You may have noticed that there was no May Reads post from me and that’s because I simply didn’t have time to even think about reading during May…it is by far our busiest month and the luxury of disappearing into the pages of a novel or two was just never going to happen!

All that aside June has been fantastic and I’ve really loved some of the books I’ve read this month.

Tuck (King Raven #3) by Stephen R Lawhead
This is the last instalment in the King Raven trilogy and although it wasn’t as good as Hood it was miles better than Scarlet and had me in tears at the very end.  If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it a thousand times, Lawhead has this beautiful way of drawing you into his stories and making you feel as though you are best friends with each of the characters.  He has a magical story-weaving talent and I’ve never picked up a book of his which I haven’t liked.  Tuck is a continuation of Lawhead’s take of the tale of Robin Hood and, as you might imagine, it is told from the perspective of Friar Tuck.  Well worth a read.
Star rating: ****

Mrs Mike by Benedict Freedman and Nancy Freedman
This was recommended to me by Claire after I had stalled on several other F choices for my A to Z authors challenge.  It is the story of Katherine O’Fallon who marries a Canadian Mountie (Mike) and moves up to the Canadian wilderness.  Previously she has known life in civilised Boston and this is really a coming of age story as she learns about the harshness of life in such a fierce environment whilst discovering the beauty and kindness of the land around her and its people.  There is also a gentle romance which flows through it all as Katherine and Mike forge their lives together too.  After finishing the book I discovered that it is based on real events although it seems as though the authors took some creative licence here and there.  Nevertheless I really enjoyed this and would love to read the others in the series which I believe tell the story of Katherine’s daughter.
Star rating: ****

The Broker by John Grisham
This is one I’ve had on my shelf for a while as I ummed and ahhed over whether John Grisham could really do it for me any more but I’m glad I decided to plump for it.  In his final hours in the Oval Office, the president grants a pardon to Joel Backman, a Washington power broker who has been in prison for the last 6 years.  Seemingly nobody understands why Backman has been granted the pardon, least of all Backman himself.  He is transported under military protection to Italy where he is taught how to blend in like a local and given a new identity but before long it becomes clear that several countries are after him and that it was the plan of the CIA all along to release Backman’s whereabouts.  Turns out, Joel Backman may just hold the key to the world’s most sophisticated satellite surveillance system.  The CIA want to find out who created the system and they hope that when they see who kills Backman, they will get their answers.

This is good old fashioned Grisham.  I won’t pretend I understood all of the intricacies of power brokering (is that even a word?!) but I enjoyed the chase and the pace and ‘will he, won’t he’ of whether Joel Backman would beat the bad guys at their own game and in the end actually came to quite like Joel as a character.  I am also classing this as my G even though Grisham is not a new read for me.
Star rating: ****

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
I have heard so many people recommend this book to me that I was expecting great things.  I picked this as my H is A-Z authors.  Although I perhaps preferred the style of The Rosie Project, this is along similar lines.  I can’t think how best to sum it up other than to give you the blurb:

‘Christopher Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057.  He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched.  And he detests the colour yellow.’  

When his neighbour’s dog is randomly killed, Christopher decides to solve the mystery and in doing so challenges himself, and also challenges others in their perceptions of him and the way he is wired.  I enjoyed the book overall but I did sort of feel it left a lot out and there wasn’t much substance to it.  I was left wanting more and I know it would have been difficult as it was from the perspective of Christopher but it would have been nice to have a bit more fleshing out of the other people involved; perhaps Mark Haddon could have alternated perspectives?
Star rating: ***

The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas
Set in London in 1870 this is the story of Eliza, a beautiful young woman who is fighting against the stereotypes of her time.  Unfortunately she is of limited means and so her ways of doing this are not so easily found.  Will she settle down, marry and have children like her sister or is she destined for something more?  When she meets illusionist Devil Wix, she is drawn into a world of magic and illusion…a world which is viewed by some as sordid and seductive.  We watch as Eliza struggles to find her place in this diverse and interesting environment whilst still maintaining her independence…especially as she falls ever more in love with Wix and his dreams of grandeur.  I really enjoyed this.  I had no idea what it was going to be like before I picked it up but it was wonderfully descriptive and I will definitely be looking out for her other books.  I gave it a rating of 3 stars because I thought some parts were laboured and slow and were often just another way of repeating information we had already learned earlier on.
Star rating: ***

City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments #2) by Cassandra Clare
This is the second book in this YA series, you can find my review of the first book here.  It picks straight up where the last book left off which I really liked and I found it just an intriguing as the first not to mention the fact that it finished on an absolute cliffhanger.  It is taking everything I have not to pick up the third book but I’m trying to save it for my holiday as I tend to read them in about a day.
Star rating: ***

Have you read any good books lately?  I always love to hear recommendations.

