Monday, 15 July 2019

2019 Reading Challenge | Books 36-40 Round-Up

I'm so late with this round-up, I've actually just recently started book 43! In this post, I'll be sharing books 36-40 of the year. You can catch up with my other posts here: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-15, 26-30, 31-15. I'd also love it if you'd come add me on Goodreads!

I Looked Away by Jane Corry - 5/5

"Every Monday, 49-year-old Ellie looks after her grandson Josh. She loves him more than anyone else in the world. The only thing that can mar her happiness is her husband's affair. But he swears it's over now, and Ellie has decided to be thankful for what she's got.

Then one day, while she's looking after Josh, her husband gets a call from that woman. And just for a moment, Ellie takes her eyes off her grandson. What happens next will change her life forever.

Because Ellie is hiding something in her past.

And what looks like an accident could start to look like murder..."
Going into the book, I assumed it would be a simple story about a woman looking after her grandson, her taking her eye off him for a moment and him getting into trouble. It is so much deeper than that.

The story follows Ellie, grandmother to Josh, and her entire life story. From losing her mother as a young child, her father remarrying, gaining a baby brother and an accident which changes everything to meeting her husband and having her own children.

We also follow Jo, a homeless lady who is travelling around, just trying to get from day to day safely. Both of their stories tie together. It's such a compelling read tackling the issues of homelessness and PTSD.
A Summer To Remember by Sue Moorcroft - 4/5

"WANTED! A caretaker for Roundhouse Row holiday cottages.

WHERE? Nelson's Bar is the perfect little village. Nestled away on the Norfolk coast we can offer you no signal, no Wi-Fi and - most importantly - no problems!

WHO? The ideal candidate will be looking for an escape from their cheating scumbag ex-fiancé, a diversion from their entitled cousin, and a break from their traitorous friends.

WHAT YOU'LL GET! Accommodation in a chocolate-box cottage, plus a summer filled with blue skies and beachside walks. Oh, and a reunion with the man of your dreams.

PLEASE NOTE: We take no responsibility for any of the above scumbags, passengers and/or traitors walking back into your life..."

I read this one quite quickly as was an easy, feel-good book.

Clancy's life in London goes to pot as her relationship breaks down and she loses her job, so she decides to move to tourisy town Nelson's Bar. Her cousin Alice half-owns a house there with Aaron, the brother of her ex-fiancé Lee (who she left at the altar six years ago) as he bought his share.

Alice has been travelling since so Clancy decides to take the caretaker's job for the holiday rental cottages, meaning she can stay at the house free of charge.

There is a lot that goes on in the little village and it seems like she can't escape her past either. 

The First Breath: How Modern Medicine Saves the Most Fragile Lives by Olivia Gordon - 3/5

"The First Breath is the first popular science book about the pioneering fetal and neonatal medicine bringing a new generation into the world - a generation of babies without precedent, who would not have lived if they had been born only a few decades ago.

Olivia Gordon explores the female experience of medicine through her own personal story and sensitive, intimate case histories of other mothers' high-risk births. She details the relationship mothers develop with doctors who hold not only life and death in their hands, but also the very possibility of birth.

From the dawn of fetal medicine to neonatal surgery and the exploding field of perinatal genetics, The First Breath tells of fear, bravery and love. Olivia Gordon takes the reader behind the closed doors of the fetal and neonatal intensive care units, resuscitation rooms and operating theatres at some of the world's leading children's hospitals, unveiling the untold story of how doctors save the sickest babies."
This is a really informative book about how far we have come with regards to medical procedures involving babies in utero. It is packed full of information so, to me, it reads more like a long article or research project.

It didn't capture me in the same way that Adam Kay's This Is Going To Hurt and Leah Hazard's Hard Pushed: A Midwife's Story, books in a similar vein, did and I found it hard to get into at first. I'd put it down a lot in favour of doing something else.

It's obvious that the author has done a lot of research into the pioneers of some of the procedures that are outlined, and the things that they have been able to do are amazing.

It's Not You It's Him by Sophie Ranald - 4/5

"New Year's Eve. The most overrated night of the year, right? I have to get through a night of enforced fun, drink all the prosecco and talk about new beginnings. But I don't want new beginnings. I want my old beginning back.

