May Reads

Hi all and apologies for combining May and June’s posts. All I can say is that reading wise I have been slow. My kids have gone slightly feral and are now night owls – current bedtime for the 4 and 7 year old is about 9pm. In my defence they are put in bed at 7:30 but clearly my homeschooling is only exhausting me….they are wired. This means when they finally go to sleep, I am left to tackle to war zone of a house or go for a run. By the time I drag my weary carcass into bed I manage to keep my eyes open long enough to grunt a goodnight to my husband and then I am unconscious. To be honest, it’s a miracle that I have read anything at all!!!

  • Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance. 4๐ŸŒŸ.
In this internationally best selling memoir and passionate analysis of a culture in crisis, ‘Hillbilly’ – born Yale Law graduate J.D. Vance takes a probing look at America’s white working-class through his own experiences growing up.
The book tells a true story of what social, regional and class decline feels like when you are born with it hanging around your neck. As his family’s saga plays out, the book shows how J.D.’s grandparents, aunt, sister and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty and trauma.
Writing with piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his chaotic family history. Hillbilly Elegy is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of the population. It is unmissable reading in these times of political upheaval.๏ฟผ๏ฟผ๏ฟผ

These are politically dark times to say the least. There is not much that would surprise me now. I used to be pretty disinterested in politics but the sheer madness of the world is making me sit up and want to learn more. As different as the US and the UK are, both countries policies are made by complete buffoons. This book has been hailed by the Times as: ‘a book to help understand Trump’s win.’ As yet, a book hasn’t been written to help me understand Brexit or Boris Johnson’s election, but I thought Hillbilly Elegy might explain some things to me.

Vance is a self-proclaimed hillbilly and it’s a badge he wears with pride and with no feeling of disrespect. He was raised by his grandparents in Middletown, Ohio. His mother was addicted to painkillers and later heroin, and his maternal grandfather was an alcoholic. Due to his mother’s inability to maintain a stable relationship and her addiction to drugs, Vance lived with his grandmother, “Mamaw.” According to Vance, this type of childhood is not unusual in the “Rust Belt.” Unemployment is high and substance abuse is rife.

Vance writes the story of his life. He describes that even though he was lucky enough to escape the Rust-Belt of Ohio, he was still chased by the ‘demons of life’ he thought he had left behind. Without a doubt his is a success story. He was lucky to have a grandmother who provided him with the stability he needed which in turn gave him the confidence to seek a better life for himself. He joined the Marines and served in Iraq and later read Law at Yale.

In Hillbilly Elegy, Vance gives an honest portrayal of American , white working class. A fiercely loyal group of people who voted for a Trump because they felt he would preserve the “American Way of Life.” These are voters who are afraid of change and are worried that if you are white, male and Christian, you are likely to be discriminated against.

To define these two groups and their approach to giving – rich and poor; educated and uneducated; upper class and working class – their members increasingly occupy two separate worlds. As a cultural immigrant from one group to the other, I am acutely aware of the differences. Sometimes I view members of the elite with an almost primal scorn – recently, an acquaintance use the word “confabulate” in a sentence, and I just wanted to scream. But I have to give it to them: their children are happy and healthier, their divorce rates are lower, their church attendance higher, their lives longer. These people are beating us at our own Damned game.๏ฟผ

I really enjoyed Vance’s writing. This is not a sob story and he does not play the victim. He does not seek to distance himself from his upbringing. He is proud of where he came from ‘we hillbillies are the toughest goddamned people on this earth.’ He ask questions that are relevant and important without ostracising himself from the people he grew up with:

Are we tough enough to build a church that forces kids like me to engage with the world rather than withdraw from it? Are we tough enough to look ourselves in the mirror and admit that our conduct harms our children?๏ฟผ

So did this book help me to understand Trump’s win?? I think Trump is an idiot, a spoiled brat with bad hair playing at politics. This book has made me see the reasons many voted for him….see, but not agree.

  • Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. 4 ๐ŸŒŸ.

All Lina wanted was to be desired. How did she end up in a marriage with two children and a husband who wouldn’t touch her?๏ฟผ

All Maggie wanted was to be understood. How did she end up in a relationship with her teacher and then in court, I hated prior in her small town?๏ฟผ

All Sloan wanted was to be admired. How did she end up a sexual object of men, including her husband, who like to watch her have sex with other men and women?๏ฟผ

Three Women is a record of unmet needs, unspoken thoughts, disappointments, hopes and unrelenting obsessions.๏ฟผ

When it comes to stories about relationships, I have a massive aversion to anything romantic, sugary and most importantly anything in which the female has an inner goddess. Yuk. I am a little embarrassed to say that had this book been about happy, functional relationships, I would not have picked it up. I like my relationship storylines to be gritty and realistic. Characters don’t have to be likeable but I have to believe them. Three Women is a work of non-fiction so the ‘storylines’ were real. This resulted in a brilliant if somewhat depressing snapshot of female sexuality. Lisa Taddeo still feels we are a long way off sexual equality. Maggie’s story revolves around her teenage relationship with a married school teacher and the subsequent court case. Lina, sexually abused at school, leaves her unhappy marriage only to begin a relationship with another man who calls all the shots. Sloane, who incidentally is the character I struggled to connect with, seems to have the happiest relationship with her partner – both are swingers but it is Sloane who is the subject of gossip and scrutiny.

This was a book club pick and although people thought it was pretty depressing, it’s readability made it a definite lockdown hit. I have to say that our meeting discussing this book would definitely have been improved by discussing it in a pub over a glass of wine!!!! Trying to discuss a book about sexual desire with a group of women who don’t know eachother massively well, over Zoom, after a day of lockdown home schooling was slightly tricky. I wonder how different our discussion would have been if we were altogether in a pub with a glass of wine???

So what was discussed? We discussed Taddeo’s concept. The book was always intended to be about desire but not necessarily female desire. She interviewed men as well as women but the final three women’s lives were so all consumed by their sexual needs that it became obvious the book would be about them. We had an interesting discussion about the men in the book….all of whole we decided were as damaged as the women. I don’t think any of the characters were happy.

Anyway if you are looking for a salacious read that will make you feel slightly smug about your own dull sexual needs then this is the book for you.

  • Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman. 3๐ŸŒŸ.

As a member of the strictly religious Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, Deborah Feldman grew up under relentlessly enforced customs governing everything from what she could wear and to whom she could speak, to what she was allowed to read. Yet in spite of her repressive upbringing, Deborah grew into an independent โ€“ minded young woman whose stolen moments reading about the empowered literary heroines of Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott helped her to imagine an alternative way of life among the skyscrapers of Manhattan. As a teenager, she found herself trapped in a sexually and emotionally dysfunctional marriage to a man she barely knew. The tension between Deborah’s desires and her responsibilities grew until she gave birth at 19 and realised that, regardless of the obstacles, she would have to forge a path to happiness and freedom for herself and her son. ๏ฟผ๏ฟผ

Probably like a lot of people, I watched Unorthodox on Netflix during Lockdown. I was enthralled. I felt like I wanted to know more about Judaism so as well as reading the book, I watched Strictly Kosher and Unorthodox on YouTube and also One Of Us on Netflix. My appetite still unsated, I took to google and spent a lot of time reading http://www.myjewishlearning.com.

So why the obsession….and yes, I think I am a little obsessed. I grew up in a very culturally undiverse area of rural England. Everyone had white faces, two kids, shopped in Sainsburys and went to church on a Sunday….not necessarily because everyone was religious….it’s just ‘what nice people do.’ When I was 8, I started at the convent school in our local town. We weren’t catholic but it fed a lot of children to the secondary school my parents wanted me to eventually attend. I found it all a little terrifying. I remember in the chapel a very realistic and huge statue of Jesus on the cross – blood dripping from his crown of thorns, his hands and feet. I found the nuns (particularly the old ones) sinister and a bit spooky. We prayed A LOT. At the beginning of the day, after break, before lunch, after lunch and at the end of the day. I remember for prayers we had to sit cross legged with our hands open and resting on our knees to encourage Jesus to ‘lie in our arms.’ In our RE lessons, the wonderful Mrs Nichols read stories of the Saints. I remember us all wanting to hear there bloodthirsty ones of how they died. No wonder I was intrigued and not a little scared by religion. I guess the thought that someone can live their whole life according to their religion intrigues and interests me. The idea that an unknow entity can dictate what you eat, who you talk to, how you dress etc.

