Book Review: After Hello by Mhairi McFarlane

after-hello

I have raved before about Mhairi McFarlane’s books (in quite an ‘oh my goodness, I want to be her friend, she writes such fabulous books’ kind of way!)  And when I reviewed You Had Me At Hello! I specifically said I was left wanting to know what happened to the characters next. Well – it would appear Miss McFarlane has answered my wishes (although I did Tweet her asking for a unicorn, and that hasn’t materialised as yet!)  and this novella is exactly that – picking up Rachel and Ben’s story 2 years down the line.

“A short story sequel to the bestselling romcom You Had Me At Hello!
In You Had Me At Hello, the one who got away came back… but what happened next?

Together, apart and then back together again, Rachel and Ben had a rollercoaster ride to get here. But now happily in love and partners in crime once more, it feels like it’s all been worth it.
But when a face from the past reappears, misunderstandings come between them once more.
Can they hold on to their happy ever after?”

It picks up with Rachel and Ben – and the other characters from YHMAH (I’m so down with the kids with the whole acronym stuff!) – and centres around Mindy’s hen night and wedding.  As usual the reference points are totally on point – from someone annyoingly pointing out the Slimming World syns in everything eaten at the kebab house – to the description of a 30+ hangover (I’m sure they get even worse at 40+).

All in all, another great read – and it’s FREE to download it from Amazon – yay!

The only negative about this is that it’s too short – yet again I WANT TO KNOW MORE.

I’m fitting this into ‘A book published in 2017’ for my 2017 Reading Challenge.

 

 

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Not Just a Book Review: There Is No Good Card for This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell

I have been a huge fan of Emily McDowell’s empathy cards over recent years – and have, unfortunately, had cause to send them to a number of friends who’ve been going through tough times.  I then saw that Emily had written a book – along with her friend Kelsey Crowe – the title being pretty self explanatory!

there-is-no-good-card-for-this

I read the Amazon blurb and thought I’d pre order it for my Kindle some months ago.

“The creator of the viral hit “Empathy Cards” teams up with a compassion expert to produce a visually stunning and groundbreaking illustrated guide to help you increase your emotional intelligence and learn how to offer comfort and support when someone you know is in pain.

When someone you know is hurting, you want to let her know that you care. But many people don’t know what words to use—or are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. This thoughtful, instructive guide, from empathy expert Dr. Kelsey Crowe and greeting card maverick Emily McDowell, blends well-researched, actionable advice with the no-nonsense humor and the signature illustration style of McDowell’s immensely popular Empathy Cards, to help you feel confident in connecting with anyone experiencing grief, loss, illness, or any other difficult situation.

Written in a how-to, relatable, we’ve-all-been-that-deer-in-the-headlights kind of way, There Is No Good Card for This isn’t a spiritual treatise on how to make you a better person or a scientific argument about why compassion matters. It is a helpful illustrated guide to effective compassion that takes you, step by step by step, past the paralysis of thinking about someone in a difficult time to actually doing something (or nothing) with good judgment instead of fear.

There Is No Good Card for This features workbook exercises, sample dialogs, and real-life examples from Dr. Crowe’s research, including her popular “Empathy Bootcamps” that give people tools for building relationships when it really counts. Whether it’s a coworker whose mother has died, a neighbor whose husband has been in a car accident, or a friend who is seriously ill, There Is No Good Card for This teaches you how to be the best friend you can be to someone in need.”

I would like to think that I’m pretty empathetic anyway.  My husband would probably say you can forget the ’em’ with the amount I get upset about the situations friends and relatives find themselves in.  But I have sent cards (Ms McDowell’s, obviously!)  / made meals (in fact my sausage casserole – or rather one of the sausage casseroles from this cookbook – is now known as the village ‘cancer casserole’) / helped  out with childcare and other jobs – but still, it’s so hard to know what to say and do when family / friends / acquaintances are going through a tough time.

Then between pre ordering this, and it arriving on my Kindle, my Aunt and one of my best friends were diagnosed with cancer.  Rubbish.  So the book had even more resonance when I started to read it.

Now I should hold my hands up at this point and make a confession – the first chapter has quite a lot of activities to do that seem quite ‘American’ and in true British style (and because I was reading it in bed without a pen and paper and burning materials to hand) I kind of skipped over the activities (although read it thoroughly).  Maybe I should head back to them at some point………

A good chunk of it was about being a good listener – and it really made me stop and think.  I do listen – but I’m often also over processing at the same time and thinking about what I should respond.  I’m definitely planning for more silences in the future (in a good way!)

