January Book Reviews

Still cannot quite believe we are in 2019 but here we go with the first round of books I have been reading recently.  Some of these go back a month or three as I haven’t done one in  a while but hoping this year will be a much more organised one!

With Or Without You by Shari Low

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The Blurb

Have you ever made a life-changing decision and then wondered if you made the right one…?

When Liv and Nate walked up the aisle, Liv knew she was marrying the one, her soul mate and her best friend.

Six years later, it feels like routine and friendship is all they have left in common. What happened to the fun, the excitement, the lust, the love?

In the closing moments of 1999, Liv and Nate decide to go their separate ways, but at the last minute, Liv wavers. Should she stay or should she go?

Over the next twenty years we follow the parallel stories to discover if Liv’s life, heart and future have been better with Nate… Or without him?

A clever, captivating and bitterweet story of what might have been. Perfect for the fans of Jojo Moyes and Marian Keyes.

What I Thought

Wow!  I really enjoy Shari Low’s books and this one was no exception.  The idea presented in the blurb intrigued me – could one decision really affect your whole life?

I loved the way the chapters were devoted to special events in the lives of this group of friends – parties, birthdays, weddings.  It was a chance to catch up with what had been going on with them all, without having a lot of ‘filler’ detail.  This meant that, rather than a frothy chick lit read, it became a more intriguing and enjoyable read.  There was difficult subject matter tackled well by the author.  Her writing is fresh, fun and moving – you really do get attached to these characters and wants to see what happens to them in both situations.

Highly;y recommend this one and look forward to more from Shari Low!

Where To Buy

Amazon

Thankyou to Aria and NetGalley for my ARC of this book in return for a review.  All opinions are my own

A Bad Lot – Collected Short Stories by Barbara Kastelin

abadlot

The Blurb

Twenty-four engrossing tales of human life, each with a twist in the tail. 
A collection of bite-sized novellas to enjoy in a busy life of commitments. 
Entertaining short fiction with an after-taste of surprise and disquiet.
 
During the hour of perusal, the soul of the reader is at the writer’s control” Edgar Allan Poe .
 
A Bad Lot is a collection of twenty-four short stories. Twenty-four stories each in a different style, set in different times and in different places showing the frailty that humans are capable of.
 
The Neapolitan thief can almost be forgiven, and the lone woman in the Manor house might have been more perceptive about her suitor. The Cambridge lawyer had no guts; lies have short legs in a Caribbean resort. A crush on a police inspector is a poor excuse for some behaviour, and buying a holiday home in the sunny Algarve may have its downfalls but, for her love of dogs, the woman from Norfolk will have to be rewarded in heaven. Whether giraffes have mythical powers is questionable, while being slave to a Nordic god could confuse any young man. Yes, the world around us is full of surprises.
 
We have all come across the feelings these characters in A Bad Lot experience. Our senses record the world around us but, in our brains, it is our frail humanity that overlays the information with illusion – our vanity, jealousy, sexuality, insecurity, love, ambition and guilt warp our perception. This anthology of short stories takes us on an entertaining tour of our capacity for self-deception. Lyrical and clever, they tackle the challenges of our demons.

What I Thought

Short stories are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I really enjoy them.  Normally there will be a couple or three of the stories in a collection like this, that I end up flicking through as they don’t grab my attention.  However, in this book, I read every single story and enjoyed them all.  Some I enjoyed more than others, but each one was able to hold my attention and entertain me.

Some of the first short story collections I read were the ones by Roald Dahl and there were similarities in this collection – deception, greed, jealousy, blind ambition.  It was like a trip through the seven deadly sins.  Some of the stories were shocking, some horrifying and some made you cheer when the good guy actually came out on top!  There is some adult content not suitable for children.

Any short story fan will love this and it is a great introduction to them if you have not previously read a collection.  Highly recommended and very much enjoyed by me!

Where To Buy

Troubadour Website

Amazon

The Author – Barbara Kastelin

Barbara Kastelin was brought up in Switzerland, always writing and painting, and always an outsider, an observer and a collector. She studied copy-writing and design in New York and worked for the UN Secretary-General. Having married a British diplomat, she has lived all over the world. She is the author of two previous novels

Thankyou to Troubadour and NetGalley fro my ARC of this book in return for a review.  All opinions are my own

Mothers by Chris Power

The Blurb

An “extraordinary” (The Sunday Times) debut of unnerving beauty, Chris Power’s short story collection Mothers evokes the magic and despair of the essential human longing for purpose.

