October kids reads

Hi all. I hope everyone is well and keeping safe. How is Lockdown Part Deux treating everyone? As of today I have been put back on furlough. Last week I was back in the beautiful theatre rehearsing the Mozart Requiem. We were supposed to perform to an audience but Covid put paid to that so as a result it was recorded and is being broadcast on BBC 2 on Saturday 14th at 7pm. It was an utterly incredible experience to sing such wonderful music with my chorus and orchestral colleagues again. I feel very lucky to have been able to make music again but I now feel a bit deflated. Anyway onwards and upwards.

  • Jungle Sounds by Usborne Books.

I bang on about @usborne books A LOT. But that is honestly just because they are brill. Maisie, 14 months old loves this book. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘We have quite a few sound books that are just too tricky for little hands . The sound buttons are really easy for teeny ones to press and also to locate it on the page. Itโ€™s a lovely, sturdy book with loads of cut outs to provide added texture. Brilliant. Usborne is top ๐ŸŒ. ๐Ÿฆ ๐Ÿ˜ ๐Ÿฆœ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿฆœ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿฆœ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿฆœ๐Ÿฆ

  • Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell.

If I had to say name our favourite childrenโ€™s book, this would win hands down. We are now on our third copy as each daughter loved their copy until it was in tatters. I have to say that the pop up edition is the one you want. Just a perfect book to play peepo with and also to spend endless time making stupid animal noises. ๐Ÿฆ’ ๐Ÿฆ“ ๐Ÿฆ Thanks Rod Campbell. You are a legend. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

  • Telling the Time by Usborne Books.

Time. โฐ. Time is something I think I have a lot of but in fact I am wrong. ALL THE TIME. I invariably arrive late for everything, coated in a fine sheen of sweat. This is due to doing too many things at once. I donโ€™t just get dressed for work….I get dressed for work while cleaning the kitchen, organising the washing, cooking dinner etc. I just find it impossible to do one thing at once. My brain is on overdrive. ๐Ÿง ๐Ÿง ๐Ÿง ๐Ÿง ๐Ÿง ๐Ÿง ๐Ÿง ๐Ÿง . It seems ironic that I should be posting a book about telling the time. During lockdown, telling the time and fractions were things Edie had a mental block about and I get it. Why do some clocks have hands and some just numbers?? Why, when the big hand points to 1 it actually means 5? Why do some clocks go to 23???? So many valid questions and I think it takes a while for kids to get it. โฐโฐ I remember when my sister was little she had a tape that we would play in the car ALL THE TIME about a king who tried to learn to tell the time. Anyway it had a catchy song that I have managed to block out, but I know it worked. ๐Ÿคด โฐ ๐ŸŽต. Anyway another @usborne_books that has saved the day. Completely brilliant with loads of flaps to lift and it answers all the confusing questions. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Thanks so much for reading. Stay safe and have a good month.

Els x

September/October Reads

Well Autumn is definitely in the air. Kids back at school and I went back to work. We did a drive in version of La Boheme. It was such a joy to make music again and to be part of something so wonderful.

Reading wise however, it has been a little slow. There have been quite a few books I just couldn’t get into….life is too short to continue something you aren’t loving hey???!!!

  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo. 4 โญ๏ธ.

This is Britain as you’ve never read it. This is Britain as it has never been told.

From the top of the country to the bottom, across more than a century of change and growth and struggle and life, Girl, Woman, Other follows 12 very different characters on an entwined journey of discovery.

It is future, it is past. It is fiction, it is history.

It is a novel about who we are now.๏ฟผ

I am someone who suffers from book pressure. Maybe it’s a lack of self confidence….the last few months I definitely feel like I have lost the confidence to feel like my opinion is valid. On finishing this book I went to Goodreads to update my status. All the reviews were 5โญ๏ธ. I felt intimidated by all the accolades and so immediately rated it the same. However, this rating niggled at me. Was it a 5โญ๏ธ read for me??? Was it a book that has changed my life??? Was it a book that I would never forget??? Yes, I really enjoyed it but on reflection I think it is a 4โญ๏ธ. This book almost reads like a book of short stories. I have written before that in my opinion, authors of short stories are under more pressure….if you don’t like one story it will affect your overall view of the book. If you don’t engage with every chapter in a straight novel does that change your feeling about the book as a whole??? Of course not. With Girl, Woman, Other, some characters I really engaged with. I love the chapters about Dominique and Bummi. However, reading some characters felt like a bit of a chore. I want to be fair and say that this may not have been as a result of the writing – much more likely was that I was possibly a bit distracted on that day. Anyway, this did affect my overall enjoyment of the book. I felt the After Party chapter was unnecessary….why was there suddenly a big chunk from Roland’s perspective??? I also saw the Penelope/Hattie plot coming quite early on – there must be a reason for a white, slightly racist woman being included. I have listened to quite a few podcasts with Bernadine and I think she sounds a fabulous, intelligent and interesting woman. I’m very pleased I read this book.

