September reads

Hi all and Happy Autumn. I for one am pleased that Summer is coming to an end. I love shorter days and longer nights…perfect for curling up with a good book.

1. Kindred by Octavia Butler. 5⭐️.

  • Description: slavery, gender issues, time travel.

In 1976, Dana dreams of being a writer. In 1815, she is assumed a slave.

When Dana first meets Rufus on a Maryland plantation, he’s drowning. She saves his life – and it will happen again and again.

Neither of them understands his power to summon her whenever his life is threatened, nor the significance of the ties that bind them.

And each time Dana saves him, the more aware she is that her own life might be over before it’s even begun.

It is a rare thing that I give a book 5⭐️ but I was completely blown away by Kindred. It had been on my Book shelf for absolutely ages and I admit I was a little put off at the prospect of reading another book about slavery. I was wrong. Octavia Butler’s book is unlike any I have ever read before. The fact that the the story is told from the point of view of Dana, a modern woman who goes back in time to the antebellum south makes it so very powerful. Slavery, when witnessed through Dana’s eyes is somehow so much more brutal and upsetting. It is honestly the most powerful description of slavery that I have ever read. The fact that the novel is often classified as science fiction initially put me off somewhat. Slavery and Science fiction???? Weird mix. For me, this novel is historical fiction. The aspect of time travel, is really not a big deal and is only used as a means to get Dana back to Maryland in the 1800s. Butler is so clever. In the present day, Dana (a black woman) is married to a white man. Back in Maryland this would obviously be completely unheard of. This idea of gender and identity really interested me. The novel was published in 1979 and it doesn’t seem to have aged at all. If you are interested in American History this is a book that should definitely be read and is one I will be recommending to everyone.

I have a book addiction which I’m sure many of you understand. My issue is that my husband thinks that the books on the shelves are the only books I own. He doesn’t realise that they are spilling out of all the drawers and in the cupboards. I pretty much buy books constantly. There are two issues with this. 1. Storage. 2. I only ever read my recent purchases. I have books on my shelves that have been there for proper yonks. This is going to stop! 🛑 ✋. From now on, each month I am going to read books written by authors who have their birthdays or deaths that month. 🎉🍰 .Birthday reads. Death reads.

2. The Brutal Art by Jesse Kellerman. 4⭐️.

  • Jesse Kellerman born 1st September.
  • Description: family ties, mystery, art.

Ethan Muller is struggling to establish his reputation as a dealer in the cut-throat world of contemporary art when he is alerted to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: in a decaying New York slum, an elderly tenant has disappeared, leaving behind a staggeringly large trove of original drawings and paintings. Nobody can tell Ethan much about the old man, except that he came and went in solitude for nearly forty years, his genius hidden and unacknowledged. Despite the fact that, strictly speaking, the artwork doesn’t belong to him, Ethan takes the challenge and makes a name for the old man – and himself. Soon Ethan has to congratulate himself on his own genius: for storytelling and salesmanship. But suddenly the police are interested in talking to him. It seems that the missing artist had a nasty past, and the drawings hanging in the Muller Gallery have begun to look a lot less like art and a lot more like evidence. Sucked into an investigation four decades cold, Ethan will uncover a secret legacy of shame and death, one that will touch horrifyingly close to home – and leave him fearing for his own life.

Well I am clearly sitting on a gold mine. This book has been on my shelf for 10 years. Thanks to Birthday reads, I finally took it down and I am so pleased I did. I really enjoyed it. This is almost a bit of a family saga which is great as Kellerman is able to create characters you care about and are really intrigued by. Initially I thought the protagonist was quite unlikeable but he really grew on me. The novel also centred around the Modern Art industry. Something I know nothing about but found really interesting. Some of Kellerman’s descriptions of pieces of art were really quite funny. I have included Deathbucks because it made me laugh. Happy Birthday Jesse Kellerman. Sorry I neglected you for so long.

I will definitely be reading more of you.

3. Deception by Roald Dahl. 4⭐️

  • Roald Dahl born 13th September.
  • Description: short stories, sinister, utterly varied subject matter.

‘The cruelest lies are often told in silence . . .’

Why do we lie? Why do we deceive those we love most? What do we fear revealing? In these ten tales of deception master storyteller Roald Dahl explores our tireless efforts to hide the truth about ourselves.

Here, among many others, you’ll read about how to get away with the perfect murder, the old man whose wagers end in a most disturbing payment, how revenge is sweeter when it is carried out by someone else and the card sharp so good at cheating he does something surprising with his life.

Happy Birthday to the total legend that is Roald Dahl. I adored his books as a child and now I am lucky enough to be reading his stories to Edie who thinks they are amazing. They don’t seem in any way dated. In the last couple of months I have also read 2 of his short story collections. If you are ever in a reading slump, reach for a collection of short stories. Kiss Kiss and Deception were utterly brilliant. Dahl’s imagination is genius and his range of topics is MASSIVE. I have added a couple of snippets from Deception. One is a quick one liner about the rich and the weather and the other about facial hair. Anyway Mr Dahl, Happy Birthday. I will be raising a glass to you tonight.

4. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney 4⭐️.

  • Description: affair, arts world, friendship.

WINNER OF THE SUNDAY TIMES / PFD YOUNG WRITER OF THE YEAR
SHORTLISTED FOR THE DYLAN THOMAS PRIZE 2018
SHORTLISTED FOR THE KERRY GROUP IRISH NOVEL OF THE YEAR 2018
SHORTLISTED FOR THE DESMOND ELLIOT PRIZE 2018
SHORTLISTED FOR THE RATHBONES FOLIO PRIZE 2018
A SUNDAY TIMES, OBSERVER AND TELEGRAPH BOOK OF THE YEAR

Frances is twenty-one years old, cool-headed and observant. A student in Dublin and an aspiring writer, at night she performs spoken word with her best friend Bobbi, who used to be her girlfriend. When they are interviewed and then befriended by Melissa, a well-known journalist who is married to Nick, an actor, they enter a world of beautiful houses, raucous dinner parties and holidays in Provence, beginning a complex ménage-à-quatre. But when Frances and Nick get unexpectedly closer, the sharply witty and emotion-averse Frances is forced to honestly confront her own vulnerabilities for the first time.