Chris Power’s stories are peopled by men and women who find themselves at crossroads or dead ends—characters who search without knowing what they seek. Their paths lead them to thresholds, bridges, rivers, and sites of mysterious, irresistible connection to the past. A woman uses her mother’s old travel guide, aged years beyond relevance, to navigate on a journey to nowhere; a stand-up comic with writer’s block performs a fateful gig at a cocaine-fueled bachelor party; on holiday in Greece, a father must confront the limits to which he can keep his daughters safe. Braided throughout is the story of Eva, a daughter, wife, and mother, whose search for a self and place of belonging tracks a devastating path through generations.

Ranging from remote English moors to an ancient Swedish burial ground to a hedonistic Mexican wedding, the stories in Mothers lay bare the emotional and psychic damage of life, love, and abandonment. Suffused with yearning, Power’s transcendent prose expresses a profound ache for vanished pasts and uncertain futures.

What I Thought

Another set of short stories which I LOVED! I devoured it and it really reminded me of the first sets of short stories I read by Roald Dahl (for adults) with their noir humour. The characters were all intensely fascinating, disturbing and multilayered.

As with many of these types of book, there were a couple which didn’t quite grab me the way the others had, but overall the book is brilliant and I would recommend to any fans of short stories or anyone interested in reading some.

Where To Buy

Amazon – available in Kindle, hardback, paperback and Audible editions

The Author – Chris Powers

Chris Power lives and works in London. His column, A Brief Survey Of The Sort Story, has appeared in The Guardian since 2007. He has written for the BBC, The New York Times and The New Statesman. His fiction has been published in The Stinging Fly, The Dublin Review and The White Review. Mothers is his first book.

Thanks to NetGalley for my ARC of this book which I received in return for an honest review.

Our Little Lies by Sue Watson (Audible)

The Blurb

Marianne has a life others dream of. A beautiful townhouse on the best street in the neighbourhood. Three bright children who are her pride and joy.

Sometimes her past still hurts: losing her mother, growing up in foster care. But her husband Simon is always there. A successful surgeon, he’s the envy of every woman they’ve ever met. Flowers, gifts, trips to France – nothing is too good for his family.

Then Simon says another woman’s name. The way he lingers on it, Caroline, gives Marianne a shudder of suspicion, but she knows she can’t entertain this flash of paranoia.

In the old days, she’d have distracted herself at work, but Marianne left her glamorous career behind when she got married. She’d speak to a friend, but she’s too busy with her children and besides, Simon doesn’t approve of the few she has left.

It’s almost by accident that Marianne begins to learn more about Caroline. But once she starts, she can’t stop. Because what she finds makes her wonder whether the question she should be asking is not ‘should she be jealous’, but… ‘should she be scared’?

Fans of The Girl on the Train and I Let You Go looking for a dark, gripping psychological thriller, with a final twist that will put their jaw on the floor, will love Our Little Lies.

What I Thought

So this was the first Audible book I have purchased that I just couldn’t get through. Not because of a terrible plot or the writing style, or even the narrator. Unfortunately I couldn’t cope with the content of the story and the quite realistic and vivid descriptions of abuse contained.

I love a good psychological thriller but unfortunately this one just pushed my buttons and I had to turn it off. I would definitely advise anyone that may be sensitive to this type of content be very wary of this one.

Where To Buy

Amazon – Kindle, Paperback, Audible versions available

Sincerely, X (Audible)

The Blurb

Some stories are too sensitive, painful or potentially damaging to share publicly — unless they can be shared anonymously. TED and Audible present Sincerely, X: an original audio series featuring talks from speakers whose ideas deserve to be heard, but whose identities must remain hidden. The first season features a compelling program of victims, perpetrators, investigators, activists, empaths and more.

What I Thought

This was a free download from the Audible store and one I thoroughly enjoyed. I have listened to a couple of TED talks but would definitely like to see more. This series is all done anonymously, the person is recorded in a studio rather than a stage and their identity is kept secret.

The talks were on a range of different topics and all very interesting. There were a couple out of the ten that didn’t quite grab my attention as much as the others, but I recommend a listen to the whole series, you will not be disappointed. I am looking forward to the second series!

See Ted Talks for more information

The Colour Of Bee Larkin’s Murder by Sarah J. Harris (Audible)

The Blurb

How do you solve a mystery when you can’t understand the clues?

’A rich tapestry… distinctive and compelling’ Observer

’A stunning whodunnit’ Mail on Sunday

‘A beautiful, original novel, at once funny and tragic and brave’ Sarah Pinborough

There are three things you need to know about Jasper.