  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. DNF.

When Emira is apprehended at a supermarket for ‘kidnapping’ the white child she’s actually babysitting, it sets off an explosive chain of events. Her employer Alix, a feminist blogger with the best of intentions, resolves to make things right.

But Emira herself is aimless, broke and wary of Alix’s desire to help. When a surprising connection emerges between the two women, it sends them on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know – about themselves, each other, and the messy dynamics of privilege.

Oh gawd I didn’t finish it!!!! I didn’t finish a book that everyone I know LOVED. I didn’t finish the first book that has been set for a new book club I have joined. Not ideal.

I thought the book started really well. I was hooked. So many important and weighty issues which initially had me completely invested but as the book played out I just felt that these issues were skimmed over. Controversial statement but I just felt that this was almost….chick lit. I feel I need to explain myself better here – any author that gets tons of readers to engage with their work deserves praise, but for me, writing a book about such weighty issues such as racial inequality and only really stroking the surface of these issues, so as to appeal to the masses made me ridiculously frustrated. I also didn’t get on with the dialogue…I thought it was really superficial and prevented me from engaging with the characters. Sorry Kiley.

  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins. 4โญ๏ธ.

1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gathered at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Franny Langton, made to Mr Mrs Bennett, goes on trial for their murder. The testimonies against a damning-slave, poor, seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

For the first time Franny must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to ride on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed.

But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved?

There is something ridiculously comforting about historical fiction and cold, winters days. ๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ‚ I really enjoyed this and stayed up late last night to finish. Sara Collins has created something original…..a gothic novel with a black protagonist: โ€œI wanted a Jamaican woman in Jane Austen territory.โ€ This novel deals with heavy themes, slavery, addiction, abuse, womenโ€™s rights. It is so layered and beautifully written. Frannie will stay with me for a long time.

Fingers crossed for a better reading month in November!!!!

July/August Kids Reads

Before lockdown I was struggling to get Edith to stop reading at night. Miss Independent just wanted to get straight into bed and read to herself for a couple of hours. Now she is in a bit of a slump. She is more than happy to read to her sisters but very uninspired to read to herself. I wonder whether the whole lockdown situation has scared her off the whole idea of doing anything independently and this includes reading. The silver lining to this situation is that she now wants me to read to her again which I am loving.

  • Rapunzel by Bethan Woolvin.

Rapunzel is smart. She has great hair. And she does NOT need a prince.๏ฟผ

I HAVE HIT A WALL. In the quest to raise daughters who could never be described as princesses, I have created MONSTERS. My daughters are independent, feisty and opinionated and maybe just for an hour I would like them to be quiet, introverted stamp collectors. (no disrespect to stamp collectors). ๐Ÿ‘ง๐Ÿ‘ง๐Ÿ‘ง๐Ÿ‘ง๐Ÿ‘ง๐Ÿ‘ถ๐Ÿ‘ง๐Ÿ‘ง๐Ÿ‘ง๐Ÿ‘ง๐Ÿ‘ง๐Ÿ‘งI have quite a few mum friends who donโ€™t like their daughters to read fairy tales. They donโ€™t want their girls to be exposed to princesses who want to fall in love and be rescued by a man. I on the other hand, pity the poor man who falls in love with my harridans. Todayโ€™s major melt down was as a result of me saying that they couldnโ€™t watch their iPads at 4:30 in the morning. I AM DONE!!!!

Bethan Woolvin is a hit in our house. She says of her books โ€˜Iโ€™m inspired to create strong female characters in my fairytales, because I want to create female characters both boys and girls will want to read about. It shows children that females are worthy of being written about.โ€™ Her female characters are never rescued by princes, they arenโ€™t victims and they always emerge victorious. These are utterly empowering books (I just sometimes wish my girls werenโ€™t so empowered). Incidentally, every time I write the hashtag raising girls, I mistype and write raising gits. Hmmmmmm.

With this book, I wanted to deliver to readers are braver, more resource full Rapunzel, who doesn’t need to be saved by a prince.๏ฟผ

  • See Inside London. Usborne. Rob Lloyd Jones and Barry Ablett.

See inside London. Over the past 2000 years, London has survived fires, plagues and terrible areas to become one of the largest cities in the world. With amazing illustrations and revealing flaps to lift, this book tells the cities incredible story.

