I will have something decent to say about the very few books I have managed to get through. So, here goes….I hoping January brings with it some reading vim and vigour.

  • Less by Andrew Sean Greer.
  • Andrew Sean Greer. Born 5th November 1970.

Arthur Less is a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the post: it is from an ex-boyfriend of nine years who is engaged to someone else. Arthur can’t say yes – it would be too awkward; he can’t say no – it would look like defeat. So, he begins to accept the invitations on his desk to half-baked literary events around the world. 

From France to India, Germany to Japan, Arthur almost falls in love, almost falls to his death, and puts miles between him and the plight he refuses to face. Less is a novel about mishaps, misunderstandings and the depths of the human heart.

Do you believe how much you like a book is directly proportionate to how much time you dedicate to it??? First book fail of the month and itโ€™s not the fault of the book! ๐Ÿ˜ž๐Ÿ˜ž๐Ÿ˜ž๐Ÿ˜ž๐Ÿ˜”๐Ÿ˜” I have been really busy in work and my head has been everywhere but nowhere near my current read.

Each time I have picked this up I have been asleep by the end of the page. The accolades on the front cover are taunting me. I look at the cover and feel slightly like Arthur falling and trying to regain control. As the Winner of the Pulitzer, I am sure it is wonderful but I sense a slump coming on and I need something that is going to grab me immediately.

I am so sorry Andrew Sean Greer. Itโ€™s most definitely not you. Itโ€™s me. โ˜น๏ธโ˜น๏ธโ˜น๏ธโ˜น๏ธโ˜น๏ธ Also, Happy Birthday for the 5th! ๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŽ‚

  • Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
  • Kazuo Ishiguro. Birthday 8th November.

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

In one of the most acclaimed novels of recent years, Kazuo Ishiguro imagines the lives of a group of students growing up in a darkly skewed version of contemporary England. Narrated by Kathy, now thirty-one, Never Let Me Godramatises her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world. A story of love, friendship and memory, Never Let Me Go is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life.

Ishiguro is an incredible writer and this novel is going to stay with me for a really long time. I really regret not choosing it for a book club read as there is so much to discuss.

This novel is a slow burn but the subject matter really does pack a punch. The primary topic is ‘collusion.’ How a society can collude with a regime which is obviously wrong but no one wants to speak against it. How people often feel too hopeless to rally against their own fate . This is not a novel about fighting back in the vein of The Hunger Games or Divergent. I think initially this frustrated me. Why did no one rebel???? But this question is also what makes the novel so interesting. I also think the film which was directed by Mark Romanek was also brilliant.

  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman.
  • Neil Gaiman. Birthday 10th November.

There is something strange about Coraline’s new home. It’s not the mist, or the cat that always seems to be watching her, nor the signs of danger that Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, her new neighbours, read in the tea leaves. It’s the other house – the one behind the old door in the drawing room. Another mother and father with black-button eyes and papery skin are waiting for Coraline to join them there. And they want her to stay with them. For ever. She knows that if she ventures through that door, she may never come back.

Gaiman is an author I only really started to get into last year. The Ocean and the End of the Lane was my favourite book last year. I think Edie is a little young for this (although I did read a review of a 4 year old boy who listened to it on audio and loved it). I think we will try it in a year or two.

Coraline is a great heroine and a great role model for kids…..

โ€œBecause,โ€™ she said, โ€˜when youโ€™re scared but you still do it anyway, thatโ€™s brave.โ€

๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Coraline is quirky, independent, adventurous, intelligent and curious. Gaiman is a master at writing non-condescending books that appeal to adults as well as children. I also applaud the fact that he doesnโ€™t shy away from the creepy… I often feel that as parents we are so scared of our kids being scared. Edie definitely handles creepy things like a pro. I think as parent I am happy for Edie to read something a little scary as long as there is no gratuitous violence and also makes the point that good can conquer evil. I donโ€™t want her to feel that the horror can continue. In Coraline, Gaiman does just that.

    Us by David Nicholls.
    David Nicholls. Birthday 30th November.

David Nicholls brings to bear all the wit and intelligence that graced ONE DAY in this brilliant, bittersweet novel about love and family, husbands and wives, parents and children. Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2014.

Douglas Petersen understands his wife’s need to ‘rediscover herself’ now that their son is leaving home. 

He just thought they’d be doing their rediscovering together.

So when Connie announces that she will be leaving, too, he resolves to make their last family holiday into the trip of a lifetime: one that will draw the three of them closer, and win the respect of his son. One that will make Connie fall in love with him all over again.

The hotels are booked, the tickets bought, the itinerary planned and printed.

What could possibly go wrong?

I really enjoyed this novel. For me it has the perfect ingredients of short chapters, believable characters and humour. I also love a book that looks at relationships in a realistic way. I don’t want to read books about the heady romanticism of young love. I don’t want anything that is going to make me feel nostalgic and misty eyed about my marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband but we are in the throes of children under 6 and I barely have time to shower let alone plan a romantic evening in. I am confident we will get back to that stage but right now, keeping 2 little humans alive is the priority.

David Nicholls is a master at writing utterly believable characters. Everyone will be able to relate to, or know similar people. As a result, his books are so easily accessible and as humorous as they are, there are often very poignant moments.

