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 (🤣) 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…..

“Because,’ she said, ‘when you’re scared but you still do it anyway, that’s brave.”

👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏

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 doesn’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 don’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 it’s sad. Morose little thing that she is. It’s not particularly sad but as Sid loses his self belief, he finds that he can no longer fly. 🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶

Edie’s review was just as entertaining. “It’s a book of lies mummy. Dogs cannot fly.” 😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂

Anyway, I guess that was Alborough’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 can’t stand The Rhyming Rabbit by Julia Donaldson (Sept). My husband and I both try to scarper when Ceci requests this. 🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰

Unfortunately The Legend of the Great Pumpkin by Charles Schulz (Nov 26th) is another miss from me. Yes it’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.🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃 Anyway, thanks to that Law of Sod, Cilla ADORES it. When asking her why, she says because it’s scary (it’s not) and exciting (it’s not). 🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃

Happy Birthday for the 26th Mr Schulz. 🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂

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. Based on the popular song, THE WONKY DONKEY has sold over one million copies worldwide. Who ever heard of a spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey? 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. 😂🤣😂🤣🤣😂🤣🤣🤣😂

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.

🐴🐴🐴🐴🐴🐴🐴🐴🐴

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 £8 or a pack of 4 costs £28. 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. £3.99/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 ‘healthy’ juices out there??🥤🥤🥤🥤🥤🥤

    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. £14.99.

    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, didn’t sink in my pores and made my skin look glowy and radiant.

    • Max Factor Radiant Lift Concealer. £9.99.

    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 Children’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.

    “All my life I’ll think of you, I promise I will. I won’t ever forget you.”

    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…”such a beautiful story.” She’s right, it is. A beautiful story with a beautiful message.” 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 wasn’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….”Is God actually Father Christmas mummy?” 😂She was happy as it delayed bedtime for a good 20 minutes. I was less happy as it delayed wine time for 20 minutes. 🍷Anyway, 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 plan 

    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. 👨‍🍳👨‍👩‍👧‍👦☕️

    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. It’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. 🌫🌫💦💦💦💦💦

    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! 

    ‘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 husband’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. ⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️

  • 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 couldn’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. 🍁🍂☘️🍀🍃🌿

    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  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. £22 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 £20.50

    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. £8.99

    I feel I often review face masks so I was really chuffed when Boots sent me this product to review.  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. £16 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 £16 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. 😂. Anyway if you have £16, buy it. It works!!!
  • Thanks so much for reading.
  • October reads

    Hello all and Happy Halloween. 🎃💀👻💀😺🎃👻💀🎃😼🎃💀😼👻

    I hope you have all had a brilliant month. Life has been hectic here. We opened Lucia Di Lammermoor last week which is full of blood and guts and perfect for this time of year. We are opening the Britten War Requiem in a couple of weeks. Benjamin Britten was a pacifist but wrote The War Requiem for the consecration of Coventry Cathedral which was badly bombed in WW2. The libretto is traditional Latin texts and poems by Wilfred Owen. It’s going to be amazing.

    Family wise, my children have finally gotten used to our new au pair. This is the first time we have had an au pair and it has changed our lives. The girls seem really settled and have even picked up some Italian which is all good! She is coming Trick or Treating with us this evening. We are taking a vampire and an evil cat 👿 with us . I am sure there will be tantrums a plenty.

    Anyway….onto the books……..

    The combo of two young kids and a full time job means that ‘me’ time is a rare, beautiful and very appreciated thing. I genuinely feel that I have achieved something when I have the time to shave both armpits in the shower. yes, you read that correctly…more often than not my armpit hair is different lengths due to the constant interruption of shower time with the arrival of a small person who needs a wee. So you can imagine my smug satisfaction that I have smashed my Goodreads challenge. Yay to Goodreads, I may have armpit hair of differing lengths but I have read a shit ton of books.

    Carry On Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. 3⭐️.

    • P.G. Wodehouse 15th October.
    • Description: Short stories, funny, farce.

    These marvellous stories introduce us to Jeeves, whose first ever duty is to cure Bertie’s raging hangover (‘If you would drink this, sir… it is a little preparation of my own invention. It is the Worcester Sauce that gives it its colour. The raw egg makes it nutritious. The red pepper gives it its bite. Gentlemen have told me they have found it extremely invigorating after a late evening.’)