1. He sees the world completely differently.
2. He can’t recognise faces – not even his own.
3. He is the only witness to the murder of his neighbour, Bee Larkham.

But uncovering the truth about that night will change his world forever…

An extraordinary and compelling debut which will make you see the world in a way you’ve never seen it before

What I Thought

Well, I think most thought that 2018 was the year of Eleanor Oliphant for best character but Jasper could take the crown just as easily. Jasper is a really likeable character and has a refreshing kind of honesty about him which I adored.

Once again, Ste ended up listening in to this one and loving it too. I think its perfect for anyone who also enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant and both me and Ste enjoyed our time in Jasper’s world. A highlight of the year.

Where To Buy

Amazon – Kindle, hardback, paperback and Audible versions available

A Disconnected Christmas by Ryan Ringbloom

The Blurb

Lindsay Subbloom’s marriage didn’t make it past the honeymoon. Her prince had a secret that she never saw coming. Now an internet obsession is keeping her connected to a brokenhearted past.

Her sister knows that if Lindsay doesn’t let go of her horrible new habit, she’ll have no future. Enter her brilliant idea—the gift of going offline. She hopes pushing Lindsay back into the real world will open the door for a second chance at love.

When Seth O’Shea sets his sights on the beautiful third-grade teacher, there’s an instant connection. Insta-smitten quickly turns to insta-smut. And when insta-love starts settling in, it looks like Lindsay may just get the fairy tale she’s always dreamed of in time for Christmas.

But what happens when she reconnects? Will she finally get her happily ever after? Or will old habits resurface and make her new man bounce before it begins?

What I Thought

This was a sweet, very easy read (I almost finished it in one sitting when I was poorly post Christmas). I thought the focus would be more on the challenge of being disconnected from social media, but it didn’t really focus on that which was a little disappointing.

The characters were likeable and the story was realistic. It can be a little ‘risque’ in places and there are some frank discussions about sex so not suitable if you are a prude! I could see this book as a good rom-com movie, there is definitely scope for improvement and filling out the storyline.

A cutsie, easy read if you are looking to pass a few hours with a modern romance style book.

Where To Buy

Amazon – Kindle version available

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC of this book in return for my honest review

Hope you enjoyed that little round up for this month and give some of these a try if you haven’t already. If you have read any of them let me know what you think in the comments below – do your opinions differ to mine?

Read With Me

April Book Reviews

Aside from the month going super quickly, I feel a bit meh about this month’s book reviews.  I just haven’t LOVED everything I have read this month which is a little disappointing and has meant I have struggled to swap my phone for a book in the evening.  For that reason I have about three books I am still wading through so they will now be on next month’s list.  Here are my reviews for this month.

Not So Stories

not so stories

The Blurb

Anthology of short stories from culturally diverse writers  writing in response to Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.

Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories was one of the first true children’s books in the English language, a timeless classic that continues to delight readers to this day. Beautiful, evocative and playful, the stories of How the Whale Got His Throat or How the First Letter Was Written paint a world of magic and wonder.

It’s also deeply rooted in British Colonialism. Kipling saw the Empire as a benign, civilizing force, in a way that’s troubling to modern readers. Not So Stories attempts to redress the balance, bringing together new and established writers of colour from around the world to take the Just So Storiesback, to interrogate, challenge, and celebrate their legacy.

Including stories by Adiwijaya Iskandar, Joseph E. Cole, Raymond Gates, Stewart Hotston, Zina Hutton, Georgina Kamiska, Cassandra Khaw, Paul Krueger, Tauriq Moosa, Jeannette Ng, Ali Nouraei, Wayne Santos, Zedeck Siew, and Achala Upendran, with illustrations from Woodrow Pheonix.

What I Thought

I was really excited to read this, having read many of the Just So stories as a child.  The foreword did not disappoint and had me excited for the stories to follow.  However, they were not all as enjoyable as I expected, and I sometimes struggled to pick this book back up.  I think my two favourites were How The Spider Got Her Legs and Best Beloved.  The spider one definitely struck a nerve with me as it told the story of a mother fighting for her children.

I thought this was going to be an alternative bedtime story type book, and at least in part, suitable for me to read to the boys.  That wasn’t the case, and I think even my avid reading 9 year old would struggle with this, if that was the intention.

I wouldn’t discourage someone from having a read of this if it interests them, but I certainly wouldn’t be pushing people to either unfortunately.  I love the idea of changing something like the Just So Stories to be more modern and relevant but for me, most of the stories just did not grab my attention.