  • Emily Dickinson born 10th December 1830.

  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.
  • Shirley Jackson born 14th December 1916.

The best-known of Shirley Jackson’s novels and a major inspiration for writers like Neil Gaiman and Stephen King, The Haunting of Hill House is a chilling story of the power of fear.

‘Shirley Jackson’s stories are among the most terrifying ever written’ Donna Tartt, author of The Goldfinch and The Secret History

Four seekers have arrived at the rambling old pile known as Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of psychic phenomena; Theodora, his lovely assistant; Luke, the future inheritor of the estate; and Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman with a dark past. As they begin to cope with horrifying occurrences beyond their control or understanding, they cannot possibly know what lies ahead. For Hill House is gathering its powers – and soon it will choose one of them to make its own. Twice filmed as The Haunting, and the inspiration for a new 10-part Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House is a powerful work of slow-burning psychological horror.

Shirley Jackson was born in California in 1916. When her short story The Lottery was first published in the New Yorker in 1948, readers were so horrified they sent her hate mail; it has since become one of the most iconic American stories of all time. Her first novel, The Road Through the Wall, was published in the same year and was followed by five more: Hangsaman, The Bird’s Nest, The Sundial, The Haunting of Hill Houseand We Have Always Lived in the Castle, widely seen as her masterpiece. Shirley Jackson died in her sleep at the age of 48. 

If you enjoyed The Haunting of Hill House, you might like Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

‘An amazing writer … If you haven’t read her you have missed out on something marvellous’ Neil Gaiman

‘As nearly perfect a haunted-house tale as I have ever read’ Stephen King

‘The world of Shirley Jackson is eerie and unforgettable’ A. M. Homes

‘Shirley Jackson is one of those highly idiosyncratic, inimitable writers…whose work exerts an enduring spell’ Joyce Carol Oates.

Oh Shirley, Shirley. I owe you an apology for reading your book when I wasn’t in the best place. I decided to set this book as a Halloween read for book club. It came at a time when everyone was posting about it all over Instagram, and I think, as is often the case, the book didn’t live up to the hype for me. The anticipation was so great that it fell a little flat for me. I think I will be in the minority who feel that the book picked up a bit when Mrs Montague and Arthur Parker arrived. For me, their arrival injected some much needed tongue in cheek humour. We have always lived in the castle is on my book shelf and I definitely owe it to Shirley to give her another go when I am in a better head space.

  • The Nutcracker by ETA Hoffmann.

The story that inspired the legendary ballet, presented in a beautiful hardcover edition perfect for giving as a gift.

Written in 1816 by the German Romantic E. T. A. Hoffmann for his children, nephews and nieces, The Nutcracker captures better than any other story a child’s wonder at Christmas. Since its publication, it has inspired hundreds of artists and adaptations, most notably the legendary ballet, scored by Russian composer Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Today, the story – and its enchanting images of sugar plums and nutcrackers, mistletoe and the Kingdom of the Dolls – continues to cast its fantastical spell on readers of all ages.

E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) was one of the major figures of European Romanticism, specializing in tales of the fantastical and uncanny. He was also a music critic, jurist, composer and caricaturist. His Tales of Hoffmann, available in Penguin Classics, includes such masterpieces as ‘Mademoiselle de Scudery’, one of the earliest example of crime fiction, and Hoffmann’s terrifying version of ‘The Sandman’. 

Joachim Neugroschel won three PEN translation awards and the French-American Foundation Translation Prize. He translated Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice and Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, among other works, for Penguin Classics.

I have to say that I am not one for buying beautiful books. Books probably see me coming and cower in the corner. I am a book’s worst nightmare. People choose not to borrow my books. I read them in the bath, they sit in my bag and get covered in whatever delicacy I have forgotten to remove for the bottom corners….usually old raisins. I only use a bookmark if I have a spare photo lurking around, but usually I fold down a corner. I am not a girl who instagrams her beautiful hardback copies of Jane Austen novels. Since having children however, people have bought the girls beautiful copies of books. The Nutcracker has been sat on my shelf for a couple of years and this Penguin Classic copy is absolutely beautiful. Right here comes the shocker….the ballet is tons better!!!! Tons. I persevere but I have to say, as soon as we got to the section about the sausage (!!!) I started skimming. Yup, not a patch on the ballet.

    Grimm Tales by Philip Pullman

In this beautiful book of classic fairy tales, award-winning author Philip Pullman has chosen his fifty favourite stories from the Brothers Grimm and presents them in a’clear as water’ retelling, in his unique and brilliant voice. 

From the quests and romance of classics such as ‘Rapunzel’, ‘Snow White’ and ‘Cinderella’ to the danger and wit of such lesser-known tales as ‘The Three Snake Leaves’, ‘Hans-my-Hedgehog’ and ‘Godfather Death’, Pullman brings the heart of each timeless tale to the fore, following with a brief but fascinating commentary on the story’s background and history. In his introduction, he discusses how these stories have lasted so long, and become part of our collective storytelling imagination. 

These new versions show the adventures at their most lucid and engaging yet. Pullman’s Grimm Talesof wicked wives, brave children and villainous kings will have you reading, reading aloud and rereading them for many years to come.