Unorthodox answered so many questions about the Satmar society. A group of people who have been so persecuted in history that they feel safety in their own insular world. Deborah writes really well and I respect and admire her. Ultimately, she wanted what we all want for our daughters – freedom to express herself, freedom to read the books she wants, freedom to dress how she chooses, the opportunity to have the education she wants. Deborah Feldman wanted more for her life than to marry and have children.

Below are a couple of quotes that give you an idea of Deborah’s character. If you have watched and enjoyed the series please read the book, I really enjoyed it.

I wonder if Eli feels like he is Satmar, like it’s in his blood and can never be washed away. I make a note to ask him that, when we are alone. A bold question, but I can disguise it in innocent words. I need to feel him out, see if he has his own opinions about the world we live in, or if he just parrots the views of those around him. I may not have a real say in the matter of my own marriage, but at the very least I would like to enter into the arrangement armed with as much knowledge and power as possible.๏ฟผ

The phrase, what God wants, infuriated me. There is no desire outside human desire. God was not the one who wanted Mindi to have children. Could she not see that? Her fate had been decided by the people around her, not by some divine intervention.

  • Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh. 5๐ŸŒŸ.

The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop. Trapped between caring for her alcoholic father and her job as a secretary at the boys prison, she tempers her dreary days with dreams of escaping to the big city. In the meantime, her nights and weekends are filled with shoplifting and cleaning up her increasingly deranged fathers messes.

When the beautiful, charismatic Rebecca St John arrives on the scene, Eileen is enchanted. But soon Eileen’s affection for Rebecca will pull her into a crime that far surpasses even her own wild imagination.๏ฟผ

This is my kind of book. I love a book where you delve into the life of a person….this is the nosiness in me coming out. When I look back on my favourite books of this nature, Olive Kitteridge springs to mind. Like Eileen, both books are set in New England and both books give an intimate portrait into the protagonist. I think for me, I don’t have to like the central character, I just have to feel like I know her. People are interesting and Eileen is certainly that.

I found the book hauntingly sad. A woman who has slipped through the cracks, who spends too much time in her own head. Eileen is marginalised because she is ‘a bit odd.’ We all know people we have avoided just because they are different. The novel is both dark and at times hilarious. Eileen is strange, a little disgusting but ultimately endearing and I found myself feeling quite attached to her. I am not a crier but this section towards the end of the book made me cry. Who can explain why some books move us more than others….I loved it.

I said goodbye to the house from where I stood over the bathroom sink. I tell you I felt strangely calm. The weight of the gun, the money in my purse told me yes, it’s time. Get out of here. I had my last moment with myself in that place, in front of the mirror with my eyes shut. It hurt to leave. It was my home, after all, and it meant something to me, each of the rooms, each chair and shelf and lamp, the walls, the creaking floorboards, the worn banister.๏ฟผ

Thanks so much for reading.

June Kids reads

Hi all. How is homeschooling going? I have finally hit a wall with Year 2 Maths. I knew at some point I would start to struggle but I was hoping it was going to be around Year 4. No, maths for 7 year olds is where I’m stumped. I have had a particularly frustrating morning counting vertices of 3D shapes….give me strength!!!! Argh!!!!!

  • Fergal is Fuming! By Robert Starling.

Fergal is a nice chap, but when someone tells him what to do, Fergal gets veryโ€ฆ Veryโ€ฆ Angry.๏ฟผ

I wanted to do a post with at least one book about anger. Some of you may look back on your family time during lockdown as an idyllic time – searching for fairies in the woods, making daisy chains, family painting sessions. If this is you then I am happy for you – really – a little jealous perhaps but ultimately happy for you. Although family time in the Andrews household hasn’t been all bad, I am sick of hearing Cilla saying “mummy, Edie is being woode to me.” She means ‘rude’ and to be honest ‘rude’ is too polite a term. All of us are now struggling with Lockdown. I think for Edie, it is particularly tough. She is a really sociable and tactile child. She told me the other day that she is just “desperate to hug someone that isn’t you mummy.” I think she also finds life a little scary at the moment. I made the mistake of taking her to Sainsbury’s a couple of weeks ago and it terrified her. The masks, plastic shields are all too much. Ceci is faring slightly better – she is just bored!

When I started to read Fergal is Fuming at bedtime a couple of nights ago it was perfect timing. Edie had just told her dad that she hated him for the 5th time that day….this particular outburst occurred when Oz asked her to take her false nails off for bed (false nails, 7 ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚). If screams of “it’s not fair” are bouncing off your walls this is the book for you. Joking aside, I love the fact that this book gives children (and grown ups) strategies for coping with anger in an unpatronising way….altogether now……1, 2, 3, 4……and breathe.

  • Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield.

“I wonder” – Petrova looked up – “if other girls had to be one of us, which of us they’d choose to be?”

When my sister and I were children, we would go to visit my grandparents in Carlisle every holiday. My mum would always buy us an audiobook on cassette for the car. This year, a lovely friend bought Edith a copy of Ballet Shoes for her 7th birthday. As soon as I started reading it to her I remembered the rhythm of Jan Francis on our cassette tape all those years ago. Indeed, it was so ingrained in my memory I think I read it in exactly the same way – nana was cockney (not cool that ‘the help’ is portrayed with an East London accent….apologies), Madame was obviously Russian, the two doctors were incredibly posh, Petrova slightly boyish, Posy with a lisp and Pauline was very RP.

When reading this to Edie, I am aware that it is probably too old for her. There is a lot written about earnings….(always in pounds, shillings and pence), working in the theatre and also a fair bit about Shakespeare. I assume that she might find some of it boring but Edie is a great one for hearing what she wants to hear and ignoring what she doesn’t!! When asked tonight what she likes about the book she said ” I love the fact that there are 3 sisters – like me and I also like the fact that even though they are young, they are allowed to act on the stage.” Being a performer is now Edie’s ambition ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ. What with the fake nails and dangly earrings she was always going to be a bit of a diva but this book has now cemented her dream. ๐Ÿฉฐ๐ŸŽญ๐Ÿฉฐ๐ŸŽญ๐Ÿฉฐ๐ŸŽญ๐Ÿฉฐ๐ŸŽญ๐Ÿฉฐ๐ŸŽญ๐Ÿฉฐ๐ŸŽญ๐Ÿฉฐ๐ŸŽญ๐Ÿฉฐ๐ŸŽญ๐Ÿฉฐ

My favourite bit of the book is the section where Pauline behaves horribly to Winifred. Pauline is lucky enough to get the part of Alice in Alice in Wonderland and Winifred is engaged as her understudy. Success goes straight to Pauline’s head and she behaves badly towards Winifred – bossing her around, asking her to fetch items that she should get herself and generally just being a spoiled brat. This prompted a brilliant conversation with a Edie about how appalling Pauline’s behaviour was becoming. I made the point that thanks to Covid and endless homeschooling, I am feeling a little like Winifred – less and less like a loved mum and more and more like a skivvy. Thanks to Ballet Shoes each time I feel the girls are treating my rudely I say I am feeling like Winifred and I get an apology!!!! ๐Ÿ‘

Anyway, lovely read and it made me miss my job in the theatre so much. Fingers crossed the West End reopens soon. Also in response to the quote above, Edith would like to be Pauline because she wants to be famous. Ceci would like to be Poylin (Pauline) because she has long hair and is pretty. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ

  • Doggies by Sandra Boynton

Finally one for Maisie who is going to be 1 next month. ๐ŸŽ‚ ๐ŸŽ . Wonderful Aunty Laura bought Maisie this book for Christmas and it has become a favourite. As Maisie is my third daughter, I am determined to read her something other than our reliable but falling apart That’s not my….. books. ๐Ÿถ ๐Ÿ•๐Ÿถ๐Ÿ•๐Ÿถ๐Ÿ•๐Ÿถ๐Ÿ•๐Ÿถ

It seems that Sandra Boynton does EVERYTHING – author, illustrator, humorist, song writer, director and music producer. This book is such fun to read – who doesn’t love doing ridiculous dog impressions. It has certainly added a few extras to my list of dog impressions:

woof, yap, nnn, ruff, bow wow, ar rooff, arf arf, grrrr and raow.

Ar rooff is our fave. Maisie thinks it’s utterly hilarious. ๐Ÿ•๐Ÿถ๐Ÿ•๐Ÿถ๐Ÿ•๐Ÿถ๐Ÿ•๐Ÿถ๐Ÿ•๐Ÿถ๐Ÿ•

See you next month. Thanks for reading.

