Book Review: Left To Their Own Devices?: Confident Parenting in a World of Screens by Katharine Hill

Left to Their Own Devices

Recently my parents came over for coffee, and Mum gave me a book to read that  she’d already lent to both of my sisters.  One of my sisters found it particularly useful both as a parent (although her teenagers are pretty grown up now) but also in her work as a family support worker.  She even asked Mum to send her some of the details in the Appendix to give to a family she was working with (as an aside – Mum was well impressed with herself for taking the photo and Whatsapping it to my sis – not bad at 60 something!!)

Anyway – despite me being 43 and the mother of 4, when my own mother says I should read a book then I feel like I have to (even if it won’t fit into a category on my 2017 Reading Challenge!)

Here’s the blurb:

“How do I connect with my fifteen-year-old whose phone needs to be surgically removed from her hand? “How do I stop my five-year-old from throwing an iPaddy when screen time is over? “How do I help my child to stay safe online?” Ten years ago, we didn’t need to ask these questions. But today these questions are very real. And we need answers. Katharine Hill explores the impact of the digital world on teenagers and younger children, giving practical advice on screen time, social media, and consumer culture as well as how to tackle some of the more serious issues such as cyberbullying, grooming and pornography. Whether you are cradling a newborn or riding the rollercoaster of the teenage years, a stranger to Snapchat or have 500 followers on Twitter, this book is for mums and dads who not only want to ‘cope’ with bringing up children in the world of digital technology but to be on the front foot – confidently parenting in a world of screens”

I have to say I really enjoyed the book.  I’d expected it to be all ‘the internet is awful, keep your children away from screens all the time’ etc etc – but it wasn’t at all.  It talked about how the internet can be a force for good – if used properly.  It was also good at explaining the different social media – I’m a reasonably savvy internet user (hey, I’m reviewing this on my blog – which I will share to my Facebook and Twitter accounts) – but it gave some great background on all of the different apps etc that ‘the youth of today’ enjoy.  I also found it really useful to hear the author’s stories of her one son being completely engrossed in a game and the ‘I can’t save it so I can’t come for dinner’ things  that come out of our son’s mouth almost word for word  – it was nice to know we’re not alone.

It is written in a really humorous way – and some of the cartoons in it are hilarious. But it also deals with really serious issues like grooming and pornography – and it’s definitely given me food for thought for talking to all 4 of my children about these things.

It’s got sensible advice, and sources of additional information and support – exactly what any 21st century parent needs to help them in this often tricky journey of parenting.

I have to confess I’d expected it to be a bit preachy (the foreword was written by Rob Parsons OBE who I know has had connections with my parents’ church) but this is in no way religious at all.  There’s one reference to a biblical proverb – but I’m not sure I’d even have noticed that if I wasn’t looking for it.  It’s just a really sensible guide to anyone wanting support with their parenting around the subject of IT.

I would thoroughly recommend this to parents of kids of all ages – different bits were applicable in different ways to mine aged from 14 down to 5 (in fact I did wonder if the first couple of sentences in  the blurb were written after observing our house?!?)

And I still have to ask my Mum how she’s got a signed copy!!

 

 

 

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Wonky wigs and sore feet!

Last Friday was a friend’s wedding 40th birthday party, and the dress code was ‘black and sparkly’.   One of my best friends, Mandy, was also in attendance – and we were asked if we’d been shopping together as our dresses were so similar – but we’re just girlie swots who do what we’re told when there’s a dress code!  I love this photo of us (even if we do look like we’re trying to be the next hosts of Strictly!)

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And it’s a good job there was someone taking proper photos, as our selfie attempts (ok, my selfie attempts) were rubbish!  Our teenage daughters would be ashamed…

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My lovely friend Mandy has had a pretty horrible year – having been diagnosed with breast cancer back in January.  It has been AMAZING how she and her gorgeous family have dealt with it – and you can read about just how amazing on her blog which has already helped lots of people going through the same.  Throughout this year, though, I have never seen Mand without a full face of slap and a wig on (she now admits to being a bit of a wig addict)  I may have to confess to initially looking straight through Mandy on Friday night as I’m not used to her with long hair, as she usually rocks a shorter one (thankfully when I realised that she was stood next to her husband I twigged who it was #somefriend!!)

It was really fabulous to be ‘out out’ together. Anyway – much gin (me) and vodka (her) was consumed and there was LOTS of dancing.

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Totally not induced by the booze (ahem!) I told Mandy how bloody chuffed I was she was there and dancing with me.  She agreed, saying back when she’d been invited in February she’d said she’d come if she was up to it – but at the back of her mind she was actually thinking she’d come if she was still here……..