On 20th December 1812, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm published their first edition of fairy tales. The original edition contained 86 stories. By the time the collection was on its seventh edition in 1857, there were 211 fairy tales.

If like me, you are a book worm who was raised on stories of witches, princes, princesses and elves this is a must read. I loved Pullman’s introduction which discusses how and why these stories have stood the test of time. Also, after each story, Pullman discusses its history and any tweaks he has made.

As a mother of daughters, I was pleasantly surprised by the female characters. I was expecting insipid princesses, pining after their princes. Granted, a lot of women are portrayed as evil, greedy step mothers but there were plenty of courageous girls, and for all the wicked women, at least they are interesting characters.

Anyway, here’s to January. I promise it will be better!!!

December Childrenโ€™s Reads

Happy New Year to all you wonderful people. I hope you had a restful break. Is Christmas ever restful??? Maybe not restful then, eventful. We spent Christmas with my parents in Leicestershire and then we went to the Wirral for New Year to stay with my in laws. We head off to Wales tomorrow for a few days for what I hope will be the calm after the storm.

  • Christmas by Dick Bruna

Dick Bruna brings his iconic style to this beautiful re-telling of the Nativity story.

About the Author

Dick Bruna was born in 1927 in Utrecht, Holland. Dick comes from a family of publishers who under the name of ‘A.W. Bruna and Son’ started to print books in 1868. While on holiday in 1955, Dick began to tell his son stories about a little white rabbit who lived in the garden of their holiday home and this little rabbit soon became known to the world as Miffy. Dick Bruna is now one of the most famous creators of picture books in the world. He has written and illustrated 124 books, which have sold over 85 million copies in 50 languages.

When Edie came home a few weeks ago, all excited about the forthcoming Nativity in which she was to play a star, I started to ask her what the play would be about. “Well mummy, the play is called Funky Camels and it’s basically about how funky camels are.” “Hmmmmmmm” was my response and then I asked Edie what she knew about the real Christmas Story. “Well mum. Joseph and Enid had the baby Jesus. Shepherds came and some Kings who brought gold, Frank and mud.” ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have an issue with schools updating the Christmas story, as long as the children do actually know what the Christmas story is about.

So, I brought out this book by the Miffy author Dick Bruna. A perfect version of the Christmas story for young kids. As you would expect from Bruna, the pictures are eye catching and brilliantly simple. The story doesn’t have a funky camel in sight and just does what it says on the tin….a lovely version of the Christmas story.

  • The Nutcracker by ETA Hoffmann.

The story that inspired the legendary ballet, presented in a beautiful hardcover edition perfect for giving as a gift.

Written in 1816 by the German Romantic E. T. A. Hoffmann for his children, nephews and nieces, The Nutcracker captures better than any other story a child’s wonder at Christmas. Since its publication, it has inspired hundreds of artists and adaptations, most notably the legendary ballet, scored by Russian composer Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Today, the story – and its enchanting images of sugar plums and nutcrackers, mistletoe and the Kingdom of the Dolls – continues to cast its fantastical spell on readers of all ages.

E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) was one of the major figures of European Romanticism, specializing in tales of the fantastical and uncanny. He was also a music critic, jurist, composer and caricaturist. His Tales of Hoffmann, available in Penguin Classics, includes such masterpieces as ‘Mademoiselle de Scudery’, one of the earliest example of crime fiction, and Hoffmann’s terrifying version of ‘The Sandman’. 

Joachim Neugroschel won three PEN translation awards and the French-American Foundation Translation Prize. He translated Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice and Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, among other works, for Penguin Classics.

I have to say that I am not one for buying beautiful books. Books probably see me coming and cower in the corner. I am a book’s worst nightmare. People choose not to borrow my books. I read them in the bath, they sit in my bag and get covered in whatever delicacy I have forgotten to remove for the bottom corners….usually old raisins. I only use a bookmark if I have a spare photo lurking around, but usually I fold down a corner. I am not a girl who instagrams her beautiful hardback copies of Jane Austen novels. Since having children however, people have bought the girls beautiful copies of books. The Nutcracker has been sat on my shelf for a couple of years and this Penguin Classic copy is absolutely beautiful. Right here comes the shocker….the ballet is tons better!!!! Tons. I persevere but I have to say, as soon as we got to the section about the sausage (!!!) I started skimming. Yup, not a patch on the ballet.

  • Jane Austen born 16th December 1775.

If you are a big Austen fan and looking to start โ€˜em young, it is definitely worth checking this book out from the fabulous @babylitbooks. This is what is known as an opposites primer…prettt much what you get on the tin. Babies will love it and actually my 3 year old thinks itโ€™s the best thing ever. This morning on the way to nursery she told me she was sad like Brandon!!!๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ I hope she doesnโ€™t say it too often or people will think I have raised a right show off! @babylitbooks is a company I discovered this year and they are beautiful books. For little ones there are the primers and older children can enjoy the storybooks. My 5 year old loves Pride and Prejudice. Anyway itโ€™s never to early to get your kids into the classics and @babylitbooks are perfect for that.

    Watership Down by Richard Adams.
    Richard Adams died 24th December 2016.