April/May Kids Reads

Hello all. Apologies for the lack of post last month…..I feel like I have gone Lockdown Loopy. Currently, doing anything more than homeschooling, looking after the kids, cooking endless meals, washing the clothes and cleaning the house feels like it’s too much. I feel like an overstretched piece of chewing gum right now. When lockdown started, I began an Italian course on Duolingo and even that is stressing me out – I have an impressive 65 day streak on the go but the control freak in me won’t let me have a day off!!! Also, as full on as it is being at home, I now feel ever so slightly agoraphobic. Every time I have left my house I have been desperate to get back to it. I feel vulnerable and edgy when I’m not at home. Does anyone else feel like this???

  • Can I Join Your Club by John Kelly. Illustrated by Steph Laberis.

Duck wants to join a club. But he can’t ROAR like Lion or TRUMPET like Elephant. What’s a duck to do?

Do YOU want to join a club where everyone’s welcome? Then this book’s for you!

What good things have come out of being in lockdown due to corona virus. Ummmmm…..I am saving on shampoo because I no longer wash my hair, I am saving on makeup because, well, why bother and I am saving on washing powder because I am wearing the same pair of joggers everyday. I have basically turned into the slob that I was always destined to be. So what have my kids gained???? I think the most important thing they will get out of this experience is they are now in eachother’s club. Maybe not out of choice but Ceci is now in Edith’s club and vice versa. Edie is having to play with Ceci because there is no one else. Ceci is joyous about this. She has always idolised her big sister and she now proudly announces that they are best friends. This experience must be so hard for only children and their parents.

Can I Join Your Club has been a favourite for a while. Duck wants to make some new friends so he asks Lion, Snake and Elephant if he can join their clubs. He tries to roar, hiss and trumpet but unfortunately he fails and his application is DENIED. Duck decides to make his own club. Unlike Lion, Snake and Elephant, Duck lets everyone into his club because you can’t have too many friends.

We love this story. The girls love shouting APPLICATION DENIED and finally APPLICATION APPROVED. It is a great story about acceptance and kindness.

Here’s hoping that at the end of all this, Ceci is still a member of Edith’s club.

  • The 13 Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton.

Andy and Terry live in the WORLD’S BEST treehouse! It’s got a giant catapult, a secret underground laboratory, a tank of man-eating sharks and a marshmallow machine that follows you around and shoots marshmallows into your mouth whenever you’re hungry! Just watch out for the sea monkeys, and the monkeys pretending to be sea monkeys, and the giant mutant mermaid sea monster . . . Oh, and, whatever you do, don’t get trapped in a burp-gas-filled bubble . . . !

Andy Griffith and Terry Denton’s fantastically funny 13-Storey Treehouse is told through a combination of text and cartoon-style illustrations.

At 6, Edie is a pretty confident reader. Like me she would love to read all night. Unlike me, she is generally awake enough to do so. Tonight is a perfect example….it’s 9pm. I’m heading to bed and Edes is still reading. I feel a little bit like we have lost control thanks to lockdown. I can’t seem to get them to go to sleep and I can’t get them to wake up!!!

When it comes to choosing books for 6 year olds I have got it wrong in the past. Milly Molly Mandy went down like a lead balloon. The Tales of Brambly Hedge were declared ‘babyish.’ No, what gave Edie the reading bug is the slightly vomit enducing Rainbow Magic series. There are parents who loathe these books. In my opinion, anything that captures a child’s imagination is all good. I’m happy for her to read them as long as the pink cocktail of glitter is diluted a bit with David Walliams and Roald Dahl etc.

As much as I am well versed in the escapades of Mildred Hubble and Milly Molly Mandy, I am a beginner when it comes to current kids books. I read reviews and listen to podcasts to get ideas. Every Wednesday when I take the girls to tap, their is an 8 year old boy who waits for his sister. Each week he has a new Treehouse book. When I asked him about them he told me that he is now a reader thanks to these books. He adored them. I decided to buy one for Edes to balance out her Rainbow Fairy obsession. Edie has lapped these books up. They are like kid catnip. She has now read the first three so I thought I should embark on them to see what all the fuss is about.

It must be said that the things that capture a 6 year old and a 38 year old imagination are probably very different. When asked, Edie told me that she loved how quick they were to read. I initially laughed at this but actually I think she has a point. I like a book that I can whip through. I love the sense of achievement that comes with being over halfway with a book. Why should a child be any different? With the Treehouse books it is certainly easy to zip through….there are pages with just one picture on, or just a couple of words. For a reluctant child reader it must make them feel great that they can read a book at such speed.

My adult feeling when reading this was that I felt Roald Dahl would have done it better. I’m very biased as I was brought up on Roald Dahl but I just felt that the brilliant detail that pours out of Dahl’s books and captures children’s imaginations was, well, lacking. I wanted to know more about the treehouse and the inventions. The book was so jam packed with ideas and so fast paced but I wanted to know more. It has to be said that the books improve as the series goes on. The later books managed to coax a wry smile from me. I particularly liked Andy Griffiths’s thinly veiled digs at reviewers criticisms were brilliant.

If you have a reluctant reader, they are definitely worth a shot.

Sometimes it’s hard being in the middleโ€ฆ You’re not the biggest, you’re not the smallest, you’re not the cuddliest, you’re not the tallest. And you just don’t know where you fit in.

This is Ceci. She is my middle. She is not as outgoing as her older sister. She is shy. She hates being looked at. She has the most amazing hair which people always comment on. She hates it….”mummy I don’t like people saying things about my hair.” When getting dressed in the morning, she always requests to wear a dress and then asks me worriedly “do you think people will look at me?” She is the complete opposite to her big sister who dresses for the sole purpose of being looked at. When Edie wakes up in the morning she reaches for her lipgloss and clip on earrings….I like to think she is a young Bet Gilroy. Edie often says to me “mummy, I wish people would like my hair like they like Ceci’s.” I guess that’s siblings for you. ๐Ÿ’„ ๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’„

I was worried that Ceci would struggle when Maisie came along but I am happy to say she has impressed me beyond belief. She is very proud of being the only one in our family who has a big sister and a little sister. She tells me frequently that being the middle is very important….”because mummy, a sandwich without a middle isn’t a sandwich at all.” ๐Ÿฅช ๐Ÿ’“๐Ÿฅช๐Ÿ’“๐Ÿฅช๐Ÿ’“๐Ÿฅช๐Ÿ’“๐Ÿฅช๐Ÿ’“๐Ÿฅช๐Ÿ’“๐Ÿฅช๐Ÿ’“๐Ÿฅช๐Ÿ’“๐Ÿฅช๐Ÿ’“๐Ÿฅช๐Ÿ’“๐Ÿฅช๐Ÿ’“๐Ÿฅช

Lil is a pirate, a good sort of pirate,
and when there is someone to save, she’ll do what is right (if it takes her all night).
Yes, she’ll always be bold and be brave.๏ฟผ
Oh the joys of homeschool. When I look back on this crazy year I know I will forever more have a humongous appreciation for teachers. When Edie had her class zoom call last Monday, her teacher said it had been 60 days since she had last seen them. Edie was off for a week before that. Homeschooling has made me a shell of the woman I used to be!! A shell I tell you! Whilst reading the Swashbuckle Lil books with the girls the other night, I started to empathise with the clearly exasperated Miss Lubber. Edie and Ceci hate her. They think she is horrible. I, on the other hand feel her pain – Lil must be a pain in the arse to teach. Since I have started teaching my children I think I need to speak up for the Miss Truchbulls and the Demon Headmasters of children’s literature. Teaching primary kids is an epic feat. It requires the patience of a saint and I now understand why Miss Trunchbull threw her students in The Chokey….I am planning on building one myself. Anyway, back to the book. Lil is a great character for kids. She is tough, brave and canny. My girls love her. The book is told in rhyme so it whips along at a nice speed. It’s a nice book to read aloud to the kids but Edie also reads it herself and the rhyming helps with her fluency. There are two stories in each book. Ceci in particular likes the story Croc Ahoy because Miss Lubber gets covered in poo. POOR BLOODY TEACHERS – she made me read that particular bit again and again. It’s funny, has short chapters, is perfect for KS1 readers and it has brilliant illustrations by Laura Ellen Anderson of Amelia Fang fame.

  • Owl Diaries by Rebecca Elliott.