    And from that moment, one of the funniest, sharpest and most touching partnerships in English literature never looks back…

    Well this is my first foray into Jeeves and Wooster and I don’t think it will be my last. I have learnt tons of new vocal which I shall try to use on a daily basis…eftsoons, topping and rummy. Each story is around 20 pages long so it is a book which is easy to pick up and put down.  This is proper comfort reading. Nothing bad happens and all ends well. Utterly topping what ho!

    I would also like to point out the cover…do Wooster’s hands look ridiculously feminine or is that just me??

    Only Dull People are Brilliant at Breakfast and Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime by Oscar Wilde. 5⭐️

    • Oscar Wilde 16th October.

    Both these books are from Penguin’s Little Black Classics series. Only £1 each and are a completely perfect way to dip into classic authors . Particularly brilliant if like me, the thought of reading a 400 page classic is a little daunting. Only Dull People is a fab book of Wilde’s quotes. I particularly liked this one:

    She talks more and says less than anybody I ever met. She is made to be a public speaker.

    Arthur Savile reminded me of Dorian Grey. In this book, Wilde parodies the Gothic genre. Wilde is so witty and this is a great introduction into his writing style.

    The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy. 2⭐️

    • Ariel Levy 17th October.
    • Description: memoir, miscarriage, feminism?????

    Argh. I didn’t love this. In fact, I often felt so frustrated by Ariel and her white privilege that I wanted to throw the book across the room. Like Ariel, I also miscarried my baby at 5 months. I found writing about it incredibly cathartic and it was an exercise that I really benefited from. I suspect Ariel had the same experience when writing her memoir. My issue is that usually a memoir has an important message to impart and to be honest, I’m not sure this did.  This is where my frustration lies. Unfortunately Ariel, there are no rules you can live your life by. Life can throw you a curve ball. Sometimes its shit but that’s life. I would like to say that her writing is beautiful. I adored her vocabulary, I just struggles with her as a person. Sorry Ariel!!!

    The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier. 1⭐️.

    • Tracy Chevalier 19th October
    • Book description: medieval, like a Mills and Boon, MAIDENHEAD.

    From the bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring comes a historical tale of love, sex and revenge.

    Keen to demonstrate his new-found favour with the King, rising nobleman Jean Le Viste commissions six tapestries to adorn the walls of his château. He expects soldiers and bloody battlefields. But artist Nicolas des Innocents instead designs a seductive world of women, unicorns and flowers, using as his muses Le Viste’s wife Geneviève and ripe young daughter Claude. In Belgium, as his designs spring to life
    under the weavers’ fingers, Nicolas is inspired once more – by the master weaver’s daughter Aliénor and her mother Christine. They too will be captured in his threads.

    This was like a medieval Mills and Boon. Some utterly hilarious quotes ‘The sight of her tongue made me hard. I wanted to plough her.’ 🧐

    ‘Come closer my dear and see my plums. Squeeze them.’ 🍌🍒 (why isn’t there an emoji for plums?) 😂🤣😆 Also she used the word ‘maidenhead’ A LOT.

    This book was given to me by a friend who described it as ‘life changing.’ Really????? Really???? I don’t think I can be friends with this woman anymore. 😱😱 Anyway I couldn’t take it seriously so it wasn’t for me. Sorry to all Chevalier fans.

    The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse. 3⭐️.

    • Kate Mosse 20th October.
    • Description: France, WW1, grief.

    A haunting ghost story from the French mountains.

    The Great War took much more than lives. It robbed a generation of friends, lovers and futures. In Freddie Watson’s case, it took his beloved brother and, at times, his peace of mind. Unable to cope with his grief, Freddie has spent much of the time since in a sanatorium.

    In the winter of 1928, still seeking resolution, Freddie is travelling through the French Pyrenees – another region that has seen too much bloodshed over the years. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. Shaken, he stumbles into the woods, emerging by a tiny village. There he meets Fabrissa, a beautiful local woman, also mourning a lost generation. Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories of remembrance and loss. By the time dawn breaks, he will have stumbled across a tragic mystery that goes back through the centuries.