The legendary Usborne books. My kids have TONS and my sister and I had loads when we were kids. I remember giggling with my school friends about the erection pictures in Understanding The Facts of Life and the Usborne Book of Ballet was the bible for many a school project.

We love a lift the flap book in our house. I think they appeal to our nosy nature. The Usborne See Inside series means that we can be educated and nosy at the same time. See Inside London is Edie’s favourite and was very useful when she had to do her Year 2 Fire of London project. There is something really comforting that Usborne books will always be the go-to for a school project.

  • Busy Zoo by Ruth Redford.

There are so many animals to meet at the zoo. Penguins, elephants and giraffes too! Push, pull, turn and slide to bring the busy zoo to life!๏ฟผ

And then she turned 1!!! I am proud and joyful to report that her favourite pressie was a book!! Busy Zoo published by @campbell_books. This is a great book for little fingers. Really sturdy with loads of push, pull and slides. Maisie loved the ๐Ÿฆ’ page. Happy Birthday Mrs!

  • The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton.

When Joe, Beth and Frannie move to a new home, an Enchanted Wood is on their doorstep. And when they discover the Faraway Tree, that is the beginning of many magical adventures! Join them and their friends Moonface, Saucepan Man and Silky the fairy as they discover which new land is at the top of the Faraway Tree. Will it be the Land of Birthdays, the Land of Toys, or even the Land of Ice and Snow with its magic snowman?

When Edie requested that we read The Faraway Tree books together I was pretty chuffed. I had an image of myself sat on the sofa with beautiful hair, perfect dress and glowy skin, Edie and Ceci either side of me, freshly scrubbed from the bath. All three of us laughing at the Saucepan Man and imagining the taste of Toffee Shocks. I am sad to say that the reality has been different. Revisiting my childhood favourite has been…a disappointment. Appealing to adults was never part of Blyton’s MO. She famously said ‘My work in books, films and talks lies almost wholly with children and I have very little time to give to grown ups’ as a result I doubt very much if she would care about my adult opinions of her books seeing as my childhood self and my current children love the books

What would Ms Blyton say about the fact the books have been snowflaked?? No more Dame Slap…she is now Dame Snap. Fanny is now Frannie….my 7 year old was baffled by this one….how many 7 year olds call it a fanny????!!! Of course the premise of the book is great and incredibly exciting however I am sorry to say that we found each chapter a little repetitive. I would say that the lesson of this situation is that you shouldn’t return to childhood favourites but that theory is utterly disproved by Edie’s love for Roald Dahl.

Thanks for reading and stay well.

Els

July/August Reads

Hello all. I have been in two minds about posting this month. I feel the last 6 months of covid have caught up with me and I am just feeling really low. The family are all well and fine but I am just exhausted. My husband is working every hour to prove his worth in the light of future redundancies. I am exhausted with looking after the kids. I haven’t worked now since March 2019 and I just feel like I have lost a huge chunk of who I am. Even reading has become a bit of a chore so I apologies that this post is a little lacklustre.

Finally back to work and singing again in the next few weeks. Doing a Boheme and so excited to feel like me again.

Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo โ€“ until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape.

Afra has lost her sight, and so they embark on a perilous journey towards an uncertain future in Britain. As they travel, Nuri is sustained by the knowledge that waiting for them is his beekeeper cousin Mustafa, who is teaching fellow refugees in Yorkshire to keep bees.

Nuri and Afra have to set off through a broken world, on a dangerous journey in which they will confront the pain of their unfathomable loss, and in doing so find a way back to each other again.๏ฟผ๏ฟผ๏ฟผ

I remember so clearly the front page of the newspaper with the devastating image of Alan Kurdi. Alan was a 3 year old boy who drowned when his family tried to flee Syria and reach Europe. In 2015, Alan was 1 year older than my daughter and I couldn’t help but imagine what Alan went through in days leading up to his death. At that time, the Syrian crisis dominated the headlines. Now it is nowhere to be seen. However, people are still displaced. Lefteri says:

 It still exists, those people have still been displaced, theyโ€™re still trying to settle, theyโ€™re still traumatised. Where is everything now?โ€

In 2016, Lefteri spend two months working on Athens at a centre for women and children who had been displaced by war. She was inspired by the people she met and the stories she heard. On her return to England she started to plan the novel. She decided that she wanted Nuri to be a beekeeper so she contacted Dr Ryan Alsous who had set up the Damascus University Beekeeping programme. He and his family had settled in Huddersfield having fled Syria in 2013.