A phenomenal worldwide bestseller for over forty years, Richard Adamsโ€™ spellbinding classic Watership Down is one of the best-loved novels of all time. Set in the beautiful English countryside of the Berkshire Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage, and survival follows a band of very special rabbits fleeing the destruction of their home by a developer. Led by a stout-hearted pair of brothers, they leave the safety of Sandleford Warren in search of a safe haven and a mysterious promised land, skirting danger at every turn.

A book that resonates as vividly today as it did nearly half a century ago, this keepsake Oneworld Classic edition showcases more than twenty sumptuous, evocative paintings from Aldo Galli, an illustrator chosen by Richard Adams himself.

I have very clear memories of reading this book and The Hobbit in my first year of secondary school. I remember the books being handed out in English class covered in old wall paper or wrapping paper which we were encouraged to do to keep the covers neat and clean. I have remember feeling really excited because I had loved the film/cartoon and also because it felt like a big, thick, grown-up book. I’m sad to say, the excitement did not last. Everything about our English teacher was grey, including the way she taught English.

Watership Down is a big, dense book. Although it is beautifully written, I am not sure my 11 year old mind would have appreciated this fact. At 37, I have enjoyed it but I am struck by how massive a tome it must have felt to my 11 year old mind. I then got to thinking how many books were ruined for me by dull, dull teachers or readers. I used to take my little ones to story time at the library. We stopped going when Ceci fell asleep….lulled by the monotonous rendition of The Wonky Donkey. I honestly thought it was impossible to make this book sound like a reading of the Financial Times but it appears not. I am a firm believer that if you are lucky enough to have a job which aims to inspire kids, make sure you do so.

  • Hamish the Highland Cow by Natalie Russell.

Hamish is a Highland cow and VERY hairy. He hates having baths and NEVER cuts his hair. Why should he when his shaggy coat is the perfect place to keep his favourite sweet – toffees! But one day his friends get fed up with the increasingly smelly Hamish, and they hatch a plan that involves a hairdresser and, yes, toffees! An exuberant story with bold, bright illustrations from a very talented artist. ‘Russell’s bright-eyed cast, including sheep with coloured rinses, is full of character and her text is deftly delivered – it’s a gift to read aloud.’ Scottish Sunday Herald

This year we spent Christmas with my parents in Leicestershire. On the 27th we loaded up the car again and drove to the Wirral to spend the aftermath with Ozzie’s parents. One of the many reasons I love going to other houses is to browse their book shelves and kids books are no exception. On the first night we read Hamish The Highland Cow. This is a complete joy to read aloud….my Scottish accent is pretty impeccable (even if I do say so myself) and what child doesn’t love a book where you as the adult can do some entertaining voices??? This would also be a great book to buy if you are the owner of a little person who hates getting their hair cut. We have now been on the Wirral for 4 nights and this book has been requested every night. My accent is going from strength to strength and as the reader, I am definitely not getting bored. Thank you Natalie Russell for writing such a readable book.

Thanks for reading and have a great January.

December Beauty

Well tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and to be honest I am well over the Crimbo Limbo. It’s a funny old time of year isn’t it??? I am well happy to kiss goodbye to 2018 which in many ways has been a bit of a shitter but I am a little scared of what 2019 will bring. I mean January?!?! What is that month about?!?!? Does anyone like January?!?!?

My hopes for 2019???? A cure for my crater like open pores and maybe just maybe I will embark on some Botox. Maybe. I’m not sure. Maybe .

  • Sand and Sky Australian Pink Clay Mask. ยฃ39.99

There has been a ton of hype surrounding this product. By hype I mainly mean that each and every time I log onto FB the adverts come up practically begging me to buy it. My husband calls me an advertisers dream. To be honest, if a product promises to reduce my pores then it’s bought.

As ever, I embark on products like these completely believing that it will change my life. I’ve now been using it 2-3 times a week since October. The little pot has lasted really well, mainly I think due to the brush you use to paint it all over your face. I bloody love the ritual of using the brush over my face…..the lack of mess is brilliant. The mask tingles a bit and dries very quickly. The flannel/sponge thing takes it off beautifully and my skin looks glowing and clear after removing. Are my pores reduced???? So, having become a bit of a product queen in the last couple of years, I wonder if the open pore holy grail exists. Maybe I am actually needing a miracle. After using this, my pores aren’t massively reduced but this is a bloody good mask that leaves my skin feeling thoroughly cleansed and looking lovely. I will continue my quest for the grail but I have a feeling I will definitely repurchase this product.

If there was any product that has changed my 2018 it is hyaluronic acid. I wish I had discovered it years ago, maybe I would still look like a 16 year old. So, over the past few months I have used 3 bottles of hyaluronic acid serum. Hands down the best was Pestle and Mortar Pure Hyaluronic Serum ยฃ36/30ml. The consistency of this was the thickest out of the three and therefore the product just felt more substantial. I used it twice a day and my skin immediately looked plumper, more refined, glowing and felt like velvet. The Poppy Austin Hyaluronic Acid Serum ยฃ15.49 for 60ml, although being really good value was my least favourite. It seemed to work well but for me, the consistency was just too thin and watery. That being said, for those among you who like a product to be pretty much immediately absorbed, this could be the one for you. For me however, I like to feel that I am getting a little more bang for my buck.

