Book Review: Ours Souls At Night by Kent Haruf

Our Souls at Night

I wanted to read something different – and out of my usual comfort zone – and this was recommended in Red Magazine – so I went for it.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Addie Moore’s husband died years ago, so did Louis Waters’ wife, and, as neighbours in Holt, Colorado they have naturally long been aware of each other. With their children now far away both live alone in houses empty of family. The nights are terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk to. Then one evening Addie pays Louis an unexpected visit.

Their brave adventures-their pleasures and their difficulties-form the beating heart of Our Souls at Night. Kent Haruf’s final novel is an exquisite and moving story about love and growing old with grace. It is a lasting tribute to the extraordinary author who wrote it.”

I was initially a bit confused as to how it was written.  Often the lines are being said by people in conversation – but there are no speech marks or ‘he said’ / ‘she said’ – you kind of just have to go with the flow – and once I was in the swing of it, I totally ‘got’ it.

It is a really beautiful book. It follows the stories of Addie and Louis – and in part Addie’s son and grandson – and is very beautifully and innocently told.  You really feel you get to know Addie and Louis and it is incredibly moving.

It’s only a short book – and all the more poignant as Kent Haruf passed away shortly after writing it – but I would definitely recommend it to anyone with a heart!

Times when I would like a drink

As I wrote a few days ago, I have given up booze for 30 days.  This shouldn’t be too onerous – but I keep coming across situations when a nice glass of wine would not go amiss……

  1.  Half term.  Juggling 4 kids and work over half term is fun. The nanny being on holiday for the week is making it even ‘funn-er’.  Doing all of this whilst knowing I won’t be sinking into a large glass bottle of wine each night is just like the funn-est thing ever……………….
  2. My sister visiting.  I have 2 sisters, and the middle one of us has the occasional glass of wine, but isn’t the hardened drinker that the youngest sister and I are.  My little sister (she is 35 before you get the impressions she’s underage!) did ‘dry January’ this year and reckons it was one of the toughest things she’s ever done – and made her think about booze ALL OF THE TIME.  She came to visit on Saturday, and normally we’d share a bottle of prosecco or two – but this time I wasn’t drinking!! My brother in law tried to get me to drink ‘Go on, have a drink, we won’t tell anyone’ and ‘Have a drink now and just add on an extra day at the end’ – but I held strong – just look at me with my mug of  tea whilst the BIL is on the beer!!Mug of tea
  3. Christmas cake making.  In fact, anything Christmas related. The reason the aforementioned sister was visiting is that we make Christmas cakes with all of the kids each year. I am renowned for my lack of Christmas spirit – which I offset with spirits during the cake baking process – but not this year.
  4. 4 year old’s birthday party. I was attending this party as a punter – and it almost drove me to gin.  I have realised that my own youngest daughter’s 4th birthday party – to be held at the same soft play centre – is going to be within my 30 abstemious days.  Oh dear………….
  5. Parties in general.  I spent Sunday afternoon at a party where all of my friends were drinking beer / wine / prosecco / gin – and it was very hard to resist!  But seeing as the guest of honour at the party was Finlay – whose fundraising I am supporting with my attempt – I couldn’t really fall off the wagon!

I fear I am not cut out for a tee total life of sobriety forever.  Still time to sponsor this effort if you so wish?! My mother told my yesterday that if I actually manage this (nice faith in me there parentals!)  they will make a sizeable donation!!

Just the 20 days to go………………

No Vino November

Social media appears to be full of people giving up booze and Going Sober for October, or giving up fags with Stop-tober (imagine people doing both – bet they’re fun to be around!!)

Nicotine is not one of my vices, but alcohol is.

Profile pic

Had a good day?  Celebrate with a glass of fizz.
Had a bad day?  Commiserate with a G&T.
Bad period paid?  Self medicate with a chilled sauv blanc.
A freakishly sunny day in the UK? Pour an ice cold lager.
Etc etc!