Another thing that resonated with me was about the Empathy Menu.  Saying that there are loads of different roles that you can fulfill when helping someone through a crisis – and you don’t have to personally do all of them.  I am a control freak, who likes to try and be all things to all things people.  I don’t need to be.  And I need to ‘put my own oxygen mask on first’.  Definite learning points for Libby!  It also reminded me of the empathy card I gave to my friend last week:

just-so-you-know

As she got to the bit that said ‘cleaning your place’ she laughed out loud and pointed out that she was the one with breast cancer, and I didn’t need to have a personality transplant – but then when she opened it I’d added the caveat inside that I’d send a cleaner round not do it myself!! #thethoughtthatcounts

Another thing that resonated was offering to help people.  As the book pointed out a generic ‘let me know if there’s anything I can do’ whilst great in principle – is often not the most helpful thing. People going through a crisis don’t need to be worrying about what you could do for them.  You just need to do something.  I recall a friend whose son died last year saying exactly that – her brain was too full of what her child was going through to worry who could make what meal etc.  And when I had a much less significant crisis last summer when my husband hurt his thumb lots of people said ‘let us know if there’s anything we can do?’ – but she just said ‘I’m coming round now to tidy up for you’ and took charge, with my sister, of clearing up the empties (there were a lot!) and the general state of the house whilst I was at the hospital with my husband in surgery.

The book says it takes a whole village to care.  I am so pleased that the village we live in is so caring.  It seems to have had a run of crises over recent years – but every time, we villagers strap on our big girl pants and help each other out.  It makes me proud to call this little part of Worcestershire home.

I would recommend this book to anyone  – in fact I’d quite like to email the link to certain people, but they may not take it as it’s intended (or they may take it as intended and be offended!) – but most definitely worth a read.

Let’s just hope we don’t have too many more situations to apply it to in 2017……………

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

the-chilbury-ladies-choir

I was lucky enough to be given a sneak preview of this book that’s out next month – and so it’s the first one on my 2017 Reading List challenge!  It could fall in to a number of categories:

  • A book of letters
  • A book that’s published in 2017
  • A novel set during wartime

So, as I liked the sound of the blurb – I dived in!

“A warm, funny and big-hearted novel of wartime gumption and village spirit which will make your heart sing out, and is perfect for fans of Helen Simonson’s The Summer before the War and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Kent, 1940. The women of Chilbury village have taken umbrage at the Vicar’s closure of the choir now that its male singers are at war. But when spirited music professor Primrose Trent arrives, it prompts the creation of an all-female singing group. Resurrecting themselves as The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, the women use their song and unity to embolden the community as the war tears through their lives.

Dependable Mrs Tilling sees the choir as a chance to finally put herself first, and a welcome distraction from thoughts of her son fighting on the front line. For Kitty Winthrop, the precocious youngest daughter of Chilbury Manor, singing is the only way to outshine her glamorous sister Venetia, who isn’t letting the war ruin her plan to make every bachelor in the county fall in love with her. Meanwhile, when midwife Edwina Paltry is presented with a dastardly job which she’s convinced will make her rich, she will have to misuse more than the trust of the choir’s women to carry out her scheme – and nothing is going to stop her.

Filled with intrigue, humour and touching warmth, and set against the devastating backdrop of the Second World War, this is a lively and big-hearted novel told through the voices of four very different but equally vibrant characters, who will win you over as much with their mischief as with their charm.”

The book is written from the position of a number of the main characters (all mentioned above in the blurb) by way of letters, diary entries, journal entries – and then some village notices.  This means it feels like it’s in quite manageable chunks so you can stop and start – although I read it in 3 sittings!

Throughout there is the back drop of World War 2.  It’s spread over just less than 6 months, starting in March 1940 for any real history buffs!  I’m not often a huge fan of historical novels – but I really enjoyed the wartime references amongst the various stories of the village.

It’s a really ‘nice’ book – quite easy to read with nothing too gory or frightening and no really rude bits!!  I can see why it has been compared to the books it has in the blurb.

There is apparently going to be a big marketing push for this as a Mother’s Day gift – and I can see that would be apt – but I actually think my 88 year old Grandmother would probably enjoy it more!

All in all, a lovely, gentle start to this year’s reading challenge.

 

 

Disneyland Paris – the epilogue!

This has been in my drafts for FOREVER – so thought I should finally get around to actually posting it!  We’ve been away twice since then!! #holidayaddicts

So, I’ve blogged about our half term trip to Disneyland Paris, from my proposed behaviour plans in the prologue, to the ‘fun’ in the rain for Day 1, the lunch with Princesses on day 2, the ‘sod Mickey when there’s Messi’ of Day 3, the Snapchat filtering of a world famous painting on Day 4, and an emotional balloon release on Day 5.

But I thought I’d compose some advice on matters learned from our trip (and I will try and be the bigger person than just to say don’t bother with Paris, save up for Florida as they do Disney properly…………..)

Hotel
If you can – stay in the Disneyland Hotel, and if you can – book a Castle Club room.  This means you get characters at breakfast every day

mickey

(the Disney ones – and sometimes the world famous footballer ones too!! #LionelMessi) which reduces the need to queue for them at other times.

messi

The fact that you’re between the parks means you can pop back for a battery recharge (metaphorically and for your phone) during the day.  You also get to enter the Disneyland Park earlier than the general public (although only certain rides are open for these Magic Hours).