“I’ve talked at length about why it’s important that we see ourselves in children’s books.  All of us.  Because for  a person from a marginalised background to see themselves in fiction, it shows them that their stories are valid and they are seen”

Nikesh Shukla

“It’s a brave choice to take something so much a part of the canon as Kipling and make it more inclusive, and yet that’s what has happened in the following pages”

Nikesh Shukla
Thankyou to NetGalley and Rebellion Publishing for the ARC of this book.  In return I was asked to provide a review but all opinions are my own

Where To Buy

Amazon

Waterstones



The Queen Of Bloody Everything (Audio) by Joanne Nadin

queen

The Blurb

And in that instant I fall in love. Not just with him, though he is the better part of it, but with them both, with the whole scene: the house, the garden, the magazine perfection of it. And I want very badly to be in this picture.

As Edie Jones lies in a bed on the fourteenth floor of a Cambridge hospital, her adult daughter Dido tells their story, starting with the day that changed everything.

That was the day when Dido – aged exactly six years and twenty-seven days old – met the handsome Tom Trevelyan, his precocious sister, Harry, and their parents, Angela and David.

The day Dido fell in love with a family completely different from her own.

Because the Trevelyans were exactly the kind of family six year-old Dido dreamed of.

Normal.

And Dido’s mother, Edie, doesn’t do normal.

In fact, as Dido has learnt the hard way, normal is the one thing Edie can never be .

What I Thought

I was a little shocked at some of the content in this book, I will be honest.  I am no prude but some of the things the young Dido talks about, observes and hears are not for little eyes or ears.  She shouldn’t be being exposed to it.  However, I am under no illusion that children have and do grow up like this.

This didn’t put me off however, I really did enjoy this book.  Poignant, sad, laugh out loud and written with such raw emotion – it certainly takes you on a ride.  The author does a beautiful job of telling Dido’s story with some wonderful characters and an interesting look into this strange and unique mother-daughter relationship.  She also did a great job of capturing the sense of time with some good references to popular culture.  I listened to the Audible version and felt the reader did a great job in conveying the story in this format.  I especially loved the voice she gave to Edie.

I highly recommend giving this book a try, it was certainly the highlight of the month for me.  I really enjoyed the Audible version but I think I would have also enjoyed reading the physical book just as much too.

Where To Buy

Amazon

Waterstones

The Dressmaker’s Secret by Charlotte Betts

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The Blurb

Italy, 1819. Emilia Barton and her mother Sarah live a nomadic existence, travelling from town to town as itinerant dressmakers to escape their past. When they settle in the idyllic coastal town of Pesaro, Emilia desperately hopes that, this time, they have found a permanent home. But when Sarah is brutally attacked by an unknown assailant, a deathbed confession turns Emilia’s world upside down.

Seeking refuge as a dressmaker in the eccentric household of Princess Caroline of Brunswick, Emilia experiences her first taste of love with the charming Alessandro. But her troubling history gnaws away at her. Might she, a humble dressmaker’s daughter, have a more aristocratic past than she could have imagined? When the Princess sends her on an assignment to London, she grasps the opportunity to unravel the truth.

Caught up in a web of treachery and deceit, Emilia is determined to discover who she really is – even if she risks losing everything . . .

What I Thought

I actually didn’t read this one this month, but at the beginning of the year and ghave just realised I didn’t let you know what I thought.  This one gripped me withnin a few pages and had me hooked.  I am a big fan of historical fiction and enjoy all the nods to actual events that happened during the time the book was set.

Emilia was a likeable lead, and this helped immensely as you read on to find out what happens to her.  It was also great to read about Caroline of Brunswick and I always love a book which inspires you to find out more about a character, as I have been with her.

A great read which combines history and mystery with a dash of romance.

Thankyou to NetGalley and Little, Brown Book Group for the ARC of this book.  In return I was asked to provide a review but all opinions are my own

Where To Buy

Amazon

Waterstones

That’s this month’s round ups!  I have an exciting post coming soon about a book I was sent and am LOVING so can’t wait to let you all know about that.  Fingers crossed I will be back with a bang and lots of great books next month.   As always let me know what you have been reading and would recommend in the comments below. Happy reading!

NatalieThe Spoonie Mummy

This post may contain affiliate links.  These do not affect your purchases in any way, or cost you extra.  They may however, earn me some pennies if you click on them before purchasing an item.  Thankyou

 

March Book Reviews

This month has been a bit of a slow one for my reading but I think I have read my favourite book of the year so far.  I have been really lucky to win a book competition as well as get the opportunity to review some fantastic books.  I hope you enjoy this month’s round up and please let me know what you have loved reading in March in the comments below.

