Tag: books

Need More Book Suggestions for Christmas? Here’s Three!

When choosing Christmas presents for children, it doesn’t matter what age they are, you’ll never go wrong with books, whether they are picture books, stories, or any kind that they are interested in like sports or trains.

We’ve managed to tick off some of little T’s Christmas presents, but hey, a little girl can never have enough books right?  As part of the Brit Mums and Penguin Random House Children’s Book Christmas Challenge, we were sent the following books to share with you guys:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down – Jeff Kinney

T enjoyed the first book and found it really funny, so this one is definitely going on her collection.

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The pressure’s really pilling up on Greg Heffley.  His mom thinks video games are turning his brain to mush, so she wants her son to put down the controller and explore his ‘creative side’.  As if that’s not scary enough, Halloween’s just around the corner and the frights are coming at Greg from every angle.

When Greg discovers a bag of gumy worms, it sparks an idea.  Can he get his mom off his back by making a movie … and will he become rich and famous in the process?  Or will doubling down on his plan just double Greg’s troubles?

T loves animals and wants to learn how to ride a horse, although I have no idea how she’ll manage to squeeze that in.  She’s doing too much already, what with ballet, gymnastics and swimming.  For now, she’ll have to content herself with reading about horses.

The Racehorse Who Wouldn’t Gallop – Clare Balding
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Charlie Bass is a horse-mad ten-year-old who dreams of owning her own pony.  So when she accidentally manages to buy a racehorse, Charlie is thrilled.  The horse she buys, Noble Warrior, looks the part: strong, fit and healthy.  There’s just one problem – he won’t gallop.  In fact, he won’t even leave his stable without his best friend, a naughty palomino pony called Percy.

Charlie is convinved that Noble Warrior has what it takes to be a champion.  But can she prove it?  Derby Day is fast approaching and only a win can save the family farm from being possessed.  The stakes couldn’t be higher for the Basses.  Can Charlie turn her chaotic family into a top training team?  Can Noble Warrior overcome his nerves?  Will Percy the pony ever stop farting?

The last book is a bit too old for T, so she wants to give it to an older girl who used to be in her Primary school.  She misses her a lot.  This girl was so sweet and kind to her especially when she was in reception.  Last year, T played little Alice and the other girl played big Alice.  I think S will definitely enjoy the next book.

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Girl Online: Going Solo – Zoe Sugg AKA Zoella

Penny’s life is back to normal.  As Penny starts the school year she’s ready to face the world – alone.  Noah has gone off the radar after ending his world tour early and no one including Penny, knows where he is.  So when she accepts Megan’s invitation to visit her performing arts school, it seems like an opportunity to make some new friends.  Helping someone else seems to be the right remedy.  Elliot needs her friendship more than ever, and she meets Posey – struggling with stage fright and in need of support.  But is charming Scottish Boy Callum the right kind of distraction?  And can Penny truly move on when Noah’s shadow seems to haunt her round every corner?

What about you?

Have you ticked off your Christmas shopping list already?

*PR Samples

A Family Love Affair with Books

I love beautiful books.  I have no vice.  While like most women, I do like shoes and bags, they’re not something I’d covet the way I do with books, especially beautifully illustrated ones, I just can’t resist them, so when we went to the Bath Children’s Literary festival as mentioned in my previous post, when I saw this one particular book on a stand, it just called to me.

I mentioned this a lot in previous posts – how lucky I am to be married to a man who has the same passion as I do, that helps a lot you know.  You won’t hear any “Are you paying that much for a book?!”  Instead ours is usually “What did you get?  Here’s mine”.  

I picked up my book, and went off to pay.  When I turned my back, my husband was queueing behind me with his own choice of book, and T was also clutching her own .  Luckily, she had her own money to spend since she brought her savings with her and since this was after all a Children’s Literary festival all our books “were for kids”.

My husband’s pick was real-life astronaut’s first children’s book – The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield.