It's been ten days, two hours and forty-three minutes since Tansy got dumped. Two heartbreaking weeks since Renzo, who made her weak at the knees and dizzy with excitement, found out Tansy's secret - and ended it on the spot. 

Since then, she's spent every evening scrolling through their old photos, drunk texted him twenty-six times (he stopped reading after five), and lost count of how many packets of Kleenex she's cried her way through.

That's where Operation Get Renzo Back comes in. She ropes in a new wing-woman, maxes out her credit card and accidentally-on-purpose bumps into him at every opportunity. Oh, and she finds a fake boyfriend, as you do...

But while she's busy pretending, Tansy's plan is thrown a major curveball. She has to learn the hard way that it's not her, it's him - and that sometimes, a break-up can end up being the making of you.
I was almost giving this a middle-of-the-road three star rating until the very end.

Renzo, Tansy's boyfriend of six months, has broken up with her following a secret being divulged by Tansy. She vows to win him back but I hated her character at this stage because of the lengths that she was willing to go to and the sheer desperation.

Renzo is a prat. That's all there is to say about him.

I did love the secondary characters and their relationships, and Tansy really won me over in the end. The plot was good and I liked that issues such as anorexia, gambling/financial abuse and the usage of sweatshops in the fashion industry were touched upon.
The Missing Wife by Sam Carrington - 4/5 

"You think you know those closest to you. You are wrong...

A sleep-deprived new mother approaching her fortieth birthday, the very last thing Louisa wants to do is celebrate.

But when her friend Tiff organises a surprise party, inviting the entire list of Louisa's Facebook friends, Louisa is faced with a room full of people she hasn't spoken to in years - including someone she never expected to see again: her ex-boyfriend Oliver Dunmore.

When Oliver's wife Melissa goes missing after the party, everyone remembers the night differently. Someone knows what happened to Melissa, and Louisa is determined to find them. But the truth could be closer, and the deception more devastating, than she'd ever imagined..."
Louisa is turning 40, married to Brian, with a teenage daughter and a newborn baby. Her best friend Tiff conspires with Brian to throw a surprise party for Louisa, with Tiff inviting lots of people from Louisa's Facebook friends list because Louisa doesn't really talk about her past and the people who were in it. We learn that she has disassociative amnesia regarding an incident that happened in her late teens.

One of the party attendees is Oliver Dunmore, Louisa's ex-boyfriend from her college years. After the party, Louisa starts having patchy flashbacks but can't piece together what happened. A couple of days after the party, it turns out that Melissa, Oliver's wife, has gone missing but no one at the party can even remember seeing her there.

This is so well-written and I couldn't put it down. I was desperate to see how everything would tie up together. I wasn't sold on the ending but it was an enjoyable read nonetheless!

Have you read anything good recently?
Wednesday, 10 July 2019

What I Won - June 2019

I actually dreaded coming to write this post because wins have been so thin on the ground lately, and I was sure I didn't have very much to share. Are any other compers finding it hard to win this year?

Here is what I did manage to win in June:

Facebook Wins
A bottle of Opihr gin, a gin book, four Double Dutch mixers and two bags of The Ice Co ice 

Instagram Wins
King Dice Funko Pop

Molang house playset 

Set of Teamsterz cars
Twitter Wins
C.S Lewis themed books 

Case of Walkers Max Strong Jalapeño and Cheese crisps

Web Wins 
A copy of Giraffes Can't Dance 

Magazine Wins
Ariana Grande Cloud perfume

Num Noms toys

I'm really pleased that I managed to win some toys to put away for birthdays as that's what I mentioned that I wanted to win last month. Now for some Amazon vouchers!

Did you win anything nice last month?
Thursday, 27 June 2019

My Love of Music & Encouraging My Children's Tastes

(AD - This is a sponsored post.)

Music has always been such a big part of my life and I never quite understand when people say that they don't really listen to music.

My music tastes were mostly influenced by my parents when I was a child. I credit them for my love of 80s music such as Adam and the Ants, The Smiths and Prefab Sprout - to name a few! When I hit my teenage years, that's when I really begun my love affair with music. 