I will sometimes decide to ‘be good’ and give up booze, but within a matter of days (usually 5 if I started on a Monday) giving up booze has become ‘giving up drinking in the week’.
Then the next week, well, we don’t have childcare until Tuesday, so that’s really when my week starts, so I can still have a glass of wine on Monday night, right?
Then – well, Thursday is allegedly the new Friday – so that makes the weekend 5 days.
So I’m managing 2 booze free days per week.

**go Libby**  #ironicfont

Now I’ve been pretty abstemious each time I’ve been pregnant and that’s been 3 years of my adult life – without also counting the time I was breast feeding and so was also reasonably reduced in my booze consumption. No spirits, and with the boy no champagne as it gave him bad wind. It also did if I drank orange juice – so guessing if I’d had a Bucks Fizz he may have exploded?!

But since then (and the baby will be 4 in a couple of weeks) – I’ve never quite found the willpower.

I had decided I couldn’t go sober for October as the husband and I were going away for 3 childfree days – and that means booze too – especially when it’s free in the lounge, on the flight and at happy hour at the hotel!  (Clearly it’s not free, it’s included within the prices of the plane tickets and hotel room, but they are sunk costs – so Libby logic says it’s free!!)  The first 2 days were a fabulous combination of sunshine, quality time with the husband, sleeping and booze!  But then the last night there I could not sleep at all.  I put it down to the espresso martini I’d guzzled (I don’t usually do caffeine – so it was somewhat foolish to drink one at 9pm!)  The next day I had a horrid headache – and it got worse as the day went on.  I tried to push through with wine in the afternoon – but wasn’t feeling it.  Then I tried again with a G&T at happy hour – but still I didn’t really feel like drinking.  By the time we got to the airport I was sweating ridiculously and white as a sheet – not quite how I expected to be after a chilled few days in the sun!  The husband knew it was serious when I turned down champagne when we got on the plane and asked for orange juice instead.

Once we got home I pretty much took to my bed for 3 days – which, like refusing free fizz, is unheard of!  So – I’ve not had any booze since Friday 16th October.

I was planning ‘No Vino November’ – but seeing as I’ve had a kickstart, then it’s starting now!  This does mean next week’s dreaded combo of ‘no childcare and half term’ will have to be survived ‘sans gin’ – but I want to prove to myself that I can do a month without any alcohol.

Now I can imagine this causing much mirth and amusement amongst my friends (and potentially a profits warning for both the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Italian prossecco producers, as well as gin and tonic suppliers nationwide) so I thought I should put my money where my mouth is and do this for a good cause.  Hopefully that way my ‘friends’ won’t try and tempt me from my path of tee total-ness!

So – I will accept this mission on behalf of my liver, waist line, occasionally fuzzy headedness in the morning – and one of our lovely friend Finlay’s charities – Brain Tumour Research.  In fact – if I donated what I would spend on booze in the 30 days, we could come close to matching the Angels Without Wings Ball fundraising total (it was £55k – so maybe not quite!)

If you would like to make a donation then Fin’s Just Giving page is here – it would mean a lot to me, Fin and the Church family – and hopefully inspire me to stay on the straight and narrow (until mid November at least!)

Cheers!  (With a raised mug of hot water, honey, lemon and ginger)


Book Review: Paris for One by Jojo Moyes

Paris for One

“Bestselling author Jojo Moyes brings us a charming and heart-warming short story in association with Quick Reads.
Nell is twenty-six and has never been to Paris. She has never even been on a weekend away with her boyfriend. Everyone knows she is just not the adventurous type.
But, when her boyfriend doesn’t turn up for their romantic mini-break, Nell has the chance to prove everyone wrong.
Alone in Paris, Nell meets the mysterious moped-riding Fabien and his group of carefree friends. Could this turn out to be the most adventurous weekend of her life?”

I hadn’t heard of ‘Quick Reads’ before – but having just read another Jojo Moyes book ‘After You’ and not wanting to get started on another ‘big’ book on the last day of a break away, this seemed like the perfect thing to download – and I wasn’t disappointed.

Initially I thought Nell was a bit annoying, and I wanted to give her a bit of a talking to about being a doormat with her loser boyfriend, and not trusting her mates more – but I think that was exactly the emotion the author was trying to engender!

As the book goes on you do find yourself rooting for Nell and her new found bravery.