This book took me about 75 pages to get into but now it is finished I genuinely feel like I am saying goodbye to a friend. Ok, so it’s not a book for those with high moral standing, it’s not a book with particularly likeable characters but it is a little like sitting in a coffee shop and eavesdropping on a really interesting conversation. Initially, I was frustrated with Rooney’s complete disregard of speech marks but actually I think it creates a much more intimate way of writing. Definitely give it a read if you like relationships that are a little bit messy and people who are a little bit complicated. Aren’t we all?!?!?

5. The Dinner by Herman Koch. 3.5⭐️

  • Herman Koch born 5th September .
  • Description: pretentious restaurant, protecting your child, violence.

The Dinner by Herman Koch. Born September 5th in the Netherlands. This book was a solid 3.5 stars from me. I have read reviews calling it the European Gone Girl or a ‘not as good’ We Need To Talk About Kevin. This must be sooooooo annoying as an author. Just because there is an unreliable narrator and a child who commits a crime, comparisons are made when a book is not really that comparable. This is a really well written book with a brilliant and original idea. The whole novel takes place during the course of a dinner in a massively pretentious restaurant. Koch immediately had me on side because he made me laugh. The descriptions of the affected waiter pointing with his ‘pinkie’, the minuscule portion sizes and ridiculous ingredients were absolutely brilliant and incredible well observed. The fact that Koch uses the meal and arrival of each course to interrupt the drama of the story and the characters was a really interesting and original idea. I don’t want to say much about the plot to avoid spoilers. Descriptions of violent acts were pretty vivid and at times, quite hard to read. The characters were ALL unlikable. This was definitely worth a read if only for the giggles you will get about the pretentious meal. So Happy Birthday Mr Koch.

6. The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah. DNF.

  • Kristen Hannah born 25th September.

The New York Times number one bestselling title.

Bravery, courage, fear and love in a time of war.

Despite their differences, sisters Viann and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Viann is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Viann finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.

As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength is tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Viann and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

Vivid and exquisite in its illumination of a time and place that was filled with atrocities, but also humanity and strength, Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale will provoke thought and discussion that will have readers talking long after they finish reading.

I gave up!!!!!! This is obviously controversial as I know this is a massively popular book. I hate it when a book that loads of people love leaves me cold. I actually feel guilty. So I got to page 88 and it was fine but just a bit ‘meh.’ My main issue was Isabelle who I wanted to punch in the face and I definitely would have done if I had been Vianne. Vianne, the sister who is desperately trying to keep her daughter alive while Isabelle is being the tempestuous, volatile yet beautiful (all a little ‘characters by numbers’ for me) younger sister does all in her power to antagonise the Nazi’s. SHUT UP ISABELLE.

7. A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. 3⭐️

  • Jennifer Egan born 7th September.
  • Description: 13 stories, music industry, aging, loss of innocence

This novel was the winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize. Is it a collection of short stories or a novel? Although Egan published a few as individual stories, she views the collection as a novel. Each of the 13 chapters involves interrelated stories with the majority of the characters somehow connected to the record exec Bennie Salazar. This book worked for me until about halfway through. In fact, it was the chapter Selling the General that made me lose faith. I think by then, the characters that I wanted to reappear weren’t going to and I basically stopped caring. It all became a little too random for me. I did however love this quote about being ‘real.’

Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a lovely October.

See more updates on Instagram @ellamkpbooks

August Beauty. Hit, miss or maybe

Top month of products in August. All HITS and 1 MAYBE.

HIT

    Dr Organic. Aloe Vera Skin Lotion. £7.50
  • I think this has to be the product of our summer holiday. I packed it for our trip to Lanzarote and during the trip I noticed it went crazy quickly. My husband was the culprit. What you should know about my husband is that he is very low maintenance. He has literally no skin care regimen and still has skin that is baby soft and lime free. This is a man who gets a pot of Nivea for Xmas and he thinks it is posh. He often goes for months without a haircut. Vain he is not so when he told me that he thought this moisturiser was the bees knees I felt I had to take note. His reasons???? It’s really thick and moisturising and really soothed sunburned skin. After a few skin cancer scares on his side of the family, fear of sun burn is major for him. He felt that if he put this moisturiser on at night after he had a bit too much sun, his skin felt soothed and in the morning the redness was gone. He was right. The cream feels very thick and luxurious and a little does go a long way. A definite hit from us!!!
    • Dr Dennis Gross alpha beta medi-spa peel. £34 for 4 treatments. £61 for 8.

    Firstly I want to say that I had a free sample of this.I originally put this product in the maybe category. £61 is punchy….but at 37 should I be forking our for expensive products if they do the job?? Two days after using I have placed my order. This is a definite hit!!!!!

    This product was really easy to use. Firstly you wipe the pad (which looks like a make up wipe covered in foundation) all over your face. This pad is the acid concentrate. It smells slightly like bananas and lemons. Strange combo. It makes my face feel slightly tingly but not uncomfortable so. After 3-5 mins you apply the firming peptide milk.

    Immediately after use, skin looked brighter and pores appeared tightened. I read a brill reviewer by a lady who cut the pads in half so she got double the amount. This could easily be done as the pad was heavily saturated with the fluid and also it is only a weekly application.

