Book Review: Scummy Mummies by Helen Thorn and Ellie Gibson

I have been ill for the last fortnight.  There have not been many silver linings to this but I can think of two:

  1. I have powered through a load of books for my Reading Challenge 2017, and
  2. My lovely Auntie sent me a Don’t Buy Her Flowers package.  I’ve sent these to LOADS of people before, but it was really nice to receive one of my own (we can’t count the Mother’s Day one last year as I emailed the link to my husband directly!!)

DBHF

You can tailor the contents of the package for the recipient – and I am very impressed with Auntie Heather’s choices (although I’ve been so ill I can’t face the prosecco yet #shocker)

I’ve already read a couple of the book options – so Scummy Mummies was an excellent choice (although I hope it wasn’t because my Auntie thinks I’m a Scummy Mummy all the time?!?)

Scummy Mummies

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“A celebration of parenting failures, hilarious confessions, fish fingers and wine!

This is a book for anyone who’s ever dealt with a poo in the pool, cleaned up a sick in the supermarket, or gone to an important meeting without realising there’s weetabix stuck to their bum.

Because let’s be honest no matter how much we love our kids, or how good we are at parenting, everyone’s a Scummy Mummy sometimes.”

This book is hilarious!  Proper laugh out loud funny at times.  In fact I had to stop reading in bed last night as I was concerned my shaking with mirth was going to wake the sleeping husband up and he’d think his luck was in!

As it says up front – this is not a parenting manual at all – but it is a ‘we’re all in this together’ type read.  I also liked the fact that as their children are older it deals with playground politics as well as NCT ones.  The hipster Dads and ‘experts’ sections are very amusing – as are the quotes from parents that the Scummy Mummies have collected on their social media, podcast and stand up travels.

There is quite a lot of swearing – which is bloody fine by me, but could put some people off (but if you’re not good with swearing, I suspect some of the rest of the content would have you reaching for your smelling salts too!)

So that’s ‘A Book With Multiple Authors’ ticked off the list.  Although I did toy with ‘A Book With Career Advice’ purely for the section about not getting dressed for work until after you’ve fed the children breakfast………

Book Review: The Summerhouse by the Sea by Jenny Oliver

I have long been a fan of Jenny Oliver’s books – my husband even bid at a charity auction for my name to be a character in one!  They are escapist, funny and easy to read.  Jenny had tweeted that her new book was available on Netgalley (To quote their home page “We help readers of influence discover and recommend new books to their audiences. If you are a librarian, bookseller, educator, reviewer, blogger or in the media, get started right now by signing in or joining for free.”) I decided to sign up, given I review so many books on my blog now, and thankfully I was accepted and so could download a preview copy for free straight to my kindle.

Summerhouse

Here is the Amazon blurb:

“Every Summer has its own story…

For Ava Brown, the backdrop to all her sun-drenched memories – from her first taste of chocolate-dipped churros to her very first kiss – is her grandmother’s Summerhouse in the sleepy Spanish seaside town of Mariposa.

Returning for one last summer, Ava throws herself into a project her grandmother would be proud of. Café Estrella – once the heart of the sleepy seaside village – now feels more ramshackle than rustic. Just like Ava, it seems it has lost its sparkle.

Away from the exhausting juggle of London life, Ava realises somehow her life has stopped being…happy. But being back at the Summerhouse by the sea could be the new beginning she didn’t even realise she needed…”

The book starts with a bit about Whatsapp – and I think it’s the first book I’ve read which even mentions it – so you can see it’s totally up to date with it’s references, which I love!  Whatsapp / Twitter / Instagram / Facebook feature throughout the book – just as they do throughout most people’s lives – and I really liked that.

The descriptions of Spain are wonderful – and made me want to hop on a plane pretty smartish – and the food descriptions, as ever in all Jenny’s books, are fabulous.  You can almost taste the food.

Ava is a central character that you’re rooting for – and the dynamic of her relationships with family (present and absent), older people in the village and romance-wise are all beautifully explored. I liked the multi-generational aspect of the book a lot.

