Friday, 13 September 2019

2019 Reading Challenge | Books 41-15 Round-Up

It is long overdue but I'm finally back with another book round-up, this time with books 41-45. I say long overdue because a) I last wrote a book round-up almost two months ago, and b) I'm way past book 45 - I've almost finished 49! I'll be doing my next round-up very soon after this one!

I have a lot of Netgalley books to get through so all of the books in this round-up have been ebooks so no pretty pictures, I'm afraid!

The Morning After The Wedding Before by Laura Ziepe - 1/5

"Did she really say 'I do'?!

Emma is getting married! She knows it should be the happiest time of her life, but she can't help feeling she's marrying the wrong man. 

So when she wakes up on her wedding day with a ring already on her finger, she panics - who did she marry last night?
I really struggled with this one.

The story follows three friends - Emma who is getting married to Charlie, Holly who has recently separated from her partner and father of her two children and Kim, a married mother of two. They are in Las Vegas for Emma's upcoming wedding.

Each chapter switches between the stories of the three ladies, with a bit of an insight into what is happening in their relationships. I found it hard to like any of the characters, mostly because I found them all a bit bland. I did enjoy Kim and her husband Andy's story though. It also seemed very long-winded and the switch from present time to a flashback took effort and it wasn't as seamless as I'd like it to be.

Emma is a blogger/social media influencer and, as a blogger myself, it really wound me up how many times it said that she got "freebies" or "free stuff". It isn't free. You have to put time and effort into your posts. It is a collaboration between you and the brand. I disliked this so much that it almost made me stop reading.

A lot of it was cliché and I saw it coming. I was happy with the ending but it's just not one for me. 

The Guilty Friend by Joanne Sefton - 4/5

"One of them is dead. One of them is lying.

Alex, Karen and Misty were an inseperable trio at university. But when Alex died suddenly, the remaining two friends could no longer look each other in the eye, knowing they both had a part to play in her death.

Thirty years later, Misty and Karen have long since moved on with their lives. But when Karen thinks she sees her former friend alive, she soon becomes obsessed with a past she thought she'd left behind.

Before long, the perfect life she's built for herself begins to unravel, and it seems as though history might just be repeating itself...

Can Karen keep her secrets hidden? Or will her guilt tear an innocent family apart?"

This was really hard for me to get into at the start and it took me over a week to finish it when usually I could complete a book in about three days.

The story follows Karen, a widowed mum of three girls, and Misty, a doctor specialising in working with patients with anorexia. They are old friends from university. It's told in present time with flashbacks to Karen, Misty and their friend Alex's time in university around 1989. We learnt that Alex had anorexia and subsequently died. It also transpires that in real time, Karen's daughter Tash also has anorexia.

It was a slow burner and it wasn't until I was around 70% in that things really started to pick up and boosted its rating for me. The epilogue left me reeling.

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker - 4/5

"Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita have worked at Truviv, Inc for years. The sudden death of Truviv's CEO means their boss, Ames, will likely take over the entire company. Each of the women has a different relationship with Ames, who has always been surrounded by whispers about how he treats women. Those whispers have been ignored, swept under the rug, hidden away by those in charge.

But the world has changed, and the women are watching this promotion differently. This time, when they find out Ames is making an inappropriate move on a colleague, they aren't willing to let it go. This time, they've decided enough is enough.

Sloane and her colleagues' decision to take a stand sets in motion a catastrophic shift in the office. Lies will be uncovered. Secrets will be exposed. And not everyone will survive. All of their lives - as women, colleagues, mothers, wives , friends, even adversaries - will change dramatically as a result.

This is such a great book that I feel like everyone needs to read.

The story follows four women; Sloane, Ardie and Grace, employees at a company called Truviv, and Rosalita the cleaner. The CEO of the company, Desmond Bankole, passes away and tipped to take over is Ames Garrett.

The ladies are worried about this as there are whispers about Ames having sexually assaulted quite a number of people, some of these ladies being victims themselves, so they decide to come forward with their stories.

What follows is the outcome, how women are treated when they come forward with an allegation, how women in business are treated by men and actually, by other women too.

