November reads for children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith.

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

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

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

๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด

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

October Childrenโ€™s Reads

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

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

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

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

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

2. The Butterfly Lion

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

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

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

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

The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde.

  • Oscar Wilde 16th October.

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

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

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

  • Janet Ahlberg. 21st October.

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

1. Miss Wobble the Waitress.

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

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

2. It was a Dark and Stormy Night.

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

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

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

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

‘Not eating an ice-cream
Or riding a bike
No – kicking a ball
Is what I like.’

‘What I like best, yes, most of all
in my whole life is . . . kicking a ball.

A wonderful rhyming story to read aloud, Kicking A Ball will not disappoint fans of Allan Ahlberg. First written as a poem, the little boy in the story has been brought to life perfectly by artist Sebastien Braun. Every parent will be able to immediately relate to the simple joy felt by a boy simply kicking a ball, and how there is nothing else quite like it.

The incomparable Allan Ahlberg takes us on a journey from childhood to fatherhood full of humour, warmth, friendship . . . and football.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thanks for reading. Until next month. X

    October reads

    Hello all and Happy Halloween. ๐ŸŽƒ๐Ÿ’€๐Ÿ‘ป๐Ÿ’€๐Ÿ˜บ๐ŸŽƒ๐Ÿ‘ป๐Ÿ’€๐ŸŽƒ๐Ÿ˜ผ๐ŸŽƒ๐Ÿ’€๐Ÿ˜ผ๐Ÿ‘ป

    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 ๐Ÿ‘ฟ 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. 3โญ๏ธ.

    • 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, toppingย andย rummy.ย Each story is around 20 pages long so it is a book which is easy to pick up and put down. ย 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 Breakfastย andย Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime by Oscar Wilde. 5โญ๏ธ

    • Oscar Wilde 16th October.

    Both these books are from Penguin’s Little Black Classics series. Only ยฃ1 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 Savileย 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. 2โญ๏ธ

    • 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. ย 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. 1โญ๏ธ.

    • 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 chรขteau. 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 Visteโ€™s wife Geneviรจve and ripe young daughter Claude. In Belgium, as his designs spring to life
    under the weaversโ€™ fingers, Nicolas is inspired once more โ€“ by the master weaverโ€™s daughter Aliรฉnor and her mother Christine. They too will be captured in his threads.

    This was like a medieval Mills and Boon. Some utterly hilarious quotes โ€˜The sight of her tongue made me hard. I wanted to plough her.โ€™ ๐Ÿง

    โ€˜Come closer my dear and see my plums. Squeeze them.โ€™ ๐ŸŒ๐Ÿ’ (why isnโ€™t there an emoji for plums?) ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜† Also she used the word โ€˜maidenheadโ€™ A LOT.

    This book was given to me by a friend who described it as โ€˜life changing.โ€™ Really????? Really???? I donโ€™t think I can be friends with this woman anymore. ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ Anyway I couldnโ€™t take it seriously so it wasnโ€™t for me. Sorry to all Chevalier fans.

    The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse. 3โญ๏ธ.

    • 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 itโ€™s one of those little gems I didnโ€™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 Mosseโ€™s descriptions of grief, particularly in relation to men were very moving.

    A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler. 3โญ๏ธ

    • Anne Tyler 25th October.
    • Description: black sheep,ย 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. 4โญ๏ธ

    • 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. ย 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. Thatโ€™s what matters and is even more a travesty here, that having this kind of story is utterly common.ย 

    Normal People by Sally Rooney. 4โญ๏ธ

    • 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

    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 โ€“ 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

    โ€˜I couldn’t stop reading or caring about the juicy and dysfunctional Plumb familyโ€™ AMY POEHLER

    โ€˜A masterfully constructed, darkly comic, and immensely captivating taleโ€ฆCynthia D’Aprix Sweeney is a real talentโ€™ ELIZABETH GILBERT

    When black sheep Leo has a costly car accident, the Plumb siblingsโ€™ much-anticipated inheritance is suddenly wiped out. His brother and sisters come together and form a plan to get back what is owed them โ€“ each grappling with their own financial and emotional turmoil from the fallout. As โ€˜the nestโ€™ 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 ยฃ50 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 isnโ€™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 โ€“ he canโ€™t decide which is the best sound. Just as heโ€™s about to give up, he hears a familiar voiceโ€ฆ can Jemmy teach him that perhaps there are lots of beautiful sounds, not just one, and that for Jemmy, Royโ€™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 โ€“ 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.
  • April reads

    Hi all. Hope you had a great month. My reading over the last 4 weeks have resembled the weather. There have been some reads that were golden rays of sunshine and unfortunately there were also reads that were like standing in a puddle with a hole in your shoes.