It was a perfect, easy, escapist read – that would only have been better if I’d been reading it on the beach!

I have to say this is my favourite Jenny Oliver book now and had me proper sobbing at the end.  I would love to know what happens to all of the characters in the future – so fingers firmly crossed for a sequel???

I was trying to work out which category in my Reading Challenge I could fit this into!  Firstly I thought maybe ‘A book by an author who uses a pseudonym’ as I though Oliver wasn’t Jenny’s real surname (I checked with one of her best friends, and I was right!!) but then also it could be ‘A book with one of the four seasons in the title’ – but that’s questionable.  Even in the book it is discussed whether it’s summer house or summerhouse!  The layout of the front cover would suggest the former, but the content the latter – so who knows.  It can be one of those books that would fit a couple of categories, and I can move it during the year dependent on what else I read!!

 

 

 

Under 16s Writing Competition for PDSA

I wrote some weeks ago about my eldest daughter having her lost purse returned to her because of the brilliant people at PDSA Pet Protectors who gave the station staff our contact details.  Well, she is going to be featured in their June magazine (although based on the photo it does like it should be a ‘woe is me’ newspaper feature!)

daisy

 

I exchanged emails with the lovely lady at PDSA who sorted the purse out – and showed her my blog post – and she asked if I would be happy to blog about their children’s writing competition – and how could I refuse?!

PDSA

Firstly some background on PDSA:

“At PDSA we believe that every pet deserves a happy and healthy life. We strive to improve pet welfare through preventive care, emergency treatment and education work. We provide charitable vet care across the UK through our 51 Pet Hospitals and 380 Pet Practices, and we help around 470,000 pets every single year. For more information visit www.pdsa.org.uk

And now their competition:

“To celebrate World Book Day’s 20th anniversary on 2 March we have teamed up with award-winning children’s writer Hilary Robinson to launch our annual writing competition.

The competition is open to budding young writers, aged 16 or under, and this year’s theme is Animal Heroes. To help this year’s entrants, Hilary has started the story of Buddy: a pet who comes to live with twins Jess and James when their grandma moves into a care home. It’s now up to the young writers to complete the story – more details can be found at www.petprotectors.org.uk/writing.  

The winner – judged by Hilary – will receive an Amazon Kindle, a signed set of Hilary’s books, and a VIP tour with Hilary at a PDSA Pet Hospital. Three runners-up will each win a signed copy of Hilary’s latest book Flo of the Somme and a special PDSA Pet Protectors goodie bag.

Entries should be around 1,000 words and can be emailed to petprotectors@pdsa.org.uk or posted to: Young Writers Competition, PDSA Head Office, Whitechapel Way, Priorslee, Telford, Shropshire, TF2 9PQ. The closing date is 26 May 2017 and entrants should give their full name, date of birth, email address, plus their membership number if they are already a Pet Protector (our kids club).”

And for those of you not familiar with Hilary – or World Book Day (bane of the life of parents everywhere who have to send their children into school as characters from their favourite book!!) :

hilary_robinson_2014

“Hilary, who is an author, radio producer, broadcaster and feature writer, has written over 50 books for children and is perhaps best known for Mixed Up Fairytales as well as her WWI picture book series, created with War Horse illustrator Martin Impey.  For more information on Hilary Robinson, visit www.hilaryrobinson.co.uk.

World Book Day is designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of and is observed in over 100 countries. It is the biggest celebration of its kind and helps to encourage millions of children to explore the pleasure of books and reading. For more information visit www.worldbookday

I thought it might be a nice thing for kids to do over the Easter holidays – particularly if the weather is pants – and the deadline isn’t until near the end of May, so still plenty of time to get writing!

Now to persuade my 4 under 16s that they want to enter…….

Good luck kids!