    By turns thrilling, poignant and haunting, this is a story of two lives touched by war and transformed by courage.

    This book has been sitting on my shelf for years and it’s one of those little gems I didn’t know was there.

    In work we are rehearsing the Britten War Requiem and with Remembrance Day fast approaching, The Winter Ghosts was a very poignant and atmospheric read. This book is beautifully researched and hauntingly sad. Freddie, loses his brother in the Great War and Mosse’s descriptions of grief, particularly in relation to men were very moving.

    A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler. 3⭐️

    • Anne Tyler 25th October.
    • Description: black sheep, elderly, likeable protagonist.

    Barnaby Gaitlin has less in life than he once had. His ex-wife Natalie left him and their native Baltimore several years ago, taking their baby daughter Opal with her. He acquired an unalterably fixed position as the black sheep of the family. And this family isn’t one where black sheep are tolerated. The Gaitlins are rich and worthy, supposedly guided by their own special angel to do the right thing…

    This was a solid 3 star from me. It wasn’t a crazy exciting, roller coaster of a read but I still enjoyed it. This was a character driven novel and I really enjoyed Tyler’s writing of the wonderful Barnaby and his horrible family. Tyler is a wonderful writer and I found her sections about the elderly so very moving:

    The jars they can’t unscrew, the needles they can’t thread, the large print that’s not quite large enough, even with a magnifying glass. The spectre of the nursing home lurking constantly in the background, so it’s, “Please don’t tell my children I asked for help with this will you?” and, “When the social worker comes, make like you’re my son, so she won’t think I live alone.”

    If you love beautifully observed and well written characters, pick up an Anne Tyler.

    Hunger by Roxane Gay. 4⭐️

    • Roxane Gay 28th October.
    • Description: memoir, rape trigger, obesity.

    ‘I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.’

    New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and bodies, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she casts an insightful and critical eye on her childhood, teens, and twenties-including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life-and brings readers into the present and the realities, pains, and joys of her daily life.

    With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and authority that have made her one of the most admired voices of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to be overweight in a time when the bigger you are, the less you are seen. Hunger is a deeply personal memoir from one of our finest writers, and tells a story that hasn’t yet been told but needs to be.

    Thank you Roxane. Unlike Ariel Levy, this is a brilliant memoir. Roxane has something important to say, and she says it in a brave and courageous way.  This book isn’t to garner sympathy, indeed, I don’t feel Roxane is someone who mopes about her life feeling sorry for herself. In her own words, she has been through something that countless of other women have experienced. I don’t believe this memoir has been written to highlight rape. Gay writes to explain what how this awful, horrific experience has created the relationship she has with her body. It is a heartbreaking, truthful read and one that has made me think deeply.

    I am not brave or heroic. I am not strong. I am not special. I am one woman who has experienced something countless women have experienced. I am a victim who survived. It could have been worse, so much worse. That’s what matters and is even more a travesty here, that having this kind of story is utterly common. 

    Normal People by Sally Rooney. 4⭐️

    • Description: Bildungsroman, Ireland, realistic relationships.

    Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years.

    This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person’s life – a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us – blazingly – about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege. Alternating menace with overwhelming tenderness, Sally Rooney’s second novel breathes fiction with new life.

    Not a Birthday Read but a book club read and our choice when the Booker Long List was released. Absolutely gutted that this didn’t make the short list. Sally Rooney is definitely one to watch.

    Its no secret that I HATE and LOATHE romantic fiction. I have been married for 7 years but with my husband for 17. I do not want to read books that make me nostalgic for the heady, days of our romantic love. I want to read books that make me feel better about how oftentimes, relationships are sodding hard work. I want my female characters, to be likeable women. Not ridiculous man mad idiots with their own inner goddess (I HATED 50 Shades). This is why I love Rooney. Her characters are not always likeable and the relationships are frequently complicated but that is life isn’t it??? Her books are realistic and her characters are brilliantly well observed. Love her!