It also made me reminisce about when I ‘almost’ went to work in the Paris office of the accountancy firm I worked for – the partner over there who wanted me to go had great faith in me (even thought I’d told him I would only be able to work speaking French if I kept a plentiful supply of red wine on the go at all times!)  This is also the important person, who when I asked him what sandwich he wanted for a lunchtime meeting in Leicester said I could chose – so I went for a ‘roast beef’ one – at the height of the ‘mad cow’ crisis.  Thankfully he was a Frenchman with a sense of humour!  I often wonder what would have happened if I had braved it in Paris – but that would have been for 18 months plus – Nell’s weekend sounds like a much more sensible starter option.

Although I suspect she will be back!

A lovely, fun, ‘quick read’!

Book Review: Four Weddings and a White Christmas by Jenny Oliver

Four Weddings and a White Christmas

I had forgotten that I’d pre-ordered ‘Four Weddings and a White Christmas’ upon finishing the previous in the series of Cherry Pie Island books ‘One Summer Night at the Ritz’ – so it was a very welcome surprise when it popped up on my Kindle last week – and perfect timing, as the husband and I were away for a childfree break.  Although it did feel a bit strange reading about snowy festive scenes whilst lying on a sun lounger in 40 degree heat!

So here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Hannah’s holidays are normally spent nibbling chocolate coins with her daughter and praying she’s not too old for a stocking on Christmas morning. But this year, she’s been offered the dressmaker’s job of a lifetime: creating a one-of-a-kind a gown for her friend Annie’s Christmas wedding on the picture-perfect Cherry Pie Island.

Many mince pies and one hot-pink organza dress later, Hannah is set to snuggle back into her old routine…until she discovers that there are three more weddings to come – and not a dress in sight!

Four themes, four brides and four parties spent avoiding chef Harry Fontaine, whose cynicism is as much a wedding day guarantee as confetti and cake. Hannah has her work cut out for her! Yet, with a sprinkling of snowflakes and Christmas magic, it could be that this is the year when miracles really do happen…if Hannah will let them.”

I don’t recall having met Hannah before in any of the Cherry Pie books (but am happy to stand corrected if that’s not the case?!) but she was a lovely new character, and the whole book centred around her – both her personal and professional lives as a dressmaker and single Mum.  It draws in the characters from the previous books like you’re catching up with old friends – although would work as a standalone book too, but might be a bit confusing if you don’t already know all of the people, as there are A LOT of people involved.

The book follows Hannah through her dress commissions and the very different weddings they are for. As well as being on Cherry Pie Island – there are also brief jaunts to France and to New York – which are always fun.

I really liked Hannah’s feisty daughter – reminded me of little girls in this house!

As ever with Jenny Oliver, it was a lovely, easy, fun read – and great to catch up with the characters.  My slight concern is that there wasn’t the option to pre-order the next book, which there has been with all of the other Cherry Pie Island books before – so is this the final chapter???? (I really hope not.)

Book Review: After You by Jojo Moyes

After You

I, along with most of the world it would seem, really enjoyed ‘Me Before You’.  Enjoyed in a sobbing snotfest kind of way – but enjoyed none the less!  So I was excited to see there was to be a sequel.  This is what Amazon had to say about it:

“Lou Clark has lots of questions.
Like how it is she’s ended up working in an airport bar.
Whether her family can ever forgive her.
And will she ever get over the love of her life.
What she knows for certain is that something has to change.
Then it does.
But does the stranger on her doorstep hold the answers Lou is searching for?
Close the door and life continues: simple, ordered, safe.
Open it and she risks everything.
But Lou once made a promise to live. And if she’s going to keep it, she has to invite them in . . .”

Firstly – you don’t have to have read ‘Me Before You’ for this book to work (although I would highly recommend that you do just because it’s a bloody good book)  ‘After You’ would work as a standalone book – and it references back where necessary, but not overly – so you wouldn’t feel like you were missing any ‘in jokes’ if you hadn’t read the prequel.