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell

As you may know, I am doing a reading challenge this year – and whilst some of the categories are easy – others are slightly more tricky!  The first one is ‘A book recommended to you by a librarian’ – now, I rarely go to the library (not because of germs – which was the reason my Nan wouldn’t let my Dad borrow books when he was younger) but because I use my Kindle, or books friends have lent me, so there isn’t much reading space left  to justify borrowing any.  Anyway, one of my friend’s used to be a librarian (I initially typed Libran, which isn’t correct, she’s a Scorpio) and is a big Jill Mansell fan – so I’m shoe-horning this into that category.  I downloaded it after Jill Mansell herself highlighted on Twitter that it was only 99p (in fact, it still is – but today is the last day so you need to move quickly!) – and with my credits from accepting Amazon Prime deliveries later than the next day – it was FREE!

The Unpredictable Consequences of Love

Here is the Amazon blurb:

“Jill Mansell’s bestseller THE UNPREDICTABLE CONSEQUENCES OF LOVE is an unforgettable tale of sunny days on the beach, Cornwall in the summer and secrets about to be revealed. Perfect for readers of Lucy Diamond and Veronica Henry.

In the idyllic seaside town of St Carys, Sophie is putting the past firmly behind her.

When Josh arrives in St Carys to run the family hotel, he can’t understand why Sophie has zero interest in letting any man into her life. He also can’t understand how he’s been duped into employing Sophie’s impulsive friend Tula, whose crush on him is decidedly unrequited.

St Carys has more than its fair share of characters, including the charming but utterly feckless surfer Riley Bryant, who has a massive crush on Tula. Riley’s aunt is superstar author Marguerite Marshall. And Marguerite has designs on Josh’s grandfather…who in turn still adores his glamorous ex-wife, Dot…

Just how many secrets can one seaside town keep?”

 

This is a lovely easy read, following the lives and loves of a number of main characters all based around St Carys in Cornwall.

Excitingly (I know, I need to get out more!) some  of the initial part of the book is set in Birmingham, where I live – although actually in Aston, which is definitely not where I live – but it’s still nice for Brum to get a name check, even if Tula can’t escape it quickly enough!!

I liked all of the characters, and you were rooting for there to be happy endings throughout the twists and turns of the storylines.

The setting in Cornwall is great – you really get the feel  of the place.

It was also very poignant that I read this the same night as Rio Ferdinand’s documentary on ‘Being Mum and Dad’ was on – not a major storyline in the book, but still seemed a spooky coincidence.

This isn’t high brow literature – but is a perfect, escapist read which I devoured in less than 24 hours in my sick bed (I was asleep for quite a lot of those 24 hours too!).

I was excited to see Jill’s next book was also set in St Carys – and so thought it might carry on where this one left off – as it would be fabulous to see how the characters developed – but it looks like the new book is based around new people, so guessing the old guard may only get a fleeting mention rather than being a full sequel.  But I will definitely be reading more Jill Mansell in the future – so thank you ex-librarian friend for the top tip!!

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Love of the Game: Parenthood, Sport and Me by Mark Chapman

I feel like I’ve ‘known’ Mark Chapman (although he will always be Chappers to me) forever. From when he was the sports monkey on the Sara Cox show, through the Chappers and Dave era, and then to being a sports presenter on MOTD2 and the BBC Rio Olympics coverage.  I knew we were a similar age (from some Googling he is exactly 5 months older than me – but the same school year – although not sure why I would even think that relevant when we’re both 43?!) and I remember weeping when he phoned in to tell Sara and the team that his first child had been born (but I was 6 months pregnant with my first child at the time, so blaming that squarely on my hormones!)

Anyway, when he was shamelessly plugging recommending his new book on Twitter at the end of last year I downloaded it.  And promptly ignored it on my Kindle for months.

But I’m doing a Reading Challenge this year, and one category is ‘bestseller in a genre you don’t normally read’ – and whilst I’m not sure if this hit the bestseller lists – it’s definitely a genre I don’t normally read – so I decided to give it a go.

 

The Love Of The Game

 

This is the Amazon blurb:

“BBC sports presenter Mark Chapman is no longer in his physical prime. There is an argument to suggest he has never been in his physical prime. Now in his forties, he is facing a world of knee replacements and ever-expanding waistlines, whilst his children are thriving.