    Anyway, thanks so much for reading. Please check out my Instagram:

    http://www.instagram.com/ellamkpbooks

    Children’s Reads for September

    I have decided from now on to do something different with my blog. Each month,  I am going to focus on books whose authors were born or died during that month. There will be some exceptions like when I have a specific book to review or I am just so excited to share a book with you all. I will also be doing this in my posts about adult books. One thing I have noticed, is that with a lot of modern book releases, it is hard to find a date of birth of some authors, so apologies that during some months, I may have to bend the rules.

    • Jane Hissey. 1st September 1952.
    • Ruff

    A woolly dog bounces into the playroom with no name and no home. But worst of all, he says he has never had a birthday! Luckily, Old Bear and the other toys are bursting with brilliant birthday ideas for their new-found friend.

    I remember reading these books with my sister when we were children. Picking them up again 30 years on and they haven’t aged at all. Both my girls enjoyed the books – Edith (5) more than Ceci (3). The pictures are absolutely stunning and Edie loved reading about Old Bear and Ruff to her school of toys.

    • Julia Donaldson. 16th September
    • The Snail and the Whale

    One little snail longs to see the world and hitches a lift on the tail of an enormous whale. Together they go on an amazing journey, past icebergs and volcanoes, sharks and penguins, and the little snail feels so small in the vastness of the world. But when disaster strikes and the whale is beached in a bay, it’s the tiny snail’s big plan that saves the day!

    I think The Snail and the Whale is one of my fave Donaldson books. I love the sentiment that no matter how small you are, you can still do amazing, brave things. Also how humbling it is to be aware of the size and magnificence of our planet. Its impossible to mention Julia Donaldson without a massive nod to Axel Scheffler. I say his name and a rock star image is conjured up…..Axl Rose. Scheffler is nowt like Axl Rose 😂. His illustrations are completely epic. Really engaging and there are always lovely little details to spot. Ceci (2) loved looking for the tiny snail in every picture.

    • The Detective Dog

    There once was a dog with a keen sense of smell.
    She was known far and wide as Detective Dog Nell.

    Peter’s dog Nell has an amazing sense of smell. Her ever-sniffing nose is always hard at work solving mysteries and finding all Peter’s lost toys. But Nell has other talents too . . .

    When she’s not cracking cases, Nell goes to school with Peter and listens to the children read. Books about dinosaurs, books about space and even books about dogs – Nell loves them all! But one day Peter and Nell arrive at school to find all the books have disappeared! Who could have taken them, and why? Luckily, Detective Dog Nell, with help from the whole class, is ready to sniff out the thief!

    Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by the multi-talented illustrator and print-maker Sara Ogilvie, The Detective Dog is a fast-paced celebration of books, reading, libraries and the relationship between a little boy and his rather special dog.

    The story is about Nell the Detective Dog who helps a class hunt down a book thief. Ted (the thief) is overjoyed to discover that he can borrow books for free from his library. His stealing days are over!!!

    Any book that promotes the use of libraries is top banana! As children, my sister and I were taken to the library a lot. As a mum, I go at least once a week…storytime, rhyme time and just taking books out. I remember, as a child being so excited to take 8 books home. Playing librarians was a common childhood game. I used to be intrigued by the barcode scanner….this has now lost its joy when I am standing at the self checkout in Sainsbury’s and the scanner goes on the blink.

    For a book to be a hit for Edie and Ceci, the story has to be fast paced, exciting, brilliant pictures with tons to look at and it is a massive bonus if the word ‘poo’ appears. ‘Poo’ makes an appearance on page 2 so my discerning girls are happy. Is is also important to say that Sarah Ogilvie’s pictures are fab with tons to spot. Brilliant book. Happy Birthday Month Julia Donaldson!

    • Eric Hill September 7th.

    Eric Hill OBE. What a legend. Born in 1927. The Spot books have been translated into 60 languages. It is reported that he said “children have far more intelligence and style than many adults credit them with.”

    This book is a special copy for me. My dad bought it for my eldest daughter Edith, on a shopping trip. It means so much because it is always Nana who spoils my children, bringing them presses and cakes. This was a gift chosen by ‘Pampa’ with no input from Nana, so to me, it is very special.

    • The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield.