The Viola Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid is the cheapest of the bunch at ยฃ6.85. Although cheap, I have been really pleased with this product. Skin feels hydrated and looks plumped. The addition of Vitamin C has helped to fade the pigmentation I developed in my last pregnancy. Nice consistency too. I mean for ยฃ6.85 I can’t really complain!!!

Right off I trot to walk the dog. I am trying to do more daily exercise to avoid getting back on the anti depressant wagon. Not 100% sure it’s working but I’m going to persevere.

I hope you all have a great night tomorrow and a fabulous, wrinkle free, clear skinned 2019.

November reads for children

Hi all. Well that’s it for November. It’s been a pretty mental month. We opened 3 new shows in work and I have been out pretty much every night working. As a chorister in a Opera company, the fact that I hate having a show every night is a major flaw. As a mum with young kids it’s pretty pants. I take the girls to school and nursery in the morning and am often gone before they get back . I feel like the worst mum at drop off saying “see you tomorrow morning Edie.” God knows what the teachers think I do for a living. Because I am not doing proper mothering during the day, my girls are constantly waking up at about 3 am and looking for some mum time. I feel and look a little like a zombie.

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker.
  • Bram Stoker born 8th November 1847.

A dramatic retelling of Bram Stoker’s classic horror story retold for children ready to tackle longer and more complex stories. Jonathan Harker has no idea of the horrors that await him in Castle Dracula. An ancient evil is alive and hungry for new blood. Can Jonathan and his friends defeat it? Part of the Usborne Reading Programme developed with reading experts at the University of Roehampton.

We read this at the beginning of the month when Edie was still on a high from Halloween. My daughter is all about the scares and I remember being similar at her age. Witches, ghosts, vampires all completely intrigued me. Edie is also a sucker (๐Ÿคฃ) for a love story and that is essentially what Dracula is about. I think if you want to introduce your kids to a little scary then as long as good triumphs over evil then all is well. I would also like to do a big shout out to the Usborne Young Reader books. They are utterly brilliant. The titles are very varied, the illustrations are fabulous and thanks to this range I have introduced Edie to some brilliant Classics which I hope she will love forever.

  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman.
  • Neil Gaiman born 10th November 1960.

There is something strange about Coraline’s new home. It’s not the mist, or the cat that always seems to be watching her, nor the signs of danger that Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, her new neighbours, read in the tea leaves. It’s the other house – the one behind the old door in the drawing room. Another mother and father with black-button eyes and papery skin are waiting for Coraline to join them there. And they want her to stay with them. For ever. She knows that if she ventures through that door, she may never come back.

Gaiman is an author I only really started to get into last year. The Ocean and the End of the Lane was my favourite book last year. I think Edie is a little young for this (although I did read a review of a 4 year old boy who listened to it on audio and loved it). I think we will try it in a year or two.

Coraline is a great heroine and a great role model for kids…..

โ€œBecause,โ€™ she said, โ€˜when youโ€™re scared but you still do it anyway, thatโ€™s brave.โ€

๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Coraline is quirky, independent, adventurous, intelligent and curious. Gaiman is a master at writing non-condescending books that appeal to adults as well as children. I also applaud the fact that he doesnโ€™t shy away from the creepy… I often feel that as parents we are so scared of our kids being scared. Edie definitely handles creepy things like a pro. I think as parent I am happy for Edie to read something a little scary as long as there is no gratuitous violence and also makes the point that good can conquer evil. I donโ€™t want her to feel that the horror can continue. In Coraline, Gaiman does just that.

  • Some Dogs Do by Jez Alborough.
  • Jez Alborough born 12th November 1959.

All dogs walk and jump and run, but dogs don’t fly – it can’t be done…can it? Jez Alborough’s uplifting tale will fly off the page and straight into the hearts of anyone who has ever, just for a second, stopped believing in miracles.

Some Dogs Do is a fave in our house. When asking Ceci (3) what she likes about it, she said she likes it because itโ€™s sad. Morose little thing that she is. Itโ€™s not particularly sad but as Sid loses his self belief, he finds that he can no longer fly. ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ

Edieโ€™s review was just as entertaining. โ€œItโ€™s a book of lies mummy. Dogs cannot fly.โ€ ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚

Anyway, I guess that was Alboroughโ€™s point. Dream big little ones. Lovely book, lovely rhymes, pictures and message.

  • The Legend of the Great Pumpkin by Charles M Schulz.
  • Charles M Schulz born 26th November 1922.

Celebrate Halloween with Linus, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang in this shaped board book with holographic foil on the front cover!

Linus loves one thing more than his cherished blue blanket: The Great Pumpkin! He believes that on Halloween night the Great Pumpkin will rise out of the pumpkin patch to bring presents to all the kids in the world. Will Linus and his friends ever finally see him? Learn all about the legend of the Great Pumpkin in this adorable board book based on the classic Peanuts comic strips!