There is huge pride that they are doing so well, mixed with a fair amount of jealousy that actually they are better at a wide range of sport than he ever was. He is passionate about sport and it has played a huge part in his life. His parents encouraged him from a very early age and he wants to pass the baton on to his son and daughters. Although there is every chance he might drop it and have a massive strop instead. He is also very aware of the huge changes in sport today compared to when he was growing up; and he is determined that his own attitude to his son and daughters’ sport – be it football, netball, cricket or gymnastics – will be exactly the same. And he wants to shine a light on grass roots sports – the incredible and largely unsung contribution that volunteers make in the sporting community, without whom – for example – no professional footballer would be in the game today.

Funny, touching, passionate about sport and parenthood, Mark Chapman paints sport as a touchstone for everything important: growing up, becoming a parent, enjoying family time, getting old, learning how to win (and how to lose gracefully), the legacy we all hope to leave our children; in short, life and all that goes into it.”

Quite early on I could completely relate to the book – I remember propping up a small baby to watch the final of the 2003 Rugby World Cup because it was history in the making (not realising quite what an exciting game it would be, and that England winning would make it all the more historical!)

I could also empathise with the coaching of a child’s team – as my husband coached our son’s rugby team for a while – and the politics involved with children’s sports is crazy!  My sister and brother in law are heavily involved in my nephew’s football club – and have been for years – and it is such a massive commitment, and often unappreciated.  My brother in law is also in the Chappers mould of subbing his own son more than any others as he doesn’t want to appear biased! I also  got in to trouble going to watch my nephew play by screaming ‘encouragement’ a little too loudly and agressively (this was before my own children were playing competitive sport) – I’d forgotten I was at the side of a bit of grass in a Hampshire park and not in the stands at Villa Park!  Equally our eldest son and daughter were disappointed there was no corporate hospitality for under 8s footie, as they were used to that when watching Aston Villa #firstworldproblems

The attempt at doing a bun for a gymnastics competition also had me amused – my husband is exactly the same when it comes to doing our girls’ hair – despite being a father to 3 girls (thankfully the eldest being a teenager means she can do her own hair now!)  In fact he said to me the other day that nothing could happen to me ever, as there is no way he could do their hair into buns for their ballet exams!

The book is written with humour and emotion – and seemingly honesty about parenthood and the trials and tribulations of it, generally with a sporting bent.  I did get a bit choked up at times – and had a full on cry at the bit written by Chappers’ friend whose son is autistic and not into sport at all.

To enjoy this book I think you need to be a parent and enjoy sport – but if neither of those apply to you I’m not sure why you’d even consider the book anyway given the title!?! An enjoyable foray into someone else’s parenting world, which I really liked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Cows by Dawn O’Porter

The Cows

I was very lucky to be given a sneak preview copy of this – Dawn O’Porter’s first foray into writing for adults after a huge success with YA fiction.   It’s sat on my Kindle for months as I’ve kept being given ‘real’ books to borrow, and I feel pressured in to reading them first as they sit on my bedside table in a huge TBR pile just looking at me.  I started this last night in the bath for 2 hours due to hideous medical condition and finished it today having had to languish horizontal for hours. I think the only upside from an abscess and cellulitis in the stomach is being able to read without feeling guilty (and the fact that it’s killed my appetite #weightloss)

“Fearlessly frank and funny, the debut adult novel from Dawn O’Porter needs to be talked about.
COW [n.]
/kaʊ/

A piece of meat; born to breed; past its sell-by-date; one of the herd.

Women don’t have to fall into a stereotype.

Tara, Cam and Stella are strangers living their own lives as best they can – though when society’s screaming you should live life one way, it can be hard to like what you see in the mirror.

When an extraordinary event ties invisible bonds of friendship between them, one woman’s catastrophe becomes another’s inspiration, and a life lesson to all.

Sometimes it’s ok not to follow the herd.

The Cows is a powerful novel about three women – judging each other, but also themselves. In all the noise of modern life, they need to find their own voice.”

 

‘THE COWS’ IS FABULOUS!!