    • Chanel Bronzing Make-up Bass. £40
  • Thanks to Beauty subscriptions and my job it is very rare I buy my own products. I realise this makes me very lucky but it does often mean that in trying to use up what I acquire, I often wear colours that don’t particularly suit me. Bronzer is definitely one of them. It takes bloody ages to use up bronzer and the one I own is a particularly dark shade of brown. Because of this I have used it very sparingly and as a result, it has now been in my make up bag for 3 years. Imagine my joy when I opened my case from holiday to find it had cracked and I had no choice but to throw it away. Hallelujah!!!! I quickly Googled ‘Best bronzer’ and this product came up. Yup the price was punchy but remember I haven’t bought a bronzer in at least 3 years so I thought I’d treat myself.
  • This stuff is superb!!!!!!! I bloody love it. Best product I have used in years.
  • Firstly I would say that the colour is deceiving. It looks quite dark but is light when you put it on so you can build it up. I use a powder brush and although the consistency is between a gel and a mousse, the brush doesn’t get clogged like it does with a foundation. The colour is beautiful and warm and looks so, so natural. I also love the texture….no more broken powders in my bag. On the skin it feels really light and finish is matte but not in anyway heavy. It even covers my broken pores.
  • Buy buy buy!!!
  • Maybe

    • L’Occitane Precious Cleansing Foam. £19.00
  • Lovely product and it seems to last for ages. The foam feels quite thick and substantial which is great as I often find foams a little thin. On contact with water, the foam becomes lovely and creamy. Even though it is perfumed it doesn’t irritate and my skin doesn’t feel tight after use. My only reservation is that it’s a little expensive.
  • Anyway until next month.
  • Thanks for reading .
  • August Reads

    Well I am well and truly out of my slump. Really positive month. 8 books read in total. 2 of those not finished. 1 non fiction. Also some really good children’s books.

    No major plans for September although I do want to read Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends before I embark on Normal People for our October book club.

    I am also planning a month of scary reads in October so I am enjoying researching those. What are the scariest books you have ever read including non fiction?

    • 1. Kiss kiss by Roald Dahl. 5*

    Description: short stories, varied, weird.

    In Kiss Kiss you will find eleven devious, shocking stories from the master of the unpredictable, Roald Dahl.

    What could go wrong when a wife pawns the mink coat that her lover gave her as a parting gift? What happens when a priceless piece of furniture is the subject of a deceitful bargain? Can a wronged woman take revenge on her dead husband?

    In these dark, disturbing stories Roald Dahl explores the sinister side of human nature: the cunning, sly, selfish part of each of us that leads us into the territory of the unexpected and unsettling. Stylish, macabre and haunting, these tales will leave you with a delicious feeling of unease.

    ‘Roald Dahl is one of the few writers I know whose work can accurately be described as addictive’ Irish Times

    Roald Dahl, the brilliant and worldwide acclaimed author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, and many more classics for children, also wrote scores of short stories for adults. These delightfully disturbing tales have often been filmed and were most recently the inspiration for the West End play, Roald Dahl’s Twisted Tales by Jeremy Dyson. Roald Dahl’s stories continue to make readers shiver today.

    I ADORED this book. What a total legend Roald Dahl is. His imagination completely blows my brain. I can’t imagine another author who can pull off such a varied range of stories with such aplomb. Antique hunting, poaching, sexually frustrated vicars, scary b&bs, revenge on a husband. Each time I embarked upon a new story I had no idea of what to expect and each time I was surprised and intrigued.

    • 2. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. 4.5*

    Description: sibling rivalry, trigger for rape, arranged marriage.

    Shanghai, 1937. Pearl and May are two sisters from a bourgeois family. Though their personalities are very different – Pearl is a Dragon sign, strong and stubborn, while May is a true Sheep, adorable and placid – they are inseparable best friends. Both are beautiful, modern and living a carefree life until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away the family’s wealth, and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to two ‘Gold Mountain’ men: Americans. As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, the two sisters set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the villages of southern China, in and out of the clutches of brutal soldiers, and even across the ocean, through the humiliation of an anti-Chinese detention centre to a new, married life in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. Here they begin a fresh chapter, despite the racial discrimination and anti-Communist paranoia, because now they have something to strive for: a young, American-born daughter, Joy. Along the way there are terrible sacrifices, impossible choices and one devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel by Lisa See hold fast to who they are – Shanghai girls.

    Oooooooh I really enjoyed this and I also read a review in Goodreads which said that the book makes more sense if you read the sequel Dreams of Joy. I am so pleased there is a sequel. I so enjoyed the characters, I know returning to them will be comforting.

    This book had everything I love:

    1. A period of history in a country I know little about- Shanghai in the 1930s and LA in the 40s and 50s
    2. A family saga. Relationships between siblings, parents and partners.
    3. Drama.

    This really is a book you can sink your teeth into. The subject of immigration is still so incredibly relevant today: particularly in Trump’s America.

    • 3. See what I have done by Sarah Schmidt. DNF

    Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018

    Haunting, gripping and gorgeously written, SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE by Sarah Schmidt is a re-imagining of the unsolved American true crime case of the Lizzie Borden murders, for fans of BURIAL RITES and MAKING A MURDERER.

    ‘Eerie and compelling’ Paula Hawkins

    ‘Stunning’ Sunday Times

    ‘Gripping… outstanding’ Observer

    ‘Glittering’ Irish Times

    Just after 11am on 4th August 1892, the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden are discovered. He’s found on the sitting room sofa, she upstairs on the bedroom floor, both murdered with an axe.

    It is younger daughter Lizzie who is first on the scene, so it is Lizzie who the police first question, but there are others in the household with stories to tell: older sister Emma, Irish maid Bridget, the girls’ Uncle John, and a boy who knows more than anyone realises.

    In a dazzlingly original and chilling reimagining of this most notorious of unsolved mysteries, Sarah Schmidt opens the door to the Borden home and leads us into its murkiest corners, where jealousies, slow-brewed rivalries and the darkest of thoughts reside.

    Well I was expecting to really love this book but after reaching page 153 last night I decided to call it a day. If I had to give it a rating based on what I had read (which is obviously unfair) I would give it 2*.

    I just knew it wouldn’t be a book that made me excited to pick up. It wasn’t fast paced enough for me (I was still on the day of the murders by page 153) and I found Lizzie’s constant inane ramblings frustrating and confusing.

    Anyway, when reading is your passion, I don’t want to read books that are just ‘ok.’ I want a book that makes me want to stay awake!!!!

    • 4. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. 3.5*

    Description: semi autobiographical, 1980s, coming of age.

    The dazzling novel from critically-acclaimed David Mitchell.

    Shortlisted for the 2006 Costa Novel Award

    Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2006

    January, 1982. Thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor – covert stammerer and reluctant poet – anticipates a stultifying year in his backwater English village. But he hasn’t reckoned with bullies, simmering family discord, the Falklands War, a threatened gypsy invasion and those mysterious entities known as girls. Charting thirteen months in the black hole between childhood and adolescence, this is a captivating novel, wry, painful and vibrant with the stuff of life.