Thanks to Birthday Reads I am trying to make a real point of introducing myself and the children to authors born in the current month. As a result there have been some hits….The Secret Garden (Oct) and also some misses….The Selfish Giant which I loved but Edie thought was boring (Oct). There have also been some misses for me. I canโ€™t stand The Rhyming Rabbit by Julia Donaldson (Sept). My husband and I both try to scarper when Ceci requests this. ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ

Unfortunately The Legend of the Great Pumpkin by Charles Schulz (Nov 26th) is another miss from me. Yes itโ€™s seasonal, but the story is utter pap. Schulz himself seems to get bored of his writing and finishes the book without resolving the already tenuous storyline.๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ Anyway, thanks to that Law of Sod, Cilla ADORES it. When asking her why, she says because itโ€™s scary (itโ€™s not) and exciting (itโ€™s not). ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ

Happy Birthday for the 26th Mr Schulz. ๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŽ‚

And the last book of the month and the biggest hit…….

  • The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith.

The book behind the viral internet sensation of “The Scottish Granny” reading this story to her grandchild, viewed over 3 million times.ย Based on the popular song, THE WONKY DONKEY has sold over one million copies worldwide.ย Who ever heard of a spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey?ย This hilarious picture book will have children – and adults – braying with laughter!

One for the grown ups more than the kids I think. Ozzie (my husband) would admit to not being a lover of books. For him to enjoy reading to the kids it has to be a funny one. I think the pic shows how much he enjoyed it. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚

The Wonkey Donkey started out as a bit of a YouTube sensation of a Scottish grandma reading it to her grandson. It really is hilarious.

๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด

Anyway thank you Craig Smith and Katz Cowley, this is utterly hilarious.

November Beauty

Where the hell has November gone????? It seems like Bonfire Night was yesterday. This month has been utterly crazy and the image of me on a hamster wheel definitely springs to mind. We have opened 3 shows in the last month and at the moment we have shows every night. As a self confessed product whore, I have to say I feel a little make-upped-out and I would definitely benefit from 3 consecutive days of not smearing it all over my face. Anyway Christmas is coming and during that happy time when everyone is piling on the glitter and shimmer, my poor husband is going to have to gaze at my make-up free face….poor bastard.

  • Patchology Flashmasque.

I was really pleased to receive these sheet masques from Patchology which is a company I had never heard of but stock in Space NK. You can buy them individually for ยฃ8 or a pack of 4 costs ยฃ28. The great thing is that each masque targeted a specific problem and the BEST thing is that they claim to work in only 5 minutes. This is perfect for me as sheet masques and I usually aren’t the greatest of mates. I very rarely (never) make time to just lie down with a masque on for 15 mins so a 5 min fix definitely had me intrigued.

  • Milk Peel.
  • This contains coconut and soy milk to moisturise, and soothing papaya, grapefruit and pineapple enzymes. Don’t let the word ‘peel’ put you off as it is suitable for sensitive skin. I really liked it. Skin looked glowy and felt moisturised after use and literally only 5 minutes!!!!!! There is tons of product on the masque so afterwards you can rub it in. I did it last thing at night and my skin looked great the next day.
    • Soothe
  • Contains aloe vera and cotton seed extract to calm inflamed skin and a lovely combination of lavender, rosemary and sage to soothe irritations. I kept thinking when I was using this that it would be wonderful straight out of the fridge onto sunburned skin .
    • Hydrate
  • So, as a bit of a beauty junkie I am slightly embarrassed to say that my discovery this year has been hyaluronic acid. How had I not used it before??? Shaming. Anyway if something contains it, I buy it. This masque is full of it and vitamin B5. I probably kept this on for about 15 mins: mum of two, full on job….I need all the help I can get right?!?!? Immediate results after using to the point that I almost felt tempted to take my primark pjs off and go out on the rave. Came to my senses pretty quickly but my skin felt like a baby’s bum (a clean one) and looked dewy and healthy.
    • Illuminate
  • Contains Licorice and grapefruit seed extract. Probably my fave out of the bunch. Honestly these masques are saturated with product to the point that they drip…really lovely. Skin looked glowing and hydrated after use and I actually had some comments!!!!
    • Skin Brilliance and Skin Revive by Beauty & Go. ยฃ3.99/bottle.

    When I was asked to review these drinks from beautyandgo I admit to being a little sceptical. Would it be different than all the other โ€˜healthyโ€™ juices out there??๐Ÿฅค๐Ÿฅค๐Ÿฅค๐Ÿฅค๐Ÿฅค๐Ÿฅค

    I think maybe they might be. I tried REVIVE and BRILLIANCE. Both tasted good, particularly having been in the fridge but BRILLIANCE tasted of Turkish delight which was particularly lush.

    They contain ingredients such as collagen, vitamin C and hyaluronic (honestly this stuff is everywhere at the moment) and aim to hydrate and combat wrinkles.

    Ok, so I only had two and the idea is to have 1 a day but I am definitely going to pop into Boots on my way to work and grab one of these instead of my usual Starbucks.

    Defo worth a try.

    • Max Factor Radiant Lift Foundation. ยฃ14.99.

    I frequently use Nars, Clinique and Mac foundations and this foundation stands up to any of these brands. I work in the theatre and this foundation lasted for a whole rehearsal and a show. The coverage was great, didnโ€™t sink in my pores and made my skin look glowy and radiant.