Obviously this induced weeping from me and an emotional hug – but I was clearly being a bit too ‘huggy’ as this voice piped up ‘Er, Lib, you’re pulling my wig off’!!

Thankfully the wonky wig was sorted out and Mand looked at stunning as ever, and I wiped up the snotty face from hysterical, tired and emotional weeping!

If recent years have taught me anything, it’s be grateful for the little things – like dancing with your mate until your feet hurt – and that 40th birthday parties are ace!!

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Book Review: The Woman Who Ran by Sam Baker

The Woman Who Ran

I feel like I’ve known Sam Baker for years (not in a weird stalkery way – honestly!) but initially as editor of Red Magazine – and now as joint founder and regular contributor to The Pool website.  I’ve read some of her previous books (way back when I didn’t bore everyone with book reviews of everything I read!) but somehow this one, published last year, had slipped through my net.  However I needed a book with an unreliable narrator for one of the categories on my 2017 Reading Challenge – and Helen,  the main character in this book, definitely looked like she’d fit that description.

“What is making Helen Graham so jumpy and evasive? Newly arrived in a tiny Yorkshire village, she finds the locals’ curiosity her worst nightmare.

Looking over her shoulder every day, she tries to piece together her past before it can catch up with her. But with everything she knows in fragments, from her marriage to her career as a war photographer, how can she work out who to trust and what to believe? Most days she can barely remember who she is…

She can run. But can she hide?”

I just want to say up front I LOVED THIS BOOK!  I read it as quickly as I could – even staying up late reading one night (which is ridiculous given how sleep deprived I am at the best of times!!)

It is set in the current day – but then also in flashbacks as Helen recounts her story – or what she remember of it – to a man she meets whilst hiding out in the Yorkshire Dales. He, Gil, is a recently retired journalist – with relationship issues of his own.

The book twists and turns and keeps you guessing.  It’s also beautifully written – quite often in books I spot chapters or chunks that feel like they’re ‘padding’ to up the word count – but at no point during this novel did I think that.  Everything is described brilliantly without being verbose – and it’s really atmospheric.

The descriptions of the Yorkshire Dales are stunning – and it also cleverly intertwines digital footprints, domestic violence, everyday sexism and village life throughout the book.

When I read the interview with Sam Baker at the end – along with the book club discussion suggestions – I realised that it was loosely based around The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. And having just Googled the novel (to check which Bronte wrote it) I’ve realised that the character names of Helen Graham and Gilbert Markham are also the same.   Having never read that classic, I didn’t see that of my own accord, but some of you may – and I suspect there are super clever plot alliances that I’ve missed too!  **  Note to self: I must read the original to compare!! **

I can’t say much more without giving the plot of the book away (and I loathe reviews that do that) but it’s definitely a thumbs up from me!

 

Book Review: Crackanory Too Cracked for TV (Audible)

Crackanory Too Cracked for TV

One of the categories in my 2017 Reading Challenge was an audiobook.  I have NEVER listened to a book before – it kind of feels like cheating??  So – I decided to search on Amazon for an audible book for something a) free and b) short – and decided I could listen to it in the car on the way to and from work. I came across Crackanory – and thought this could be amusing….

Here’s the blurb:

“Imagine if Jackanory was set free from its childish shackles. What twisted, funny tales would it unleash upon the world?

Combining some of the UK’s best and brightest comedy writers and performers, this exclusive to audio edition of UKTV’s Dave Channel Crackanory is a master class in storytelling and features an all-star cast including Toby Jones, Katherine Parkinson, John Robins, Robert Bathurst and Simon Bird.

Episode List:

  • ‘Kill Phil’
  • ‘Mummy Business’
  • ‘The Character Assassin’
  • ‘The IT Man’
  • ‘The Egg That Knew Too Much’  “

 

All of the stories were silly / funny / rude / a bit offensive / sweary / amusing / far fetched  fairy tale esque.  They were in bite sized chunks – so throw in a bit of a traffic jam each way, and they were a car journey each.  I enjoyed them – but would also have enjoyed listening to the radio and singing along to some tunes.

I can see that audio books have a place – maybe if you’re partially sighted, or doing a monotonous task for hours and want a distraction. Perhaps if I was to do a long car journey on my own then it would be a good call (although if I did a long car journey on my own I’d probably just enjoy the silence of not having to referee squabbling children!)

