Tuesday 19 November 2013

Author Gabrielle Kimm on researching historical novels

Gabrielle Kimm
A warm welcome to Gabrielle Kimm, who is on a blog tour with her new book The Girl with the Painted Face. She's dropped by to Book Club Mum to tell us what it's like to be a historical writer...

Thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog!

I’m often asked why I’ve chosen to write historical novels – and there’s a simple answer. It’s all because of Victorian poet, Robert Browning.

Friday 15 November 2013

BOOK CLUB REVIEW: Revenge Wears Prada (Lauren Weisberger)

This was chosen as a good light-hearted summer read and as such, the consensus was: it delivered.

A sequel to the phenomenally successful The Devil Wears Prada, the story catches up with our heroine Andy Sachs ten years after her tumultuous stint as assistant to the infamous Runway magazine editor Miranda Priestly.

The original book was adapted for the big screen with Meryl Streep playing the devil herself Miranda, who is widely acknowledged to have been based on real-life Vogue editor Anna Wintour, for whom Weisberger once worked.

Andy and Emily, her former arch-enemy and co-assistant at Runway, have since joined forces to start a high quality bridal magazine called The Plunge.

Friday 8 November 2013

Solving the sock issue with Funky Giraffe

Snugly: Benjamin
“Excuse me; did you know your baby’s lost a sock?” This is the constant, well meaning inquiry of strangers and the answer is always a resounding: "Yes". Yes I know it’s fallen off, of course it has. Socks are incapable of remaining on babies' feet for more than five minutes. And I'm too slovenly a mother to spend my life reapplying them.

I remember this problem with my first baby. I tried little sock harness things (got lost once worn) pram shoes (fiddly and annoying to get on) - in the end I think I just made sure his feet were covered with a blanket. But second time around, I resolved to tackle the problem afresh and research what solutions are out there on the market.

Thursday 3 October 2013

CHILDREN'S BOOK REVIEW: Spaghetti with the Yeti (Adam & Charlotte Guillain, illustrated by Lee Wildish)

This book has the kind of wacky off-beat humour reminiscent of Aliens Love Underpants - if you’re familiar with that seminal work.

Like the Underpants books, it rattles along with fast-paced rhyme and is illustrated with bright and detailed scenes.

The central character – a boy called George – decides to go and discover the Yeti, taking with him a backpack, hat, map and tin of spaghetti.

Setting off up a steep mountain path, he bumps into three monsters – none of whom turn out to be the yeti, but instead three creatures named, in turn, Betty, Hetty and Netty. Each one has contrasting advice on what the yeti will like to eat. When he does eventually discover the yeti, George is delighted to find that he in fact only eats spaghetti.

Thursday 26 September 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Instructions For A Heatwave (Maggie O'Farrell)

It’s a catchy title, and one the marketing people must have been rubbing their hands with glee about, given the soaring temperatures that quickly followed the book’s publication.

But I would say the title is exactly what lets this novel down.

Recently retired bank manager Robert Riordan goes out for a newspaper as usual and doesn’t return, prompting his wife to call on her three grown-up children to play out a very domestic drama in which secrets are uncovered and relationships explored.

The heat wave scorching London in 1976, when it is set, keeps a cool distance. Just a few references to aphids and water restrictions establish its presence, with no sense of a wider national event.

Thursday 12 September 2013

GUEST BOOK REVIEW: The Conspiracy Kid (E P Rose)

I’m delighted to present this review by Anna, a Grande Dame (but young)! of book club. An avid reader, she’s always great for a book recommendation, so I was very interested to read her verdict on this latest offering from the author of Beyond the Valley of Sex and Shopping.....

The Conspiracy Kid is a great read. I loved the witty and fast-paced prose; it was a real treat to pick up each night and was written so fluidly that I finished it in no time.

It follows the many eccentric but loveable characters who become part of the conspiracy kid fan club, where enrolment is automatic on the reading of a poem crafted by Edwin Mars.

Mars is a central character and for me could have been Adrian Mole’s cooler and more successful twin brother.

Monday 12 August 2013

BOOK CLUB REVIEW: Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by Christie Watson

We meet our 12-year-old narrator, Blessing, in Lagos, living with her parents and older brother in an air-conditioned apartment in one of the city’s most affluent streets.