Sometimes you are lucky enough to be introduced to a set of books that turn into a HUGE hit. Last month, lovely Aunty Laura sent us this series about Eva Wingdale and her adventures in Treetopolis. Both Edie (7) and Ceci (4) love them. OK they are a little bit sugary but not in a vomit inducing way and for those of you who like your children’s books to have a nice wholesome message you will not be disappointed.

Writing these books as a diary is a brilliant idea. I would have loved this as a child. The layout is perfect for my girls – plenty of lists, pictures and Edie is now a committed diary writer….”mummy, me, Samuel Pepys and Eva Wingdale are the same.” ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ Although there is no Great Fire or Black Death to document in Treetopolis, Eva writes about things that are of utmost importance to my children – friendships, new children in school, horrible people in school, ghosts and weddings!!๐Ÿ˜‚ Rebecca Elliott has covered ALL bases. They would be perfect reading fodder for YR 2 or late YR1 children but they are also lovely books to read aloud.

Hope you all have a lovely month and thank you for reading.

March/April reads

Apologies for the lack of post last month. As well as drowning in lockdown homeschooling, I was also drowning in Sapiens. This book took AGES to finish and I didn’t see the point in doing a post with just 2 books.

THE MILLION COPY BESTSELLER

Fire gave us power. Farming made us hungry for more. Money gave us purpose. Science made us deadly. This is the thrilling account of our extraordinary history โ€“ from insignificant apes to rulers of the world.

Earth is 4.5 billion years old. In just a fraction of that time, one species among countless others has conquered it: us.

In this bold and provocative book, Yuval Noah Harari explores who we are, how we got here and where weโ€™re going.

โ€˜I would recommend Sapiens to anyone whoโ€™s interested in the history and future of our speciesโ€™ Bill Gates

Book Club Musings.

Each month on our book club FB group I post 6 books. A mixture of male and female authors, fiction, non fiction, modern and classics. People are invited to vote and the most popular book is read the following month. Sapiens was our choice for March and it won the poll by quite a long way. When it came down to the meeting there were 4 of us there. Only 1 out of 4 had finished the book and that person had read it previously so this time just dipped in an out. This got me thinking…..(Cue Carrie Bradshaw)….is what we think we want to read really what we want to read??? I worry that in this crazy world, where we are running at 100mph, always listening to that little voice in our ear telling us to achieve more, run faster, drink less, we want our reading to reflect that and we think we want to be challenged. People are too embarrassed to sit on the tube reading Jilly Cooper. I think our book group wanted the challenge of reading Sapiens but when it came down to it, hardly anyone managed it. I found it really heavy going. Sapiens is a book which you need to absorb. You need time to think about the mind blowing points that are being made. Trying to absorb Sapiens whilst lying in the bath, at the end of a long day, being constantly interrupted by a 4 year old with an over-active bladder made it quite a frustrating experience. That is my excuse. Other excuses were similar….”I do most of my reading on the tube and this isn’t the kind of book you can read when you have to keep changing trains on the way into work,” “to be honest, at the end of a long day in the office, I just want to read the literary equivalent of Love Is Blind, not something that requires actual brain cells.”

This is a book that doesn’t suffer from a dip in and out way of reading….in fact I think it benefits from it!! Because of this, I’m not sure it is a great choice for a book club. Reading this book to a deadline did not work for us and I think resulted in a disservice to the book. So if you are tempted to pick this up, and you definitely should, give yourself some time. Don’t rush!

  • The Last King Of Scotland by Giles Foden.

What would it be like to become a Idi Amin’s personal physician? Giles Foden’s best selling thriller is the story of a young Scottish doctor drawn into the heart of the Ugandan dictator’s surreal and brutal regime. Privy to Amin’s thoughts and ambitions, he is both fascinated and appalled. As Uganda plunges into civil chaos he realises action is imperative – but which way should he jump?๏ฟผ

Generally I find that films don’t live up to the novel. It was the other way round with this book. I have seen the film twice and I urge you to watch it if you are stuck at home and in need of stimulation. Forest Whitaker is INSANELY good and quite rightly won numerous awards. The film is based on the book and has made some significant plot changes. This is historical fiction. The character of Nicholas Garrigan does not exist but he could be based on Bob Astles and Scottish doctor Wilson Carswell. I would say that the book is definitely more historically accurate than the film.

I’m not going to say much about the book because the copy I have is clearly a bit of a dud. I read to page 218 and incredibly annoyingly at this point 33 pages were omitted and replaced with pages 91-122. I am ashamed to say that it took my sleep deprived mind about 10 pages to realise I had read them all before!!! ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค” Really annoyingly, I think the pages missing were pretty crucial and involved Garrigan’s arrest by Amin. The book resumed at page 251 but by then I felt pretty confused and a little like that thing when something is being explained to you which you don’t understand but you nod, smile and pretend that you do…..to be honest this is my default mode. Anyway, hey ho, definitely watch the film!!!

  • Grown Ups by Marian Keyes.

Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, ththeir beautiful, talented wives and all the kids spend a lot of time together-birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jesseโ€“ who has the most money then insists on it.๏ฟผ

Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too muchโ€ฆ๏ฟผ

Everything stays under control until Ed’s wife, Cara, gets concussion and can’t keep her thoughts to herself. One careless remark at Jonny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, starts Cara spilling out their secrets.๏ฟผ

In the subsequent unravelling, every one of the adults find themselves wondering if it’s time โ€“ finally โ€“ to grow up?๏ฟผ

Book snobbery, book ignorance. Call it what you will but I am guilty of it. My mum sent me this book just after lockdown was announced. I would never have chosen it myself. After reading Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married (also bought by mum*), Marian Keyes had been chucked in Ella’s Small-Minded-Book-Snob-Skip. Keyes languishes in the skip of doom with the likes of Sophie Kinsella, Jane Green and Helen Fielding. Basically anything that I would put in the Chick Lit category. Anything that involves a female protagonist who moans about their weight and finding a man. Any book whose book jacket says something like:

Arabella thought she had it all….a great job, fabulous clothes, a beautiful house. Her only problem??? Men! Why did she always fall for the bad boy?Then she meets Tom and discovers that sometimes it’s hard to make the right choices.

Any book that has a bright pink cover, a loopy-fonted title and a picture of a wedding cake, a nonchalantly discarded stiletto or a discarded tie. All of these books get chucked in the skip.

After trudging through Sapiens, I decided I deserved something a little easier on the old brain cells. Yes, this book is undoubtedly easier, no major evolutionary chats here!!! I bloody love a book about dysfunctional families/relationships/marriages and that is what this book is all about. It’s also well written with believable and likeable characters. It’s was over 700 pages but I whipped through it.

*Interestingly, although mum has now bought me 2 Keyes novels, I have never seen her reading a Marian Keyes herself.

  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

For years, rumours of the ‘Marsh Girl’ have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she learns to be loved. Went two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens up herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.๏ฟผ

What kind of books do you want to read in Lockdown? I have been pondering this and I do have a few important criteria:

1. I don’t want anything that involves being on a beach, travelling somewhere fun or looking for adventure.

2. I don’t want anything really challenging. After a day of looking after 3 kids, homeschooling 2 of the little blighters and being ‘mummed’ CONSTANTLY I need something that I can just read. I do not need to feel intellectually challenged. Key Stage 1 fractions are challenging enough.

3. I don’t want anything that takes me ages to get into. I want short chapters and something that hooks me immediately. It also needs to be a book that I can pick up and put down easily.

Crawdads fitted the bill quite nicely thank you. I know people LOVE it. It was a solid 3.5 โญ๏ธ from me which I rounded up to 4โญ๏ธ. I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say it was life changing but I stayed up til 2am reading it and believe me, at the moment not much keeps me awake past 9pm!!!

Anyway I hope you are all safe. Thank you so much for reading.

March Kids Reads

Well. I almost miss the halcyon days of Brexit dominating the news. Day 1 of the UK being in lockdown and I have just finished day 6 of homeschooling. My kids were off last week as Ceci had a cough. I honestly feel a little broken and completely overwhelmed by the task ahead. I look through this post and see that my last entry was all about going back to work and now I have no idea when that will be. It seems like the world has gone mad. Teachers, you have my unflinching respect. You are all amazing.

  • The Spy Who Loved School Dinners by Pamala Butchart. Illustrated by Thomas Flintham.
  • Reading age 6-8.

Izzy is really pleased to have been put in charge of the new girl at school. Mathilde is French, and Izzy and her friends canโ€™t wait to show her the den and itโ€™s moth, and to help her avoid school dinners (also known as poison). But Mathilde loves school dinners and even has seconds! And thatโ€™s when they know. Matilda is a spy and she has come to find out their secrets. They must stop her before itโ€™s too late!!!