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It is a sweet book for children younger than T who is six.  It talks about how it is okay to have fears, especially of the dark and how dreams do come true.

inside_the_darkest_dark T’s choice on the other hand was this one:  Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman.

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It’s not surprising that she chose another book illustrated by Chris Riddell her favourite, especially since she already has all of his books.  She knows Neil Gaiman as the man who wrote her other favourite “Coraline” and even has the book signed by him and again, illustrated by yes, Chris Riddell again. She loves the man and I don’t blame her.  I think she also chose this book because it had a little boy on the cover for a change and that it had giants in it.

And this folks is my choice:  Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle.

img_3583When I saw the sleeve, I was hooked.  The gold ink was calling to me, since it was wrapped, I didn’t even know how beautiful it was inside till we got home. It was my precious and it was mine.  Of course, I told T that I bought it for her, but it’s actually mine, all mine.

I took off the plastic that was wrapped around the sleeve ever so gently, and as I slipped the case off and the book fell out, I actually gave a little gasp and ran my fingers on it like braille. The front was just beautiful and inside?  See for yourself.

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I gently opened each page and marvelled at the artwork.  You’ve probably noticed by now that yes, it was illustrated by no other than the Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell.  I am now a fan too.  Even though I haven’t read the story yet (I can’t wait to read what Neil Gaiman’s version of Sleeping Beauty is like), it’s my current favourite book.  My precious.

Do you have a favourite children’s book?

We’re Going to the Children’s Bath Literature Festival

My husband and I have always been readers long before we met each other.  Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why we ended up together?  And now that we have a little girl, it’s lovely that she shares the same passion for books even without having to prompt her.

Even when she was a baby little T had her own growing collection.  Now that she’s six, she’s managed to accumulate enough books to have her own little library even though we’ve gotten rid of some of her baby ones already.

She went through phases from the usual Julia Donaldson books of the Gruffalo fame, to the Kipper series of books and the adventures of Slinky Malinki the cat by Lynley Dodd and a whole load of others.  At the moment,  her current favourite author is Chris Riddell (who also happens to be a cartoonist for the Observer), he has written a series of books for children about a little girl called Ada Goth (Goth Girl) and another one Ottoline who is being taken care of Mr. Munroe, who looks a lot like cousin It from the Adams Family movie, while her parents are away.

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T loves his characters.  Ada and Ottoline are both very independent and individual type of girls, who are a bit different from the usual characters you find in children’s books.

When we found out that Chris Riddell was going to be at the Children’s Bath Literary Festival, we quickly signed up for her to see him in person.  I’m hoping that she’ll have a chance to really meet him and maybe even ask to sign one of her many books, although to be fair she does have his signature already, since the Coraline book (by Neil Gaiman) was illustrated by Chris Riddel, turned out to be a signed copy by both the author and the artist.

We also wanted to take her to meet Cbeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell who also wrote the Harper books series which she also likes, but it falls on a Friday and we don’t really want T to miss school.  Hopefully she’ll have a chance to meet her maybe Ms. Burnell will be around again next year?

The Festival will run from the 1st till the 9th of October.  Click here for more details.

Have you been to Children’s Bath Literary Festival?

Do share.

“The Artist” and “The Reader”

I’ve mentioned in a post before how little T likes watching YouTube videos on the iPad of children (mostly American kids) play with their dolls (Elsia and Anya).  She has also recently discovered “How to draw” tutorials on YouTube and now she’s hooked.

You’ll see her hunched over with her coloured pens, pencils and drawing-pad with her headphones on and in sheer concentration as she glances at the video and back on her work as seen below:

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And if you dare disturb her she’ll say “I’m busy mum!”.

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She mostly likes to draw Coraline, her favourite character from the movie/book written by Neil Gaiman.  Her dad recently bought her the special hard-cover edition complete with slipcase, illustrated by Chris Riddell (cartoonist for the Observer) who also happens to be one of her favourite authors who wrote the Goth Girl books, and Ottoline and the Yellow cat among others. Going back to little T’s new book, imagine our surprise when we opened it and found Neil Gaiman’s signature and also that of Chris Riddell.  Definitely one to keep, although I doubt if it will be of good value in the future, since T likes to read it in bed again and again.  In a few years time, it will be dogeared.  I’m surprised this story doesn’t give her nightmares.