I started listening to more "alternative" stuff (mostly emo, if I'm honest. I'm a die hard Panic! at the Disco fan and finally got to see Brendon Urie in the flesh this year after 14 years of waiting!), dyed my hair every colour under the sun, became involved with a group of friends who all listened to the same genres and enjoyed going to gigs. One of the first things that Chris (my partner of almost 10 years) and I did when we first met was buy tickets to go and see Dropkick Murphys together. Seeing bands is something that we love to do.

Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco, Pray for the Wicked Tour - SSE Hydro, Glasgow, March 2019
  Back then, I was very set in my ways and would only listen to that type of music but now as I get older and have children, I'm much more open. I like to expose them to music and hope that they develop the same love. Before we've even got into the car for the school runs in the morning, I'm already wondering what radio station we'll put on or whether we'll just link up a Spotify playlist on our phones. If I'm out walking without the children too, you will be sure to find me with my earphones firmly in, listening to a Spotify Daily Mix!

Trusty red earphones, probably listening to twenty one pilots
  My son, C, would listen to Five Nights At Freddys songs on YouTube 'til the cows came home but my four year old daughter E is a little obsessed with George Ezra and will always be singing 'Paradise' or 'Shotgun'!

In order to encourage the children to develop their music tastes, I've switched from having the TV idly on in the background to having a different station on the DAB radio, letting the music drift through the house. Honestly, C isn't bothered so much but E loves a boogie and is very into current pop music like Ava Max or Taylor Swift (and to let you in on a secret, I think I'm becoming a Swiftie too but don't tell 15 year old me that!).

Are your children into music? What do they like to listen to the most?
Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Hatchimals Pixies - Review

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

I'm sure everyone is familiar with Hatchimals toys, from their original HatchiBabies large eggs that crack to reveal an interactive fluffy baby that could be nurtured to adulthood, to the smaller CollEGGtibles range which my daughter E loves! Spinmaster have now added a new range - Hatchimals Pixies!

E was so excited to get her hands on two eggs from the new collection and was dying to see who was hiding inside.

The Hatchimals Pixies are from a fictional place called Hatchtopia. There are four different coloured eggs available and inside you will find one of eight Pixies. The Pixies themselves hail from different areas within Hatchtopia; 'Glittering Garden', 'Polar Paradise', 'Crystal Canyon' and 'Wishing Star Waterfall'.

The Hatchimals work in the same way as the rest of the range, simply rub your thumbs over the purple heart motif on the egg and it will crack, revealing the surprise inside. 

In our first egg, we found Glittering Gracie from Glittering Garden and five accessories - one stand, a pixie bed that fits perfectly inside the egg so it can be kept to play with, a hairband, a watering can and a flower. These fit into her hand so can also be used for play.

Our second egg contained Wishing Star Willow from Wishing Star Waterfall - E was very happy with this one as her cousin is called Willow! Her accessories were a stand, a pixie bed, a hairband, ice cream cone and an artist's palette.

E has really enjoyed playing with her new Hatchimals Pixies - so much so that she brought them to nursery the day after opening to show them off to her friends. They stand at 2.5 inches tall so they were the perfect size to pop back into her tray when she wasn't playing with them. The Pixies themselves are plastic but the wings are rubber so they move to give the effect that they are fluttering. E was also very impressed with the glittery hair and poseable heads. 

I like that the fun aspect isn't over once they have been cracked out of their eggs, the eggs can be played with too and that the accessories that come with each pixie gives a little bit of an insight into their personalities, as does the collector's sheet, encouraging your child's play.

The Hatchimals Pixies are recommended for children aged 5+ and retail at £7.99 per egg. You can find them at Smyths Toys, The Entertainer and all good toy retailers.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

2019 Reading Challenge | Books 31-35 Round-Up

I'm back again with another book round-up!

I am really enjoying getting back into reading again. You can catch up with my past round-ups here: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30. Come add me as a friend on Goodreads too!

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary - 5/5

"Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met...

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they're crazy, but it's the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy's at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven't met yet, they're about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window..." 

This has been on my to-read list for ages after seeing all the hype surrounding it on Quercus Books Instagram account.

The story follows Tiffy who has just broken up with her cheating boyfriend and needs a new place to live. Leon is subletting his flat. He works nights and stays with his girlfriend Kay at the weekend, Tiffy works 9-5 Monday to Friday so it would be perfect for them. They communicate only through Post-It notes.