    8 books in total. 1 not finished, 1 book of poetry and 1 memoir. 4 4* reads, 2 3* reads, 1 2* reads.

    1. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. 4*

    Description- heartache, love, short.

    #1ย  New York Timesย bestsellerย  Milk and Honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity.

    The book is divided into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. Milk and Honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

    * Self-published edition sold 10,000 copies in nine months in the US, and over 1400 copies through UK Bookscan.

    * Over 1.5million copies sold worldwide.

    * AMP edition has now sold over 71,000 copies through UK Bookscan (June 2017), and is the bestselling Poetry book in 2017 in the UK.

    * As of July 2017, Milk and Honey was the bestselling title in the US – across all categories.

    *ย Rupi has 1.3m Instagram followers; 130K twitter followers; and 346K Facebook fans.

    * Strong appeal for fans of Lang Laev, author of Love & Misadventure and Lullabies.

    * Rights have been sold in over 20 languages worldwide

    In my opinion, being a poet is a tough gig. I’m basing my opinion on no major knowledge apart from skimming reviews on Goodreads. Each poem is often viewed as a mini book. To rate a book of poetry 4* and above, do you have to like EVERY poem???? Of course not but I often feel that this is required by a lot of readers. Some of these poems spoke to me, and some didn’t. The poems I loved, I loved so much that the poems I liked less fell along the wayside. When I shut the book I honestly feel that my life was the better because I had opened it. These are not long, flowery poems. They are instantly accessible. Incidentally this is one of the common criticisms of the book. Many feel that Rupi’s poems are like snap chats. For me, this isn’t a problem. I am no great poetry connoisseur. I don’t want to wade through endless words to come to the crux of a poem and then not even be 100% sure that I have got it right. The fact that these poems are so short and straight to the point is what I love and if this gets more people like me reading poetry then surely it’s a win!

    As a mother of 2 daughters, this poem in particular spoke to me:

    2. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan. 4*

    Description- awkward, sex, atmosphere.

    It is July 1962. Edward and Florence, young innocents married that morning, arrive at a hotel on the Dorset coast. At dinner in their rooms they struggle to suppress their private fears of the wedding night to come…

    This month for my book club at work we opted to read The Children Act by Ian McEwan. I have read a fair bit of McEwan but not for a long while so I thought I would get back in the world of McEwan by reading On Chesil Beach.

    What a lovely read this is. The writing of beautiful. The premise is simple. I often feel nowaday that thanks to authors like Gillian Flynn etc we expect a book to have twists and turns and keep us on the edge of our seat. This is where Ian McEwan is a master. He writes books without tricks but his beautiful writing and his stories about humanity keep you hooked. Chesil Beach is a perfect example of this. A newly wed couple are about to embark on their wedding night and what happens in the aftermath. Reading the novel was uncomfortable. This isn’t a criticism. This is what McEwan wanted you to feel. Reading through a couple’s first awkward sexual experience is cringe worthy. I was rooting (excuse the pun) for the characters. I was begging them to forgo class differences, constraints of the sexes and pride and to just talk to each other. To tell each other what they were scared of saying!!! God it was frustrating but in a good way!

    Yes for me this was a hit and I have recommended it to a lot of people. If you like books that do what they say on the tin in an unpretentious, unwaffley way with beautiful writing then give it a go.

    3. The Children’s Act by Ian McEwan. 3*

    Description- law, Jehovahs witnesses, marriage.

    Fiona Maye, a leading High Court judge, renowned for her fierce intelligence and sensitivity is called on to try an urgent case. For religious reasons, a seventeen-year-old boy is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life. Time is running out.

    She visits the boy in hospital โ€“ an encounter which stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. But it is Fiona who must ultimately decide whether he lives or dies and her judgement will have momentous consequences for them both.

    Wow! We had a great book club on this beauty. I have also started doing some research on the authors to present to the group. Ian McEwan is quite an interesting one. A man never to shy away from making his views public. Deeply against extremist religion. He has spoken out against fundamentalist Islam’s views on women and homosexuality. He is a labour voter and was strongly against Brexit.

    As a Book group, we thought McEwan’s views on religion made the result of the court case quite predictable. McEwan is a realist who would obviously not come down on the side of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Indeed, Credsida Connolly writing for the Spectator said:

    religion was never going to be in with a chance. One might argue that the sect he has chosen is easy prey, since most of the reading public are likely to open these pages not needing to be persuaded that Witnesses are little short of nutters.

    Connolly goes on the describe the novel as ‘lacking in dramatic tension’ which we agreed with but also felt that that was not really what the book was about. I think the book is essentially, a character study in Fiona Maye’s marriage, morals and beliefs. In Fiona, McEwan has written a very real character. She is certainly flawed but ultimately likeable and I respected her. I’m sure to be a High Court judge you have to have a method of putting your emotions into a box so as not to cloud your judgement. You would think then, that Fiona would be quite a cold character but we all empathised with her. We also decided that she probably would be quite a tricky woman to be married to. That is not to excuse her husband’s actions but I don’t imagine she would be the kind of wife to wear her heart on her sleeve. Indeed, her husbands request is so very distasteful because he voices what he requires and feels is lacking in their marriage.

    Going off onto a bit of a tangent I also discovered that 2 members of our book club sing in the Gray’s Inn Chapel Choir. They particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the area and said the level of musicianship amongst the barristers and solicitors is incredibly high.

    So all in all a good month reading Ian McEwan. If you like beautiful prose definitely worth picking up.

    4. Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon. 3*

    Description- unreliable narrator, care Home, flash backs.

    LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMENโ€™S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2018

    There are three things you should know about Elsie.

    The first thing is that sheโ€™s my best friend.

    The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.

    And the third thingโ€ฆ might take a little bit more explaining.

    84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

    From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you many things, but here are three of them:

    1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.

    2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.

    3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.

    This was another book club choice and it went down very well….including with the men who I thought would be put off but the pretty battenberg cover.

    I can only speak for myself, but at 37 I am definitely aware of my own aging and now also my parents. This makes Florence’s story about age and dementia even more poignant. It reminded me of Elinor Oliphant in that even though the subject matter is quite tough, it is told in such a simple, gentle and witty way, the book never feels particularly harrowing.

    The reason I only gave this novel 3* is because I felt Cannon was constantly trying to be clever and shroud the story in mystery. For me, the book would have worked a little better if I had been let in on the secret. I guess the control freak in me is coming out. I think I just like books to me simple and well written. That isn’t to say that this isn’t beautiful written, I just don’t like an unreliable narrator and narrators don’t get more unreliable than one with dementia.

    I would like to say that Cannon’s writing is just beautiful and very moving. I loved this quote:

    I think the hardest part of losing anyone is that you have to live with the same scenery. It’s just that the person you are used to isn’t a part of it anymore, and all you notice are the gaps where they used to be. It feels as though, if you concentrated hard enough, you could find them again in those empty spaces. Waiting for you.

    5. The Firemaster’s Mistress by Christie Dickason. Did not finish.

    Description- James I, romance, gun powder.

    In the troubled year of 1605, Papist plots are rife in the gaudy streets of Shakespeare’s London as the fifth of November approaches โ€ฆ

    Francis Quoynt, Firemaster, is recently returned from Flanders and dreaming of making fireworks rather than war.

    Instead, Quoynt is recruited by Robert Cecil, First Minister, to spy on Guido Fawkes and his fellow conspirators. Meanwhile, Sir Francis Bacon is scheming for high position and spying on Quoynt.

    Kate Peach, a glove maker, was Quoynt’s lover before war took him away. Now living in Southwark, she is brought into grave danger. She is a secret Catholic. A fugitive Jesuit is concealed in her rooms. While Francis hopes to prevent the death of King James I and everyone in his parliament, Kate will have to save herself โ€ฆ

    I set myself a new goal this month….I will no longer buy new books unless I attempt to read one of the old ones on my shelf. This particular tome has been up there since 2011. I must have bought this during my bodice ripper phase. God my reading tastes have changed. I have to say I would have persevered if this book hadn’t been 500 sodding pages long. It is a period of history that I don’t know much about but as I say in all honesty I couldn’t be arsed to read it every night. Life is defo too short.

    6. Lullaby by Leila Slimani. 4*.

    Description: quick read, harrowing, Paris.

    The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds.

    When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family’s chic apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties.

    The couple and nanny become more dependent on each other. But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul’s idyllic tableau is shattered…

    Wow! I finished this book a couple of nights ago and I am still struggling to write down exactly what I think. Having finished this book I am left with a sense of unease and fear which is all down to the Slimani’s writing. This book feels claustrophobic and very, very real. At its centre a couple who have young children and busy working lives. I massively understand Myriam. A woman who although loves her children, is passionate about retaining a piece of herself. Maybe this is so poignant to me because I am exactly at this stage. I have two young children and my husband and I work. Like Myriam, my job is my passion and not doing it would be unthinkable. We have a nanny who we love and trust. This is a story that could happen and maybe it’s so unsettling because a caregiver, murdering her charges is a scenario you would never want to consider.

    There is no unreliable narrator in this novel. There are no plot twists and turn. The very first chapter tells you of the murder of the children. I think this made the novel so much more disturbing. Knowing what was going to happen to the children and imagining what the parents will go through in the aftermath of the murders makes the novel almost painful to read. If you are looking for something gripping, harrowing and impossible to put down give this a whirl.

    7. The tattooist of Auschwitz. 2*

    Description: love story, concentration camp, harrowing.

    I tattooed a number on her arm. She tattooed her name on my heart.

    In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust.

    Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too.

    So begins one of the most life-affirming, courageous, unforgettable and human stories of the Holocaust: the love story of the tattooist of Auschwitz.

    Oh Lordy, where to start with this one?!?! I really didn’t like this book but I’m glad I listened to it (audiobook) as I have had to get to grips with why I disliked it so much. Much like The Firemaster’s Mistress, I am not a fan of a love story….historical or otherwise. To me, love stories are dull and formulaic. People fall in love every day, this is not unusual. I have no interest in reading about other people’s love affairs. You know when your mate has one of chats with you about everything her boyfriend has said and you just glaze over and nod while thinking about a million other things??? That! That is what reading a love story is like for me. Secondly, I don’t like fiction about the Holocaust. I know this is based on a true story but it is only ‘based.’ This is still a work of fiction. Non fiction is completely fine and I think it is important that we read what happened and never forget those who perished at the hands of the Nazis. I just find fiction on this subject slightly distasteful. Would Lale and Gita really have been able to regularly have sex??? The part when Lale suggestively rubs the chocolate around her mouth….really????? Just not nice. Of course people will be moved by the subject matter, but I often feel that when an author uses such emotive subject it is sort of like a cop out.

    At this point I would like to say that I have just finished this book and I would like to say that I enjoyed the ending much more than the love story set in Auschwitz. After Lale makes his escape and we learn what later happens to him and Gita is very moving. I love the fact of this book just not the love story which I feel is padded out for fiction. As a result I will change my rating to 3*.

    8. Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth. 4*

    Description: tear jerker, post war, work house.

    In this follow up to CALL THE MIDWIFE, Jennifer Worth, a midwife working in the docklands area of East London in the 1950s tells more stories about the people she encountered.

    There’s Jane, who cleaned and generally helped out at Nonnatus House – she was taken to the workhouse as a baby and was allegedly the illegitimate daughter of an aristocrat. Peggy gand Frank’s parents both died within 6 months of each other and the children were left destitute. At the time, there was no other option for them but the workhouse.

    The Reverend Thornton-Appleby-Thorton, a missionary in Africa, visits the Nonnatus nuns and Sister Julienne acts as matchmaker. And Sister Monica Joan, the eccentric ninety-year-old nun, is accused of shoplifting some small items from the local market. She is let off with a warning, but then Jennifer finds stolen jewels from Hatton Garden in the nun’s room. These stories give a fascinating insight into the resilience and spirit that enabled ordinary people to overcome their difficulties.

    One of my most major flaws is that I have literally no willpower. Having stated very strongly in March’s post that I was not going to watch Call the Midwife I started watching it a couple of weeks ago and am thoroughly enjoying it. Unfortunately this has made me enjoy the second book in the series slightly less but that’s my own stupid fault. These two books are depicted in the first series and Christmas Special of Call the Midwife and it’s done really well.

    I have loved these books. Post war London is so interesting and I have learnt a lot. There were many times during reading these books I openly cried on the train. Living in SW London, my husband and I in full time work, both kids healthy it makes me realise that we honestly don’t know how lucky we are. People in 1950s East End London has coped with so much adversity through the wars, lived in squalor and were often hungry and penniless. If you were unable to feed your children the solution would be to enter the workhouse where you would be split up as a family and have to deal with appalling situations of a different kind. The story of Peggy and Frank is utterly heartbreaking. The hardship people lived through were unbearable. What women of the 1950s must think of us with our doulas, sleep consultants, breast feeding consultants I dread to think.

    The 1st of May is a beautiful, sunny day and I am currently in the bus in my sunglasses reading the first book of the month. It’s premise….a man takes his wife and son to look after an empty hotel during the winter months……The Shining.

    The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

    My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this novel.

    There was no way that Whittall could have foreseen the timely publication of her third novel with the press about Harvey Weinstein. There is no denying that the idea of abuse by people in power is very relevant and at the forefront of people’s minds. With the birth of snap chat, Facebook etc I think as parents we have to be hyper vigilant with our children’s safety. It is said that children grow up too fast and as a parent this is definitely something I am aware of. Even at 4, my daughter is aware of make-up and handsome princes. 4 going on 34 and it is scary. God only knows what life will be like when she is 14 and has secrets. Terrifying.

    The Best Kind of People is a novel about what happens when a loved, respected, even hero worshipped member of a small community, is accused of sexual impropriety. The novel doesn’t really dwell at all on the feelings of George Woodbury, the accused. Woodbury is the ‘best kind of People.’ He is a teacher from a wealthy family. Adored by his children and students and married to Joan, a hard working nurse.

    I have to admit that I thought I had read books like this before but Whittall had a really fresh take on a well publicised topic. George is not a character that is developed and his trial is not dwelt on. The novel centres around the reactions and relationships of his family.

    Avalon is a small town in Connecticut. The community are rocked by the accusations. To some, the Woodbury’s become social pariahs. To others, George is a victim, accused by overtly sexual and knowing girls to cover up their mistakes and poor judgement.

    Sadie, his daughter is torn between the realisation that the father she loved is not the man she thought he was. One of the girls accusing George is the little sister of her best friend. She can’t bring herself to see her father and so moves in with her boyfriend Jimmy’s family. Here begins another uncomfortable relationship with the boyfriend of Jimmy’s mother. Sadie’s provocative behaviour, and smoking of marijuana to impress and seduce a much older man is both sinister and scary. Scary because it happens.

    George’s son Andrew chooses to support his father. Coming out as gay in his small home town was traumatising for him and he was badly bullied. As a lonely teenager, he begins a clandestine relationship with his school coach. A man who is afraid of coming out as he knows what the reaction will be in his small town. Depressing, but it happens.

    Joan, George’s wife is a great character. Herself a well loved and respected member of the community she has to come to terms with the fact that her husband had a separate life. Could she have done anything? Did she have her eyes closed the whole time? Only seeing what she wanted to see?

    In a world where lines of proprietary are often blurred, how far do you have to go before it’s too far? Obviously George’s actions cannot be justified but how about a 17 year old boy and a teacher in his 20s? Yes without doubt an abuse of trust but is it as bad as a teacher in his 40s with a 12 year old? In the eyes of the law yes but is it the same? I think what Whittall is saying is that ‘even the best kind of people’ are capable of doing terrible things. The world is not black and white and particularly in this age of social media we have to be more aware of lines being crossed. This book really tackles the idea of power and sex and how easily it can be abused. The topic isn’t easy but I respect the fact that Whittall hasn’t shied away from the big issues we all should be aware of.

    The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth

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

    I often feel that short stories are given short shrift by reviewers.  People seem to review each story as a novel and are often disappointed if every story isnโ€™t up to a certain standard. For an author I can imagine the genre of short story feels like an indulgent treat. It must offer such a sense of freedom. All those snippets of ideas that come to you on a daily basis are able to be fashioned into a story. Itโ€™s doesnโ€™t have to have the length of a novel but it is a way to indulge creativity.
    As a reader, I love a short story.  I love the fact that I can dip in and dip out and I also find it very freeing that if I donโ€™t like one story, I can move on…no hard feelings. 

    William Boyd is an author I have loved for a long time. I love his writing, language and characters. Without a shadow of a doubt I can forgive Boyd if I donโ€™t love each one of his short stories (which as expected, I didnโ€™t) but the stories I loved are like having a box of Cadbury Heroes…tiny minatures stories written by one of my favourite authors.

    For me, the opening and ending stories were my favourite. Ludo, the art dealer who gets his kicks in life from kissing women other than his wife. His dalliances go further however, when a young woman presents him with the opportunity of selling a painting by Freud. 

    I also loved the tale of the actor Alec Dunbar. An actor who turns up at an audition only to be told they were expecting an actress called Alexa Dunbar. This leads him to take on a job, delivering a package to Scotland. What I loved about this story is it ended in a completely different place than where is started….the story became something I wasnโ€™t expecting. 

    I really enjoyed the fact that the majority of the characters in the stories work in the arts in some manner. As someone who is also in the arts I found Boydโ€™s characters and their lifestyles very real and believable. The titular Bethany Mellmoth really rang true. Flitting through numerous jobs in the hope that one would be a perfect fit. Alex Dunbar taking a delivery job just to earn extra cash when an audition doesnโ€™t go his way.

    If you are a fan of William Boyd but not a fan of short stories I urge you to pick this book up. You might not love every story but there are some total gems.

    Thanks again to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.