The one thing I would say is that having a Castle Club room with a park view is fantastic (we stayed in Walt’s Apartment with a connecting room as there are 6 of us) but it is noisy.  You have a great view of the fireworks from the comfort of your room – but equally little kids may not sleep through it!  Then when the hoardes leave the park it can be quite raucous (and it’s not very ‘Disney’ to shout at them to shut up from your window……..).  Then the Disney music plays until around midnight and starts again at 7am – and for us this had a Halloween ghostly theme (last time it was Christmas music though!)

fireworks

 

Food
We struggled keeping everyone happy (but we do have 4 kids with differing tastes!)

We had an absolutely amazing meal in the California Grill in the Disneyland Hotel – but the kids meals didn’t have fries, which immediately meant child 3 had a meltdown.  The food was beautifully presented and the wine exquisite (but it is really, really expensive!)

Lunch with the Princesses in the park was also excellent in terms of quality (again no French fries) and a great way to get a few more characters off the tick list.

cinderellas

The best all rounder meal, though, was in Chez Remy in Walt Disney Studios – great quality food – INCLUDING FRIES!!!!

cork

Fastpass
If you’re staying in a Castle Club room – and I think most of the Disney Hotels – you get unlimited Fastpasses for all of the rides that offer that facility.  At certain times of the day these are great (generally in the mornings) but at some points, the Fastpass queue can be longer than the regular queues – madness! And not all rides have the Fastpass option.
Sometimes using single rider queues can also be a way to beat the queues if you’re happy not to sit together in a group – I guess this depends on kids ages and such like.

Going into Paris
We paid to do a Disney trip into the centre of Paris.  This involved queuing for a coach at another hotel and driving through really slow traffic to get there.  Once in Paris we were dropped off to reconvene a few hours later.  We couldn’t face the coach trip back and ditched them in favour of the very reasonably priced train (double decker train at that) back to Disneyland Paris.  It was a straighforward, easy train ride – and so much better than hanging about and a coach.

Once in Paris then there are loads of different options for hop on / hop off trips – or even just walking – which we did loads of!

trocadero-jumping

The kids loved seeing some of the historic sites (although I’m not sure Leonardo was expecting teens to put Snapchat filters on the Mona Lisa……..)

the-mona-lisa

I am sure there are loads of other top tips I can offer – so if you think of anything then ask away – but there we go.

We’ve done Disneyland Paris…………….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading Challenge 2017!

I’ve mentioned before my lovely friend who edits books – she’s even guest blogged for me!

Well, she suggested that we (and some equally geeky friends!) signed up for the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2017!  Given that includes 2 of my favourite words (I am yet to decide how I feel about 2017) then I was in!

So here’s the list:

reading-challenge

I’m already trying to decide how to shoe horn some of my TBR (to be read) pile in to the different categories!  Obviously I will overshare my reading – and the categories they fall into.

But here’s to a 2017 full of lovely books!

 

 

Book Review: Five Give Up The Booze (Enid Blyton for Grown Ups) by Bruno Vincent

five-give-up-the-booze

“Enid Blyton’s books are beloved the world over and The Famous Five have been the perennial favourite of her fans. Now, in this new series of Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups, George, Dick, Anne, Julian and Timmy confront a new challenge: give up the booze.

Give up alcohol you say? Why, of course they can! Talk about an easy challenge! Five old friends set about this simple task and find all of a sudden that: the days are longer; they get to see each other for who they really are; the empty laughter of ordinary conversation is so much harder to fake. Yes, they’re saving money and losing weight, but the world itself seems to take on a slow, dreary inevitability. Soon they begin to snap at each other, and then fight – until they begin to wonder, have the Five at last found the challenge that will defeat them?

The perfect gift for anyone who has woken up and promised themselves that they will never drink again. Or at least until next weekend. “

My Uncle gave this to us just before Christmas as a funny joke, as we’d tried to be abstemious for a few weeks (he’d had a Becks Blue With Lemon a few weeks before when he’d stopped by!)  And – great minds think alike – as I’d bought this (and Five Go Gluten Free) for people for Christmas too #familyhilaritygene

I finally got round to reading it over Christmas.  I have to say – it’s not the best book ever written – but is mildly amusing.  There are some throw back references to the famous bunch (lashings and lashings of ginger beer in a hip flask anyone?!) and some building on historic EB themes (George wanting to wear trousers not a dress to a wedding) – but I definitely wouldn’t rush to read any more.

The comedy is definitely in the titles…….

 

 

Tempted – and then electrocuted….

I was going to blog about this ‘incident’ and then when I saw the The Daily Blog Post prompt was ‘tempted‘ – it seemed perfectly apt!

To avoid temptation, the husband and I have taken all of our leftover Christmas foodstuffs in to the office – biscuits, chocolates, cakes etc – and all are placed on a filing cabinet in the large shared office for anyone who’s passing and needs a sugar fix.

waitrose-biscuit-selection

This morning I had resisted temptation impeccably – but then at about 11.30am I thought ‘sod it’ and went to grab a biscuit – but in doing so got an ELECTRIC SHOCK from the top of the filing cabinet!!  It was as if the cabinet itself was being my willpower (or it could have been my new cheap New Look shoes on the carpet tiles) but anyway – I didn’t have a biscuit!!