    This was my book club choice for a summer read. My intention was to read something light and funny whilst lying by the pool. This book popped up in a lot of articles about funny reads. What is funnier than a teenage boy I thought. Having finished the book, ‘funny’ does not even come into the top five words I would use to describe it. This book is so beautifully written and so well observed that I actually found it quite painful to read. I fell in love with the character of Jason Taylor. In him, Mitchell perfectly captured the voice of a 13 year old. The language, friendships, fears all so real. The sections where Jason is being bullied I found almost too painful to get through. Mitchell’s writing about Taylor’s parents marriage breakdown was perfect. The snidey remarks over the dinner table were perfect, the alliance between Jason and Julia growing closer as a result of it was brilliant. Mitchell’s writing is just so vivid, unpretentious and real.

    • 5. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. 4*.
  • Description: wealth, family saga, Mean Girls.
  • The acclaimed international bestseller soon to be a MAJOR MOTION PICTURE starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh and Gemma Chan!

    When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and time with the man she might one day marry.

    What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars and that she is about to encounter the strangest, craziest group of people in existence.

    Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian jet set; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money – and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

    This is fun, superficial escapism that hooks and reels in even the reluctant reader: Dynastyamong the filthy-rich Chinese community – Independent

    I don’t want to make this post really maudlin but I lost our 20 week old baby this month. Reading is one of the things that is getting me through it. The moments I am reading are pure escapism and I have spend a lot of time over the last week in bed reading. This book was pure escapism. It was fluffy, pink, trashy brilliance. It was like eating a giant candy floss. I want to save the other books in the trilogy until I am in need of cheering up. Really fun read.

    • 6. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. DNF

    THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

    ‘I couldn’t stop reading or caring about the juicy and dysfunctional Plumb family’ AMY POEHLER

    ‘A masterfully constructed, darkly comic, and immensely captivating tale…Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney is a real talent’ ELIZABETH GILBERT

    When black sheep Leo has a costly car accident, the Plumb siblings’ much-anticipated inheritance is suddenly wiped out. His brother and sisters come together and form a plan to get back what is owed them – each grappling with their own financial and emotional turmoil from the fallout. As ‘the nest’ fades further from view, they must decide whether they will build their lives anew, or fight to regain the futures they had planned . . .

    Ferociously astute, warm and funny, The Nest is a brilliant debut chronicling the hilarity and savagery of family life.

    My issue with this book is that I felt the exact opposite of Amy Poehler. I didn’t care at all about the Poehler family…in fact I found it all very dull. Gave up on page 108.

    • 7. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. 3.5 stars.
  • Description: race, family, parenthood.
  • ‘To say I love this book is an understatement…It moved me to tears’ Reese Witherspoon

    ‘Just read it…Outstanding’ Matt Haig

    Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

    In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

    Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

    When old family friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town – and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at an unexpected and devastating cost…

    One of the things I most loved about this book was that it was a surprise. After reading the prologue I thought I had a fair idea of what this book would be. This is going to be a story about Izzy right? A story of teenage angst and how a family deals with a troublesome child. Wrong Ella! This book was about so much more. Class, race, fertility. The book had such a range of emotions and subjects you would think it would be a read of highly octane drama but it was actually a quiet, character based novel.

    Celeste Ng has an incredible talent for writing very real characters. As a reader, I feel like I went through a range of emotions with every single character. A character I initially disliked, would be a character that I empathised with by the end of the novel. Subjects, that at the beginning of the novel I had a strong opinion about, I often found that my opinion has changed and I had sympathy for the other side of the argument.

    Non Fiction

    • 8. The 24 hour wine expert by Jancis Robinson.
  • Description: short, quite detailed, dull.
  • From the world’s most respected wine critic, the essential guide to wine in 100 pages

    Wine is now one of the most popular drinks in the world. Many wine drinkers wish they knew more about it without having to understand every detail or go on a wine course.

    In The 24-Hour Wine Expert, Jancis Robinson shares her expertise with authority, wit and approachability. From the difference between red and white, to the shape of bottles and their labels, descriptions of taste, colour and smell, to pairing wine with food and the price-quality correlation, Robinson helps us make the most of this mysteriously delicious drink.

    Jancis Robinson has been called ‘the most respected wine critic and journalist in the world’ by Decantermagazine. In 1984 she was the first person outside the wine trade to qualify as a Master of Wine. The Financial Times wine writer, she is the author/editor of dozens of wine books, including Wine Grapes (Allen Lane), The Oxford Companion to Wine (OUP) and The World Atlas of Wine (Mitchell Beazley). Her award-winning website, http://www.JancisRobinson.com has subscribers in 100 countries.

    Right, I want to make it clear that I don’t want to turn into a wine wanker but seeing as I must spend about £50 a week on wine, I think it is important to know what I like and maybe to be a little more discerning about why I like it. This book was a quick read but god it was dull. Obviously Jancis Robinson is the expert but as a beginner I want a book to be more accessible. Anyway, when I was awake I did learn a bit about wine.

    Children’s books

    • The Best Sound in the World by Cindy Wume. 3+

    Roy is a lion and a sound catcher. He catches the sounds of the city and makes them into music, trying to avoid the annoying attentions of his neighbour, Jemmy. Feeling like his music isn’t good enough, Roy goes on a journey to find the best sound in the world for inspiration. He hears the pitter-patter of the rain in the forest, the wind whistling through the desert and the hustle and bustle of the souk at sunrise, but none of it helps – he can’t decide which is the best sound. Just as he’s about to give up, he hears a familiar voice… can Jemmy teach him that perhaps there are lots of beautiful sounds, not just one, and that for Jemmy, Roy’s music is the best of all? This gorgeous debut picture book is both a lesson in subjectivity and a heart-warming tribute to the power of friendship.

    What a totally gorgeous book. I am

    A musician and so this really appealed to me as the mum. It also provoked a hilarious discussion….what do we think are the most beautiful and the most horrid sounds in the world. Edith decided the most beautiful sound was bees buzzing. Edith and I decided the most horrid sound was Ceci screaming which she did all the way through the story!!!! We also discussed how some lovely sounds are connected to lovely memories. We liked the way that Jemmy made music fun and maybe helped Roy to take life a little less seriously…..music sounds better when you are having fun!