But soon Blessing’s father has an affair and leaves, forcing the rest of the family to move to a village in the Niger Delta, to live with her mother’s family. Plucked from a comfortable life to one without running water or electricity, Warri seems appalling to Blessing, who says: "I opened my eyes as wide as they could go, to let in all the differences”.

She tells us what is not there - healthcare, hygiene, education – but as she forms relationships and learns about her environment, she describes beautifully what it does contain with humour and warmth.

Blessing becomes close to her grandma, a strong, wise character, who decides to take her on as a trainee midwife attending to women in the

Monday 5 August 2013

Author Louise Candlish on the highs and lows of a writer’s life

Louise Candlish
Louise Candlish is on a blog tour with her new novel, The Disappearance of Emily Marr. She's dropped by here at Book Club Mum to tell us about the highs and lows of a writers life...

In the ten years I’ve been writing novels, I’ve learned that the general perception of a writer’s life is that it’s a good gig. Nice work if you can get it. In fact, hardly work at all when you think about it. I’ve written before about how insulting it is to be told by someone that he or she would love to give up work altogether and ‘just’ write.
Naturally, I make it my business to put these innocents right. Yes, there are joyous parts of this existence, but it is a full time job (and more) and, like all full-time jobs there are sweet spots and dark moments, highs and lows. And if you’re the kind of personality drawn to the sort of stories I am – emotional, dramatic, mysterious – then the chances are you have the type of heart that experiences those highs and lows very intensely. Here are five of each:

Wednesday 26 June 2013

GUEST BOOK REVIEW: The House We Grew Up In (Lisa Jewell)

I am delighted to present a guest review by Super Speedy Reader Mum - aka - my friend Jackie....

When Book Club Mum handed over this book and then sneakily suggested: "perhaps you could write a review?" I surprised myself by agreeing. Lisa Jewell is one of my favourite authors and I'd finished her most recent novel, Before I Met You, a week ago with a joyous bounce and a greedy eye for her next page turner.

With this book, The House We Grew Up In, still unread, my theme was going to be how good it is for children to learn to play on their own, and how my children learned to do this while I, in the interest of good parenting, sat in the garden and chomped through pages and let them get on with it.

This book isn't a romance though. This is a sad book. It's sad in a reflective, thoughtful, gently peeling back the wallpaper sort of way.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Life After Life (Kate Atkinson)

Life After Life charts the many lives – or possible lives – of its protagonist, Ursula Todd.

Born in the middle of a snowstorm in 1910, she dies before even taking a breath because the umbilical cord is wrapped around her neck, the doctor and midwife kept away by the weather.

On the next page, her birth is a very different story - the doctor has managed to get there in time and the baby is saved.

Thus the novel unfolds, with Ursula’s idyllic, Merchant Ivory-style childhood regularly peppered with untimely death. A baby is smothered by a cat, a child slips off a roof, two girls drown playing in the waves, a murderous paedophile roams the countryside and Spanish ‘flu is hard to avoid.

Thursday 16 May 2013

Author Lisa Jewell on her new novel - Before I Met You

Lisa Jewell is on a blog tour. Here, for Book Club Mum, she explains her inspiration for the '90s section of her latest book - Brit Pop London, a world just before the internet and mobile phones.... 

Lisa Jewell
My novel, Before I Met You, is a dual time frame novel set in both the mid nineties and the early 1920s. But when I started writing it, way back in 2010, I’d intended it to be a simple love story set in the Brit pop years. I hadn't written a romance for years and I really wanted to see if I could still do it.

The – very tenuous – inspiration for the romance was actually the story of Meg Mathews who left the island of Guernsey back in the early 90s and by 1995 was married to Noel Gallagher and living it up with a phalanx of gossip-column celebrity mates in a huge house in Primrose Hill called Supernova Heights. I loved the arc of her life and the concept of leaving a tiny, compact island for the sprawling mess of London and finding yourself slap bang in the middle of the zeitgeist.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Author Lisa Jewell is heading this way on a blog tour....

Before I Met You is the latest novel by  Lisa Jewell, author of The House We Grew Up In and After The Party. It's a love story set in bustling, grungy '90s Soho, and 1920s bohemian London. Lisa will be sharing her inspiration for the 1990s section of the book with a guest blog here at Book Club Mum this Friday. So don't forget to drop by for a blast from the past - Cool Britannia, the Primrose Hill set and the time when telephone numbers were still exchanged on pieces of paper... 