    • Max Factor Radiant Lift Concealer. ยฃ9.99.

    I loved the colour and consistency of this concealer. It was light enough not to sit, clogged in my fine lines but also did a great job at concealing my dark circles. My issue is with the applicator as I think it is imprecise and really wasteful. I have been using this concealer for a week now and already the tube is almost empty.

    Thanks for reading this month and ask for some Hyaluronic Acid serum from Father Christmas.

    October Childrenโ€™s Reads

    Hello all. Hope you all had a lovely October, and are ready for the run up to Christmas! It’s come around quickly hasn’t it?

    We have read some brilliant books this month including a new Michael Rosen which would be great as a stocking filler.

    • Michael Morpurgo. 5th September.
    1. Aesops Fables.

    A timeless collection of over twenty of Aesop’s best-loved fables, including favourites such as The Hare and the Tortoise, Town Mouse and Country Mouse, Dog in the Manger and The Lion and the Mouse. The tales are retold with warmth and humour by former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo and brought to life by Emma Chichester Clark’s exquisitely playful and distinctive artwork.

    Both my daughters love Aesops Fables. Many a car journey have been spent listening to a terrible audio book version on Prime Music. They are beautifully retold by Morpurgo in this collection and the illustrations are lovely.

    2. The Butterfly Lion

    A lyrical and moving tale of a young boy growing up in Africa, and his lifelong friendship with a white lion.

    โ€œAll my life Iโ€™ll think of you, I promise I will. I wonโ€™t ever forget you.โ€

    Bertie rescues an orphaned white lion cub from the African veld. They are inseparable until Bertie is sent to boarding school far away in England and the lion is sold to a circus. Bertie swears that one day they will see one another again, but it is the butterfly lion which ensures that their friendship will never be forgotten.

    I picked this book up in the charity shop recently. Its a little old for my 5 year old so I read it one night. It really is a beautiful story and would be perfect for an 8 year old. It tells the story of a boy who lives in South Africa. A lion cub comes to live with his family and they become best friends. When the boy is sent to school in the UK , the lion is sold to a kindly circus owner who lives in France. The boy grows up and fights in the war. Eventually, whilst wounded in France, he manages to track down the circus owner and brings the lion back to England to live with him. A really moving story about a life long friendship.

    The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde.

    • Oscar Wilde 16th October.

    When the Selfish Giant builds a high wall round his lovely garden to keep the children out, the North Wind blows, the Frost comes and the Snow dances through the trees. The Giant wonders why Spring never comes to his cold, white garden. Then one day the Giant looks out to see a most wonderful sight . . .

    Oscar Wilde’s much-loved fairy-tale is brought to life again with beautiful illustrations by Michael Foreman and Freire Wright.

    I remember my mum and grandma reading me The Selfish Giant when I was a child. When I told my mum that I had bought it for my girls she got all emotional…โ€such a beautiful story.โ€ Sheโ€™s right, it is. A beautiful story with a beautiful message.โ€ I found myself getting all emotional while reading it. The language is lovely. I am sad to say that the joy stopped with me. Edie wasnโ€™t bothered and dare I say it, she was bored. The pictures are beautiful but not bright and gaudy like a lot of modern books. It was a slight mistake reading it just before bedtime…endless questions from Edie (5) about why the giant died, who took him up to heaven and the big conversation about God….โ€Is God actually Father Christmas mummy?โ€ ๐Ÿ˜‚She was happy as it delayed bedtime for a good 20 minutes. I was less happy as it delayed wine time for 20 minutes. ๐ŸทAnyway, a lovely, nostalgic read for me. Thanks Oscar Wilde.

    • Janet Ahlberg. 21st October.

    Janet and Allan Ahlberg are a children’s fiction power couple. Allan is the man behind the words and Janet is the wonderful illustrator. They wrote children’s fiction for 20 years until Janet died of cancer in 1994.

    1. Miss Wobble the Waitress.

    Mrs Wobble LOVES her job as a waitress but, oh dear, there’s one big problem – she wobbles!! And when she wibbles and wobbles and drops jelly everywhere, it’s time for a new job! Luckily, Mr Wobble, and all the Wobble children have a cunning planย 

    Written in 1980s, The Happy Family series were firm favourites when I was a child. Mr Creep the Crook was definitely the best. Edie also loves these books. ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿณ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆโ˜•๏ธ

    2. It was a Dark and Stormy Night.

    Antonio, a small boy who has been kidnapped by Brigands, passes a dark and stormy night in their cave weaving for them incredible stories of their own exploits and through this actually solves his own problem of how to escape.

    This is a brilliant book for slightly older children. I think probably 7 and above. Itโ€™s a mega frustrating book to read aloud unless you are brilliant at doing tons of different voices. I remember really enjoying this one as a child. It felt like an older book but still had the brilliant pictures in it. ๐ŸŒซ๐ŸŒซ๐Ÿ’ฆ๐Ÿ’ฆ๐Ÿ’ฆ๐Ÿ’ฆ๐Ÿ’ฆ

    3. Kicking a Ball by Allan Ahlberg. Illustrated by Sebastien Braun.

    For anyone who can’t see a ball without wanting to kick it, head it, shoot it, or boot it!ย 

    ‘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.