    • Oscar and the Catastrophe by Alan Macdonald 6+

    The third book in a brilliantly funny new series for 6+ readers from bestselling Dirty Bertie author Alan MacDonald, about a boy and his incredible talking dog.

    Sam had a very ordinary life, until Oscar the dog arrived on his doorstep. Because Oscar has a big secret – he can talk!

    Oscar usually has a lot to say on any subject, but in this book something makes him speechless . . . a CAT has moved in next door! And Carmen the pampered feline is almost as much of a nightmare neighbour as her owner, Mrs Bentley-Wallop.

    But Sam and Oscar have bigger things to worry about. When a jewel thief strikes, it’s time for the daring duo to turn detective . . . Can they sniff out the culprit before it’s too late?

    Edie and I really enjoyed this book even though we hadn’t read the previous two. She is 5 so slightly younger than the audience it is aimed at. However, she really enjoyed the illustrations and the voices we used for each character.

    • The Witches by Roald Dahl

    THE WITCHES by Roald Dahl is the story of a detestable breed of Witches.

    BEWARE.

    Real witches dress in ordinary clothes and look like ordinary women. But they are not ordinary. They are always plotting and scheming with murderous, bloodthirsty thoughts – and they hate children.

    The Grand High Witch hates children most of all and plans to make every single one of YOU disappear.

    Only one boy and his grandmother can stop her, but if their plan fails the Grand High Witch will frizzle them like fritters, and then what . . . ?

  • Because I work in the theatre, one thing I will never take for granted is a night at home because it means that I can read to my daughters. It is really important to me that my children love books as much as me and I believe as a parent it is my responsibility to make reading exciting. Edith is now 5 so I can start reading to her the stories that I loved. We tried Milly Molly Mandy which I enjoyed as a child and unfortunately I don’t think it has stood the test of time although we might try again. I think due to tv, films, iPads etc, attention span of children has decreased so you really need a book that packs a punch to keep a little one interested. Roald Dahl does exactly that. It has enough horror, funnies and gross bits to appeal to any child and as a parent I adore reading them.
  • Anyway see you in September.
  • Thanks for reading.
  • Somewhere over the rainbow. My miscarriage story.

    It’s been a couple of weeks since I landed in this strange bubble world of sadness and disconnect. On the 11th August we lost our baby of 20 weeks. Two weeks on and I feel just as sad and empty but with an added fear that the world is still turning and at some point I have to start turning again with it. I just don’t feel ready to do that yet.

    This is a very personal but necessary post to write and for me it has been really therapeutic. Late miscarriage is thankfully rare. At the doctor’s surgery last week, I was told that I was the only late miscarriage they had had this year. Last year there was only two. I have joined a couple of late miscarriage Facebook groups and the support the ladies give each other is invaluable. Still however, the group is full of questions and not many answers. Last night a lady posted who had lost her baby at 17 weeks. She was due to go into hospital the next day and she had no idea what would happen. She was terrified. If this post lifts the shroud of secrecy, mystery and darkness around miscarriage then it’s done it’s job. If it helps one person then great.

    This baby would have been our third daughter. I have always wanted a big family. I remember my husband being more reticent: we have 2 beautiful and healthy daughters, why ask for more????I have crap pregnancies, why go through it again???? I saw his logic but I couldn’t shake the image of myself as Ma Walton or Sally Field in Brothers and Sisters. I want a brood of children. I don’t want it to be neat and tidy. I want a mess of emotions and megabloks united in a big family. I got my wish. We got pissed one night and I got pregnant. Easy.

    This pregnancy fell under the radar a bit. I didn’t worry. In fact I was blasé. I knew the drill, I had done it twice before. I was so busy with the girls and work I didn’t really think about it. I had a bit of a wobble before the 12 week scan when I was a little worried my age (37) would increase the risk of downs etc but generally I took it all in my stride. When I lay on the bed and saw our little bean on the screen, I cried. It was moving about like something possessed. My blood results came back and there was minimal risk of any genetic problems. Suddenly seeing the baby on the screen made it so real. I realised we were so lucky to be in this position again.

    On the 9th August it was raining….maybe that was prophetic after weeks and weeks of blazing sun. My 2.5 year old and I went to me routine midwife appointment. She used the Doppler to listen to the heartbeat and couldn’t find one. I knew then. She sent me to hospital for a scan. I left the midwife and tried to call my husband who eventually answered, left work and rushed to meet me. I remember walking through the hospital thinking ‘in 5 minutes I will know and I will either be devastated or beyond relieved.’ In 5 minutes I did know. The baby had died. “It’s not good news” said the man doing the scan. My husband arrived just after I was told and we just sobbed.

    We were ushered out of the room, past the couples who were waiting for their scans of their living babies and into the counselling room. Midwives and consultants came in and apologised for our loss. It was a blur of words and despair. I was advised to come back on Saturday and be induced. I was given a pill to stop the pregnancy hormones. I was given tea with sugar and then we left, clutching my maternity notes that 6 weeks previously showed the scan of our baby and now listed the sad words intrauterine death.

    On Saturday we arrived at the Delivery Suite and were shown into a room called The Forget Me Not Suite (I mean really?!?!?!?). I remember walking in and being overwhelmed by the sight of the bed where soon I would be pushing out my baby. My midwife Anne came in. What a shit job that must be. I wonder if they had drawn straws to see who had the miserable task of manning The Forget Me Not Suite that day. As she was trying to find a vein to insert my cannula I asked “Do you get many of these?”

    “Tricky veins?” She answered.

    “No,” I replied. “Dead babies.”

    “No, not that many.” I couldn’t work out whether to be comforted or gutted by her response.

    There was a TV in the room. Thank God there was a TV in the room. Rather naively, my husband and I had no idea how long the whole process would take. It’s long. Arduous. I was given a tablet every 6 hours. We arrived in hospital at 8am and my Labour didn’t really start until 8pm. We spent the time drinking bad cups of tea and watching totally random shit on tv….power walking, endless gardening. Daytime TV on Saturday is bad. My husband was angry and frustrated that we weren’t prepared for how long it was going to take. I was grateful that I didn’t know.