It follows Lou’s life now – and that of her family and Will’s family. It has a totally different ‘vibe’ to ‘Me Before You’ – and I would say is funnier, more fast paced and varied – but it somehow lacks the ‘heart’ of ‘Me Before You’ – and there wasn’t any snotty sobbing going on at the end this time.

I really enjoyed it – it was a good, easy, escapist read – and it did have such a lot to live up to.  Going for something completely different was definitely the right way to go.  I enjoyed finding out what had happened to Lou – and some of the twists and turns were really clever (I had to flick back and see if I’d missed the obvious clues to one certain revealing of parentage). It had a real air of ‘Bridget Jones’ at times – particularly the slightly disfunctional relationship of Lou’s parents –  but that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

Overall I would recommend it – as I would every Jojo Moyes book I’ve read.  Writing a sequel to such an international best seller such as ‘Me Before You’ is always going to have that ‘difficult second album’ issues – but this was still a good, fun read.  Makes me slightly nervous of when me 12 year old is a few years older though………….

Book Review: The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

The Versions of Us

“What if you had said yes . . . ?
Eva and Jim are nineteen, and students at Cambridge, when their paths first cross in 1958. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog.
What happens next will determine the rest of their lives.
We follow three different versions of their future – together, and apart – as their love story takes on different incarnations and twists and turns to the conclusion in the present day.
The Versions of Us is an outstanding debut novel about the choices we make and the different paths that our lives might follow.
What if one small decision could change the rest of your life?”

The Versions of Us was a Red Magazine recommended read for the summer – and so I borrowed it from our local library (get me!)  It was actually quite a novelty to read a proper book, as, despite waiting a long time to be convinced that a Kindle was a good idea, I now rarely read in any other format.

The book follows the stories of Eva and Jim and how their futures pan out dependent on the decisions made at their initial meeting (think Sliding Doors – 1990s film reference there #ontrend).  It is beautifully written and follows their lives through from 1958 to the present day – with many major life events happening throughout the book.  It is very clever in that many of the same events happen in all 3 possible versions (reminding me quite a lot of the recent critically acclaimed TV drama ‘The Affair’).

Occasionally I did get a bit confused – particularly with Eva and Jim’s children and grandchildren – as in each scenario this is one major difference, and I would sometimes forget which was which – but this is my only slight criticism.

It crosses decades and countries effortlessly, and the writing (and editing – I am such a book geek!) is excellent.  It must have been so complicated to ensure that everything stacked up properly in each scenario and in the scenes that featured in more than one version.

It is interesting that in all 3 versions I liked Eva, but my feelings for Jim changed significantly.  Also, I liked the fact that none of the versions were perfect – it wasn’t a typical love story where boy meets girl and lives happily ever after in any of the scenarios.

I would definitely recommend this book – and look forward to reading more novels by Laura Barnett in the future.

A lesson in spray tanning!

Now I do love a bit of a spray tan –  the weird smell, the paper pants, the shower cap –  all add to the experience – but the finished result is worth it!  (And thankfully my spray tanners have always been loads better than Ross’s in the legendary Friends episode!!)


Long gone are my days of lying on a sunlounger attempting to turn brown on holiday (I do red or freckly – but not brown) both due to the fact that everyone now knows it’s not good for you – oh, and I have 4 kids who don’t particularly let their parents just bask in the sunshine!!

But I do feel happier and marginally more body confident with a healthy glow – whether it’s for a big night out – or at the start of a foreign trip where I know I’m gong to have body parts exposed that don’t usually see the light of day in Worcestershire!!

This evening I am part way through the process.  I was sprayed a few hours ago, but won’t shower it off until the morning to ensure maximum development.  However, I had to go and pick my son up from Scouts.  I flung on a huge wrap (to disguise the fact that my non-bra wearing bosoms were somewhat lower than usual!) but this did not disguise my face!

A Dad at pick up commented ‘have you been away?’ – to which I replied that I’d had a spray tan as we’re going away tomorrow.  He was incredulous as to why someone would need to do this – so I then had to explain the benefits of a spray tan.  I wonder what he’ll go home and say to his wife (who is beautiful and wouldn’t need a spray tan to look better in swimwear!)  Still – at least he’s had a bit of an education – even if it is somewhat TOWIE based……

Next week I can fill him in on vajazzles……………**NOT REALLY**

Unpredictable annoyingness!