It's such a deep story and I love every single character. We find out that Leon's brother is in prison, he says he's innocent and not all was as it seemed in Tiffy's relationship with her ex-boyfriend Justin. I finished the whole thing in less than a day - loved it!
Unfollow Me by Charlotte Duckworth - 5/5

"You can't stop watching her.

Violet Young is a hugely popular journalist-turned-mummy influencer, with three children, a successful husband and a million subscribers on YouTube who tune in daily to watch her everyday life unfold.

Until the day she's no longer there.

But one day she disappears from the online world - her entire social media presence deleted overnight, with no explanation. Has she simply decided that baring her life to all online is no longer a good idea, or has something more sinister happened to Violet?

But do you really know who Violet is?

Her fans are obsessed with finding out the truth, but their search quickly reveals a web of lies, betrayal and shocking consequences..." 

This book is amazing! 

Violet, mum of 3 and married to Henry, is a mummy vlogger with over 1 million subscribers on YouTube. One day, all of her social media accounts are deleted with no explanation as to why. Everyone on mummy forums are discussing it and wondering what has happened to her.

The story flits between the points of view of Lily, a single mum of one who obsessively watches Violet's channel, wishing that her life was like hers; Yvonne, a lady who is struggling to conceive a child with her partner. She is also a viewer of Violet's channel and she used to work with Henry 20 years prior; Henry and the Violet, herself.

The plot of this book is absolutely brilliant, with information being peppered in to really make you think. I don't want to give too much away but all the lines come together and you can tell it's been very well thought out. The last paragraph before the epilogue almost made me scream. I cannot recommend this enough!

Hard Pushed: A Midwife's Story by Leah Hazard - 5/5

"No sleep for twenty hours. No food for ten. And a ward full of soon-to-be mothers...

Welcome to the life of a midwife. Life on the NHS front line, working within a system at breaking point, is more extreme than you could every imagine.

From the bloody to the beautiful, from moments of utter vulnerability to remarkable displays of strength, from camaraderie to raw desperation, from heart-wrenching grief to the pure, perfect joy of a new-born baby, midwife Leah Hazard has seen it all.

Through her eyes, we meet Eleanor, whose wife is a walking miracle of modern medicine, their baby a feat of reproductive science; Crystal, pregnant at just fifteen, the precarious, flickering life within her threatening to come far too soon; Star, birthing in a room heady with essential oils and love until an enemy intrudes and Pei Hsuan, who has carried her tale of exploitation and endurance thousands of miles to somehow find herself at the open door of Leah's ward.

Moving, compassionate and intensely candid, Hard Pushed is a love letter to new mothers and to Leah's fellow midwives - there for us at some of the most challenging, empowering and defining moments of our lives."

A brilliant insight into the work of an NHS midwife. The beginning reels you in as she explains doing an episiotomy, which honestly made my stomach contort.

It's packed full of stories about patients, from a seventeen year old Chinese girl who is a victim of human trafficking to a lady who has experienced female genital mutilation and everything in between.

An eye opening read about the struggles of working long, gruelling hours, trying not to make any mistakes in a hospital that is oversubscribed and understaffed.
The Girl Who Came Out Of The Woods by Emily Barr - 4/5

"Arty has always lived in the Clearing, a commune hidden in the forests of South India. But her happy life, separate from the rest of the world, is shattered after a terrible event.

For the first time, Arty must leave her home, and head into the intriguing but frightening outside world. On the streets of India, a chance encounter leads to her becoming an unwilling overnight celebrity.

As she embarks on her journey, she discovers she is being followed by thousands of strangers, who seem to know her every move...

Forced to fight against mysterious hashtags and being constantly photographed, how can she find the help she desperately needs?

Everything is changing too fast for the girl who came out of the woods. Could she be running into a trap?"

This is the second book that I've read recently that I was putting off because of low ratings but it is absolutely brilliant.

Arty, who is 16, lives in 'the Clearing' which is situated in the woods in India. It is a small community made up of eleven people. She knows nothing of the outside world, except for what her mother told her and what she's read in books. When lots of members of the Clearing fall ill, some dying, she and her younger brother Zeus must venture out into the real world (or "the Wasteland", as they call it) to find medical help.