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Her reading has also improved so much and she now prefers books way ahead of her age (she’s five). They are mostly books with chapters and with little illustrations.  Of course there are words she can’t read and would often ask our help, but she’s getting on really well.  I’m just hoping this love for books isn’t just a phase and that she won’t outgrow it.

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We can now leave her reading in bed, although if it’s a school night we have to constantly give her the ten minute warning before we give her the stern “Go to sleep.  No more reading please”.

Do you have little ones?

What kind of books do they like to read?

Or what’s your favourite children’s book?

Do share.

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Of Small Joys: Beautifully Illustrated Books from Folio Society

“Go order some books to cheer you up”  The husband said to me a few days ago.

He knows I’ve been in a bit of a slump (although that is a big understatement of what I have been really feeling lately) ever since our house move got delayed and he also knows what makes me happy.  I don’t really want to talk about it just yet.  Emotions are still raw and high, in spite trying to move on from the heartbreak and disappointment of it all. One of the reasons why I don’t really want to write about it here is that we’re thinking of suing and I just don’t want to complicate matters even further.  Let’s just say things are just a bit delayed.  And yes, I need cheering up, badly. Goodness knows we all need it.

And yes, I did as I was told and bought myself a book.  I don’t have any vice.  Like a lot of women I do like shoes, bags and clothes, but don’t really indulge in them so much.  If I had one vice, that would be my love for Folio books.  I love their beautifully illustrated books, especially when they come through the post.  I love the box and how they lovingly package all their books and the little details that come with it like the name of the person who made all this possible.

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I think it’s the little details like this one, that makes a costumer really happy and would make them keep coming back for more.  Admittedly their books cost more than a regular paperback or even a hardcover from your usual high street bookstore like Waterstones.  I think that’s what makes them even more special.  You buy these books as a treat, or on a special occasion, or when you’re feeling like shit and just want to feel a little bit better even though deep inside, you know that this is all just  superficial.

And yet, you still give in and even though the husband gave me the go-signal to splurge, I only ordered one from the March 2016 collection which is the selected poems of the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova whom I used to read when I was in my 20s.  You can’t really find much of her works in regular bookshops.  My only copy of her poetry was a thin one, bought in a poetry bookshop in Hay-On-Wye, the town of books in Wales a while ago before T was born, so was really pleased when Folio books came out this month with her poetry.

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And as always the Folio society didn’t disappoint me.

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The book came with its usual slip-cover and a lovely photo of the poet.

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This time though instead of beautiful illustrations which the Folio books are known for, it came with photographs of Anna Akhmatova and places that have importance to her and her work.

All our books have been packed away and I can’t bear to unpack them, especially since we are still hoping to move soon.  I can’t wait to be able to take them all out one by one, and to put all of them back on our shelves where they belong, not in those awful boxes.  Soon …

What about you?

What are the little things that make you happy, especially when you’re going through a really difficult period in your life?

Do share.

Little T’s Retail Fix

The last few remaining days of little T’s half-term break was a hectic one.  We drove over to Beds to visit her grandparents, we don’t see them as much as we want, although they did spend Christmas with us.  That’s one of the downside of leaving away from family, you don’t see them often, worse for me, mine are oceans away, though luckily, I’ll be seeing some of them over the holidays!

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T loves to sit in front with her dad, we allow it only in the small roads, but once back in the main roads, we move her behind again.  I guess it makes her feel all grown-up sitting in front!

While T was happy to visit family, her main top place to visit was the mall so she could go shopping!  On Monday, while her dad was in a meeting, little T and I went for a retail fix.  She brought all her saved-up coins from her piggy bank, all £6.75 of it.  Managed to buy a small mermaid that can swim in the bath for £5.75 which was originally on for about £12!  She has a few pennies left to put back in her piggy bank.  Since she was such a good girl, we told her she could have an additional toy she could choose, she wanted a Rapunzel doll and luckily for us, there was one on sale in the Disney shop.  Phew.

And the day before that, we also went on a book shopping fix.  As you can see from the featured image, little T chose more than a couple.  She’s a lucky girl, her grandparents gave her a ten-pound note to spend in Waterstones, which didn’t take her long to do.  She chose Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by British Illustrator and The Observer Political Cartoonist, Christ Riddell which was a bit pricey at £10.99 but so worth it, with its hard bound cover and lovely illustrations.

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While her pile of books are a little bit advanced for her to read on her own (they all have chapters), she absolutely loves them.  Her current faves are the Harper series by CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell.  She loves Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella and managed to get the newly released Harper and the Circus of Dreams.  She also bought another Chris Riddell book “Ottoman and the Yellow Cat” and Witch Wars by Sibeal Pounder.  She reads them all at night with the help of her dad.

Aside from books, my little girl has a shoe addiction.  I love them too, but not as much as she does.  We’ve promised her some new converse, since her last one didn’t fit her anymore.  She’s had red, pink and blue ones.  This time she chose purple.

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Yes, they are still a little bit big for her.  But we purposely chose a size bigger, it has to last her till  at least summer! 😉

I also bought her a few clothes, just basic ones like leggings, a few tops and a dress.  Yes, it’s all about little T.  Okay fine, I might have bought myself a new top too 😉

What about you?  Do you or your little ones like shoes too?

On Blogging, Vices and a few other Bits and Bobs

On Small Joys

“For you mummy!”  T will say as she comes back from her walk, once again, with an offering of flowers she’s picked for me.  Last Sunday, it was a hydrangea pictured above.  I put it in a used tin can of sweet corn and it’s now sitting on my kitchen window.  Seeing it there makes me smile and my heart is full.

On Blogging

I’ve mentioned it on twitter, I’m about to go self-hosted and move from wordpress.com to wordpress.org.  A friend of mine recommend a good-affordable host, so I’m going with them.  But I’m not a techie you see.  I don’t know anything about htmls, they actually give me a headache, a bit like numbers 😉  But I’m rolling my sleeves on this one and hope for the best and that I don’t mess it up and lose all my files.  Not doing it yet though, I’m still mustering the courage to do it and no, I’m not being melodramatic.  I’m genuinely nervous about doing it on my own, in spite friends and family telling me, it’s really not that difficult.

This doesn’t mean though that I’m going to suddenly go all gung ho on my blog.  As much as I would like to be active just like the others (I’ve read so many blogging goals post for this year).  But the thing is, blogging has always been something I like doing, it’s my “me” time.  That’s probably why going all serious about it is a big turn-off for me.  I’ve been blogging on and more than fifteen years already, mostly as an anonymous blogger, I still am, well  sort of, but I like it this way.  I love the blogging community.  I’m friends with a lot of lovely bloggers online and I love it.  But attending conferences and being “out there” isn’t my thing.  Maybe I should add at the moment, things may change, you’ll never know right?  The only blogging goal I have is to try to write more when I can.

On Reading

Like blogging, I’ve been really slow about consuming my book pile.  Before T, I was a voracious reader.  As a child, it was my escape.  Perhaps, “escape” isn’t the right word to use, because I had a fairly happy childhood.  But I loved immersing myself in a book and it looks like little T is the same.  Before the Christmas break, I purchased some really beautiful books with the Folio Society.  The illustrations are just pure art with vibrant colours, each scene jumping at you and the characters become alive.  Most of the books I ordered were classic Russian authors like Pushkin pictured below.  It’s a collection of short stories called “The Queen of Spades”.  I am loving every page.