    The day passed in a bit of a blur. I remember feeling so sorry for the lady who came in to take our food orders. You could tell she was terrified what she would find behind the door of the Forget Me Not Suite. At 19:30 a new midwife came on, Araminta. This midwife found it harder than Anne. I called her at 20:00 when I went to the toilet and had started bleeding. Araminta found me sobbing on my husband. This was the bleakest time for me. Usually labour pains signify the start of a new phase in your life. I remember in NCT being told that every contraction brought you closer to seeing your baby. This time every contraction was bringing me closer to the end of something I so longed for. Araminta helped me into bed, cuddled me and had a cry herself.

    Labour pains weren’t as bad as the previous times. I guess due to the fact that I didn’t have to get to 10cm. Earlier in the day I had been completely torn about pain medication. I was in such emotional pain should I use meds to dull the physical pain? Alternatively would the physical pain give me a good excuse to scream out some of the emotional pain? In the end I plumped for co-codamol and gas and air. In previous labours, gas and air made me feel a bit sick. This time however, it made me feel just out of it enough that I could almost disconnect with what was going on.

    Labour proper started during the film Pitch Perfect 2. Ironically I had been discussing the merits of the Pitch Perfect trilogy only a few days earlier with a colleague. A few days earlier, when I was happy and confident I was carrying a healthy baby. When the baby came out, Araminta kept saying “sorry, sorry, sorry.”

    I saw my daughter. Initially I was too scared. I was worried that every time I closed my eyes, she was all I would see. The midwife told me she was beautiful. I didn’t like the idea that she would only be seen by the midwife. I had to see this little life. My daughter, my little girl. She was beautiful. Tiny. The size of my hand. She won’t ever know her big sisters, she won’t argue with them about whether to watch Dugee or Ben and Holly but for a little while she was alive and because of that, as her mum, I had to see her.

    After she was born we had to wait for the placenta. Because the umbilical chord was so thin there was a worry that it would break. After numerous attempts to extract it manually I was taken to Theatre and the whole thing was over at 6:30 am.

    So what have I learned? I am now a member of a quiet, sad group of women who are praying for their rainbow. This word has a new meaning now (rainbow is a baby conceived after a loss). I now know what all these initialisms mean: BD (baby dance….sex), TTC (trying to conceive) and MC (miscarriage).

    I have learned about grief. At 37 I realise I am pretty lucky. My parents are alive and well as are my husband’s. Life has been good to us so grief is an emotion I haven’t had much experience with. I knew I would go through feelings of anger. I was expecting these feeling to be aimed at people who were pregnant or those with newborns. This hasn’t been the case at all. I don’t want their babies. I want my own. Surprisingly, in the beginning I was angry at the baby I miscarried. I feel there is a bit of a non written contract when you get pregnant. I, as the mother promise to eat the right food, drink the right drinks, exercise when I am knackered, inject myself with blood thinners (to stop clotting), take daily vitamins, puke my guts up etc. You, as my baby just have to stay alive. Keep that heart pumping. If the worst should happen, please miscarry in the first few weeks (the pessimist in me expects that). Please don’t die at 20 weeks and give me no indication of your passing. I feel almost wrong footed by the baby. I turned up at my midwife appointment, with my 2 year old, confident that all was well. I think partly this grief is tainted by shock. I was confident in this pregnancy to the point of almost being cocky. I had two successful pregnancies this baby would be fine. The fact that this has happened and I was so unprepared has shocked me to the core.

    What has been hard??? The day my husband went back to work was horrid. Seeing people carry on with life is awful when I feel like I am permanently on pause. People saying “it just wasn’t meant to be” is horrid. Being exhausted. Grieving is utterly knackering. I spend the day in a constant haze and then when I crawl into bed I am wide awake.

    There has however been humour. Pretty dark humour granted but there have been some laughs. I had my first counselling session the other day. The lady gave me a diagram about how men and women grieve differently. Apparently at the moment I am floundering in ‘The Whirlpool of Grief” while my husband is trying to stay afloat in “The River of Life.” There have been a few jokes about this….mainly sung either to the tune of The Rhythm of Life or The Circle of Life.

    People have said I’m brave and lovely as that is it’s one thing I’m not. I think you are brave if you choose to do something that scares you. I’m not brave. I had no choice but to go through this and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I know with time it will get easier but at the moment I don’t feel like the girl I was 3 weeks ago and at the moment I am trying to work out where I fit in a world in which I feel so disconnected.

    July reads

    This month it is all about quality over quantity. Ok, ok, I have gotten through minimal books. This is partly due to the fact that for the first 20 days of the month I was still finishing Nothing to Envy which I cheekily reviewed in my June post just so it looked like I had read at least three books.

    This month started with high hopes of reading Pachinko (hence last month’s Korea obsession) but I decided in order to overcome my current piss poor attention span I was going to stick with books under the 250 page limit.

    I go on holiday tomorrow and I am taking small books. Books, that if they don’t work, I won’t have to trudge through for the next 5 weeks. Books that once I have read the first 60 pages it usually takes me to get absorbed, I have pretty much finished.

    • Heartburn by Nora Ephron. 4*

    Description: marriage, humour, Jewish.

    Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel discovers that her husband is in love with another woman. The fact that this woman has a ‘neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb’ is no consolation. Food sometimes is, though, since Rachel is a cookery writer, and between trying to win Mark back and wishing him dead, she offers us some of her favourite recipes. Heartburn is a roller coaster of love, betrayal, loss and – most satisfyingly – revenge.

    This book ticked a lot of my boxes.

    1. It’s short.

    2. It involves food. Namely Jewish Food which I know nothing about.

    3. I feel I can relate. Rachel is 7 months pregnant. I am 4. This is sorta where the relatability stops. Hopefully my husband isn’t having an affair with a long nosed woman called Teresa but I do find it comforting to read that marriage is hard. Is that weird???? I like a look at a marriage that isn’t rose tinted because my god since we have had our kids and my job which involves me never being around in the evening our relationship we really have had to work at our marriage.