She is soon thrown into a whole new world of electricity and social media and money which is "the root of all evil". The story is told in two parts, Artemis' (Arty's) point of view and an unknown point of view but both unwind and tangle together. It's such a lovely story which really makes you think.
Favourite Daughter by Kaira Rouda - 5/5

"One of them lied. One of them died.

Jane's life has become a haze of antidepressants since the tragic death of her daughter, Mary. The accident, which happened over a year ago, destroyed their perfect family life forever. 

The trouble is, the more Jane thinks about that night, the more she realises that something doesn't seem right. Does her youngest daughter know more than she's letting on? What secrets is her husband still hiding from her? And why does no one trust her to be on her own?

Even if it's the last thing she does, she'll find out the truth..."

Oh wow! When I first start a book, all I want are characters that I will like. I didn't like a single character in this book but I've still given it 5 stars.

Jane Harris is a self absored, delusional, manipulative narcissist and you just love to hate her. I love how the story is written, as though Jane is speaking to the reader. It's like you are inside her brain and you are brought along with each lie she tells and her true inner thoughts.

Jane is mother to Betsy and Mary, who has died after accidentally falling off a cliff, and wife to David. Betsy doesn't have a great relationship with her, David is cheating on her and she spies on them through apps and trackers. She makes it seem like everyone is against her, she's the victim. The pace is great and Jane is waiting for the culmination of events, the truth coming out (well, her version of the truth), so it makes you want to quickly read on to see what will happen.

Have you read anything good lately? 

Monday, 10 June 2019

Pop Pops Snotz - Review

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

Slime is the 'in thing' right now and it is a craze that has not passed my children by. I don't get the hype but they love it and I love them so I put up with it, even if it does mean I'm constantly on edge and repeating "Watch you don't get it on your clothes!" I've also written about collectable toys on the blog a lot. Both C and E like these types of toys and seeing if they can get the whole collection.

Pop Pops Snotz combines both slime and collectables which means its a double win in my children's eyes. We received a little influencer box a couple of weeks ago to see what they were all about.

The name "Snotz" to me obviously makes me think of snot, but in reality the little pouches - if that's the right word! - remind me of spots or pimples. When you pop them, you will find either yellow or green slime inside and some will have a small collectable toy. It's kind of like a different take on a blind bag but a two parter because you get slime in all of them plus a nice little surprise of a toy in some.

Both children found it a bit hard to pop them at the beginning and really had to put some welly into it, C had a few angry moments and I had to help him with quite a lot of them. You need to position your fingers a certain way to burst the plastic.

Like many toy ranges, the sets come in different sizes to suit all budgets. The 6 pack Starter Packs are £4.99 and 12 pack Deluxe Packs are £7.99. Each pack has a character sheet so you can check out the name of the Snotz that you find and whether they are common, rare or limited edition. The names are all very funny and had the kids in stitches.

We like these toys a lot because even though you'd think the fun element would quickly disappear once all of them had been popped, the kids liked mixing all the slime up, hiding their characters inside and creating new games.

Pop Pops Snotz Series 1 are available now from all good retailers such as Smyths and The Entertainer. You can see C and E playing more at my Instagram Highlight.

Friday, 7 June 2019

What I Won - May 2019

I am terrible with keeping up to date with my competition win posts! I'm finding that it is a lot harder to win lately - especially compared to a year or two ago.

Here's what I won in May:

Facebook Wins
A copy of 'Hard Pushed: A Midwife's Story' by Leah Hazard 

A copy of 'Daring Daddy' by M P Robertson

Instagram Wins
LEGO Darth Vader clock 

£100 spend at Tog24 & a bottle of Sloe Motion Hedgerow Botanical vodka

Montezuma's chocolate box 

Kids camping projector

Twitter Wins
A copy of 'A Summer To Remember' by Sue Moorcroft

A copy of 'Yoga for Everyone' by Diane Bondy

Web Wins
Aurelia skin serum 

Still doing really well with book wins which is great. With both kids birthdays in September, I'm hoping for some nice toy wins in June or Amazon vouchers!

Did you win anything nice this month?