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When the books arrived, I opened them with care, ran my hands through the pages and inhaled each book, as if I was cooking a meal and was checking the aroma. It was good.  It smelled good and looked really handsome, some of them even had their own slip-case.  It wasn’t surprising that when Folio books sent me an alert that they were on sale, I ordered another one of Pushkin’s book, Onegin.  I can’t wait.  This is becoming an expensive vice.  I ought to control myself.  I’m lucky my husband shares the same passion, if not, I’d be in trouble.

On Journal Writing

I’m still struggling on that one.  Yesterday, I wrote my first entry.  And it was a few paltry lines.  Pathetic – really.  I ought to write more.  But it’s been a struggle the past five years.  I wonder why.  Surely it’s not because of motherhood?  But I will persevere.  Journal writing is important to me.  I want to be able to do it, like I used to – instinctively.  I want my voice back.

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Do you have a vice?

Do share.

Do you feel the need to curb it?

Book Review: Momma Don’t You Worry

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a paranoid mother.  I have unfounded fears about something not nice happening to my daughter when she’s not with me.  When she’s out on a school-trip, I actually count the hours till she’s back safe in our home.  When we’re out walking the dog in our little village, I hold her hand.  I know when she’s with her dad, he lets her run ahead without him, but she’s a good girl. She knows when to stop and wait for her dad.  Somehow she knows that when she’s with me, she’s not allowed to do that.  She holds my hand even without me telling her to do so.

Momma Don’t you Worry by Louie Lawent, is a sweet-very easy book to read to your little ones.  It explains the importance for children to listen to their parents and hold their hands when out in big crowds, without scaremongering.  The words have a nice rhythm to it, which of course will appeal to children, as it did with little T, although I think she was just a little bit too young for the book.

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However, little T still appreciated the story and understood what it meant.  When I asked her what the story was all about, she said “It’s about a little boy who got lost because he didn’t want to hold his mummy’s hand”.  Then she added, “I always hold your hand mummy”.  She certainly does 🙂

The book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for only $1.29.  So if you’re looking for a book to add to your collection, or if you have a stubborn little one who refuses to hold your hand, this might just be the perfect book to give to them.

What about you? Are you a paranoid mother too?

Disclaimer:  Was sent a PDF copy by the author of the book for the purpose of this review, however opinions are by mine alone and of course, little T’s as well.

Family Fever

The Dreaded World Book Day

I’ve been seeing blog-posts, tweets, IG photos, FB updates of parents who seem to have developed an aversion to World Book day all because the kids have to once again dress-up.  Last time, she went as Elsa during Comic Relief or Red Nosed Day (a   fundraising event for charity here in the UK).

As a first-time mother, I’m not there yet.  I can’t say I’m enjoying it, though it’s lovely to take photos of T all dressed-up.  But I can understand why some mother dread it, especially if they have more than one child to think about.

Imagine my fear when I first asked little T what she wanted to dress-up as on World Book day and she replied “I want to be Anna from Frozen!“.  My mind was racing, I was thinking flipping-ding-dong-bells!  How much will it cost to buy an Anna costume?  Could I buy it second-hand on eBay?  Could I make it?  I remembered someone made costumes for her daughter out of paper.  Could I do that too?  But I’m really crap at doing anything crafty.  That’s beyond my mummy-powers!  

Then I remembered her book “The Night Pirates”.  It’s one of my favourite books of hers.  A charming book about girl-pirates who ask a little boy if he would like to join them for an adventure of fun!  And then inspiration kicked in.

“You could be a girl-pirate!”  I announced this to my little girl, a little bit too eagerly I admit.

“Hmmm.  I’m not sure Mummy!”  The little git darling replied.

“Oh that will be fun!”  I repeated not waiting for her to reply.  I reminded her about her book and even got it to show her how fun it would be to dress-up as a girl-pirate.

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“Girl pirates are cool!”  I announced, flipping the pages to show her hoping and praying to all the gods that she’d agree to dress-up as one.

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It worked.  Phew.