    This book is like sitting with a friend and listening to her marital woes. It made me laugh and often made me nod my head in agreement. It was comforting like watching When Harry Met Sally.

    • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. 4*

    Description: memoir, neuroscience, cancer.

    At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

    When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.

    What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away?

    Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.

    In the last couple of months I have read two very different books about the medical profession. This is going to Hurt by Adam Kay and When Breath Becomes Air. I have always been awed by those who work in medicine but since reading these books my respect has tripled. Working in such an industry is most definitely a calling and not just a job and dealing with life and death on a day to day basis takes a very special human being.

    When reading a novel like this, I am reminded of how lucky I am. I have a healthy husband and two healthy children. My husband and I are both lucky enough to have both sets of parents alive and well. We have never had to deal with our own mortality or that of our loved ones. It is something I fear and I hope I deal with it when it comes with as much grace and dignity as Paul and his wife.

    Would it be harder to deal with death as a doctor? To receive your own prognosis in the same room you have delivered countless test results to your patients? To know exactly how your body was going to deteriorate and to know exactly what drugs were going to be used??? I think in many ways the answer is yes and even in a job where you are faced with having to deliver bad news to your patients, coming face to face and dealing with your own mortality is an entirely different thing.

    I think I was most moved by Lucy’s beautiful words at the end. I guess you don’t realise your strength until it is tested but Lucy’s eloquent words really resonated with me. To lose your husband is tragic. To lose him when you have such a young child is just devastating.

    • Lady Killers. Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer. 4*.

    Description: witty, My Favourite Murder, poison.

    When you think of serial killers throughout history, the names that come to mind are ones like Jack the Ripper and Ted Bundy. But what about Tillie Klimek, Moulay Hassan, Kate Bender? The narrative we’re comfortable with is the one where women are the victims of violent crime, not the perpetrators. In fact, serial killers are thought to be so universally, overwhelmingly male that in 1998, FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood infamously declared in a homicide conference, ‘There are no female serial killers’.

    Lady Killers, based on the popular online series that appeared on Jezebel and The Hairpin, disputes that claim and offers fourteen gruesome examples as evidence. Though largely forgotten by history, female serial killers such as Erzsebet Bathory, Nannie Doss, Mary Ann Cotton, and Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova rival their male counterparts in cunning, cruelty, and appetite for destruction.

    Each chapter explores the crimes and history of a different subject, and then proceeds to unpack her legacy and her portrayal in the media, as well as the stereotypes and sexist cliches that inevitably surround her. The first book to examine female serial killers through a feminist lens with a witty and dryly humorous tone, Lady Killers dismisses easy explanations (she was hormonal, she did it for love, a man made her do it) and tired tropes (she was a femme fatale, a black widow, a witch), delving into the complex reality of female aggression and predation. Featuring 14 illustrations from Dame Darcy, Lady Killers is a bloodcurdling, insightful, and irresistible journey into the heart of darkness.

    Another successful read for me!!! Yay! This was a holiday read and utterly perfect for my current situation-constantly being interrupted by a 2 and a 5 year old. If I could give one top tip for a holiday with kids it would be this……pick something simple with shortish chapters that you can get into easily without having to trudge through 100 or so complicated pages. I picked this book and a book of Roald Dahl short stories. In six days of holiday I have finished this book and am half way through the Dahl so reading-wise I feel successful.

    Telfer’s book is brill. It reminded me a lot of one of my top podcasts ‘My Favourite Murder.’ The tone was witty and informal with just enough information in each chapter to stop you feeling bogged down with fact. Indeed, after each chapter, I thought how much I would love to read a whole book based on each woman. Alternating this book with another was a definite plus as a lot of these women’s stories were slightly similar….woman murders husbands 1, 2, 3 and 4 with delicious meals laced with arsenic, but equally there are enough contrasting stories (Kate Bender, Erzsebet Bathory, Raya and Sakina) to keep it interesting.

    My one and only criticism is that I would have loved some more pictures, photos, documents etc.

    Anyway, really enjoyable read and I look forward to reading more by Telfer.

    July Beauty. Hit, miss or maybe.

    Bit of a quick post this month. But 2 good hits….1 so good it will hopefully save you money in the beauty salon.

    Hit

    • Bubble Sheet Mask. Oh-K. £7.50.

    Firstly, big apologies for these truly terrifying pictures. How awful! Please don’t let them put you off this brill mask. I usually bloody hate a sheet mask but this was wicked. As it foams it feels slightly tingly but in a nice way. My skin felt so lovely and soft afterwards and really smooth!!!

    • Julienne eye lash and eye brow tint. £10.99. Amazon

    I have been meaning to post this for a while and keep forgetting. As a blonde I bloody love getting my eyelashes dyed in time for my summer holidays. Eyebrows are a different thing. I always say I don’t want them too dark. 10 minutes they tell me and I lie there knowing too well that it’s too long but being too scared to say. Well no more. I can now do my eyelashes and brows in my own bathroom. This stuff has lasted ages and I still have tons. It’s mega easy and to be honest I don’t even bother with the smear of Vaseline or the little paper things. I just whack it on and wait a bit and I am left with lustrous lashes and brows the right shade of brown. Defo give it a whirl!!!!

    Thanks for reading!!!!

    June reads

    I begin this post with an apology and an explanation. Reading wise, June has been another piss poor month. I’m hoping that this is due to the fact that I am pregnant and not because I have somehow lost the ability to read. Excuses, excuses but I have been sick as a dog and working every night. This seems to have been combined with books that are doing nowt for me so I am basically a reading void. I can’t tell you how depressed this makes me. Reading is basically my only hobby and I can’t do it. Am I going to spend the next 6 months trudging through books???? I used to look forward to getting into bed with a good book. Now I think I have some idea of what impotence feels like. I know I am going to lie there and within 10 minutes want to chuck my current read across the room and shout “WANKETY WANK WANK.” Every night I know I am going to fail. So to people who read this blog, I apologise. June is yet another month of me writing reviews of books that were either a bit ‘meh’ or irritated the absolute tits off me!

    1. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. 3*

    Description: murder, mystery, satanic.

    Your brother murdered your family. Your evidence put him away . . . the gripping second novel from the author of the mega-bestselling GONE GIRL.

