Thursday, 17 September 2020

The Witch Hunter by Max Seeck - Review

[AD/Gifted - I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

The Witch Hunter by Max Seeck - 4/5 
Blurb:
"Helsinki: Detective Jessica Niemi is called to investigate a brutal murder in  an affluent suburb.

A bestselling author's wife has been killed. But this is no ordinary murder: ritualistic and grisly, she is found dead dressed in a black evening gown, sitting at the end of an empty dining table, her face frozen in a bone-chilling smile. As more murders follow, each mirroring scenes from the  writer's Witch Hunter novels, it seems to be the work of an obsessive fan.

But Jessica soon realises this is not the work of one person. As the countdown begins to beat the killers to their next move, the motives seem far too personal. The hunt is on, but no-one is quite what they seem and as her own dark past comes to light, Jessica must battle her own demons while trying to catch the killers before they claim their next victim."

Review:
Oh wow, there is so much going on in this book.

Roger Koponen is the author of a series of Witch Hunter books. Whilst away at an event, his wife is murdered in their home in a style reminiscent of the murders in his books.

Jessica Niemi and the rest of the police department quickly try to find out what other deaths happen and how they happen, so they can prevent them.

The main bulk of the story, the investigation, is set over two days and it is jam packed. We also hear about Jessica's brief relationship that she had with a man named Colombano when she was visiting Venice when she was around 20 years old.

The plot is fantastic. The police officers are desperately hunting for clues to bring everything together and I thought I had it sussed quite early on. My head is still spinning with the amount of twists. So many parts shocked me. It touches on mental illness and the supernatural/the occult and I feel like that's all I can say without giving away too much!

It is set in Finland and I could just imagine it as a English-subtitled Netflix drama. It is a long book with short chapters so it is easy to fly through and it was great to get backstories of the police officers too. 
Tuesday, 15 September 2020

2020 Reading Challenge | If I Could Say Goodbye by Emma Cooper

(AD/Gifted - I received a copy of this book in exchange for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links. If you click to buy anything through a link on this page, I will earn a few pennies at no extra cost to you.)

If I Could Say Goodbye by Emma Cooper - 5/5 

Blurb:
"Jennifer Jones' life began when her little sister, Kerry, was born. So when her sister dies in a tragic accident, nothing seems to make sense any more.

Despite the support of her husband, Ed, and their wonderful children, Jen can't comprehend why she is still here, while bright, spirited Kerry is not.

When Jen starts to lose herself in her memories of her sister, she doesn't realise that the closer she feels to Kerry, the further she gets from her family.

Jen was never able to say goodbye to her sister. But what if she could?

Would you risk everything if you had the chance to say goodbye?"

Review:
This book is utterly beautiful.

Jennifer's sister Kerry dies in front of her. Kerry saves Jennifer's life by pushing her out of the way of an oncoming car and she takes the impact.

The story follows Jennifer, her husband Ed and their two children, Hailey and Oscar, focusing on how they deal with Kerry's death. Ed can see a change in Jennifer's behaviour and becomes worried about her. Jennifer is hallucinating her sister and often interacts with her, leaving Ed to think that she's having a breakdown. Jennifer blames herself for her death.

The pace of this book is fantastic and you can see the steady decline in Jen's mental health. It is so beautifully written. There are moments that make you want to laugh and others that have you almost crying.

Ed is just the most wonderful character. He absolutely adores his wife and just wants to make everything better for her. Everyone needs an Ed in their life! 

It is funny, full of emotion and heartbreaking. I would definitely recommend.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Vet Squad Toys - Review

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


E is a massive animal lover, she will instantly make a beeline towards any animal that she sees so I've always said that I wouldn't be surprised if she ended up being a veterinarian when she's older.



Vet Squad is a new range of toys from Vivid Toys which, as you can probably guess by the name, are centred around vets, but the best thing is that they are all female characters.


There are a few different toys in the range, all at different price points, and they have teamed up with Sea Life Trust to donate some of the money raised from the sale of these toys. We received:

  • Vet Squad Air Adventure (£16.99)
  • Vet Squad Reef Rescue (£12.99)
  • Vet Squad Forest Rescue (£12.99)
  • Vet Squad Animal 3 pack (£3.99)
  • 4 x Vet Squad Vet & Pet sets (£7.99 each)
E wanted to open the smaller sets first, the individual characters that come with their own animal; Emily & Brooke the Dog, Yara & Luna the Rabbit, Robin & Snowy the Owl, Ava & Leo the Cat. Each character has a little backpack with two different veterinary objects to help them do their job. These can attach onto the backpacks and you can also put them in their hands.