Sunflowers In February by Phyllida Shrimpton

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The Blurb

For fans of John Green and The Lovely Bones

Lily wakes up one crisp Sunday morning on the side of the road. She has no idea how she got there. It is all very peaceful. and very beautiful. It is only when the police car, and then the ambulance arrive, and she sees her own body, that she realises that she is in fact . . . dead.

But what is she supposed do now? Lily has no option but to follow her body and see her family  – her parents and her twin brother start falling apart.

And then her twin brother Ben gives her a once in a deathtime opportunity – to use his own body for a while. But will Lily give Ben his body back? She is  beginning to have a rather good time . . .
A moving, startlingly funny yet achingly sad debut novel from a stunning new talent.

What I Thought

I requested this book after reading the blurb and was excited to be accepted to read and review.  Reading it however, was not the experience I expected.  It didn’t let me down but I wasn’t as big of a fan of it as I thought I would be.  I found it all rather odd.

The story begins with the main character, Lily, waking up in a field and realising she was dead.  At first she follows her friends and family around and I did worry it was going to be a bit too close to The Lovely Bones as she makes a distressing discovery about her killer.  However, instead, this book takes a different turn when she manages to communicate with her brother, and he ‘lends’ her his body so she can say goodbye, tie up loose ends etc.  The tricky part is giving it back.

Like I say, I didn’t not enjoy this book but it was a bit weird.  It explores the possibility of what happens when you die and the author had an interesting take on this, but I feel that we didn’t get to see enough of what happened to Ben and it never went really deep enough.  The character of Lily was likeable and a typical teen, I think this would appeal to it’s most intended readers of YA.  I enjoyed the first part of the book, exploring the feelings following death (both from Lily and her family and friends perspectives) and the effect it has, but I think the twist was just a little too far fetched and strange for me.  Overall was a decent read but just not quite enough for me.

Bookworm by Lucy Mangan

bookworm1

The Blurb

The Cat in the Hat? Barbar? The Very Hungry Caterpillar? Whoever it was for you, it’s very hard to forget the vivid intensity of your first encounter with a book.

As a bespectacled young bookworm, Lucy Mangan devoured books: from early picture books, to Swallows and Amazons, Enid Blyton to Little Women, and from trashy teen romances to her first proper ‘grown-up’ novels. In Bookworm, she revisits this early enthusiasm; celebrating the enduring classics, and disinterring some forgotten treasures.

This is a love letter to the joys of childhood reading, full of enthusiasm and wit, telling the colourful story of our best-loved children’s books, the extraordinary people who created them, and the thousand subtle ways they shape our lives. It also comes packed with brilliant recommendations to inspire the next generation of bookworms and set them on their way.

This impassioned book will bring the unforgettable characters of our collective childhoods back to life – prompting endless re-readings, rediscoveries, and, inevitably, fierce debate. It will also act as an invaluable guide to anyone looking to build a children’s library and wondering where to start, or where to go next.

What I Thought

After Sunflowers In February leaving me feeling a little disappointed I couldn’t have moved on to a better book.

Lucy took me on a journey that I could have written and evoked so many happy memories of past, childhood reads.  She shared a brief, interesting history about children’s publishing, along with some humorous family memories.

This book stirred up memories of old favourites as well as some books I had forgotten about.  She also shared a couple I haven’t read and intend to seek out if I can.  An absolutely brilliant read, especially for self-proclaimed bookworms like me.  Highly recommended and easily my favourite read of the year so far.

Favourite Quotes

“Leave us be.  We’re fine.  More than fine.  Reading’s our thing”

“‘Pallid’ says my sister, peering over my shoulder as I type this. ‘Bespectacled, Friendless.’ Which is also true.And yet, who needed flesh-and-blood friends when I had Jo March, Charlotte, Wilbur and everyone at Malory Towers at my beck and call?”

“you simply never know what a child is going to find in a book (or a graphic novel, or a comic, or whatever) – what tiny, throwaway line might be the spark that lights the fuse that sets off an explosion in understanding whose force echoes through the years”

“‘He’s reading!’  More often than not, I tiptoe back to watch.  I can practically see the stream of glittering words flowing into his mind, giving him new names for things, teaching him in some fundamental way that nothing else can manage”

“At most they will spend a few days tapping the backs of wardrobes hopefully (yes, I did – well, only the old wooden one in the spare room.  All the others in the house were white-melamine-covered chipboard)”

“Sendak’s favourite fan, though, was a little boy who sent him a card with a little drawing on it.  Out of respect for a fellow artist, Sendak went to some trouble with his reply and included a little drawing of his own – of a wild thing – to the boy.  He got a letter back from the boy’s mother which said ‘Jim loved your card so much he ate it.’  Sendak considered it the highest compliment he had ever been paid.  ‘He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything.  He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.'”