    Libby Day was just seven years old when her older brother massacred her family while she hid in a cupboard. Her evidence helped put him away. Ever since then she has been drifting, surviving for over 20 years on the proceeds of the ‘Libby Day fund’. But now the money is running out and Libby is desperate. When she is offered $500 to do a guest appearance, she feels she has to accept. But this is no ordinary gathering. The Kill Club is a group of true-crime obsessives who share information on notorious murders, and they think her brother Ben is innocent.

    Ben was a social misfit, ground down by the small-town farming community in which he lived. But he did have a girlfriend – a brooding heavy metal fan called Diondra. Through her, Ben became involved with drugs and the dark arts. When the town suddenly turned against him, his thoughts turned black. But was he capable of murder? Libby must delve into her family’s past to uncover the truth – no matter how painful…

    When struggling through a reading slump, the cure is to pick up a book by and author that you know is going to be an easy and satisfying read. This book definitely fitted the bill for me. Although the subject matter wasn’t particularly ‘easy’ this book was a page turner. I wasn’t bombarded with tons of characters and complicated syntax. It wasn’t a game changer, it isn’t my top read of the year but I did finish and enjoy it and at the moment that seems to be as good as it’s going to get.

    2. My Holiday in North Korea by Wendy E. Simmons. Narrated by Jeena Yee. 1*

    Description: travelogue, cynical, disrespectful.

    Most people want out of North Korea. Wendy Simmons wanted in.

    In My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth, Wendy shares a glimpse of North Korea as it’s never been seen before. Even though it’s the scariest place on Earth, somehow Wendy forgot to check her sense of humor at the border. But Wendy’s initial amusement and bewilderment soon turned to frustration and growing paranoia. Before long she learned the essential conundrum of “tourism” in North Korea: Travel is truly a love affair. But, just like love, it’s a two-way street. And North Korea deprives you of all this. They want you to fall in love with the singular vision of the country they’re willing to show you and nothing more.

    Through poignant, laugh-out-loud essays, Wendy chronicles one of the strangest vacations ever. Along the way she bares all while undergoing an inner journey as convoluted as the country itself.

    My plan for July is to read Pachinko by Min Jin Lee so I thought it would be a good idea to immerse myself in Korea. This month I have read two books about North Korea. One has been incredibly informative and the other has irritated me more and more as I listened. My Holiday in North Korea is interesting in that the author comes off worse than the country she spends the whole book ridiculing. If the North Korean regime is something you are keen to learn about, this book is highly frustrating . Simmons writes like a petulant, cynical and condescending teenager with no respect for the country or the people . Every single aspect of this country is fair game for Simmons to mock….even how fried eggs are cooked in her hotel. There is absolutely no detail about the country, the regime, how people live their day to day lives. It seems that she has written this book not to educate but to lampoon. Listening to it on audiobook was akin to listening to an over privileged teenager who has just returned from a gap year having learnt nothing at all. If you want to learn nothing about North Korea’s culture, history and politics pick this book up and you won’t be disappointed. Having finished the book I would like to give the author a smack and tell her to go to her room until she has learnt some respect.

    3. Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick. 4*.

    Description: history, culture, family life.

    WINNER OF THE BBC SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION 2010

    A spectacularly revealing and harrowing portrait of ordinary lives in the world’s least ordinary country, North Korea

    Updated in 2014 with a new epilogue. North Korea is Orwell’s 1984 made reality: it is the only country in the world not connected to the internet; Gone with the Wind is a dangerous, banned book; during political rallies, spies study your expression to check your sincerity. After the death of the country’s great leader Kim Il Sung in 1994, famine descended: people stumbled over dead bodies in the street and ate tree bark to survive. Nothing to Envy weaves together the stories of adversity and resilience of six residents of Chongin, North Korea’s third largest city. From extensive interviews and with tenacious investigative work, Barbara Demick has recreated the concerns, culture and lifestyles of North Korean citizens in a gripping narrative, and vividly reconstructed the inner workings of this extraordinary and secretive country.

    What a stark contrast to the previous book about North Korea. This was exactly what I had been looking for and it’s easy to see why it is so highly regarded. Demick has really done her research. An American journalist who became the LA Times first bureau chief in Korea in 2001 she is more than qualified to write this book. During her time at the LA Times she focused on writing about social and economic change in North Korea.

    This book tells the real stories of people who defected from North to South Korea. Stories of six people :their day to day lives. This is such an important book and helps us to remember that in such a secretive country, with such a strict regime, people are trying to get on with life, doing their jobs, falling in love etc.

    In sharp contrast to Simmons’s novel, I really learnt about North Korea. Demick’s tone was respectful and educated throughout. At the back of the book each chapter has a notes section which explains certain aspects in greater detail and also lists further reading. If you like learning about a country through its social history this is a brilliant book.

    4. The Night Dragon by Naomi Howarth. 5*.

    Description: self belief, friendship, being yourself.

    This month’s children’s book is a real corker. Naomi Howarth is based in London and is a designer, illustrator and author. She has a brill website (www.naomihowarth.com) and a beautiful Instagram account. She also designs wedding invites, wallpaper and fabric. She is one talented lady.

    The Night Dragon is about Maud the dragon. She is a bit different from the other dragons who live on the mountain. She is unable to fly, breathe fire or cast grey clouds all over the land. Maud really wants to be a night dragon like the others but she just hasn’t got the confidence. One day, after a party, the night dragons all fall asleep and forget to bring on the nightfall. Maud’s friend Mouse gives her the confidence to make her feel brave enough to fly, breathe fire and create her very own colourful clouds. This book teaches children that they should embrace eachother’s differences because there is beauty in them.

    My daughters (5 and 2.5) loved Mouse. Edie (5) even said that Mouse was the kind of friend she wanted to be….and that is this book in a nutshell. Result Howarth! If every child who reads this book is inspired by Mouse all will be well with the world. Ceci (2.5) loved spotting Mouse on all the pages.

    The illustrations are just beautiful. Particularly the double pages when Maud is flying over the countryside, rivers and city. There is tons of little details in the pictures which kept us occupied. Gorgeous book and highly recommended .