Last week I was lamenting on Facebook the fact that one of my new kitchen appliances plays a tune – but isn’t in tune!  The tumble drier is bang on, but the last note of the washing machine’s tune is wrong.  I even videoed it and posted it so my friends could agree.  It sparked a lengthy debate – and I was particularly pleased that one friend (who also happens to be a highly trained musician and head of the music department at my daughter’s school) gave a full technical explanation of what was wrong! (A full semi tone flat, don’t you know!?!)

This got me to thinking how 10 years ago I would not have predicted being annoyed by the tune played by some white goods – because white goods wouldn’t have played a tune!  So what else is ridiculously annoying now, but we wouldn’t have foreseen:

  1. Someone changing the channel so your double recording on Sky+ fails.  The thought of recording 2 things, in real time, in fact even one thing in real time, would have been mind blowing.  I remember when our eldest was a baby weeping hysterically because ‘all I want to do is watch Dalziel and Pascoe’ (early 2000s detective series!)  Those were the days when you could watch in real time, or watch on video after the whole programme was recorded – there was no other option.  Sky+ was invented between having my first 2 kids and second 2 kids and made for a much happier mother of a newborn! But still – the clashes thing is annoying.  Although now in the world of catch up TV and TV on demand, this might be a soon forgotten annoyance.
  2. People being incommunicado.  A decade ago if you wanted to get in touch with someone then you’d try their home phone and mobile and that was about it.  You could email – but that relied on them logging on to an actual computer to read it – so wasn’t instantaneous. Now with smart phones you would expect all of the above to be instant, or you could Facebook / Tweet / Instagram / Snapchat to try and get in touch.  But if someone doesn’t respond to any of these media, it is all the more annoying.  10 year old boys appear to be even worse than their fathers at this #sorepointfromschoolruntoday
  3. I always assumed my friends were quite intelligent and had a basic grasp of spelling and grammar.  Social media has proved, in some cases, for me to be very much mistaken.
  4. When your broadband fails.  A large chunk of my life relies on the super whizzy fibreoptic broadband at home – so that I can work remotely rather than going into the office, and to do the shopping, banking, holiday booking, social media oversharing etc. So when the broadband is down, I feel like I’ve lost my right arm.  Not to mention the woe felt by the children if the wifi fails for even a minute (when the 3 year old is wailing because Youtube and Netflix don’t work, you can see who they take after!!) Who would have thought even a decade ago how reliant we would be on our broadband connections.  The children will never appreciate the fact that historically you had to wait for everyone to finish their telephone conversation (on the landline of course) so that you could use the dial up modem to access the internet – very, very slowly!!
  5. Multiple colour coded bins.  There were bins, with bin bags in, then bin men emptied them.  End of.  Although i guess we should be grateful that in Worcestershire we only have grey (household waste), green (all recycling) and brown (garden waste). Other counties in the UK have many more receptacles for different waste products – and don’t even get me started on Germany where my sister lives – I think she has 8 different waste routes (and woe betide you if you put something in the incorrect one!!)
  6. Having blog posts in your ‘drafts’ but no time to finish them off!  Who would have known what a blog was back then?  Who would have expected I’d have 4 kids, a business, and loads of other stuff to ridiculously fill my days! A decade ago it was just the 2 kids (and a husband who’d had a vasectomy) and I worked for a large company, not our own business – oh how times  have changed!  Anyway, on that note,  I’m going to post this so it doesn’t sit in my drafts any longer!!

Strop at the Mop – Wicked Wednesday 7 October 2015

‘The Mop’ is a quite sh*t fair that comes to our village on the first Wednesday in October every year.

Most kids of the village love it, most parents see it as extortion (even more so because they charge us 50p more a ride out in ‘the country’ than they do 4 miles down the road in the Birmingham suburbs).

Whilst this strop was because we were going to go on the big wheel before the bouncy slide, it was pretty much how I felt too……….. 

This is my entry for this week’s Wicked Wednesday over on Brummy Mummy of 2’s blog