Thursday, 21 November 2019

2019 Reading Challenge | Books 51-55 Round-Up

[This post contains affiliate links meaning that I earn a few pennies if you buy through my link.]

It has been about two months since my last book round up as it is tough to find the time to read now that I am having to balance work with my blogging too. Anyway, here's my last five book reviews!

Take It Back by Kia Abdullah - 5/5

"It's time to take your place on the jury.

The victim: A sixteen-year-old girl with facial deformities, neglected by an alcoholic mother. Who accuses the boys of something unthinkable.

The defendants: Four handsome teenage boys from hardworking immigrant families. All with corroborating stories.

Whose side would you take?"

Wow. This books is definitely up there as one of the best books I've read this year.

Jodie is white teenage girl with facial deformities who accuses four of her male classmates of rape. All of the boys are Muslim. Before contacting the police, she informs Zara Kaleel, a former barrister now working as a rape counsellor. She is also Muslim.

The story is so deep and thought-provoking. You have Jodie who is used to being bullied and judged her whole life, the Muslim boys and how they are perceived in London and you also hear about Zara's background; how she had been shunned by her family for fleeing her arranged marriage and doing her thing and, in her words, not giving into oppression and standing up for herself.

As Zara is Muslim and on Jodie's side, prosecuting against four Muslims, the community in London turn against her in scenes that are so emotional and disturbing.

The court scenes are fantastically written and I honestly don't think I can fault this book at all. I am left wanting more.

Lies Lies Lies by Adele Parks - 4/5

"Daisy and Simon's marriage is great, isn't it?

After years together, the arrival of longed-for daughter Millie sealed everything in place. A happy little family of three.

And so what if Simon drinks a bit too much sometimes - Daisy's used to it, she knows he's letting off steam. Until one night at a party things spiral horribly out of control. And that happy little family of three will never be the same again."

I loved 'I Invited Her In' by Adele Parks so I was very excited to read her newest release.

Simon and Daisy are married with a six year old daughter called Millie. The story follows their relationship, the lies that each of them are telling and how everything comes out. It's so well written and at times you aren't sure what the truth actually is. 

There are so many great topics covered - infertility, alcoholism and controlling relationships, to name a few. The ending where we find out the absolute truth shocked me and I'm still not sure what I think about it!

Expectation by Anna Hope - 3/5

"Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in East London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry - and the promise of everything to come. They are electric. They are the best of friends. Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be. Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life?"

To me, this was just okay. It reminds me a lot of Sally Rooney's 'Normal People' and I really didn't get the hype with that one.

Lissa, Hannah and Cate have been friends for years and are now in their mid-thirties. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the three women with a few flashback chapters in between.

Lissa is an actress, still trying to make it and catch her big break. Hannah is in a long-term relationship with Nathan and they are struggling to conceive. Cate got married to Sam quite quickly after meeting and they have a baby; Tom. Each of the women aren't without their problems and it honestly just felt a bit boring for me. It's as though the book trundles along with no real excitement and I don't think it helps that I didn't really warm to any of the characters.

Gone by Leona Deakin - 4/5

"Four strangers are missing. Left at their last-known locations are birthday cards that read: YOUR GIFT IS THE GAME. DARE TO PLAY?

The police aren't worried - it's just a game. But families are frantic. As psychologist and private detective Dr Augusta Bloom delves into the lives of the missing people, she finds something that binds them all. And something that makes them very dangerous indeed.

As more disappearances are reported and new birthday cards uncovered, Dr Bloom races to unravel the mystery and find the missing people. But what if, this time, they are the ones she should fear?"

A great debut thriller!

Augusta Bloom is a psychologist and private detective who, at the beginning of the book, is having appointments with teenager Seraphine Walker who she believes to be a psychopath.

Parallel to this, we are told about a few people who have gone missing after receiving a card on their birthday which simply says "Happy first birthday. Dare to play?" One of the poeple targeted is Lana. Lana gets on Augusta's radar as she is friends with the sister of her colleague, Marcus Jameson.

The two work together to suss out why these particular people have been targeted and what they're doing. It is a jam-packed thriller with some fabulous twists, even if some are a bit unbelievable! It's very obvious that the author knows a lot about psychology. 

More Than Just Mum by Rebecca Smith - 3/5 

"Hannah Thompson loves her family beyond words...but sometimes she wishes they would recognise her as more than just 'mum'.

Eldest son Dylan is soon to be flying the nest, sixteen-year-old Scarlet keeps asking about penalties for worryingly specific crimes, they've forgotten World Book Day and Benji will absolutely not be Where's Wally again, and it's at least two days before she and hubby Nick can sit down for Wine Wednesdays...and even longer until Fizzy Friday.

Determined to find herself a job that she loves, earn a whole lot of money and to have her teenagers respect her as 'Hannah' as well as 'mum'; it might sound like a tall order, but she's a mum on a mission." 