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Audible – narrated by Cathleen McCarron)

eleanor

The Blurb

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

An astonishing story that powerfully depicts the loneliness of life, and the simple power of a little kindness

What I Thought

My first impressions were that this book may not be my cup of tea.  It has been very popular and spoken about a lot, which is why I chose to download it, but I was concerned I was not going to enjoy it, or even possibly get to the end.

Eleanor was a strange character who I just couldn’t warm to.  But then, as the story continued, I really did grow to love this odd, simple, lonely lady.  I found myself willing her on, cheering from the sidelines for her and hoping things would all turn out better for her.  I wanted her to do well, to find love and to banish her awful mother from her life.

This story is a real journey and you see this woman grow in front of your eyes.  It tackles the topic of adult loneliness and it is shocking to think that many people really do live this way.  There is a lovely interview with the author at the end of the story in which she talks about developing the character and what prompted her to write this story.

I also really enjoyed the narration of this story.  The soft Scottish accent was really how I envisioned Eleanor to talk and it bought the story and it’s location alive.  I hear Reese Witherspoon has bought the rights to make the film and I am sure it will be brilliant.  I found myself imagining the characters of Eleanor and Raymond to be played by Jayma Mays and Chris O’Dowd and really hope my ideas of the book aren’t ruined by a film version.

I would definitely recommend giving this one a read, or a listen.  I really enjoyed this as an Audible book with it’s great narration and think it helped me enjoy it even more than if I had read it.

 

I hope you enjoyed my March reviews, as I said at the top of the post, please let me know what you have enjoyed reading this month in the comments below.  You can still sign up for the Reading Challenge monthly newsletter by dropping me your email address.  I am attempting to read 50 books this year and hope you will try it with me!

NatalieThe Spoonie Mummy

Thankyou to NetGalley, Vintage Books and Bonnier Zaffre for my ARC of Sunflowers In February and Bookworm.  I was given these books in return for a review but all opinions are my own

February Book Reviews

I have rounded up the books I have read this month in one post again, aside from the ones I was on blog tour for, which you can check out by clicking those book titles below

Best Friends by Carys Jones

Last Of The Summer Moet by Wendy Holden

What She Ate by Laura Shapiro

what she ate

The Blurb

Dorothy Wordsworth believed that feeding her poet brother, William, gooseberry tarts was her part to play in a literary movement.
Cockney chef Rosa Lewis became a favourite of King Edward VII, who loved her signature dish of whole truffles boiled in Champagne.
Eleanor Roosevelt dished up Eggs Mexican – a concoction of rice, fried eggs, and bananas – in the White House.
Eva Braun treated herself to Champagne and cake in the bunker before killing herself, alongside Adolf Hitler.
Barbara Pym’s novels overflow with enjoyment of everyday meals – of frozen fish fingers and Chablis – in midcentury England.
Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown’s idea of “having it all” meant having almost nothing on the plate except a supersized portion of diet gelatin.

In the irresistible What She Ate, Laura Shapiro examines the plates, recipe books and shopping trolleys of these six extraordinary women, casting a new light on each of their lives – revealing love and rage, desire and denial, need and pleasure.

What I Thought

This book really appealed to me as I do like a good non-fiction book, especially biographies, and I liked the twist with this focusing on what relationship the women had with food.

My favourite parts were the ones which focused on Dorothy Wordsworth, Helen Gurley Brown and the author’s own comments about her experiences with food.  It was interesting to read about Dorothy possibly suffering from colitis as I suffer from Crohns.  To think of someone suffering back then without the kinds of medical interventions we have now is pretty horrible, they must have gone through hell.  Helen Gurley Brown’s story was also interesting as it appears she may have suffered an eating disorder or been very close to it.  I also enjoyed learning about Rosa Lewis, someone I had never come across before.  The similarities to the story of Eliza in Pygmalion were very true.

I was most disappointed with the Eva Braun section as I felt it focused more on Hitler and the Nazi’s in general rather than her.  It was still interesting but I was hoping to learn more about her.

For anyone interested in history and biographies like me I would definitely give this one a go, it wasn’t very long but had some great information from a different angle than many of the things you read about these women.

Book Club Question

FAVOURITE QUOTES?