Like her mother, Edie is a sucker for packaging and this bright pink cover was a hit. This book won Best Story in the 2015 Blue Peter Book Awards. Edie lapped it up. She was overjoyed to discover that Izzy’s teacher was called Miss Jones which is the name of her current Year 2 teacher and she also has a friend called Maisie which is the name of Edie’s little sister. To be honest I think the colour of the cover and the coincidence of the names was enough to make Edie love the book….it seems that my daughter is easily pleased. As she got further into the story she kept telling me that is was so exciting and every chapter ended on a mountain. After probing this somewhat I discovered she means ‘cliff hanger.’ Edie also loved the fact that Mathilde is French so she loved impressing us with her knowledge of French vocab.

When I was finally allowed to read it myself, I was really impressed with how well Butchart captured the children’s voices:

Mrs Kidd always makes us eat stuff we don’t want to. And she’s always moaning at us. Things like “Take your coat off! Or you won’t get the benefit when you go outside!” (Which doesn’t make sense). Or: “Izzy were you born in a barn?” And to begin with I just said “I don’t know,” because I wasn’t sure. But then I checked with mum and I wasn’t.

This is a great option for KS1 who are confident readers. I have read reviews who say it is a little girly. I disagree. Although the cover is bright pink, there is nothing ‘girly’ in the storyline and Izzy’s friend Zach is great fun. We will definitely be reading the rest of the series.

  • Anisha Accidental Detective by Serena Patel. Illustrated by Emma McCann.
  • Reading age 6-8.

๏ฟผ
Help! My super dramatic Aunty Bindi is getting married tomorrow and she’s having a mega meltdown. But ssssh! I’ve just found a ransom note, push through the letterbox, saying Uncle Tony, Bindi’s husband to be, has been kidnapped, and will only be freed if the wedding is cancelled! I have to keep this a secret otherwise it’ll be panic centralโ€ฆ I guess it’s up to me Anisha- Accidental Detective, to save the day.๏ฟผ

This is the second book with a bright pink cover that Edie has read this month. She has decided that all bright pink books are brilliant….I fear she is going to be setting herself up for disappointment somewhere down the line but not this time!!!

In 2017, Reflecting Realities Survey concluded that only 1% of children’s books have BAME main characters, and that only one childrenโ€™s book published that year was a comedy. Thanks to this book, children from Hindu families will find a character they can relate to. Anisha is brilliant. She is clever, witty, funny and great role model to girls. Edith is a 6 year old who just loves love and the fact that this book was about a wedding really appealed to her romantic mind!!!! She loved Aunty Bindi and all her face masks, makeup and beautiful clothes. Serena Patel adds footnotes to a lot of the pages to explain elements of Indian language, food and customs. We learnt the meaning of Bhagavan, Didi, Saath saath and also wedding customs like Mehndi. We also learned a lot about lobsters….do you know they wee out of their faces?!?!?!?!

The story zipped along and was a really good mystery. Patel created some brilliant secondary characters….Granny Jas is my fave! Emma McCann’s illustrations are really funny. We look forward to reading more in the series.

Thanks to a Usborne for the copy.

  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox. Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.

โ€˜But the next baby born was truly divine, a sweet little child who was mine, all mine.โ€™ Iโ€™m not a particularly sentimental person but reading this to Maisie this morning made me a bit tearful. ๐Ÿ˜ข๐Ÿ˜ข๐Ÿ˜ข๐Ÿ˜ข I am starting to think about going back to work so looking into childcare. I have been off the longest with Maisie and Iโ€™m due to go back in August which is obviously the WORST month with summer holidays. I know every parent feels torn about working and leaving their kids. ๐Ÿ’”๐Ÿ’”๐Ÿ’”๐Ÿ’”๐Ÿ’”๐Ÿ’”๐Ÿ’”. I adore my job. I love the people and feel utterly privileged to get paid to stand on the most beautiful stage and sing for a living. It has to be said that it is a tough job when you have little ones. Endless school pick ups missed, endless bedtimes missed. At the moment I feel utterly torn about what is the right thing for my kids, husband and myself. I have missed singing so much the last few months but I know my children have massively benefitted from having a parent at home. Argh!!!!! ๐Ÿ˜ข๐Ÿ˜ข๐Ÿ˜ข

I hope you are all staying safe.

Thanks for reading.

February Reads

Hello all. Apologies that this post is a couple of days late. I have decided to give myself a bit of a break and stop telling myself off if I don’t manage to post at exactly the right time every month. The end of the month gives me the feeling of stress I used to have on a Sunday night when I was at school and I had to hand in my homework the ne๏ฟผxt day. So instead of rushing to get my thoughts in order, in between looking after the kids, I am just going to take my time and stress less. I hope that is ok!!

  • Sunburn by Laura Lippman. 3๐ŸŒŸ.

They meet by chance in a local bar in a small town in Delaware. Polly is heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through. Yet she stays and so does he – drawn to this mysterious redhead who unnerves and excites him. Over the course of one hot summer, they abandon themselves to a steamy affair. But each holds back something from the other – dangerous, even lethal, secrets๏ฟผ….

Who writes the blurb on the back of book jackets? Is it someone in marketing??? I really enjoyed Sunburn by Laura Lippman bit if it hadn’t come recommended (from the brilliant podcast What should I read next) I would NEVER have picked it up. The blurb on the back of the book jacket makes it sound like a trashy Mills and Boon- steamy affair, dangerous secrets ๐Ÿคฎ. I think the book description does the book a bit of a disservice….I would not call it steamy but this lack of steam relieved me somewhat – who wants to read about shaking headboards when your sex life is currently deader than a dead thing. Anyway it was a pretty good read. A solid 3/4 star. Perfect for a holiday when you don’t want anything too taxing. The moral of this post is to buy your books based on recommendation and not on the blurb on the back .

  • Peach by Emma Glass. 3๐ŸŒŸ.

Peach is a teenage girl like any other. She has college, and her friends, and her parents and the new baby, and a lovely boyfriend Green. She has her friend Sandy, and Sid the cat, and homework to do.

But something has happened-something unspeakable – and the world has become unfamiliar, fractured into strange textures and patterns. Reading through her refracted universe, Peach knows that the people she loves are in danger, real danger. If she is not to be swallowed hole Peach must summon all her courage and find something nameless and strange that lies within her.๏ฟผ๏ฟผ

What are your thoughts on books that are a bit different? I originally used the word ‘odd’ instead of ‘different’ but it goes without saying ‘different’ is different for everyone. For me this book was different. My husband bought it for me and he always seems to buy me books that I wouldn’t necessarily pick up myself. I am a typical cancerian and by this I mean that I am comfortable in my comfort zone. With books it means that I know what I like and that is what I gravitate towards. Anyway, Coming Through Slaughter (which I reviewed a few months ago) and Peach were both my husband’s picks, they were both out of my comfort zone, both very poetic, both almost like a stream of consciousness. Both reminded me of those dreams you have when you have had a bit too much to drink and everything seems a bit weird. ๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐ŸทBoth books were short so I just buckled in and allowed myself to be taken for a ride. It’s definitely good to challenge myself when it comes to reading. This is the main reason why I enjoy book club….I am currently trudging through Sapiens which is a book club read and definitely not something I would have picked up otherwise.

Anyway, onto Peach. This book comes with massive triggers for sexual assault, animal cruelty, cannibalism. When you think that the book is only 112 pages long you are in for a pretty intense ride. I found it visceral, brutal and disturbing. There were times where I literally winced when reading. Like Peach, Emma Glass is a vegetarian. To research the book, she forced herself to cook a sausage: the gristle, fat and slime disgusted her and consequently Peach’s rapist becomes a sausage. Is he a literal sausage or in Peach’s disturbed mind does he just have sausage attributes? The same with Mr Custard and Green. Indeed, all the characters are ‘things.’ Initially, I was frustrated by this but as the book went on, I discovered that it didn’t really matter. Enjoyable??? No, this book is not enjoyable. Disturbing?? Yes and definitely a book that will stay with me. ๐Ÿ‘ ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. 4๐ŸŒŸ.
  • Charles Dickens born 7th February 1812.