Each of the women's stories are so deep and it's very well written, with things like depositions and police statements peppered in between chapters.

Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear - 4/5

"He told me he was innocent of his girlfriend's murder. 
He told me his wife was out to get him.
What he didn't tell me was why. 

He has a history of cheating.
He attended the party where his girlfriend was murdered.
And so did his wife.


Can I find the truth in the lies?"

DC Cat Kinsella and her partner Luigi Parnell, who work for the London Metropolitan Police, are assigned to a case where Naomi Lockhart is found dead in her flat. All signs point to Joseph Madden, employee at The Grindhouse coffee house, who Cat Kinsella has had a brief conversation with before about some concerns that he had with his wife's behaviour.

The story follows the Met piecing together information, conducting police interviews and, like any good crime thriller, it's packed full of twists.

This is the second book in the Cat Kinsella series but only the first I've read. We learn a bit about her personal relationships which have probably been discovered in the first book but it was easy to follow along. I love that the ending sets up for a third book. 

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton - 4/5 

"Brisbane, 1983: A lost father, a mute brother, a mum in jail, a heroin dealer for a stepfather and a notorious criminal for a babysitter. It's not as if Eli's life isn't complicated enough already. He's just trying to follow his heart, learning what it takes to be a good man, but life just keeps throwing obstacles in the way - not least of which is Tytus Broz, legendary drug dealer.

But Eli's life is about to get a whole lot more serious. He's about to fall in love. And he has to break into prison on Christmas Day to save his mum."

This book is fantastic and it's so easy to see why it has so much hype surrounding it.

It is a memoir of sorts (the author states that it's around 50/50 facts and fantasy) - the main character Eli Bell being based on Dalton himself - alongside his mute brother August (Gus), his drug user mother, her drug dealer boyfriend and his babysitter, the real life prison escapee Arthur 'Slim' Halliday.

It's a fantastic coming-of-age story, following Eli and how he navigates his world between the ages of 13 and 18. Those last three chapters were brilliant and had me hooked to see what would happen. 

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Peppa Pig Stage Playset - Review #PeppaPigStage

(AD/Gifted - We received this item in exchange for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

Although E has just turned five and likes to think she's a grown up with her love of make up and general sassiness, Peppa Pig is still one of her favourite television shows to watch and has been since she was no age.

She was very excited to get her hands on the Peppa Pig Stage Playset from Character Options to see exactly what it did.

This interactive playset works in two ways; as a stage or as a cinema.

Upon opening the box, E instantly recognised that it was a stage set. The set includes three double sided backdrops so you can create six different scenes by slotting them in the back. If you open out the hidden part of the stage at the front, you'll see a drawer containing 25 different accessories so you can really set the scene. I like that you can pop them all back in when tidying it away and keep them all together without any getting lost.

The accessories for the play scenes are a mix of both plastic and cardboard and the cardboard pieces are double sided too so there are plenty of ways to use your imagination. You even get two sets of three seats and a Peppa and George figure so they can sit and watch the show. We have lots of additional Peppa Pig characters that we have collected over the years so we can even include those in our play too.

You also have a sound panel to make it a little more interactive with sounds ranging from laughter to applause and music.

If you want to switch to a cinema style you can slot a tablet in the back and have your characters sit to watch the "movie".

E has been having so much fun with the Peppa Pig Stage Playset and I think it perfect for children aged around 3-5 but to be honest, her almost 7 year old brother was happy to join in too!

As I said above, E watches a lot of Peppa so she would happily act out episodes that she's seen or come up with something completely new altogether.

The Peppa Pig Stage Playset is available to buy from Argos and retails at £40.00.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Feeling Confident About Starting School with Kindi Kids

(AD/Gifted - We received the items mentioned in exchange for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

Starting school is such a big thing and an emotional time, not only for the parents sending their babies off, but for the child too as there can be a lot of things to worry about.

1 in 5 parents have lost sleep over their children starting nursery or school and 60% have even cried over it.

E is off to big school and it is a tough time for me because she is my last baby. I'll never do a first year of school again and it really hits that all my children are growing up. Although E can appear confident, I know she will shy away and be nervous in some situations. It's a whole new place and I wonder if she'll remember where the toilets are, if she will she be okay in the big hall having lunch with everyone else and if she will manage with changing for PE, amongst other things.