Friday 3 May 2013

From the sick badge to Looks of Envy.....

Look at this jewellery. Gorgeous, isn't it?

In terms of accessories, I’ve been wearing the same brooch for the last few months. I say brooch, it’s really more of a badge. A badge of honour for parents of babies with reflux.

It’s so versatile – I’ve worn it with absolutely everything since Ben was born. Though I find it really sets off a manky old fleece particularly well.
Here's a picture:

Thursday 18 April 2013

BOOK CLUB REVIEW: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I don’t normally do this, but with a smash hit thriller so famously full of twists and turns, I’m going to include SPOILERS. How exciting! I’ll give you good warning when they’re about to kick in...

Nick and Amy Dunne are preparing to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary, but things aren’t good with their marriage. The couple, in their late 30s, have moved to his home town in Missouri after they both lost magazine jobs in New York, victims of the recession which looms as a motif in this unsettled world.

Before any anniversary celebrations can begin, Amy disappears in mysterious circumstances. There are signs of a struggle at the Dunnes’ home, but things don’t add up.

Gripping to the end, what happened to Amy is revealed to us in first person narrative by both Nick and Amy alternately.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Healthy Chocolate: Three worthy ways to use your Easter eggs....

Truly scrumptious: chocolate flapjack
Strictly speaking, I don’t suppose a nutritionist would agree that the three chocolate recipes I’m about to share are actually health foods. However, I’m going to build my argument like the very best hot-shot barrister I know - AKA my son in the toy bit of Asda - as to why I think they are at least a worthy way of using up your Easter chocolate....

Sunday 24 March 2013

Guest post by author Janey Fraser - plus chance to win a copy of her new book, Happy Families

I'm delighted to welcome Janey Fraser, author of The Playgroup and The Au Pair, as she stops by on the blog tour for her new novel, Happy Families. Here, she asks: Am I the only one who embarrasses my kids? 
Happy Families is out on Thursday. There are three copies up for grabs, simply post a comment for a chance to win.* 

I don’t mean to do it – well, not all the time – but I do seem to have an unhappy knack for putting my foot in it. Take the other day when one of my children did something which made me so cross that I gave her a sound telling off. In front of half a dozen of her (gob-smacked) friends.

So what happened? Instead of apologising to me for doing what she shouldn’t have, my offspring turned the tables and told me off instead. ‘What will my friends think ?’ she demanded. ‘You’re so embarrassing!’

Oh but I can do better. There was the time I drove one of them to school, still in my dressing gown because, despite getting up at 6am, I’d run out of time to get dressed. Unfortunately, one of the teachers at school came up for a word…... My son, squirming in the front seat, has never let me forget that one.


Thursday 21 March 2013

Happy Families blog tour is popping in soon....

Author Janey Fraser will be visiting the blog on Monday with a very funny post: Am I the only one who embarrasses my kids? I'm guessing no. There'll also be a parenting questionnaire and three copies of the book up for grabs so remember to come along and have a read.... 

Big brother is watching you

Latest column - the one where we get the new baby. Page 6

Saturday 16 March 2013

Off-roading - #SatCap

Yesterday we had an unexpected and lovely family day, walking from Sandsend to Whitby on the Yorkshire Coast.
Of course, the walk itself was - well, a walk on the beach compared to the test of resolve that is Operation Getting Out of the Door.
Anyway, I'm pleased to report that our off-roader buggy did pretty well on the trek - despite what it might look like!*

*No babies were harmed in the making of this photograph

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Why I’m Miserables.....

Guess what? They’ve made a film of Les Miserables! With Hollywood stars and everything!

Yes, excuse me if I’m not quite up to speed at the moment, I had a baby three months ago – enough said. However, recently I saw my chance to get back with the programme and take my little one along to a parent-and-baby screening.

Gosh I was excited. This is something I’d always liked the sound of, and meant to do with my first baby four years ago. But finally, me and another friend with a recently delivered bundle of joy had sussed the date and time, made sure our older ones were in extended childcare and were even planning to go for a late lunch afterwards – well it was the week of my birthday.

Monday 11 March 2013

WIN: Orchard Toys Rhyme Robber game

I’m afraid imaginative play is really not my strong point as a parent. One sentence that can bring me out in a cold sweat is: “Mummy, let’s play the caravan game”. This involves, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, playing out going on a caravanning holiday. Packing, travelling, unpacking, cooking, eating, sleeping – that bit never lasts long enough.

I’m either surreptitiously reading Twitter on my phone or I suggest that my little boy gets started with the packing and I’ll join in once I’ve – erm – yes – well.....

Which is why I'm so grateful for Orchard Toys, which have been a vital string to my bow as a parent.

Friday 8 March 2013

Meeting Ronnie - #SatCap

When I ask my son what he did at school he rarely enlightens me very much on the day's activities, but recently he said: "A rhino came to see us".

Visions of the school's tortoises completely put in the shade by more exotic wildlife were soon dispelled when he added: "He was wearing a rugby shirt."
Aha.....it was the Leeds Rhinos Rugby League team's mascot, Ronnie.

A funny conversation ensued during which I failed to convince him that there wasn't an entire team of players in big fluffy grey costumes. Anyway, he saw for himself last night when his daddy took him to Headingley Stadium to watch a match. Here he is on the right, catching up with Ronnie...........

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Author Laura Kemp's top 10 tips for keeping sane as a mum....

Book Club Mum is delighted to welcome Mums Like Us author Laura Kemp to the blog. Here, she shares some sage advice on surviving motherhood:

10. Secret Chocolate
One of the most important weapons in your sanity-saving tool kit is getting one over your kids. They think they’re in charge. And most of the time they probably are. But there is nothing quite like telling them ‘no, sorry, there’s no chocolate’ and then once they’ve gone to bed, retrieving your Galaxy from underneath their most hated vegetable in the fridge where they’ll never look and savouring every mouthful alone.

9. Wine
Not too much. Just a couple* to help you relax and take the edge of things. (*bottles)

Tuesday 5 March 2013

The birthday present

Yesterday was my birthday and I got this new baby change bag from my family. It's exactly what I asked for and wanted. Lovely for spring, don't you think?

Someone said: "That's not really a present for you though, is it?"

But I love it. Because I am loving being a mummy again, and I know how lucky I am.

However, it does occur to me that this may have been more appropriate....

Friday 1 March 2013

The Mum's Like Us blog tour is heading this way....

Yes, Book Club Mum is proud to be part of author Laura Kemp's trip round blog land to promote her smashing new novel Mums Like Us. Here are the full details of the tour:

Rejection of perfection and good enough parenting - get reading Mums Like Us

My children are getting my most basic, value range, own brand level of care at the moment. Why? Because I’m reading a brilliant new book - Mum’s Like Us - by Laura Kemp, and its getting most of my attention.

I can honestly say it is an absolute must read for any mother who has ever hidden the Mister Maker magazine down the sofa to avoid doing crafts. Warm and witty, its like she’s peered inside my head and describes exactly how it feels to be a mum. Truthfully.

How to describe it? It’s a support group in a book. It’s the Slummys vs the Yummys - the book is aimed at the struggle-to-juggle Bridget Jones generation who had a life of their own then went into shock when they had kids with Mr Right You’ll Do.

But it’s probably best to get a flavour with the words of its heroine, Stella Smith:

Wednesday 27 February 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Casual Vacancy (J K Rowling)

So, it turns out you really shouldn't judge a book by its cover.

I had JK Rowling down as a humourless individual who took children's stories about wizards way too seriously.

The Casual Vacancy, then, was a revelation. Funny and a good yarn, it is full of fantastically vivid characters and brilliant observations of human nature.

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.
The effect Barry's life and death have on the vast cast of characters is gradually revealed to us by means of a well crafted story, symbolised most visibly in the battle to inherit his seat on the parish council - the casual vacancy of the title.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Found: My motherly sense of moral outrage

I stumbled across something quite surprising the other day - my sense of moral outrage and disapproval.

The four-year-old has developed an interest in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I know not how, since he's never seen the programme (because we don't have Sky, not as the result of vigilant censorship).

The other day we were in the toy shop choosing something with £10 he'd been given for Christmas from an aunt. He chose an action figure of Raphael, the red turtle.

When we got it home I asked if he'd like me to read the character description on the back. But as I read ahead, my voice dried up.

Friday 15 February 2013

A bit of Twitter magic

Isn’t Twitter great?

I didn’t always think so. I got that niggly ‘newfangled’ feeling about it. Then of course, I got addicted.

Before I did, though, I remember a news editor telling me about a pretty magical Twitter moment by means of encouragement.

A real ale devotee, he got on a train to his native Scotland, opened a bottle of speciality brewed beer to try, and tweeted about it. Moments later, the brewer, based in Canada, tweeted him to inquire how he was finding it.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

BOOK CLUB REVIEW: After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell

Distressed and depressed – we know not why - Alice Raikes finds herself boarding a train from London back to her native Scotland to be with her family.

But when she gets to Waverley station in Edinburgh, she spends only moments with her sisters before witnessing something so shocking that she flees, boarding the next return train to their surprise and bewilderment. Once home, Alice is involved in a car accident which leaves her in a coma.

This dramatic opening sequence plunges Alice, and us readers, into a transient state whereby the narrative is told in disjointed and disordered scenes – various memories of her life.

It is through these memories that we are able to slowly piece together the story of how she came to that fateful day, and long-buried secrets are finally revealed.

Friday 8 February 2013

Great balls of ice! That's crying out for a #SatCap

Saturday is caption day in the blog world, and I couldn't resist posting this. It's a classic example of a man's OCD put to good use for the entertainment of his child....

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Anyone for tennis?

Fancy a cuppa and a flick through Families Leeds magazine?

I always feel like a character in a favourite Victoria Wood sketch of mine, trying to sell an old stair lift. "They really are fun, even if you're not a wheelchair user". BUT, even if you don't live in Leeds, or have little people snapping at your heels, I must say it's a good read.

Among the many interesting articles, I'm loving The Boo Diaries by Bev Moore (page 26). You'll find yours truly, imperfect mum on page 6, recounting a family trip to Tennis Tots, plus an article by me on preparing a child for the arrival of a sibling on page 25 - interesting to look back on now that our second child is now nine weeks old!

Monday 4 February 2013

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Three books I'm looking forward to this year....

2013 is going to be a vintage year for my bookshelf, with a hat-trick of new novels by some favourite authors due out. I am not going to be able to restrain myself from pre-ordering all three in hard-back. In date order, they are:

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell, due out February 28.
It's July 1976. In London, it hasn't rained for months, gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he's going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn't come back. The search for Robert brings Gretta's children - two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce - back home, each with different ideas as to where their father might have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share.

As a writer I think Maggie O'Farrell gets better and better, and her last book, The Hand That First Held Mine, had me enthralled throughout and bereft when I'd finished. Can't wait for this next one.

Monday 28 January 2013

BOOK REVIEW: I Don't Know How She Does It (Allison Pearson)

Kate Reddy is a hedge-fund manager and married mother of two. She has it all – except for time.

We meet our heroine, having taken a night flight home from a meeting in Sweden, squashing shop-bought mince pies to make them look homemade for her daughter’s school fair.

While Kate excels in her high-flying financial career, we are privy to her ever-evolving to-do list, as she tells herself, Must remember: Angel wings. Quote for new stair carpet. Nanny’s Christmas bribe/present. Emily wants baby Wee-Wee doll. (over my d. Body). Office party what to wear? Black velvet too small. Stop eating NOW. Leg wax no time, shave instead. Book stress-busting massage.

Her husband, Richard, is an amiable architect who lives life on a different time setting to Kate. Nanny Paula is unreliable and her children are delightful, just not when they’re smearing Weetabix on her Armani suit.

Saturday 19 January 2013

Saturday Is Caption Day

There are a million and one things I could write about the arrival of our precious new baby Benjamin. It's too much to put into words. Plus, I tried typing while feeding and it's not good for the latch :).
However, I'm anxious to introduce him on the blog, so I'll let the picture do the talking with my first ever #SatCap.

Here are my two boys. A three-week old Ben seems to be examining his older brother intently. But what does that enigmatic expression say about Max's thoughts?!

Monday 14 January 2013

REVIEW: The Deep, Hull

Rays at The Deep
Octonauts, to your stations!

If this phrase prompts dramatic music to chime in your ears, and conjures images of Captain Barnacles and his crew in their fleet of aquatic vehicles, then you're probably the parent of a young child who would love to visit The Deep.

With one such four-year-old, I was delighted to be offered the chance to visit and review the award-winning aquarium in Hull by MoneySupermarket.com's vouchers site for family days out and days out discounts.