Dark, mysterious and mordantly funny, Oliver Twist features some of the most memorably drawn villains in all of fiction – the treacherous gang master Fagin, the menacing thug Bill Sikes, the Artful Dodger at their den of thieves in the grimy London backstreets. Dickens’s novel is both an angry indictment of poverty, and an adventure filled with an air of threat and pervasive evil.๏ฟผ

I am embarrassed to say that it has taken me so long to read this book because having seen Carol Reed‘s film Oliver, I thought I knew the story. ๐Ÿ˜ฏ๐Ÿ˜ฏ๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿ™„. DON’T ASSUME YOU KNOW A BOOK BECAUSE YOU HAVE SEEN THE MOVIE. As a ridiculously keen reader, and this being a book blog, I am MORTIFIED to admit that I am GUILTY. Mr Dickens, I humbly apologise. If you are a fool like me and think you know the story because you have seen the film, I urge you to REVIEW THE SITUATION. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ

On reading the novel, I am surprised that it lends itself so well to a musical. The book is really dark and Dickens uses it to highlight his opinions on child labour, poverty and the Poor Laws. Unlike the musical,although Oliver is the title character, he is not the most featured character. On finishing the book, I don’t really have much of a sense of who Oliver is….apart from a young, naive orphan who wants to be good.

I don’t think you can mention the novel without talking about anti-semitism. According to the font of all knowledge….Wikipedia, Fagin is referred to as ‘The Jew’ 274 times in the first 38 chapters. When criticised by the Jewish Chronicle, Dickens responded:  “it unfortunately was true, of the time to which the story refers, that that class of criminal almost invariably was a Jew.” After numerous criticisms, Dickens changed the rest of the text and for the remaining chapters Fagin is barely called ‘the Jew.’ Being a big fan of the musical, I was interested to read that Ron Moody also struggled with the anti semitism. Of Fagin he said:

….. as a Jew, I could never play such an evil, corrupting character. So I made him into a clown and turned the songs, which Lionel Bart had intended to be sung straight, into comedy. To me, numbers such as I’m Reviewing the Situation leapt off the page as comic turns, but Bart accused me of ruining the show.

Without a doubt the difference in character between Dickens’s Fagin and Moody’s was a shock. In the novel there is nothing of the ‘clown’ about him. He is the brains behind the criminality in the book and Sikes is essentially just a big thug.

I love Dickens’s writing. Granted, there are a few long-winded passages (the quote below is one of the longest sentences I have ever read), but I loved the flow and pace of the novel.

Dickens is an author who has the ability to terrify, amuse and to pull on the heart strings . The chapter when Fagin is awaiting his execution is really affecting. Few books have made me cry but I found this passage from Nancy really upsetting. Here, I think Dickens completely summed up why people often stay in abusive relationships. So very sad.

‘When ladies as a young, and good, and beautiful as you are,’ replied the girl steadily, ‘give away your hearts, love will carry you all lengths – even such as you who have home, friends, other admirers, everything to fill them. When such as me, who have no certain roof but the Coffin lid, and no friend in sickness or death but the hospital nurse, set of rotten hearts on any man, and let him fill the place that parents, homr, and friends filled once, or that has been a blank through all our wretched lives, who can hope to cure us? Pity us, lady,-pity us for having only one feeling of the woman left, and for having that turned by a heavy judgement from a comfort and pride into a new means of violence and suffering.๏ฟผ๏ฟผ

Until next month. Thank you so much for reading .

February Kids Reads

Hello all. Being a bit of a lazy bones this morning and writing this while sat in bed. Maisie in the next room asleep. I am listening to the wind giving our roof a battering. We are in the middle of roof angst as we seem to have rain pouring in!!!! ๐Ÿ˜ณ๐Ÿ˜ณ๐Ÿ˜ณ We only got our loft extension done a couple of years ago and it’s clearly not fit for purpose!!!

So this month all three books are faves of my eldest daughter Edie, who is 6. Next month I will make sure I include some of Ceci’s faves.

  • The Nothing to see Here Hotel by Steven Butler. Illustrated by Steven Lenton.

Welcome to The Nothing to see Here Hotel for magical creatures, where weird is normal for Frankie Banister and his parents who run the hotel. When a messenger arrives announcing the imminent arrival of the goblin prince Grogbah, Frankie and his family rush into action to get ready for their important guest. But it soon becomes obvious that the Banister family are going to have their work cut out with the demanding prince and his never ending entourage, especially and it turns out the rude little prince is hiding a secret.๏ฟผ…

The only downside of Edie having caught the reading bug is that she no longer wants me to read to her at night. She gets into bed with her torch and reads aloud to herself (and her poor sister) for a good hour every evening. I have to holler up the stairs every 15 mins to tell her to go to sleep….it’s true, we all turn into our parents. As a result, in order to write reviews for Edie-age books I have to read them myself. In all honesty this is quite good as it quickly ups my Goodreads total and it means Edes and I have a mini book club ourselves.

After finishing this book a couple of days ago, I went on Goodreads to update. I decided not to give it a star rating because it is written for kids and a middle aged woman is definitely not the target audience. Sadly, I saw a few low star ratings and negative reviews written by adults who felt the book was offensive because of the racial connotations. Indeed it’s true that Prince Grogbah wears a turban and has three goblin wives but do people really think that Steven Butler is trying to make a negative statement about people from the Middle East????I am loathe to succumb to this snowflake attitude where literally anything and everything offends someone somewhere. The bottom line is that this is a book written for children and it has to be reviewed as such. My 6 year old (and this 38 year old) loved it. The story is fast paced and hilarious with some brilliant characters. The Molar Sisters and Berol Dunch who is an old wrinkly mermaid who insists on wearing a tiny bikini top were our faves. If your kids love the film Hotel Transylvania, they will ADORE this book. Steven Lenton who we love thanks to his illustrations for Shifty Mcgifty has done a brilliant job. Nearly every page has a fabulous picture with tons of things to spot. Edith (and myself) will definitely be reading the rest of the series!

  • A Book of Bears by Katie Viggers.

Meet the bears! Learn all about the eight different their families, their likes, their homes and more. Who is the biggest and who is the smallest? Which one is the honey monster and which one has anti-slip feet? Fun facts combined with Katie Viggers’ charming illustrations make this the perfect introduction to bears around the world.

Hands down the nicest book I have bought in a really long time. Thanks @luggylibrary for the recommendation. Because of this book, what Edie doesnโ€™t know about Spectacled ๐Ÿ‘“ bears ainโ€™t worth knowing. ๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“This beautiful hard back book takes you through 8 bear families – Sloth๐Ÿป, Brown ๐Ÿป, Giant ๐Ÿผ, American Black ๐Ÿป,

Spectacled ๐Ÿป, Polar ๐Ÿป, Asiatic Black ๐Ÿป and the Sun ๐Ÿป. We learn about each family – how well they swim, climb and run and also if they hibernate. Katie Viggers’ illustrations are absolutely brilliant – beautiful but also funny. Edie particular enjoyed the Sloth Bear hair salon….apparently sloth bears have a lot of thick, black, shaggy hair around their faces…who knew?!? I love that there is enough humour to keep a 7 year old entertained but also enough factual content to engage older children. Anyway this is an absolutely beautiful book to buy as a pressie or add to your collection.

  • Meet the Twitches by Hayley Scott. Illustrated by Pippa Curnick.

Meet the Twitches, four tiny toy rabbits who live inside a Teacup House. 

They belong to a girl called Stevie and she loves playing with them. But guess what? These toy rabbits have a secret. They come alive when Stevie isn’t looking! 

Open up the Teacup House – and meet four little rabbit heroes with big ideas!

I had one of those soft-focus mum moments the other night when I found Edie (6) reading this book. I remember reading it to her a couple of years ago and now she is picking it up and reading it herself. I had a quick skim through to remind myself of what happened but the gist is that when Stevie moves house she is gifted a teacup-shaped dolls house with 4 little rabbit dolls. They come to life, get lost, need rescuing….you know the drill. Edie loves the illustrations. I think this book satisfies her need to read ‘big girls books’ but also appeals to her little girl head because it is full of colour illustrations. Hilariously when asked what she likes best she replied “the quality of the paper.” It’s nice paper to be fair….kinda glossy if you know what I mean. Edie loves the descriptions of Stevie’s outfits, and the detail of the teacup house. I remember loving the fact that Stevie’s mum is a single parent. Refreshing to read a book that isn’t about a mummy, daddy, son and daughter.

Anyway, if your 6 year old is in the market for a book with lovely paper, about little rabbits, cute outfits and fried egg jelly sweets, you should pick this up!!

Thanks for reading. X

January reads.

Happy New Year all! I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas and received tons of good books. Surprisingly, books were a bit of a rare present for me this year but I now do an excellent line in jumpers. Probably one of my highlights of the festive period was my sister in law organising my Monica Geller Book Cupboard of Doom. It now looks beautiful and I can see exactly what is in there!!!!

  • Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout. 5 ๐ŸŒŸ

Olive, Again follows the blunt, contradictory, yet deeply lovable Olive Kitteridge as she grows older, navigating the second half of her life as she comes to terms with the changes-sometimes welcome, sometimes not-in her own existence and in those around her.

Olive adjust to her new life with her second husband, challenges her estranged son and his family to except him, experiences loss and loneliness, witnesses the triumphs and heartbreaks of her friends and neighbours in the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine and, finally, open herself to new lessons about life.๏ฟผ๏ฟผ

Its hard to put into words what makes Elizabeth Strout’s writing so utterly perfect. Her books aren’t fireworks and cliff hangers. They are just a perfect parcel of beautifully well-observed characters living their ‘normal’ life.

I think it is often a dangerous thing for an author, actor,director to revisit a character. The age-old problem of a sequel never being quite as good as the original. Not so with Olive Again. I just loved every minute I spent reading about this cantankerous, gruff but completely loveable woman.

There is something comforting about Strout’s writing. Reading Strout is like sitting in a massive, squishy chair with a perfect hot chocolate. All her characters are completely believable and relatable. Olive reminds me of my secondary school English teacher. When we were divided into sets for our lessons, this teacher was the one who no one wanted. Everyone wanted the cool teacher who peppered his sentences with words like ‘shit’ and ‘bollocks.’ We wanted the cool sweary guy to teach us. No one wanted the real life Olive Kitteridge, but this was the teacher we ended up loving…..not someone who suffered fools but ultimately fair and with a heart of gold.

So yes, if you like a book about real people, with real lives, pick this up. Don’t expect twists and turns and exciting plot devices……Strout doesn’t need gimmicks to create a perfect and moving story.

  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. 4๐ŸŒŸ.

Danny Conroy grows up in the Dutch House, a lavish folly in small-town Pennsylvania taken on by his property developer father. Though his father is distant and his mother is absent, Danny has his beloved sister Maeve: Maeve, with her wall of black hair, her delicacy, her brilliant. Life is comfortable and coherent, played out under the watchful eyes of the house’s former owners in the frames of their oil paintings.

Then one day their father brings Andrea home. Her arrival will exact a banishment๏ฟผ๏ฟผ: a banishment whose reverberations will echo for the rest of their lives.

As decades pass, Danny and his sister are drawn back time and again to the place they can never enter, knocking in vain on the locked door of the past. For behind the mystery of their own enforced Exile is that of their mother’s self imposed one: an absence more powerful than any presence they have known๏ฟผ.

One thing I have definitely noticed since starting my maternity leave is how few books I am getting through. BM (before Maisie) I was averaging about 8 books a month. Commuting into work, sitting in the dressing room and reading in bed at night meant I could devour books. Now I am averaging about 1 book a month….not conducive to a book blog. This is going to sound quite melodramatic but I think this lack of reading time massively affects my mental health. Reading is my self-care. It’s my ‘me time.’ It means I can escape into a world where no one is going to ask me for a bottle of milk or to wipe their bottoms. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mum but having some time for myself each day makes me a much better parent. The sense of achievement I feel when I finish a book is immense. The fact The Dutch House took me a whole month to read makes me a little sad. Books are like a good wine….you need to lap them up not sip them for a whole month. ๐Ÿ˜‚. For me, sipping a book leads to a disjointed, unenjoyable read. When I look back on the books I have loved, they are often holiday reads….books that I have been able to immerse myself in for a few lazy days.

Having said all the above, a sipped book which still achieves a 4 ๐ŸŒŸ rating must mean it’s a goodun’. This book had all the ingredients of a great read for me….brilliant characters (some I hated, some I loved), a family saga and beautiful writing. The book almost felt like a fairy tale: the idea that the children had to essentially fend for themselves due to the evil stepmother, the death of the father and the absence of the ridiculous mother who chose to travel the world to help others rather than look after and nurture her children. I think I despised Elna more that Andrea. I thought Maeve was a brilliant character. I loved all her decisions and I felt she was utterly relatable. It was also lovely to read about such a strong sibling bond. Really good book and I will definitely be reading more Patchett.

  • My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier. 4๐ŸŒŸ.

Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in making Philip his heir, knowing that he will treasure his beautiful Cornish estate. But Phillip’s world is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries – and then dies suddenly in suspicious circumstances.

Before long, the new widow-Phillips cousin Rachel-arrives in England. Despite himself, he is drawn to the beautiful, mysterious woman. But could she be๏ฟผ๏ฟผ Ambrose’s killer?

Ooooooh Daphne you are my fave. Rachel is a strong, complicated, worldly and intelligent woman. She may or may not be a murderer but let’s not pick holes in the poor woman shall we?

This was our book club pick for January and I am happy to report that the great Du Maurier definitely challenged people’s preconceptions on classic literature. I think a lot of people were quite daunted by the ‘classic’ connotations of this book and wonderfully, everyone who read it, absolutely loved it.

For me, the book isn’t really a ‘did she, didn’t she?’ story. This book is about sex and the power sex has to manipulate and control. Sadly, I am very unforgiving of women in literature. I’m sure it makes me seem very small minded and unkind but I loathe female characters who are stupid, ridiculous about men, overly girly and vacuous. Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey did my head in. Constant referral to her ‘inner goddess’ and her submission to a man made me HATE her. So, in this novel, I can forgive Rachel for the fact that she may have murdered a man….she is intelligent and she clearly rules the roost. She is interesting….I wanted to know more about her.

Can you actually change a man??? In the spirit of New Year New You I am going to attempt to change my husband. Sex* in 2020 is off the cards as 6 month old Maisie has decided that the only way she will sleep for a 2 hr stretch is if she sleeps between us, so I have just raided the charity shop for some books to entice Ozzie to put the iPhone down. I am fully expecting all these books to be in the same position on the bedside table in June although they will be covered in dust and cobwebs. Come on Ozzie, read a book, you’ll like it.

*Edith, Ceci and Maisie if you ever grow up and read this post, we have only ever had sex 3 times and you guys were the result. It was horrible and awful but we had to do it it create life, to create you. Sometimes it was worth it. ๐Ÿ˜‚

Anyway that is all for this month. Thanks for reading.

January Kids Reads

  • Happy New Year. Apologies for the lack of post in December. December was completely nuts. We decided to have our first Christmas at home. Until now, Christmas involved packing the car to the rafters and driving either to the midlands (to see my parents) or to the Wirral ( to see Ozzie’s parents) and then repacking the car on the 26th December to visit the other set of grandparents before heading back to London in the New Year. 2019 was the year we said “enough” and requested EVERYONE come to us. We had 13 for Christmas dinner and had to fashion an extra long table with the addition of a couple of desks. Anyway it was bonkers, mad and exactly the way Christmas ought to be.

    • Witches in Stitches by Kaye Umansky.
    • Kaye Umansky born 6th December 1946.

    Kaye Umansky is probably best known for the Pongwiffy series. My little sister loved them. I however was a big fan of Witches in Stitches. Published in 1987, this was in the format of a magazine for witches and ghouls complete with recipes, lonely hearts and a classified section. It was great!

    I managed to find this book on eBay and snapped it up for a mere 99p. This is one of those books which conjures up really funny memories. Each year in my secondary school we would all have to write something to put into the school magazine. Always keen to find a shortcut I decided to brazenly plagiarise a poem from Witches in Stitches. The poem in question was I’m Sick of That Hansel and Gretel….I also traced the illustration. I remember being asked to see the teacher, she was obviously deeply suspicious but hadn’t had the pleasure of reading Witches in Stitches so I managed to get away with it and my’ poem and illustration made it into the school magazine. How completely arrogant and utterly stupid was I???? Actually not as stupid as my best friend who plagiarised the oh so famous Not Waving But Drowning by Stevie Smith. Unfortunately for Holly, our English teacher had obviously come across Stevie Smith so not only did she not make it into the school mag but she also got a Saturday detention. Ah the arrogance of youth.

    • Lifesize Dinosaurs by Sophy Henn.

    Discover how you measure up against some incredible life-size dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures. Try on a Utahraptor claw and a Pteranodon beak, compare your nostrils with a Diplodocus, wear a Stegosaurus plate, and watch out for the giant Tyrannosaurus rex mouth when you open up the foldout pages.๏ฟผ

    My kids are crazy wonderful little weirdos. I think when my husband realised we were only capable of creating the fairer sex I think he was terrified his life would revolve around pink and bunnies. Dainty flowers my daughters are not. A lot of the time we both find our girls a little baffling. How do you explain Edie’s obsession at 2 years of age with the Lion King?? Ok ok a lot of kids are into The Lion King. Edith however only really liked one bit which we had to keep rewinding for her….not Hakuna Matata, not Can You Feel The Love Tonight. No, no, Edie’s most favourite part of The Lion King was the bit when Mufasa gets trampled by a stampede of wildebeest. Thankfully now 6 she has grown out of this blood lust and is now much more obsessed with her hair and her hamster. Ceci’s interesting little quirk is her love of Jurassic Park…particularly the bit with the T-Rex and the ‘fitter’ she means Spitter. She loves nothing more than watching the film with us or her grandparents and explaining what is happening while we pretend to be afraid. As I’ve said before, kids (or my kids) love nothing more than thinking they know more about a subject than you do. As a result, both my girls love this brilliant book by Sophy Henn. I have bought it for tons of the girls friends and everyone thinks it’s great. Ceci is obsessed with the pull out T-Rex mouth and I am feeling fully confident if not a little smug about Edith’s up and coming a Dinosaur school project. #bossingit.

    • Dinosaur Juniors by Rob Biddulph.

    High fives, fist bumps, big hugs, applause…..for disco-dancing dinosaurs!

  • Nine dino eggs but little Greg hatches later than everyone else. The story follows Gregosaurus trying to make some prehistoric friends when everyone has already found their best bud. It all ends well with the dinosaurs throwing him a Happy Hatch Day Party. ๐Ÿฆ• ๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•
  • This is a proper value for money book. By this I mean that as your children get older, this book that keeps on giving. For really little ones the pictures are colourful and not so crazy busy that your children will suffer from sensory overload. Ceci at 4 is a massive fan….mainly because it is about dinosaurs but also for children of Ceci’s age there are things to count and plenty of things to spot. Older children can take advantage of the detail in the pictures – types of dinos, musical instruments. The story is told in rhyme which keeps me happy….I love a rhyme!!โค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธ
  • This would be a great book to give to a child who is starting a new school/nursery halfway through a year, when they are the only newbie and everyone else has settled into a routine.๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•๐Ÿฆ–
  • Also, slightly terrifying picture of Ceci. She is looking a little sinister. Edie is holding Daisy her new hamster. This is the new addition to the Andrews clan. All going well so far….making Edie clean her out every week is proving challenging but we are persevering. ๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน
  • Thank you all for reading!

    November Reads

    Excuse the lateness of this post. We are in the midst of a delightful, festive outbreak of hand, foot and mouth. We are basically housebound and are spending our days watching Home Alone and Home Alone 2 on repeat. The girls 6 and 4 think it is the most hilarious thing EVER.

    Anyway, Merry Christmas to all! I hope Father Christmas brings you some good books!

    • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. 4โญ๏ธ.
    • Marjane Satrapi born 22nd November 1969.

    The intelligent and outspoken child of radical Marxists, and a great granddaughter of Iran’s last emperor, Satrapi bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country. Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. This is a beautiful and intimate story full of tragedy and humour-raw, honest and incredibly illuminating.๏ฟผ

    This was my first time reading a graphic novel. Whilst looking up Satrapi on Wikipedia I learned that she hates the term ‘graphic novel:’

    ‘People are so afraid to use the term ‘comic.’It makes you think of a grown man with pimples, a ponytail and a big belly. Change it to ‘graphic novel’ and that disappears. No: it’s all comics.’

    This should give you a small insight into Satrapi. She is a straight talking, no bullshit kind of woman.

    This โ€˜comicโ€™ is Satrapiโ€™s autobiography that tells of her childhood and teenage years growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution. I thought it was BRILLIANT. I think I was most surprised by how moved I was. Satrapiโ€™s simple black and white images donโ€™t detract from the story which is ultimately about a girl growing up….learning about boys, friendships and her own identity against the harsh fundamentalism of the Iranian regime. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘Aimed at YA, it is a great tool to challenge Western stereotypes, treatment of women and also it provides a platform to discuss fears of the Middle East. โญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธ My only criticism is the size of the writing….my 38 year old eyes struggled to read the teeny tiny writing. ๐Ÿ˜‚

    • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. 3โญ๏ธ.
    • Tayari Jones born 30th November 1970.

    Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of the American dream. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. Until one day they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could’ve imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit.

    Devastated and unmoored, Celestial finds herself struggling to hold onto the love that has been her centre, taking comfort in Andre, their closest friend. When Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, he returns home ready to resume their life together.๏ฟผ๏ฟผ

    Hmmmmmm. It’s a funny thing when a book is lauded by the media and when you read it you are left feeling a little, well, meh. This book recently won the Women’s Prize for Fiction and so I was really excited to pick it up. It was very readable and I got through it quite quickly but the only character I liked was Big Roy and he was a secondary character.

    Feeling a little like ‘I wasn’t quite getting it,’ I decided to read some reviews. After reading a review on rewritelondon.com I learned:

    With 2.3 million people in prison or jail, the United States leads the world in incarceration. Of this excessive, unjust number of incarcerated individuals, Black men are disproportionately represented โ€“ 1 in 3 Black men are likely to be imprisoned in their lifetime as compared to 1 in 17 white men.

    Unfortunately for me, this book was trying to do too much. I felt Roy’s wrongful imprisonment needed to be made more of. I guess the whole point was the impact of mass incarceration on a marriage but I don’t believe Roy and Celestial’s marriage would have survived anyway. Even without a jail term, their marriage was already struggling. They already had trust issues and I don’t believe they actually really knew each other. As a result, as a reader, I didn’t really care. I disliked them both, I was unconvinced by their marriage in the beginning so in the end when it broke up I couldn’t care less.

    That being said, I am clearly MASSIVELY in the minority. People love this book. For me it just left me feeling a little cold.

    • Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. 5โญ๏ธ.

    For a while, Daisy Jones &The Six were everywhere. Their albums were on every turntable, they sold out arenas from coast to coast, their sound defined an era. And then, on the 12th of July 1979, they split.๏ฟผ

    Nobody ever knew why, until now.

    They were lovers and friends and brothers and rivals. They couldn’t believe their luck, until it ran out. This is their story of the early days and the wild nights but everyone remembers the truth differently.๏ฟผ๏ฟผ

    The only thing they all know for sure is that from the moment Daisy Jones walked, barefoot, onto the stage at the Whisky, the band were irrevocably changed.๏ฟผ

    This was our book club pick for November and all in all it was a hit. I loved it. It was a quick, pacy read and perfect for me right now. Sleep deprivation has well and truly hit home and I need a book that is going to grab my attention from page 1 and not finally at page 61.

    The format of the book is just brilliant. It took me right back to the days of reading Take That interviews in Big Magazine with my friends at school. A few of us, me included, had to google if they were actually a real band. I loved the contradictions you get from different people when asked about the same thing:

    Graham: “Billy was always in charge, you know? Billy wrote the lyrics, Billy composed and arranged all of the songs. If Billy goes to rehab the tour is over. If Billy is ready to go back to the studio, we all have to report for duty. He ran the show.”

    Billy: “We were all a team.”

    It was all just so believable and kudos to Jenkins Reid for the mammoth amount of research she must have done to make all the characters appear so real and individual.

    We had a great discussion at book club about the lyrics for the album being placed at the end of the book. Some loved it. I personally skim read them. I preferred to imagine the lyrics…the ones written down didn’t come close to the brilliance of the ones I imagined. ๐Ÿ˜‚.

    As well as being a novel about the music, this is a love story. Normally I avoid love stories like the plague but this kind of love reminds me of Sally Rooney’s novels – messy, painful and realistic.

    This book was a unanimous hit in my book group. Some members who enjoy the more high brow choices we read felt like they needed something ‘more.’ Those members enjoyed it but like to feel they have been intellectually challenged by a read. This book isn’t a challenge but it’s bloody enjoyable and for me that is what I need from a book. At the moment, life is challenging enough. I want to get into my bath at the end of a day and be immersed in a brilliant read. In my opinion, Daisy Jones was just that, a brilliant read.

    Thanks for reading.

    See you next month. X