Moose Toys' Kindi Kids doll 'Marsha Mello' has been great for giving E a bit of confidence in the run up to beginning school life. Marsha is new and starting school as well and E instantly declared that she was her new best friend, telling her brother "She's going to P1 too, I think she's 4 or 5 and she's my best friend!" She has even been coming with us in the car on the school run for a wee cuddle.

The point of these toys are to encourage children with their independence and to get them used to doing new things. Starting school is a new adventure that your child is taking, a whole new world for them to discover all by themselves without mummy or daddy there.

There are a few toys in the Kindi Kids range, all of which bring nursery/school alive with friendship and play. As well as Marsha Mello, there are 3 other Kindi Kids Snack Time Friends dolls; Donatina, Jessicake and Peppa-Mint, which retail at £24.99 each. They are the most beautiful dolls with big, sparkling eyes and their heads even bobble!

E especially loves creating stories in settings that are familiar to her so things like playing mummy or pretending to be a doctor are her go-to's. Also in the Kindi Kids range you can get Kindi Fun Shopping Trolley (£14.99), Kindi Fun Refrigerator Pack (£19.99) and Kindi Fun Supermarket Pack (£29.99). This means that your little one can use their imaginations when going food shopping with their new BFF just like when they do the shopping with mummy and daddy.

There is so much fun to be had with the sets. Marsha Mellow can stand and support herself on the trolley whilst being pushed around the supermarket. She can also hold the food items, take a bite out of her cake pop and do her shopping by using the till, conveyor belt and scales.

E has absolutely loved getting familiar with Marsha Mellow and the rest of the sets. I think they are perfect for children aged around 3-5 who are starting in an unfamiliar place and will be encouraged to make new friends. The Kindi Kids range sparks a bit of confidence, encourages their imagination and, in E's case, brings a bit of humour (she thought it was hilarious that Marsha was putting her apple in the freezer of the supermarket).

You can find the Kindi Kids range at Smyths and all other good toy retailers. You can also keep up to date on their dedicated YouTube channel where they can watch episodes featuring their new dolls.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Face Paintoos - Review

(AD/Gifted - We received this item for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

My children absolutely love getting their face painted. As soon as we've got an invitation to a birthday party, they're already thinking about what to ask the face painter to do.

Unfortunately, mummy is not creative at all so me trying to paint the kids faces at home ends up being a shambles.

Face Paintoos by Interplay eliminate the faff and mess of face painting and make it so simple that anyone could do it.

We received the Party Pack and inside there were 5 'Wild Animal', 5 'Pet' and 10 'Magical' face tattoos. You also receive a sponge for application and 30 individually wrapped removal sheets.

As soon as the kids had a look at what there was to choose from, dog lover E typically chose an Dalmatian and C went for a leopard.

Firstly you need to cut each part out and apply them individually working from the top of the face down. You remove the plastic sheet and apply to the correct area of the face, similarly to a temporary tattoo. It works in the same way; you dip the sponge in water, sweep it over the paper of the transfer then hold each bit down with the sponge for around 15 seconds. By this time, you should be able to remove the paper and the design should be on the face.

Parts of this I found a little tricky, especially on E because her face is quite small. The proportion was slightly off but it worked better with C as he's older and bigger. A few times I found that I hadn't held the sponge on long enough so it would lift, particularly around the bridge of the nose, but patting it gently with the sponge seemed to restick it.

All in all, they do remove the faff and I think they'd be great if you were having a small party and were planning on doing the face painting yourself. C and E didn't keep them on very long because they felt a little tight on their face but weren't opposed to trying them out another time when we have an event to go to.

Removal wise, we needed to use two wipes each due to the size of the design then rinse with soap and water as the wipes feel a bit slimy. We had no reaction to the wipes or actual transfers which I was very pleased about.

Face Paintoos retail at £19.99 and are available from Very and all good retailers.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

What I Won - August 2019

I had a pretty decent month in August compared to past months, with quite a lot of those being Instagram wins. I wrote last month that Twitter is my downfall and that I'd have to get back into Twitter comps again - that hasn't happened! Maybe September will be better! 