More Than Just Mum follows 43 year old part-time English teacher and mother-of-three, Hannah Thompson. She is fed up with teaching a subject that wasn't her specialty and parenting teenagers so she tries to reinvent herself. 

Channelling her inner E.L. James, she attempts to write her own Fifty Shades-esque book.

Although the book is funny in parts, it trundled along with no real chase or climax.


Wednesday, 20 November 2019

What I Won - September & October 2019

Whoops! As you can probably tell by the title of this blog post, I completely forgot to write my What I Won in September post! Now we are almost finished November so I thought it was probably about time that I did a wee post for October wins and just added the September ones in too.

Facebook Wins:
LG V50 ThinQ mobile phone & dual screen and £50 Amazon voucher 

Sponge Cake Card Halloween slice

Twitter Wins:
'Sea of Lost Love' book

MAM 2 pack of soothers 

Instagram Wins:
Wifey & Hubs hanging decorations

WeVibe Melt

£50 Shoeaholics voucher & Starskin Beauty products

Signed Mrs Hinch book 

Halloween hanging decoration

£30 kids clothing store spend for myself and Tammy

Web Wins: 
Robozuna cereal

Have you won anything nice lately?

Thursday, 14 November 2019

The Dream Pillow - Review

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

At the age of 5, E has a wonderful imagination which calls for fantastic stories and drawings. One downfall can be that at bedtime, it can run a bit wild and cause nightmares if she thinks of scary things.

The idea behind the Dream Pillow is to encourage your children to think of positive, happy things before bed to hopefully manifest them in their dreams. Children thrive on visuals so it wasn't enough to just think them, it is nice to have a physical object to cuddle up to as well.

The Dream Pillow comes in two different Dreamimals; Sharkie and Lamby, and I knew E would love the lamb so I opted for the latter.

Inside the box, which is beautiful itself and encourages creativity as you can colour it in and draw, you get a brief explanation about the Dream Pillow, a fortune teller (remember making those at school?!), a 60-sheet lined cloud shaped notepad and the pillow itself.

Upon opening, E became totally besotted with Lamby. She has been a little under the weather lately with a cold so she just wanted to cuddle up with it instantly. I discussed with her what the Dream Pillow was and how it worked and she had lots of ideas of what she wanted to dream about so she set to drawing them on a piece of the cloud shaped paper.

The pillow is shaped a bit like a hand muff so you pop your drawing inside and hopefully whatever you've drawn will appear in your dreams. She did wake the following morning saying she dreamt of " a million doggies kissing her" which was in fact one of her drawings so I'll take that as a win! The fortune teller comes in handy to give your child some ideas of what to draw because as the days go on, it might be a bit difficult for them to think of new things.

Lamby is so fluffy and soft, sort of like a teddy fleece material, so it's very easy to want to snuggle up with it. C has even asked for the Sharkie one so I'll definitely be buying him that one!

I think the Dream Pillow is such a wonderful idea, especially for little ones who are prone to nightmares and can be quite anxious at bedtimes.

You can watch the video below for a bit more infomation or visit fellow blogger Cassie (Lily's Little Learners) post here.

They retail at £22.94 each and can be purchased from the Dream Pillow website. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Personalised Videos from Santa with Portable North Pole (PNP) - Review

(AD/Gifted - We received a code for a free Magic Pass in exchange for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

Christmas is the most wonderful time of year but Christmas with children is utterly magical. My two are seven and five now and I dread the time they tell me that they don't believe.

I always want to try and keep the magic alive and the Portable North Pole app does exactly that. We were very kindly gifted a Magic Pass to use on the app (available on the App Store and Google Play or online too). The Portable North Pole is the original Santa messaging service which has sent over 220 million messages since its launch in 2008.

Downloading the app is super simple then there are lots of videos to choose from once you've purchased your Magic Pass. This is £12.99 at the moment but there will be free videos available later on this month so be sure to sign up to be notified!

With the Magic Pass, you get:
  • Unlimited Premium videos and calls for an unlimited number of kids
  • First name guaranteed
  • Multi-device scenarios
  • Reaction recorder
  • 2019 PNP Nice List Certificates
  • 1080hd downloads
  • Family options
  • Video calls from Santa
There is so much to choose from, from a simple personalised video, to birthday messages, and finding out if you are on the nice or naughty list! I started off with a simple personalised video for each of my children and it's very easy to customise. You type their name and you will be able to hear how Santa will pronounce it. You can also select gender, date of birth, a photograph of your child and some information about them such as what country they live in and what they do, such as going to nursery or school.

Once the video is created, it gets saved into the parent's section. You can then make it available to watch on the children's section, which means you won't get caught out! The parent's section is password (or, in my phone's case, fingerprint) protected so there's no chance of them ruining the magic.

Within the children's section, as well as being able to watch their videos, there are things like an advent calendar, bedtime stories and games.