“Whether or not we spend time in a kitchen, whether or not we even care what’s on the plate, we have a relationship with food that’s launched when we’re born and lasts until we die”

“We lived in a compound surrounding a busy temple, where the faithful were going in and out all day and everyone was vegetarian – as were we at the time, except for the bouillon cubes”

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty (Audible)

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Blurb

From Liane Moriarty, author of #1 New York Times bestsellers The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies, comes an unforgettable novel defined by her signature sharp wit, page-turning storyline, and lovable and eccentric characters. Sophie Honeywell always wondered if Thomas Gordon was the one who got away. He was the perfect boyfriend, but on the day he was going to propose, she broke his heart. A year later he married his travel agent, while Sophie has been mortifyingly single ever since. Now Thomas is back in her life because Sophie has unexpectedly inherited his aunt Connie’s house on Scribbly Gum Island—home of the famously unsolved Munro Baby mystery. Sophie moves onto the island and begins a new life as part of an unconventional family, where it seems everyone has a secret. Grace, a beautiful young mother, is feverishly planning a shocking escape from her perfect life. Margie, a frumpy housewife, has made a pact with a stranger, while dreamy Aunt Rose wonders if maybe it’s about time she started making her own decisions. As Sophie’s life becomes increasingly complicated, she discovers that sometimes you have to stop waiting around—and come up with your own fairy-tale ending.

What I Thought

I can’t seem to get enough of Liane Moriarty books on Audible, this is now the third I have listened to and each one has been fantastic.  The lady who reads her stories has an amazing voice to listen to and really helps bring the story to life.

This book had everything you need.  A good mystery (which kept me guessing until the very end and I did not expect the twist it took), great characters (Grace was one of my favourites and her side story line about postnatal depression was extremely moving) and a bit of romance (but not so much that it just turned into another girly, love story with a soppy ending).

Scribbly Gum Island seems pretty idyllic and makes a perfect setting for the story to take place.  The family is a great one and all the different characters in it add something to the whole story and make it sound very realistic with all the different personalities and things they each have going on.  Although the book focuses on Sophie, I feel all the characters are just as important in this book and the story lines that run alongside hers such as Grace and her PND and Margie’s weight loss adventure are equally as enthralling.  Even Ste found himself being drawn in and would often put his own book down to have a listen when I had it on in the car.

Whether you choose the Audible or paper version, I very highly recommend this, as I do all of Liane’s books, which are just outstanding.

You can still sign up to the book club/reading challenge on the home page (scroll down towards the bottom) and this month’s newsletter will be sent out soon.  What books have you read and enjoyed this month?  I always enjoy hearing a recommendation or two so pop them in the comments below and I will see you again with more books at the end of March.

 

February Favourites

Wow!  I can’t believe February has been and gone.  I t was over in a flash!  Anyone else feel the same?  Those couple or three days clearly make a lot of difference, although I feel this year is flying by pretty quickly.  As it is the end of the month I thought I would share the obligatory favourites from this month and let you know what I have been loving.

Max Factor Foundations

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I popped into Superdrug initially looking for the Loreal Pro Glow foundation which I had been recommended but when I couldn’t find it I decided to have a little browse and found these two.  The descriptions sounded perfect for my skin and as they were in a buy one get one half price offer I decided to grab both.  One is perfect for every day wear and one is better for when I have a long day or need a little extra coverage.  My skin is really dehydrated and I am trying my hardest to take better care of it and these have been fantastic.  Both help keep my skin looking glowy and fresh, don’t stick to the dry patches and last really well.  I am super impressed and will be repurchasing I am sure!

Mowgli Indian Street Food Restaurant

Me and Ste don’t often go out for food but after a busy morning in Birmingham with the Salts crew (see below) I needed to eat.  As we got back to the train station we talked about going to Ed’s Diner.  We spent our first weekend together in Birmingham and went there for breakfast before we had to leave for home so it hold’s a few memories!  Unfortunately it was packed so we went looking for somewhere else.  Did I mention I was starving?!  Ste then noticed a sign for Mowgli and was sending a photo to his Dad (it’s a family thing) and we realised it was a restaurant.  We had a quick look at the menu and decided to give it a try.  Our waiter was fab, the restaurant looked great and there was an amazing smell coming from the kitchen.  The waiter explained it was like ordering Tapas, aside from two dishes which would each be like one main meal for an adult.  We chose the cheese on toast (without a doubt the best cheese on toast I have ever tasted), chip butty (spiced chips rolled in a chapatti), the lamb keema and some roti breads.  Even Ste ate more than I have seen in a long while…he couldn’t help it, the food was absolutely stunning.  Would recommend this place to everyone I know, it was just outstanding and some of the tastiest food I have ever eaten!