    This is a favourite of my husbandโ€™s. On nights he does a bedtime story this is his choice. About a man who loves kicking a ball above all else. As he grows up, he still plays football with his friends. He gets married and eventually passes his love of the beautiful game onto his daughter. The above two books are a little old for Ceci(3) but she loves this one. โšฝ๏ธโšฝ๏ธโšฝ๏ธโšฝ๏ธโšฝ๏ธโšฝ๏ธ

  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
    • Frances Hodgson Burnett died 29th October 1924.

    This beautiful hardback Ladybird Classic edition of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a perfect first illustrated introduction to the classic story for younger readers.
    It has been sensitively abridged and retold to make it suitable for sharing with young children from 5+, whilst retaining all the key parts of the story, including the mysterious, locked secret garden. Detailed full-colour illustrations throughout also help to bring this classic tale to life.

    Edie (5) ADORED this Ladybird Classic copy of The Secret Garden .We read a couple of chapters a night and she couldnโ€™t wait to keep reading it. I hope this has something to do with my incredible Yorkshire accent. Anyway, I guess my thinking is that it is never too young to start reading classics to your kids. You just have to find the right version. This copy was very readable with lovely, bold illustrations. ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‚โ˜˜๏ธ๐Ÿ€๐Ÿƒ๐ŸŒฟ

    Hampstead the Hamster by Michael Rosen. Illustrated by Tony Ross.

    Christmas is coming, and what Leo wants more than anything in the world is a pet hamster. And guess what? He gets one on Christmas morning! Leo names his new pet Hampstead, after an autocorrect mistake on his wishlist. Everything is great, that is until Leo realises that Hampstead is miserable. What can Leo do to cheer Hampstead up?

    Well, its the end of October and in the Andrews household, we are well and truly ringing in the Christmas cheer. Edie (5), really enjoyed this book. She loved the format….’it looks like a grown-up book mummy.’ I think that means that she was impressed that it wasn’t in colour. This is a great read for kids. As a parent, I loved the fact that Leo’s dad is a single parent. I’m sure it is really hard to find Christmas based books which centre around families which are comprised of other than mummy, daddy and 2 kids. I think it is definitely about time unconventional family set ups are more frequently represented in children’s literature. Edie also really enjoyed the pop culture references of Famous Five, Fantastic Mr Fox and The Wizard of Oz. The story is great with lots of pictures and short chapters mean it is really readable with ample opportunity for story time to finish and pop your little darling off to bed. Lots of ‘cliffhangers’ at the end of chapters which kept Edie wanting more. Really fun read and great for a ย 5 year old’s Christmas stocking.

    Thanks for reading. Until next month. X

    October beauty

    Hi all and welcome to November! Buble time is a’comin! I completely adore this time of year! I love a berry/red lip, I love a foundation with more coverage and I adore the fact that people walk around with normal colour skin and not looking like Oompa Loompas. It truly is the most wonderful time of year!!!

    Anyway onto some products…..

    • Nourish Probiotic Multi-Mineral Repair Mask. ยฃ22 for 30ml.

    Brilliant. Another mask for a lazy mum in that I can wear it over night. It basically works its little mask bottom off while I attempt to have a night of uninterrupted ZZZZZZZs. It smells of lavender and roses and my skin which often feels a bit tight and sensitive feels lovely when I wake up. No sensitive tingles. According to the blurb, it boosts collagen and diminishes wrinkles which as a haggard mum, I am totally on board with.

    • Beblesh BB Cream ยฃ20.50

    I have mentioned this brand before, but it is such a staple in my make-up bag that I think it deserves another mention. As a result of sleepless nights and too much wine, I need something to keep foundation on, smooth wrinkles, cover pores, works as a concealer and give me a glow. This stuff ticks all the boxes!

    • Bourgeois Rouge Fabuleux. ยฃ8.99

    I feel I often review face masks so I was really chuffed when Boots sent me this product to review. ย I received Bohemian Raspberry which is exactly the kind of colour I like. Pretty close to my natural lip colour…darker than a nude. The lipstick contains Marula oil which makes it really moisturising. It goes on very smoothly but dries almost to a matte. The colour lasts for ages!!! The downsides….for some reason, its really tricky to get the lid off. Maybe I am going through a particularly weak phase but honestly its a total bugger. Also the taste of the lipstick is kind of weird-not horrible just not nice. Strange to say, but I think I would like it to be a little perfumed. Anyway, that would definitely not put me off buying again. once you find a shade you like, you stick with it right???

    • Liquid Blender Cleanser. ยฃ16 for 150ml.
  • A few months ago I wrote a review for a lip exfoliator and I think this review is going to be in a similar vein. Yes, this product works and works well. It smells of lavender which is lush and it certainly got my brushes clean. However, I cannot justify spending ยฃ16 on a product when baby shampoo works just as well. I would like to add that you can’t use baby shampoo to exfoliate lips….in that case a toothbrush does the job. ๐Ÿ˜‚. Anyway if you have ยฃ16, buy it. It works!!!
  • Thanks so much for reading.