    One day, a young bear stumbles upon something he has never seen before in the forest. As time passes, he teaches himself how to play the strange instrument, and eventually the beautiful sounds are heard by a father and son who are picnicking in the woods. The bear goes with them on an incredible journey to New York, where his piano playing makes him a huge star. He has fame, fortune and all the music in the world, but he misses the friends and family he has left behind. A moving tale of exploration and belonging from an exciting debut author-illustrator.

    This book is very loved in our family. My sister bought it for Edith and it has been one of those books that I buy for all my friend’s children. The sentiment behind the story is beautiful: your true friends will support and encourage you in your talents without envy. Your true friends will let you spread your wings and fly and when your heart leads you home, your family will be there with open arms. Edie, Ceci and I had a funny chat about things that make us so happy you forget where you are….Edie – sweets and Ceci – her dummy. Nothing as profound as music. 😂. As an over emotional musician, I find the book ridiculously moving. Edie tells me off for crying at the end! The illustrations are so beautiful. Can’t wait to read the next book The Bear, the piano, the dog and the fiddle.

    • Hide and Seek by Taro Gomi

    In the tradition of classic hidden pictures, international favorite Taro Gomi slyly infuses his dynamic original art with objects that don’t go where they belong. A crocodile’s grin is a toothbrush; a butterfly’s dots are hearts. Young readers will delight to find the unexpected treasures hidden in the brightly coloured illustrations.

    My little Cecilia/ceci/Cilla. I can’t say she lives in her sister’s shadow. Ceci is a force to be reckoned with, but when it comes to choosing the films we watch or the books we read, her older sister often overrules. At 3, she has grow out of the brilliant That’s not my….series and the constant asking for Peppa does get a little boring. Ceci does however love this book by Taro Gomi. Gomi is a very famous Japanese author. Ceci loves spotting the everyday objects hidden in the animals . If you are ever looking for a good book for a little one, give this a go.

    • Dr Seuss. Died 24th September 1991.
    • Horton Hears a Who

    Horton the kindly elephant has his work cut out saving the tiny Whos who live on a speck of dust – no one else believes they are there! But Horton eventually convinces everyone that, ‘a person’s a person, no matter how small’!

    ‘A person’s a person, no matter how small..’

    Horton the elephant sets out to save the inhabitants of a speck of dust, in this classic and hilarious tale about friendship and respect, from the inimitable Dr. Seuss.

    Born Theodore Seuss “Ted” Geisel in 1904, he wrote and illustrated over 60 children’s books. In our house Horton is a massive favourite. Edie loves the book and the Jim Carrey film. The message in the book ‘a person’s a person no matter how small’ combined with the idea that if people work together as a group they have the strength to change things is so important and relevant to teach to our children.

    Hilariously, the Grinch cartoon is on our tv very frequently. It is watched at least once a month so we feel festive all year round. Edie is obsessed with the scene when the grinch does his massive smile. Dr Seuss you are a legend. Thank you.

    • T.S. Eliot. 26th September
    • Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

    Happy 130th Birthday T.S. Eliot. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats was written in 1939. Cats was one of the first shows I ever saw in the West End. I remember the band starting and literally just crying I was so excited. I remember really wanting to be the white cat. I found it on YouTube the other day and Edie was utterly entranced. She now knows all the words to Jellicle Cats. For me though, Gus is my favourite. I bought this book, illustrated by the legendary Axel Scheffler quite recently. It’s a brilliant way to get kids into poetry.

    Happy Birthday to Stan Berenstain. One half of the Stan and Jan duo who wrote the Berenstain Bears. I think these books might be relatively rare over here in the UK. My sister and I discovered them when we were children and we were on holiday in Canada. Our older cousins loved them. Interestingly, they were inspired by the Dr Seuss books. The Berenstain’s wanted to write a series which focused on the issues parents faced. They were criticised for not moving with the times but I think this is part of the charm. Too Much Birthday has a very special place in my heart and is a phrase my parents used to use when we got a bit over emotional at our parties. Edie loved it as she is the same age as Sister Bear. She now wants a birthday party with ponies and a carousel. I remember feeling exactly the same after reading it at her age.

    Thank you so much for reading. See more updates on Instagram @ellamkpbooks. Next month, I am going to combine some birthday reads with some spooky favourites. Edith loves a good scare.

    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