Dog Lead

All you Instagram followers out the re will know about my gorgeous dog, Knox.  He is an 11 month old Staffie and we got him just before he turned six months old.  Unfortunately he wasn’t trained well as a puppy and so we are having to do a lot of work with him but he is an absolutely lovely dog.  I have seen a couple of leads like this one in the shops and always thought they might be a good idea but finally took the plunge after an Amazon search and purchased one.  As he can still get a little excitable and pull on the lead I have been worried that the arthritis in my wrists and elbows will start playing up.  These leads have a slight spring to them and I am hoping will absorb some of the shock so my joints don’t have to!  So far so good, and the lead is holding up well.

Passions Deli Sweet Popcorn from Aldi

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I have been trying to watch what I am eating this year as my snacking especially had got a little out of control.  I have discovered these small bags of sweet Aldi popcorn which are super tasty and a great portion size for a mid morning or afternoon snack.  I am really lucky as an ostomate to be able to eat popcorn without suffering major problems as long as I chew well and drink plenty

Canvas from Aldi

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This was definitely my bargain of the month!  The colours will go perfectly in our bedroom once the decorating is done and it was just £3.99!  Amazing!

Aussie Shampoo/Conditioner/Mask

My hair has been a nightmare lately.  The hair currently growing out was what was coming through during a Crohns flare and is in a really terrible condition.  The hairdressers I have gone to the last couple of times in Halifax are absolutely amazing and really understanding and have just been doing regular trims to get it under control, as taking off all the damaged hair would leave it short and I do not want to go that short all in one go!  I also went to Asda and spent a little more to get the Aussie hair shampoo, conditioner and three minute miracle mask.  They were on offer for 3 for 2 so that was a bonus and it has definitely been helping as well as smelling amazing.  Sometimes a little extra investment in products is definitely worth it in the long run!

Filming experience with Salts Healthcare

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Last week me and Ste had an amazing experience when we travelled to Birmingham to meet with the Salts Healthcare team to take some photos and record some video footage talking about their new Confidence BE bags.  I will be writing a full post about the day so you can find out more about what we did but it was absolutely brilliant.  Completely wiped us out but it really was worth it and I really enjoyed it.  Really love seeing how I am finally getting my confidence back after a few years of not quite being myself!

The Good Place (Netflix)

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I may have previously talked about this series before but I have now watched the whole of the second season and I just really enjoyed it.  It is a little bit wacky and different but I really liked watching what happened next every week.  I am gutted I now have to wait aaaaages for the next season but am glad to hear it has been renewed.  The basic premise is that Eleanor (played by Kristen Bell) dies and goes to heaven and gets told she has been taken to ‘The Good Place’ as she has earned her place there through being such a good person on Earth.  Thing is – she wasn’t and she realises she has been put there by mistake.  The story continues from there and it really is a funny watch, the characters are all fantastic and I could do with my own Janet!  And if you don’t agree just fork off!

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty (Audible)

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Audible is one of my favourite discoveries of the last six months.  When my Mum recommended it I really wasn’t too sure but it has become my best friend on long car journeys.  I still have a paperback Liane Moriarty book to read but this is the third or fourth of hers I have bought on Audible and I absolutely LOVE her books.  The lady who reads them also has an amazing voice which I find I could sit listening to for ages.  Even Ste ends up putting down his book and listening while we are in the car together!  This story takes place on a small, private island and is centered around a family with a big secret.  The major story line focuses on this mystery but the side story lines including about body confidence and post-natal depression were also gripping.

Loreal Glam Nude CC Cream

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I have been using this colour corrector before my foundation and it has really helped even out my skin tone.  It is also perfect for no make up days and helps me feel more confident about wearing less make up and no foundation as I always worry that my skin looks awful without any.  Will be another product I am repurchasing!

Barry M Flawless Mist & Fix

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Lastly, y new make up setting spray and I am currently using this Barry M one.  I bought it as I like the word illuminating but you have to be careful not to spray too much or too close or you can end up looking a little glittery and sparkly!  It helps keep my make up in place all day long and I love the finish it gives so a big thumbs up from me!  Also, it doesn’t smell nearly as bad as my last one so that is an added bonus!

That is all for February my lovelies.  Thankyou for joining me for another month and I am really looking forward to March.  My Monday blog series will be continuing through this month and we have Mother’s Day coming up which is really exciting!  Let me know what you have been loving and I should be trying in the comments below and I will see you for more favourites next month!

NatalieThe Spoonie Mummy