I love the diversity with the characters. Not only do we have characters of different races but Robin wears glasses too! As a glasses-wearer myself, I was very excited about this as it is quite rare to see when it comes to children's toys.


Next up, the Reef Rescue and Forest Rescue. The Reef Rescue set comes with an Emily figure, the speedboat, a turtle (complete with removable bandage on its flipper, stethoscope, bucket and sponge. The Forest Rescue set comes with an Ava figure, the jeep, elephant with a feeding bottle and a little case that holds a bucket, sponge and a pair of sunglasses.

The play options are great with these sets. E liked to put her characters in different scenarios, having them rescue the poor, injured animals. The figures are poseable and E just needed a little help to get them into the seats of the vehicles. Each items is well made and to make the sets even more exciting, if you wipe the injured area of the animals with warm water, it will disappear like the vet has fixed them!


E has taken to filling up the bathroom sink and bringing the Reef Rescue set in for some water play too.

The Air Adventure set is probably the most exciting one in my opinion. In this set, you get the helicopter, Robin figure, a horse and another case which holds smaller accessories. The helicopter has a real working winch so it can rescue the horse from danger.


E has enjoyed playing with all of the sets together. The speedboat that comes with the Reef Rescue set has a hole at the back so she would pretend that Emily's speedboat had gotten into difficulty and use the winch to pull it out. I love that each set has it's own functionality but can all work well together.

If you want to add more to your collections, the Animal 3 packs are great. Inside these sets, you get two animals and an accessory. These would make great little stocking fillers for children who already own any of the bigger sets.


There is full Vet Surgery Playset due for release at the beginning of October and judging by how much E absolutely loves the rest of the range, Santa will definitely be bringing it!

You can check out the full Vet Squad range at Smyths Toys.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

2020 Reading Challenge | Truth Be Told by Kia Abdullah

[This post contains affiliate links. If you click to buy anything through a link in the post, I will earn a few pennies at no extra cost to you.]


Truth Be Told by Kia Abdullah - 5/5 


Blurb:

Kamran Hadid feels invincible. He attends Hampton school, an elite all-boys boarding school in London, he comes from a wealthy family, and he has a place at Oxford next year. The world is at his feet. And then a night of revelry leads to a drunken encounter and he must ask himself a horrific question.


With the help of assault counsellor, Zara Kaleel, Kamran reports the incident in the hopes that will be the end of it. But it's only the beginning...

 

Review:

"Because without changing problematic men - without changing the system that makes them that way - we can't improve things for women."


I absolutely loved Take It Back by Kia Abdullah so I was worried that Truth Be Told wouldn't be able to hold a candle to it. I was wrong. Another fantastic read by Abdullah.


Kamran Hadid attends Hampton, a prestigious boys' boarding school. To the Hadids, appearances are everything.


After a party on campus, a drunken Kamran realises that he has been raped by a fellow student, Finn Andersen.


The book follows the court case and the repercussions for all involved. There are two sides to the story and both parties believe their truth.


It is a very deep story that touches on the stigma surrounding male rape, the differences between the strength of men and women (why didn't he fight him off?) and gay people in the Muslim community.


It was great to see Zara Kaleel back again and to follow her personal story. You can read this one as a standalone without having read Take It Back, but it is fantastic so I would definitely read that first.


Truth Be Told is full of emotion and kept surprising me. Five out of five stars isn't enough for this one!


Thursday, 3 September 2020

2020 Reading Challenge | The Wish List by Sophia Money-Coutts

[AD/Gifted - I received a copy of this book from the publisher for a review. This post also contains affiliate links. If you click to buy anything through a link in this post, I will earn a few pennies at no extra cost to you.]


The Wish List by Sophia Money-Coutts - 4/5 


Blurb:

Be careful what you wish for…
 
Florence Fairfax isn’t lonely. She loves her job at the little bookshop in Chelsea and her cat, Marmalade, keeps her company at night. But everything changes when her stepsister, Mia, announces that she’s engaged to her boring golf-playing boyfriend. That’s when Florence meets Irish love coach, Gwendolyn.
 
…because you just might get it!
 
When Gwendolyn makes Florence write a wish list describing her perfect man, Florence refuses to take it seriously. Finding someone who likes cats, doesn’t wear pointy shoes and can overlook her ‘counting habit’? Impossible! Until, later that week, a handsome blond man asks for help in the bookshop…
 
But is Rory the one, or is he simply too good to be true? Florence is about to find out that her criteria for finding Mr Right aren’t as important as she thought – and that perhaps her perfect man has been right there all along…


Review:

I really enjoyed this book!


Florence Fairfax is 32 and single. In fact, she's never had a proper boyfriend. When her half-sister Mia gets engaged, her stepmother recommends that Florence goes to a love guru on Harley Street. To shut her up, Florence complies even though she thinks it's a load of rubbish.


While at her session, she must create a wish list of things she wants in a man. Later, a man enters the bookshop that she works in and they hit it off and eventually enter into a relationship. Rory (the Tory - eek!) works in politics and hopes to become Prime Minister one day but not everyone is Florence's life is taken by him.


I love Florence and the depth of her character. This book made me laugh and although I'd guessed where it was going, it was an exciting read and I enjoyed everything about it. Money-Coutts has written such likable characters which makes this book a pleasure to read. If I had one bad thing to say about it, it would be that it ended too soon and I wanted more!

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Granny Franny's Big Red Bus - Children's Book Review

[AD/Gifted - We received a copy of this book for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]


Reading is a very important part of my life and I knew it was something that I wanted my children to love. C and E will be 8 and 6 this month and they have never once gone to bed without a bedtime story. Their bedroom looks like a library and they love having a huge selection to choose from at bedtime.



We were very kindly sent a copy of Granny Franny's Big Red Bus by Sonia Beldom and they couldn't wait to read it.


Blurb:

"Granny Franny is always surprising her grandchildren, Ronni and Jax with sensational stories and surprise days out. One day, she decides to do something super special for their birthday. She buys a big red bus to take them on a magical mystery tour of London; what she's forgotten is that she can't actually drive a bus. Then she meets Thinkerbell, the talking bus bell and everything changes. Then it starts to rain...a lot.


Review:

Granny Franny loves her grandchildren Ronni and Jax and wants to do a fun day Sunday for their birthday. She decides to buy a beautiful, shiny red double decker bus for a London adventure but then realises that she doesn't actually know how to drive it!



Enter Thinkerbell, a personified bell that helps Granny Franny get to grips with how to drive this new bus. Obviously, the path doesn't run smoothly and we get into a bit of a pickle.


Aimed at children aged around 3-8, both my children enjoyed this book. The rhymes made it interesting and the story was engaging and kept their interest. E loved joining in with some of the text such as the "DING DING DING" of the bell. The illustrations, drawn by Beldom too, made it that little bit more special. 



I love a book that draws on the author's experience because it makes it seem more real. Sonia Beldom made her lifelong dream come true by saving up for lessons and becoming a bus driver in 2018.


Granny Franny's Big Red Bus was actually written during the COVID-19 pandemic and sales are helping to raise fun for bus-related charities while all private hire vehicles were off the road.


You can purchase your own digital or hard copy from Amazon.

Monday, 31 August 2020

Nipper Cards: Affirmation Cards for Children - Review & Giveaway

 [AD/Gifted - We received this product for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links. If you click to buy anything through a link on this page, I will earn a few pennies at no extra cost to you.]


I've spoken briefly on the blog before about my eldest child's autism diagnosis. He is a brilliantly clever kid but can be very hard on himself and tends to focus on negatives rather than positives. When I first heard about Nipper Cards, I thought they seemed perfect for him.




Created by Nipperbout founder Janthea Brigden, Nipper Cards are a powerful and fun way to help children understand their feelings and affirm their belief in themselves.



They come in beautiful bright purple packaging and there are 52 cards, just like a regular deck of playing cards. Each card has an animal on it which corresponds to the type of card it is.

  • Transformation
  • Fear
  • Power & wisdom
  • Grace & intuition
  • Creativity
  • Joy & love of life
  • Teaching
  • Magic
  • Innocence & fun
  • Dreaming
  • Breath of life
  • Gathering & storing
  • Gentleness
Each animal then has four messages which reflect both sides of that quality. For example, the fear cards also incorporate courage as they are opposites.


You can use these card in many different ways and there are some game ideas on one of the cards included in the pack, such an Animals Families and Snap. We started with a simple Memory Game.


I laid all of the cards face down and we took turns turning them over to see if we could get two matching animal families. 



I took this time to ask C to read what was on the card that he turned over and they are just so beautiful. I think each child should have a set of these cards. On occasion, C, who is usually quite negative about himself, would say, "Oh, that's definitely me!" which really made me smile.


It wasn't your usual memory game as each card would open up a discussion for us. I would ask if he understood the question and if not, we could chat about what he thought it meant and I could explain fully. They have definitely been a positive influence on him and we have even added into our family game night for a little boost.



You can purchase your own Nipperbout Affirmation Cards from Amazon for £9.99.


Want to win a set of your own? Enter via the Gleam widget below!

T&C's: 
  • Giveaway runs from August 31st until September 6th at 23:59
  • One winner will win one set of Nipperbout Affirmation Cards
  • Open to entrants aged 18+
  • UK residents only
  • One entry per person
  • No automated entries

Nipperbout Affirmation Cards
Sunday, 30 August 2020

Soothing the Smallest with Sudocrem x Ickle Pickles (+ giveaway!)

Every year, 1 in 8 babies are born prematurely or unwell, that's 100,000 babies every single year. These babies need to spend weeks, sometimes months in neonatal care units before they are strong enough to leave. Neonatal intensive care costs the NHS £1,500 per day and many hospitals do not have the equipment to care for extremely preterm babies. My own son was seven weeks premature and spent a week in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit then a week in the Special Care Baby Unit and I could not be more grateful for the care that we received.


My Ickle Sudocrem from SatellitePR on Vimeo.


This summer, Sudocrem and premature baby charity Ickle Pickles are teaming up to raise funds for the vital neonatal equipment premature babies so desperately need. In honour of the partnership a new, limited edition pot of 'My Ickle Sudocrem' has been created and will be sold in Boots and Tesco stores across the UK for six weeks from the 26th August. With each sale of the 'Ickle Pot', 50p will be donated to the Ickle Pickles charity. An historic event for the brand, Sudocrem have never before adapted their classic packaging for a charity campaign such as this.



A typical ventilator costs £25,000, the equivalent of 50,000 little pots. While this may sound like a lot, Sudocrem have enlisted the help of Laura Tobin, the nation's favourite weather presenter, and Georgia Jones, creator of the BUMP YouTube channel and wife to Danny Jones, to spread the word and give the campaign that extra push. Both Laura and Georgia hold the cause close to their hearts: Laura's daughter was born prematurely, as was Georgia's niece. The pair will be doing their utmost to raise awareness of how the public can get involved at home.


Laura says, "No parent should be separated from their child at such a worrying time, which is often what happens when their local hospital doesn't have the right neonatal equipment. Ickle Pickles are a fabulous charity and the more money we can raise for them, the better. It's thanks to the equipment they're fundraising for that Charlotte is the healthy, happy baby she is today."


"When Sudocrem approached me to be involved with Soothing the Smallest, I was delighted. A lot of the work I do is about raising awareness around parenting issues - the good, the bad and the messy - so the campaign was just a natural fit for me," says Georgia Jones. "I'll be doing my best to support it for the duration!"


How can you get involved?

Most importantly, buy a 'My Ickle Sudocrem' pot from your local Boots or Tesco! Every purchase means 50p to Ickle Pickles.


Who said only teddy bears have picnics?

Soothing the Smallest launches with a nationwide panda-themed picnic. Inspired by the UK's love of picnics, plus taking into account necessary precautions of lockdown, Georgia and Laura will kick it all off by launching their own panda picnic to show us how it's done. Those who want to get involved only have to pack up their picnic baskets and head out to the nearest patch of green for some relaxation - and don't forget to bring a panda too. Share the picnic on social media, tagging #soothingthesmallest and who knows? Perhaps a new record will be set for the most panda picnics held in one day! You also have the chance to win a giant panda and picnic hamper if you share your picnics on social media with #soothingthesmallest and #pandapicnic





I'm giving away 3 panda cuddly toys to help out families who don't have a panda of their very own. Laura, Georgia and Sudocrem will also be giving some away on their social media. With the aim to get as many families out there picnicking, Ickle Pickles charity founder, Rachael Marsh suggests inviting another family along for a suggested donation of £5 to the Ickle Pickles JustGiving page. Social distancing rules apply, of course!


"At Sudocrem, we take soothing families extremely seriously, which is why we're so excited about the upcoming Soothing the Smallest campaign. After all, isn't is these tiny, premature babies and their families that need our help the most?" says Nick Lang, head of OTC marketing at Sudocrem. "The aim is to raise enough over the six weeks to be able to help Ickle Pickles in a meaningful way."


"Spreading the word is easy," Nick continues. "We're asking everyone to get involved in whatever way they can. Share details of Soothing the Smallest on Instagram, visit the Sudocrem website and, most importantly, support the campaign by purchasing one of the 'My Ickle Sudocrem' pots."


To be in with a chance of winning 1 of 3 cuddly pandas, just enter via the Gleam widget below.

T&C's:

  • Giveaway runs from 30th August until 13th September at 23:59
  • Three winners will win one cuddly panda toy
  • Open to entrants aged 18+
  • UK residents only
  • One entry per person
  • No automated entries

Sudocrem x Ickle Pickles Panda giveaway
Thursday, 27 August 2020

The Importance of a Good Sleep Routine

[AD - This is a paid collaboration with TEMPUR®.]

 

The past six months or so have been really strange for us all. When lockdown restrictions came into force, we went from going to school and work to being taught at home and being put on furlough. I basically became a home educator overnight!



If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I posted about our daily homeschooling through Instagram stories. I knew right from the beginning that I wanted to stick to a routine because when things got back to normal, or as normal as they can be now, it would be hard to get back into the swing of things again.


I drew up and printed a timetable for the living room wall for both children so that they knew what to expect from the day. It really helped that the school teachers communicated with us each morning with a rough timetable too. We started our days with PE with Joe, releasing endorphins and getting us "pumped", as my almost eight-year-old son would say, for the rest of the day.


Having these timetables eliminated the element of surprise, reducing their stress and it is something that I was keen to stick to mostly because my son is autistic. With a routine, we could keep his day as easy as possible. The "school" day would finish around 2.00pm so they were free to play and do as they pleased until the bedtime wind down.


Again, I wanted to keep this consistent because if I didn't, getting up for school in the mornings come September would be a shock to the system if bedtimes were all over the place in the summer. I am back to work now too so there are days where they need to get up early to stay with grandparents while both my partner and I are at work.


C and E are 7 and 5 respectively, and although they are not babies, a bedtime routine was and still is really important to us. We eat dinner around 5.30pm and afterwards they will take baths. I will allow screens or TV time for one child while the other is taking their bath but afterwards, all screens are off. From past experience, they find it very hard to shut their brains off at the end of the day if they have been playing on tablets or watching TV right up until they go to bed.


They can then choose whether they would like to play with toys (LOL Surprise dolls are usually E's choice) or read a book quietly on their own (this is usually C's choice). They will then have a glass of milk before brushing their teeth and flossing.



For the time being, they are sharing a bedroom with bunk beds so we will all go upstairs, and I will read a story to the both of them before it is lights out. This brings us to around 8.30pm. 


Keeping to my own bedtime routine is important too, especially if I am working the next day. We actually purchased a new bed and mattress at the end of March, right at the beginning of lockdown, spending a lot of time deciding which base was best and consulting a mattress size guide to visualise what would fit into the space we had. We ended up settling on a divan with a tall mattress so we spent the first week or so feeling a little queasy as it was so high off the ground!


I am an avid reader, so I use the screen rule for myself too. I'll more than likely fall asleep in the middle of a chapter or drop my Kindle on my face because I've nodded off. I don't include the Kindle under the screen umbrella as I can adjust the brightness!


Not having bright screen in our faces, getting the recommended eight hours of sleep and sleeping on comfortable beds mean that we are all feeling refreshed and raring to go in the mornings.


Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Smoby Chef Corner Restaurant - Review

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

My children have always loved roleplay toys and as they get older, it's definitely harder to find playsets that suit. Enter the Smoby Chef Corner Restaurant.


It's targeted towards children aged 3-8 as the height can be adjusted, meaning that my 5 and 7 year olds could play easily.

When it first arrived, I was a bit taken aback by the size of it and also anxious about putting it together. The instructions state that it should take two people 1.5 hours to build, I attempted it on my own and it took 3 hours. It wasn't difficult but definitely get an extra body if you can!

The play possibilities for this restaurant are fantastic. It is just like a real restaurant with a small till area, complete with card machine, receipts and working calculator. My children love visiting restaurants so they were very excited to get to act out their own restaurant scenarios.


In the kitchen area, you are supplied with over 70 accessories from plates, cups, different types of foods, lots of pots and utensils and E especially loved that the pasta changed colour in warm water. The sink has a real water function but we had a bit of a leakage situation with that one! I love that you even have little order cards to stick up in front of the cooking area just like a busy restaurant would have.

There is an espresso machine and the hob makes real bubbling sounds when you place a pot on it! It is fully immersive and it feels like nothing has been left out. I love the addition of the carrot that can be chopped!

The little restaurant table that attaches onto the side of the kitchen is like nothing I've seen before when it comes to toy kitchens and it is nice to incorporate the two. 

C and E both spend so much time playing with the Smoby Chef Corner Restaurant, taking it in turns with who will be the customer and who will be the worker and they love building the burger or putting toppings on the pizza. It is made of plastic but is very sturdy and it means that the kids can have fun playing with it in the garden when the sun is out.

I can definitely see this being a popular toy this Christmas and I can honestly say that I wholeheartedly recommend it.

You can purchase the Smoby Chef Corner Restaurant from Argos for £150.