When your child is ready to watch their video, you can opt to record their reaction. I absolutely love this aspect and genuinely thought I was going to burst into tears when watching them back. The smiles on their faces are absolutely amazing and E even asked "How does he know where I live!?" when Santa mentioned Northern Ireland. I mean, look at their smiles!

I am honestly blown away by what is available on the app and how convincing the videos are. The scenes are beautifully snowy with Santa and his elves all working hard. I would definitely recommend it to anyone with little ones.

What's even better is that PNP have partnered with leading hospitals around the world so that whenever you purchase a call or video, a portion is donated to the participating children's hospital closest to you.

You can find out more about PNP on their website.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Hatchimals CollEGGtibles Royal Snowball Jewellery Box Dozen - Review

(AD/Gifted - We received this item for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)
One of E's favourite toys over the past couple of years have been Hatchimals CollEGGtibles. We love how they always add something new and she finds it so exciting trying to collect all the characters from the series.

It is Hatchimals Week of WOW over social media this week and each day, the Spinmaster Twitter account will be giving away that day's featured Hatchimals toy and you can read reviews of the toy from a selection of bloggers. There will also be a Twitter party on the Spinmaster account on Saturday 9th November at 6pm where you will have the chance to win more prizes and discuss the range. 

I knew the Hatchimals CollEGGtibles Royal Snowball Jewellery Box Dozen would be a huge hit with E as she loves all things fancy and wintery which, judging by the name, I thought these would be.  

The 12 pack comes in a egg box style and upon opening you'll find two Hatchimals characters that aren't in eggs and 10 that still need to be "hatched". The eggs themselves in this set are beautiful and glittery and we love the colours. E instantly exclaimed "Ooh, the dark blue is very royal!" 

If you have never had Hatchimals CollEGGtibles before, in order to hatch the animals out, you simply rub the purple heart motif on the front of the egg. It will start to turn pink from the heat and then begin to crack. You can then break it apart and see who's inside.

You get a collector's sheet and before you've even opened any eggs, you can see that there are loads to collect. They are split into types and the egg colour refers to whether they are common, royal rare, ultra rare or limited edition so you have some sort of an idea about who will be inside.

E was super lucky and got one limited edition (Salon Foxfin from the "Glitter Salon" in the Royal Hatch range) and two royal rare ones (Royal Koalabee and Royal Pandor from the "Polar Royals" in the Royal Snowball range). We also only got one dupe which E has declared must mean that they are twins.

The concept of Hatchimals CollEGGtibles are so much fun. It is similar to the surprise of a blind bag but makes it a little more fun. The plastic egg box can then be saved to store your animals in so that they don't get lost. One thing that is different about Royal Snowball from the Hatchimals CollEGGtibles that we've owned before is that not only do you get an animal in the eggs, but most will come with accessories too. Some of ours had scarves, hats, crowns and even a little snowman - adorable!

We can't wait to collect the rest!
Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Luvabella Newborn - Review

(AD/Gifted - We received this item for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links, meaning I will earn a few pennies if you purchase through my link.)

Ever since E was a baby herself, she has loved dolls and that love has only grown as she's gotten older. She enjoys playing mummy, looking after her babies and even getting "granny" (me - but at 27 years of age, I'm not too impressed with that title!) to babysit when she's off to work.

Luvabella have brought a new doll out - Luvabella Newborn. Although we never owned the original Luvabella, I had read reviews and liked how interactive and realistic it sounded so we were delighted to see what the new Luvabella Newborn was like.

Luvabella requires 4 x AA batteries which aren't included so it's worth having some at home if you are picking this up as a Christmas present. Once you have inserted the batteries, there is a switch above the panel on her back to switch her off or choose between two different volume levels - I love when toys have this!

When switched on, Luvabella will wake up, yawn and make noises. She is very interactive and will react to your touch. If you tickle her, she will giggle and babble, or leave her on her back and she will drift off to sleep.

Like a real baby, she can get fussy and need settled. At this point she will take either her dummy or bottle. Simply bring either of these to her mouth and she will start sucking on it. We did find that we had to wait a few seconds  before the doll registered that the bottle or dummy was there.

If feeding Luvabella, she will probably need winded afterwards so she will need to be held up and have her back tapped a few times.

The way the face moves has really impressed both myself and E. Her eyes open and close, her mouth moves and when you lie her down to sleep, you'll even see her chest rise and fall like she's breathing. For me, this definitely sets Luvabella high above the rest of similar dolls on offer.

Luvabella Newborn is suitable for ages 4+ and she has a lovely soft body to make it suitable for young children. Her arms and legs are not poseable so really she can only lie down but this hasn't been an issue for E. She has enjoyed looking after her "real baby" and swaddling her like a newborn.

You can find out more by watching the below video.

Luvabella Newborn is available with blonde or dark brown hair and is priced at £59.99 from Smyths all good toy retailers.