This was our book club choice this month and surprisingly it caused some division in the ranks. Myself and another girl really enjoyed the book but three members didn’t agree – “too easy” and “it was almost like Syria for dummies.” I think there can often be a lot of snobbery surrounding book club choices. Chicklit and page turners are often looked down upon. Maybe people think that the more high brow the book, the more impressive people’s opinions are. Book snobbery is definitely something I have been guilty of and I am proud to stay that I am reformed. I bloody loved Grown Ups last months having previously relegated Marion Keyes to the Chick Lit Sin Bin. I think it’s needs to be recognised that writing a page turner is an incredible skill. Any author that manages to keep the majority of the social media, Netflix obsessed masses turning pages is a bit of a magician in my opinion.

This was a brilliant book and it was great to read more personal stories of the individuals who are affected when fleeing a country. This was also a story about grief and PTSD which I think is rarely written about. A beautiful book.

  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. 5โญ๏ธ.

‘Our time together is about to begin, my reader. Possibly you will view these pages of mine as a fragile treasure box, to be opened with the upmost care. Possibly you will tear them apart, or burn them: that often happens with words.’

You hold in your hands a dangerous weapon loaded with the secrets of three women from Gilead. They are risking their lives for you. For all of us.

Before you enter the world, you might want to arm yourself with these thoughts:

Knowledge is power

and

History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.๏ฟผ

The Handmaid’s Tale was my A Level set text. I adored it. Really adored it. That and Goodnight Mister Tom are probably the only two books I have read more than once.

Loving a book so ferociously often means that nothing can live up to it. Sequels usually disappoint but not in this instance. Cleverly, Atwood doesn’t pick up where she left off….although Offred is always at the back of my mind. Fifteen years have passed and now Atwood is more concerned with the lives of the Aunts. I think this fresh perspective is really sensible….Atwood isn’t trying to recreate Offred’s story. Aunt Lydia is the main subject in this sequal and I really enjoyed seeing how she became an Aunt and fitted into the Totalitarian regimes. I didn’t find the book as dark as the original….maybe I am now used to to idea of Gilead but also this novel is much more plot led than character led. A brilliant read.

  • Gotta Get Theroux This by Louis Theroux. 4โญ๏ธ.

Gawky and socially awkward, Louis Theroux might be an unlikely television star, but his award-winning documentaries have won him millions of fans around the world. Now he turns his questioning eye on himself and wonders, why do people tattoo his face on their body and would it be wrong for him to encourage them? And are the same qualities that make him good at documentaries also making him bad at life?๏ฟผ

Insightful and funny, Gotta Get Theroux This takes us from Louis’ anxiety prone childhood to an unexpectedly successful career that has seen him immersed in the weird world of paranoid US militias and secretive pro wrestlers, get under the skin of celebrities and take his life in his hands investigating American prisons.๏ฟผ

Has Louis woos his beautiful wife Nancy and learns how to be a father, he also dares to take on the powerful Church of Scientology. Just as challenging is the revelation that one of his old subjects, Jimmy Savile was a secret sexual predator, prompting him to reflect on the nature of evil he has spent decades and uncovering.๏ฟผ

I have loved Louis for a long time. I have memories watching his documentaries with my now husband and I was also lucky enough to watch his film about Scientology at the Royal Festival Hall. I think I picked the book up, wanting to discover more delicious tidbits about his subjects. I have to say that the book did deliver this but only after the first 25%. No offence Louis, but I’m not particularly interested in your au pairs and schooling, I want to get to the good stuff.

I was particularly moved by Louis’s writing about Jimmy Savile. I hope for Louis, writing this book was cathartic. Louis clearly questions himself in the whole affair….was he blind, should he have pushed Savile more on the subject, should he have delved deeper? Quite rightly, Savile is clearly a subject that keeps Louis up at night and this book does go some of the way into addressing how much of the predator Louis chose to see.

  • The Corset by Laura Purcell. 4 โญ๏ธ.

Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.๏ฟผ

When Dorothea’s charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she finds herself drawn to Ruth, a teenage seamstress โ€“ and self-confessed murderess – who nurses a dark and uncanny secret. A secret that is leading her straight to the gallows. As Ruth reveals her disturbing past to Dorothea the fates of these two women entwine and with every revelation, a new layer of doubt is cast….

As a teenager, I read a lot of historical fiction. Phillips Gregory and Sarah Waters were firm favourites. It’s a genre that I don’t revisit often but when I do, I always find it very comforting. Maybe it’s the imagery of candlelight, the rustling of skirts or maybe it’s the fact that whatever bogeymen I find within the pages, they are bogeymen from the past.

I really enjoyed this book. Told in Dorothea and Ruth’s voices, it was easy to be transported to the grey, dank and depressing streets of working class Victorian England. My only gripe would be the end of the novel. Purcell chose to add a supernatural element which I think was unnecessary and for me, it too away the starkness and emotion of the ending.

Thank you for reading. I hope you are all safe and well.

Els x

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 .