I don’t want to tell you too much – as it twists and turns through the lives, loves and livers of Tara, Cam and Stella – and there are some fundamental things in the story that if you know beforehand will definitely distract from the enjoyment of reading it.  A couple of times I was literally gobsmacked (which doesn’t happen often for me!).  I would definitely recommend reading this as soon as you can after it’s published so that you’re not at risk of spoilers.  I’ve just Googled reviews and some people practically tell you the entire story – DO NOT READ THEM – much better to come at it not knowing what to expect (Why do people do that in reviews? Seems a bit selfish to me?)  I can also see this being made into a film / TV series, it just cries out for it.

If you are a bit of a prude – then this may not be the book for you.  Be prepared for real life ‘adult humour, strong language and scenes of a sexual nature’ (obviously read in the style of a TV announcer) It definitely put me in the mind of the TV series Catastrophe in  that it puts ‘normal’ things into a fictional setting that you don’t often see – masturbation, periods, abortions – nothing is off limits.

The main characters are all very different – but all beautifully written, and you really feel you get to know Tara, Cam and Stella well.  The clever way their stories interweave is done brilliantly – as is the use of modern interactive tools like blogging / Tinder / Youtube etc.  Just all feels really relevant.

So there you go – a definite recommendation from me – although #dontfollowtheherd…….

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Girl From The Savoy by Hazel Gaynor

 

The Girl From The Savoy

I was unsure what to expect with this book – as 2 friends had read it recently (both whilst ill with the flu) and one had enjoyed it and the other struggled through – and I didn’t know which category I would fit in to!

Here is the Amazon blurb:

“Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but the outbreak of war takes everything from her: Teddy, the man she loves – and her hopes of a better life.

When she secures employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly’s proximity to the dazzling guests makes her yearn for a life beyond the grey drudgery she was born into. Her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to an unusual newspaper advert and finds herself thrust into the heady atmosphere of London’s glittering theatre scene and into the sphere of the celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry.

All three are searching for something, yet the aftermath of war has cast a dark shadow over them all. A brighter future is tantalisingly close – but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?”

 

I started reading this a few weeks ago – and I have to say I found it a bit dull to start with.  Due to the era and setting it reminded me of the ITV drama series Mr Selfridge ( in particular the start of the final series which was so boring we ended up giving up on it) and in fact Harry and the Selfridges store both get a mention a few times throughout the book!

At the weekend I posted in my Reading Challenge Facebook group that I was unsure if I could face plodding through it – or whether I should quit! The general consensus was that life is too short to be reading something you’re not loving (mostly by friends I had ‘encouraged’ to persevere with The Goldfinch and have never forgiven me!!)  I ummed and ahhed – but then due to a particularly unpleasant medical condition I have had to spend a large chunk of the last 3 days in the bath – so decided I’d finish it off.

Each chapter is told by a different person – Dolly, Loretta or Teddy – but not in strict rotation, and probably weighted in the order I’ve written them rather than evenly.  Dolly is likeable enough, Loretta a bit annoying, and you don’t really get to know Teddy. In fact I would say you don’t really get to know anyone that deeply emotions-wise at all thinking about it now.

Given the population of London in the 1920s was £7.4million people (yes, I just Googled that) there are some completely implausible coincidences – but I guess that happens lots in books.

Obviously I liked the plentiful gin references.  One favourite line being ‘ Gin is an acquired taste, but once acquired rarely lost’ – so true!!

I’m glad I finished it (because I hate being beaten by anything) but I definitely wouldn’t sing its praises from the rooftops.  It’s very ‘plodding’ at times – and quite a lot of the descriptions, whilst I am sure are completely historically researched and accurate – also seem to be incredibly repetitive – it almost felt like they were copied and pasted between chapters and then someone forgot to change them slightly to freshen them up.

But hey – I’ve ticked off ‘A book set in a hotel’ from my reading challenge!