Thank goodness for that.  Tomorrow, on World-Book-Day my darling girl will go as a rough, tough little girl pirate!  I think it suits her 🙂

Presenting little T’s costume:

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Wait a minute, something important is missing from that photo …

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Just to make sure we’ve got everything right, here’s a checklist:

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I think we’ve got everything covered!  To think we didn’t have to spend a single dime for that outfit.  Her stripey-red top and black trousers are old clothes she’s had for ages. The rest, I have to thank a close friend and her husband who gave little T a “How to dress like a Pirate Kit” complete with bandana, compass and eye-patch, the last time they visited.  “A” if you’re reading this, thank you! 🙂  And the parrot is an old puppet given to T by her grandparents.

Bring it on, World Book Day!

If you are a parent, are you ready for World Book day tomorrow?

Book Review: Confessions of a Mother Inferior by Ericka Waller

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple”
– Jack Kerouac

Write what you know about, what you’re familiar with, I’ve heard those lines dozens of times from writing workshops, and books on writing; advice for people who want to write their own novel for the very first time and Ericka Waller, did just that.

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This is a must-read for all mothers; you’ll recognise each and every character she has mentioned on the book.  The school-run mothers, I know them too. You know, those who like to stand around in circles, talking as if they have nothing else important to do.  Perhaps, they’re just stalling and doing their best to delay going back home to a pile of unwashed dishes/laundry, not to mention the mess in the living room.  Women who make you feel like a crap parent, because their kids go to school with packed lunches straight out of a pinterest page (What?! Your daughter’s sandwich isn’t shaped like a Ninja turtle?!)  And yes, they are also probably the same mums who have been drilling their kids with flash cards even before school started.  Thank goodness there are no mums in Little T’s school who show up with matching shoes and handbags.  But then again, that’s because we live in a small village by the sea.  We however have, slim, tall and blonde mothers.  The rest of us are short and fat.  Yes, I also am aware that all these are probably just in our heads.  We mothers are nuts, like that.  But no one else is allowed to say it, or else there will be war!

Erica Waller vividly describes this.  Confessions of a Mother Inferior is funny, witty and is sad too.  It’s not just the characters who suspiciously sounds like your friend or next-door-neighbor, but also the situations, and instances.  It’s almost like you’ve invited her to your home after the school run, for a cuppa, and a little chit-chat.  You know the loneliness that engulfs you as you plod on each day picking up duplo or lego parts, and you’re wondering, is this it?  Is this my life?  And you think I used to have a life and a career.  Whatever happened, and then the guilt seeps in and you think, you’re not supposed to feel that way, because you love your family and your kids.

And Peta, the main character in the book not only has to deal with all these, she is also dealing with grief, the death of her best-friend, even though it’s been four years, the pain is still there.    Then there are worries about her children:  Her middle child is not fully toilet trained and the eldest who just started reception class is having her own difficulties at school which would break any mother’s heart. Then there’s her husband.  There are indications that he might be having an affair with his beautiful young PA.  But is he really cheating on her?

I enjoyed the book, although sharper editing might have trimmed it down just a little bit, without diminishing the narrative (this process may have filtered out the handful of typographical errors that inhibited the flow).  And I also have to admit though that at first, I was a bit worried it was going to be one of those books that try too much to be funny and then like a bad joke, just fall flat in the end.  But she manages it perfectly well.

Erica is also a blogger and yes, I am familiar with her blog.  Admittedly again, I was worried about that too.  You see, the problem with bloggers who end up writing a book is that the reader (especially if that reader has read her blog), might struggle to separate the blogger, her life (or what she has shared in her blog) from the novel.  Yes, there are similarities.  In real life, she also has three kids, with the same age bracket, and is also a writer (a journalist).  But does it matter?  To me it doesn’t.  She manages to pull it off too!

I was a little disappointed with the ending, but that’s just me.  Don’t worry, I won’t mention it here, you’ll have to read the book, and I do emphasise that – it’s a definite must-read, especially if you’re looking for an insight into a mother’s concerns and pressures, feelings that are so rarely shared – even at the school gate.

Disclaimer:  I was sent the book by Britain’s Next Bestseller for the purpose of this review, but opinions and photo is by yours truly.