All in all – I don’t think I’m a convert – but wouldn’t be scared to download one in the future.  #glowingpraiseindeed

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan

Earlier in the year I tried – and failed – to read my first Steampunk novel – for my 2017 Reading Challenge.  I struggled with the book I chose – and so a friend suggested this.  Her reasoning for choosing it for this category was it was young adult and so wouldn’t be too onerous or long to read – but she’d actually enjoyed it, and gone on to read the rest of the trilogy.  She and I have similar tastes in lots of things (in fact there’s potentially a whole series of blog posts in that single comment!) so I went for Leviathan so I wasn’t beaten by Steampunk.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“The year is 1914 and Europe, armed with futuristic machines and biotechnology, is on the precipice of war. Prince Aleksandar is fleeing for his life, having discovered that his parents have been assassinated and he is now a target for the Clanker Powers, a group determined to take over the globe with their mechanical machinery. When he meets Deryn Sharpe, an orphan girl who has disguised herself as a boy so she can to join the British Air Service, they form an uneasy, but necessary, alliance. But the pair will soon discover that their emerging friendship will dramatically change their lives – and the entire course of the Great World War…”

So……

It was better than the first Steampunk novel I tried – but still not really my bag.  I romped through it – but because I was desperate to finish it and read something I wanted to, not because I was really enjoying it.

I’d been warned the YA style ‘swearing’ could be a bit annoying – and it was!

The Clankers and the Darwinists – with their traditional machinery and weird hybrid animal machines respectively were all just plain odd.

I quite liked Alek and Deryn as characters – and despite massively different backgrounds – their loyalty and bravery were parallel.

My favourite part was after the book finished (I could just put a full stop there?!)  and there was a section telling you what was based on fact and what was purely fiction – that showed it was quite clever – definitely more clever than I’d appreciated as I was reading anyway!

I also felt a bit short changed, as I did with the penultimate Harry Potter film, it didn’t really stand alone – and felt like a big introduction to the next installment.  The story was not concluded and you need to read on to discover what happens – whether anyone works out that Deryn is a girl, if it ends up being a love story, who wins the war etc etc.  Now I don’t mind a book being the first in a trilogy – but it’s good if you can read it on its own – but in this case, I don’t feel like I’ve finished.  However – I have – and I can finally say I haven’t been beaten by Steampunk – but I know I won’t be venturing into it ever again!

Now – back to a nice thriller or chick lit book for me!!

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Family Ghouls by Alex A King

Family Ghouls

This was recommended by a friend as ‘a book with a cat on the cover’ as part of our Reading Challenge 2017 – and so I downloaded it purely on that basis!

Here’s the blurb:

“Allie Callas has a normal-ish job: she’s the owner and sole employee of Finders Keepers, a service dedicated to the time-consuming task of finding (and finding out) things on the tiny Greek island of Merope. The fact that she’s been seeing the dead ever since she can remember is incidental. It’s nothing more than a … a … a birthmark on her soul and a pain in her butt.

Except now death is getting personal and the dead are getting bossy. Her best friend (and neighbor) has been murdered, and her ghost is back to tell Allie that the events leading up to her death are hazy (very unhelpful), and that she wants Allie to figure out whodunit.

Allie isn’t a cop, but the wall-banging, hump-happy Detective Leo Samaras is just one floor away. Does he want her help? Nooo … But he wouldn’t mind taking a good, hard look at her bedroom.

With the dead starting to make unreasonable demands on her time, can Allie figure out who killed her friend, without taking a one-way trip to the grave herself? Will she start cursing the day she started seeing ghosts? And where did the hefty ghost cat that has moved into her apartment come from anyway?

FAMILY GHOULS is the first book in the Greek Ghouls series: a comedic mystery set in Greece and steeped in ouzo.”

I have to say I really enjoyed this!  It was an easy read and a mixture of romantic comedy / murder mystery / ghost story – but all very cleverly written and amusing.  I liked Allie immediately – and would quite like to be her friend and share her supply of cupcakes.

It’s set it Greece – and I sometimes struggled with the names and Greek words – but it added a different element which was fun – and I now know some rude words should I holiday in Greece in the future.

My only minor misgivings were that there were occasions when there were words missing in sentences, only little words like to / of / in etc – but still a bit frustrating. There were also 2 instances of continuity errors – once when Allie’s sister’s car is described as a sedan in one chapter and a people carrier in the next, and another where a previous event was described as happening at ‘Starbucks’ when it had happened at ‘Merope’s Best’  – the local coffee shop.  I realise that I am completely anal – and I have clearly missed my calling as a book editor!!

But these are only minor issues, it really did leave me wanting more – which

a) is the sign of a good book and

b) is particularly good when it’s the first book in a new series (which is another topic I need to tick off my reading challenge list – so I can always move this sideways should I find another book I want to read with a cat on the cover #winning)