‘Relaxing’ spa break……

My husband has always enjoyed a good spa break – in fact where we got married in St Lucia you had a treatment each day included in the price – and he quite happily had a massage / facial / body scrub up in the treatment area (there were A LOT of steps to get up there!)  Hey – he even had a back, sack and crack there once – but that’s a whole other blog post!!!

Tonight we are at a fabulous hotel in the Cotswolds overnight for my birthday and that has included some time in the spa.  But it has been far from relaxing with the husband in tow!

Dormy House Spa

Last time we were here he struggled with doing nothing – and spent most of the time working in the restaurant / bar attached to the spa.  Today he was even more of a nightmare!

Firstly – he sprayed me with cold water in the steam room as I was quite happily enjoying the temperatures.

Then – as I was enjoying a ‘tropical rain’ shower, he crept up on me and put a handful of crushed ice down my swimming costume.

And subsequently, he jumped into the tranquil swimming pool causing a mini tidal wave.  Then there was no calm swimming with your head out of the water in a true spa day style – now – he had to prove he could swim to one end from the other under the water (he did!)

Thank goodness I have a spa break with the girls booked next month – I am sure they will be far better behaved!!

 

 

 

 

 

An armful?!

I grew up going with my parents when they donated blood –  it was a special treat (mostly because as the daughter of a donor you could blag biscuits!!)  As soon as I turned 18 I started donating – particularly as by blood was useful.   I’m O negative –  ‘the universal donor’ – because anyone with any blood group and rhesus negative or positive can be given O neg (to sound like I’m in ER!) blood, so it’s often used in an emergency before the blood type of the patient is confirmed.

Right through university years I carried on donating – although I would be wary of what alcoholic proof content these years of blood contained!

Like my mother, I am a slow bleeder (it gushes out of my Dad) and so sometimes I would time out before giving a whole pint – but it was still useful (although probably not a full armful!!)

Being a proud Brummie you can’t mention donating blood without reference to the famous Tony Hancock (who was born in Southam Road in Hall Green where I used to have piano lessons) sketch…….

tony-hancock

“A pint? Have you gone raving mad? I mean, I came here in all good faith, to help my country. I don’t mind giving a reasonable amount, but a pint? Why, that’s very nearly an armful.”

I remember when I started work as an accountant that one Friday lunchtime everyone else went for a pint, whilst I went to give one *polishes halo*.

When I had my first child we found out that the husband was O negative too.  This meant that our children had to be O negative – and also meant I wouldn’t have the complications some mothers can have if the child is rhesus positive (something to do with antibodies #notadoctor!)  Interestingly I was believed that my husband was the father of my children in all 4 cases, and so wasn’t forced to have the anti d injection post births (their faces as well as their blood groups definitely confirm their parentage!!)

My first birth was pretty traumatic (there’s a whole separate blog post in that!) but I lost a lot of blood and had to have a plasma transfusion. All was well – thankfully – but that now means I’m not allowed to donate blood any more. It’s all to do with CJD – more commonly known as Mad Cow Disease (and let’s face it – it’s probably something I’ve been referred to at times!) – and other diseases that may not have been screened for historically.  I thought there might be a time limit on giving again – but 13 years on, I’m still not allowed to.

I’m quite sad that I can’t donate any more – as the relatively painless procedure can save lives.  So many people have to have transfusions – be it post accident, operation or going through other treatments for diseases like cancer – that blood supplies often run low.

I never looked at the needle going in to my arm (I look at operations etc through my fingers on the TV – I am ridiculously squeamish) but it wasn’t an unpleasant experience – and you really could save a life.

Not often you can say you’ve saved a life by lying down for a bit and then consuming a biscuit and a cup  of tea!  Definitely my preferred way to be a superhero!!

 

blood

 

 

 

 

 

Kisses for Oreos!

The other night the husband was putting the 6 year old to bed…

Daddy “Can I have a kiss goodnight?”

E, thinks for a moment, “Only if you bring me an Oreo”

Daddy “Well, if I can have a kiss now I’ll go and get the Oreo for you”

E “Nope, no kiss until I actually have the Oreo”

oreos

I’m not sure whether to be impressed or concerned for the future…..

#kissesfororeos