Here's what I won in August:

Facebook Wins
Angry Birds Game Pack
Heaven Skincare Peppermint Clarifying Hydrogel

'Dragon On The Lagan' book

Instagram Wins
Umberto Giannini hair bundle 
Prosecco lube & 50% off voucher for So Divine

'This Is A Dog' book

Odylique spot-on serum

£50 Costa Coffee voucher

Beard brush

Twitter Wins
LEGO Duplo

Web Wins
National Geographic Kids Puzzle book 

'Mom's Perfect Boyfriend' gift box 

Did you win anything nice last month?
Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Awesome Bloss'ems - Review

(AD/Gifted - We received these items for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

We love blind bags and any toy that incorporates that but adds a more exciting element is a winner. Enter: Awesome Bloss'ems from Spinmaster.

Awesome Bloss'ems are flowerpot toys that you "plant" and feed to grow your own doll. We received two to try out and E couldn't wait to see how they worked.

Once you've unwrapped and lifted the dome off the top, you'll find a piece of thin cardboard with some decorations that you'll need for later and an instructional manual that you are advised to read before you start.

Inside the flowerpot, you'll see a large "seed". You will need to remove the insert and pull the tab in order for it to work. Once you've done that and popped it back in the pot, take the bag of sparkly play soil (from the dome that you removed from the top) and pour it all around the seed. E loved this part - mostly because it was sparkly and fluffy! 

Also inside the dome, you will see a plastic leaf. With this you scoop spoonfuls leaf-fuls of water (we had a plastic cup next to us to take the water from) on top of the soil. As if by magic, your doll will then grow!

E absolutely loved the little mini dolls that grew from her pots and she loved that they were scented. There are 25 to collect, each of them belonging to a group: So Wild, Sweet Chic, Posh Floral, Fierce Petals and Fashion Buzz. They don't have names, leaving your child with complete freedom. E decided hers were Sugar and Sally, even creating a backstory. Sally is shy and reserved whereas Sugar is diva-esque.

Once you've grown your doll, you can use the dome as a little playset. The cardboard pieces slot in easily for decoration and the leaf acts as a hammock. You can even put the lid on the dome in order to display it on a shelf and also keep all the pieces together. 

As if that wasn't enough, there is an Augmented Reality Awesome Bloss'ems app so you can have some digital fun too. If you give the app camera permission you will be able to plant seeds around your home and keep track of the real dolls you've grown from your Awesome Bloss'ems in there too. 

The Awesome Bloss'ems toys retail at £7.99 and are available from Smyths and all good toy retailers.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Getting Back to School Ready with Maqio Toys

(AD/Gifted - We received two children's backpacks in exchange for this post.)

With exactly one week until the kids go back to school, in typical 'me' fashion, I've left a lot of my school shopping until the last minute. At the time of writing this, I still have school shoes, PE shoes and coats to buy but I'll worry about that at the end of the week!

If, like me, you've yet to buy some bits, Maqio Toys have an up to 40% off sale on their backpacks. These aren't standard block colour backpacks either, they are branded character ones that definitely appeal to children.

Maqio Toys very kindly sent the children a backpack each for starting back to school. Both children typically opted for LEGO ones - they're obsessed - with C choosing the Let's Build Together LEGO Movie 2 one and E going for the LEGO Batman Girl's Rule backpack.

Quality-wise, I cannot fault them at all. Both kids were absolutely delighted with the outer design (E especially loved the glitter text on hers) and the sizes are perfect. Each have bottle holders on the side and reflective stripes on the straps which will be great to keep them safe when it comes into autumn and winter.

They are both super excited to show off their new bags to their friends next week!

As if that wasn't enough, I've since had a browse through the rest of the Maqio Toys shop where they have a whopping up to 80% off sale on too. With Christmas on the horizon, sorry to mention the C-word so early, Maqio Toys is a great place to begin your shopping with brands such as Imaginext, Barbie and Mega Bloks being reduced down.

Happy shopping!

You can find more information at Maqio Toys and you can keep up to date on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram