Category Archives: Direct Speech

Blogging Hiatus

I’ve been taking a bit of a hiatus lately. Since Phoebe came along I haven’t had as much time to read as I’d like, and I’ve been having way too much fun with her to really care about that. It has meant that my blogging suffered though…

I’ve found myself in this strange situation where I was feeling like I should be reading regularly and posting regularly, even if the books I’d read were just a bit blah and I had nothing to say about them. This feeling was going on to the point where I felt like my blog was just another obligation and not somewhere I could enjoy talking about books that had actually had an impact on me with people who have similar interests.  So I kept thinking about that, and it put me off reviewing some of the books that I had read… and before you know it, vicious circle. So I decided to just pause and see how I feel about carrying on with it.

And I’m back, though with a slightly different attitude to reviewing and a new reviewing policy to follow. I won’t feel the need to review every book I read, just the ones I have something I want to say something about so I’ll be sparing you my thoughts on Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser…’s Wife of Bath tendencies.

The Best Book Subscription Boxes

If you’ve dipped even your little toe in the murky waters of social media recently, I’ll bet that you’ve seen an advert for some kind of subscription service. From make up to meat, surprises to sanitary towels (no, really) it seems that there’s a subscription box for almost everything, though until recently a monthly box for book lovers has been a pipe dream for those in the UK.

But no more! There are now a wide range of book subscription services for bookworms in the UK, so you don’t have to pay a huge postage fee to enjoy a monthly book box from across the pond. And, dare I say it, it seems to me that UK bookworms actually have a more grown up selection of book subscription packages to choose from?

I’ve selflessly gone out of my way to test a few of these (best month ever) and am able to give you a round-up of the best book subscription boxes the UK has to offer. Curated by small teams of imaginative, talented and hardworking bookworms, they really are all fantastic:

Bookishly

bookishly subscription unboxing review

If you’ve ever had wall art envy for an amazing framed literary quote, you’ve probably come across a print from Bookishly. They’ve recently branched out from creating word art with Vintage books and have created a book club that sends out a monthly package containing a vintage book, a luxury tea sample from Jenier World of Tea and a curated item of stationery. If you know a bookworm who loves to curl up with an old book and a cup of tea before writing a thank you note on beautiful stationery, then the Bookishly book subscription is the gift for them. Or you, if you fit that description.

 

Illumicrate

illumicrate subscription unboxing review

Curated by Daphne at Winged Reviews, Illumicrate is the new heavyweight on the book subscription box market and it really packs a punch. Filled with items that match the Illumicrate ethos of “fun, beautiful and geeky” this larger subscription box is released monthly. The perfect gift for a reader who is passionate about their contemporary and young adult literature, the former teacher in me also thinks it would be the perfect way to lure a reluctant reader into exploring literary worlds.

 

Owl and Bear Gift Company

owl and bear gift company book subscription review

If you’re looking for a special gift for a loved one but don’t necessarily share their literary tastes, the Owl and Bear Gift Company Book Subscription service can help you out. Specialists in genre book subscriptions, they have a package to tickle every bookworm’s fancy whether they are young or old, or if their passion is for horror, thrillers or romance. If you’re not even sure exactly what kind of books your intended recipient prefers, they can still help you out with their bespoke subscription service which builds a package based on the recipient’s favourite authors.

 

The Willoughby Book Club

willoughby book club subscription review unboxing

Founded by Adam and Chloe Pollard in 2012, The Willoughby Book Club provides a personalised book subscription service with some really clever package options. Not only do they provide a Contemporary and Classic packages for those who want to hone their reading in a particular direction, they also provide hobby subscription packages for cooks, gardeners and natural historians. The Willoughby package I like the sound of most is, sadly, not for me… The Couples Book Club package which sends out two copies of the same novel so that you can read it together and discuss it. My boyfriend may make wonderful cups of tea and buy me the books I am embarrassed to be seen with in bookshops, but a reader he is not! Still, I think it would make a great gift to share with a close friend and it really is a genius idea.

Happy New Year

IMAG2643Happy New Year! And only five days late! As you can see, I was spoilt with books over Christmas once again, so coupled with my renewed love of my local library (they have a fish tank, it makes for a great day trip with Phoebe) I’ll have plenty to be getting on with in what little free time I have in 2016.

As regular readers will know, until the safe arrival of Phoebe in late June, the first six months of 2015 were truly awful for me. But from her arrival, the final six months have been the best of my life.

I hope that you all have a 2016 which is as wonderful as my 2015 with my little family has been. Read what makes you happy, even if it is Jane Austen.

And speaking of Jane Austen… I was given a beautiful folio set of her collected works for my 30th birthday, so prepare to bear with me when I revisit the lady I have (possibly) much maligned.

 

Harry Potter Parenting Hacks

True, they may have had five children under the age of seven at one point, but it occurred to me earlier (after three days of disrupted sleep, while singing Morningtown Ride for the seventeenth time in an hour and pacing the house with my overtired, teething baby) that Molly and Arthur Weasley probably had it pretty easy. Why? Magic my friends. Raising a baby is much easier if you can wave a magic wand and get things happening.

Don’t believe me? Let’s review the evidence.

ron weasley baby mandrake

 

Sleeping Draughts

A moral grey area, but need I say any more? The Weasleys had access to safe, effective sleeping potions. I’m not talking your Draught of Living Death type of potion here, just a drop or two of standard sleeping draught on the tip of a dummy and everyone’s happy. No more overtired baby, and the job’s a good ‘un. True, the baby would have to consume a small amount of flobberworm mucous as part of the potion, but let’s face it, babies have been known to put worse in their mouths.

the choice between what is right and what is easy

Time-Turner

You might need special permission from the Ministry of Magic to use one, but if Hermione Granger’s academic record was considered sufficient justification then I’m pretty sure that having five children under the age of seven (and two more not much older) would be enough to get you authorisation.  I’d hate to be the Minister of Magic who said it wasn’t. This one is less ethically tricky than the sleeping draught, your children are taken care of by their parent, but you plan your day carefully so that you can head to a quiet room, turn back time and nap for five hours before moving on to the next crisis. Prison and mortal peril are on their living room clock for a reason, just saying.

ron weasley piss off

Housework Charms

Mrs Weasley’s knitting does itself and the potatoes peel themselves. I daresay she had similar charms for nappy changing, clothes washing and folding. Imagine how much more you’d get done (and how much money you’d save) if you could just tell your garden to get on with growing vegetables which then cook themselves into a healthy dinner, wool that makes itself into clothes which then wash themselves… all while the dusting is getting itself done. I mean, come on, it’s practically cheating, isn’t it? No wonder she has time to make her own toffee and read Witches’ Weekly.dobby finger click

 

The Summoning Charm

I’ve always thought that this was potentially one of the most useful spells in the Harry Potter universe. Especially for the new mother. You left the nappy rash cream downstairs? Accio Weleda! The baby’s thrown up milk and you can’t find the muslin that you had two damn seconds ago? Accio burp cloth. Poo crisis but you can’t leave the baby unattended to get them clean clothes? Accio baby grow! Keep your wand handy and you will never lose anything again. And it’s no trouble if you’re across the room and spot your baby about to put something deadly in their mouth. Just summon it out of their chubby little fists then distract them with a tiny snowstorm you’ve conjoured up.

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Undetectable Extension Charm

Remember Hermione’s tiny beaded handbag? The one in which she packed everything she, Harry and Ron would need to escape the wedding and fight Voldemort? Yeah, well imagine being able to use that. You’d never run out of storage space in the house again. The toy box would never overflow so that you had to stack toys on top and then dig around for ages to find the favourite teething toy of a sleepy baby which is somehow hidden under a rustley sensory blanket, the jingliest jingle bells and a drumkit… Also, you could pack everything you needed into a small, stylish handbag and sashay out with your baby and pram without being bowed under the weight of baby paraphernalia. No need to have that internal debate about whether to take the second change of clothes… you could even take a change for yourself. Not that you’d need it, you could probably magic the milk vomit off your robes.

So, as I see it, the wizards have this parenting malarkey tied up. But it’s all good. My Hogwarts letter is due any day now…. Any day. In the meantime, well played Wizards. Well played.

The reason I haven’t read a book in over a month…

After my post in January, I’m very pleased to be able to report that our little girl Phoebe arrived safely in late June after a short, intense labour which was on the whole a positive experience.

Dreaming about rabbits, probably.

Dreaming about rabbits, probably.

She doesn’t let me spend much time reading, and the sound of pages turning when she’s asleep seems to startle her a lot so I will have to do most of my reading on an e-reader until she’s in more of a routine.

She’s shown an early interest in books and likes to gaze at the living room bookshelf, probably because of the contrast between the white shelves and the colourful books. She falls asleep pretty quickly and doesn’t seem to pay much attention to bedtime stories, but listens with interest when I talk to her about hiring a small dragon to guard her crib and stop the wind sneaking into her belly, the price of baby burps on the black market and the possibility that her toy mouse has been caught embezzling her milk supplies…

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Game of Thrones Colouring Book… not very mindful

Colouring this in WOULD give me nightmares

I don’t know whether you’ve noticed but adult colouring books seem to be everywhere at the moment. My friend recently bought one for her partner, and there seemed to be a really wide array of them available (I think she went for something about dinosaurs with day jobs in the end).

I think that it must have a lot to do with a growing trend in mindfulness, because shortly before I went on maternity leave, my employer had started running lunchtime colouring in sessions to promote staff well-being as a part of the Mind, Body and Spirit month we have every June.

So I’m not sure whether to be surprised to read that there will be a Game of Thrones colouring book. On the one hand, I can imagine lots of adults buying it and it would make a great novelty present (I’m still waiting for A Game of Scones: All Men Must Dine to come out) on the other… I’m not sure how mindful it would be to colour in some of the horrible scenes. I’m pretty sure you’d soon run out of red pencil with all the blood and I don’t want to know how you’d recreate the horrible blue of the white walkers’ eyes. I’ve actually had nightmares about those.

A Valentine from Days Gone By

I had a lovely surprise this week when I received this old Valentine’s card from my boyfriend’s grandparents, still in its original envelope. There are so many little details that make this so interesting to me, the copperplate script, the penny stamp, the hand embroidered flowers… I love the idea of all of the stories this card might have seen, I wonder what happened to William and his mystery lady?

old valentine's envelope with penny stamp

old valentines card

My Babies

I believe that nothing passes away without leaving a trace, and that every step we take, however small, has significance for our present and our future existence- Anton Chekhov

I came across this quote in the week, and I’m probably reading it out of context but I found it very comforting. If you read my blog now and again, then you’ll notice that I’ve been missing for a few months. I haven’t been sure how much to say about this, but recently I’ve found talking to people very cathartic and I’ve gained a lot of hope from reading about the experiences of others so I decided that I wanted to share “where I’m at” at the moment.

On December 8th, Jon and I found out at the 12 week scan for our first pregnancy that we were expecting identical twins and they were perfect. Growing as they should be, wriggling away from the scanner and vigorously trying to kick one another in the head. The pregnancy is high risk for a variety of reasons, the twins shared a placenta which is how they could tell they were identical, and as a first time mother with multiples I was high risk for pre-eclampsia, but apart from the all-consuming exhaustion that had made me sleep almost constantly when I wasn’t working for the first three months they looked great. We had regular checks, and as everything was going well, we were to come back after Christmas around 16 and a half weeks for our next check.

At that check we had some really bad news. Baby one seemed to suddenly have stopped growing and was 50% smaller than its sibling, its growth curve didn’t register on any of the percentile charts and we were prepared for the worst. It was diagnosed with severe early onset IUGR and we were told that it was very unlikely to survive. The hospital was fantastic and brought us in for regular checks to see if there was anything that could be done. These showed that, while the babies weren’t suffering from twin to twin transfusion syndrome, baby 1 had an insufficient share of the placenta, an enlarged heart from stress and the babies were showing signs of TAPs where the one baby has too much haemoglobin and the other has anaemia because of their connection. As well as the near certainty of baby 1 being unable to survive to birth, because of the shared placenta, the death of baby 1 would be able to kill or brain damage the larger twin, as within two hours of its death, all of baby 1’s blood would flood the larger twin’s body, giving them a massive surge in blood pressure.

On Monday I had surgery to occlude twin 1’s cord in the hope of protecting twin 2 to give them a better chance of survival. We were incredibly sad, but I was conscious throughout and the anaesthetist and nurses stoked my hair, held my hand and wiped my tears away as they fell. They talked to me all the time and were able to tell me when baby 1 had passed, so I was able to be quiet and alone with my feelings for a while then.

Baby 2, mercifully, seems to be doing well, they scanned me in the evening after my operation and printed a little picture of its face, I think it looks like its Daddy already. It’s heart was still beating well the next morning, and it looked strong at our last scan though I won’t be able to relax until it is safely born and I have it home with me. I was 19 weeks on Saturday and I know that we still have a long way to go. This has been the hardest time of my life, and I am so grateful to Jon and our family and friends, I don’t think I would be coping without them. I’m also in awe of the brilliant consultants, doctors and nurses who give babies like mine, with terrible odds against them, every hope of survival.

If you would like to support the great work that they continue to do, a donation can be made here.

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My babies at 13 weeks

 

Books About Town Auction

Anyone who visited the Books About Town benches which brightened up London this summer may be interested to know that they are being auctioned to raise money for the National Literacy Trust on October 7th. I could definitely fancy one of these little beauties to brighten up my garden but I’m pretty sure they’d be way above my budget even without our car having suffered major organ failure today.

Photographs of benches from the Books About Town website, click through on any of the images for more information about the National Literacy Trust and their important work.

Sometimes people do nice things…

bookcase parrotI bought the parrot in this picture from Etsy in October, and the postman tried to deliver him when I was in hospital having my operation. My boyfriend wasn’t allowed to collect him from the post office and by the time I was out of hospital and able to get to the post office, he’d been send back to the seller Susanna. Susanna got in touch with me to tell me he’d come back to her, and when she heard about my operation she told me that she hoped I was feeling better and sent him back to me, so he is now making me happy by brightening up my bookshelf.

I just thought I would share how nice Susanna (who runs this website according to her Etsy profile) had been to me to remind everyone that sometimes people do really nice things.