Linking up with Read with Me and A-Z Authors.


Firstly I have to apologise that I was seriously bad at commenting last week on the #LittleLoves posts, I will be making the rounds twice today to play catch up as it just completely slipped my mind with BritMums and then the week of many disasters.

Those who caught up on the blog yesterday will no doubt have seen that this week has been a tough little cookie for me and that means I’m more pleased than ever to be joining in this week and really hunting out the things which have made me smile and brought a little joy and happiness to my days.


I have started this fabulous new book by Greg Illes called ‘The Quiet Game’; think John Grisham but slightly less lawyer-ish.  It is set in Natchez, complementing my current love of the Deep South of America and I am just loving it; it has been ages since a book has gripped me so much that I’ve got my nose stuck in it as I’m sorting washing and cooking dinner but this has done just that.  I obviously haven’t reached the end yet but if you like John Grisham then I would really recommend it.


I caught up on the new series of Long Lost Family this week.  It always make me cry but I just love it so much.  Best of all was seeing Nicky Campbell when I was waiting for my train to BritMums on Friday; he actually spoke to me (well he spoke to Lisa from Hollybobbs but I was standing right there so it sort of counts)


There have been lots of little summer sales popping up all over the place this week and I have treated myself to a few new bits and pieces for my holiday which haven’t actually arrived yet.  I did snap up these joggers from H&M which have become my new favourite loungewear.  They are really lightweight and loose and so comfortable.  I’m afraid it’s all about the comfort factor for me.


Some amazing stories and inspirational words from some of the speakers at BritMums over the weekend.  I especially loved the keynote from Caprice on the Saturday.  It was an incredible story and had me welling up by the end; in particular how hard she fought to have her children and the incredible miracle of making the decision to find a surrogate to carry her baby, the surrogate becoming pregnant and then finding out she herself had fallen pregnant naturally.  Just amazing.


Lots of lovely holiday plans.  That’s totally cheating isn’t it?  But it’s about all I’ve managed this week.  Although I did construct a tent by myself…it only had two poles and it’s just a small beach tent but it was hard work and I did almost give up.  It’s not my forte in the slightest so I got a huge sense of accomplishment once I had done it.  Especially when the kids retrieved their sleeping bags and retreated inside for a whole two hours.  Oh the blissful peace and quiet…

And Lastly…

I am sharing my Fresh Five over on Tots 100 today and the focus is all about bloggers who have written books.  Alongside my own (ha!) there are also some other lovely choices so if you are looking to pick up some summer reads then hop on over and take a look.

Hope you’ve all had a great week.


I know I am not alone in wishing that I could have a bit more money, that I would be able to jet off to exotic countries at this time of year. When colleagues, friends and family start talking about their holiday plans, it’s difficult not to get disheartened when they talk about Mauritius when you’re going to Mablethorpe.

Yet for many of us, staying at home is just what we know, what we’ve grown up with and – deep down – what we enjoy. You don’t have to break the bank or to save up for three years for the holiday of a lifetime, you just have to know how to enjoy yourselves.

One of the things that makes the British public so great, is our ability to make the most of any situation. We’re used to having to try and save money wherever possible – and no, it’s not about being “tight”, it’s about being clever with our money. 

While we all like to find a bargain whether that’s a few pounds off our shopping at the supermarket or indulging in a favourite pastime it’s also important that we can treat ourselves whenever possible – provided that the money is there to do so. 

By keeping the money in the bank you can splash it on the essentials, and if that means going somewhere much less expensive for a holiday so that you can afford to eat out and buy new clothes for your week at the coast, so be it!
“Staycations” are now some of the most popular holidays among the British public. Rather than jetting off to the other side of the world or to the common tourist destinations like Spain, Italy or Greece; we’re choosing the British seaside or a cultural break in one of the many great cities we have to offer. 

Sure, money has played a significant part in the rise of the stay-at-home holiday, but now many of us are finding that we actually prefer it; and there are ways that you can see the best of Britain on a budget. See for yourself:

Family rail tickets
The cost of rail fares has been a contentious issue for years now with rail companies putting their prices up to such an extent that people have had to move house to get nearer to work, or leave their place of work for something closer to home. Yet there are all kinds of offers out there for families looking to get away for a few days in the UK including discounts for under 5s and percentages off when you book a family pass.

Sure, you’re restricted to the towns with major rail networks in order to actually get there, but you can almost always get to a top seaside town for a few days on the beach; while London, Manchester, Edinburgh and all the other cultural cities are well linked by rail. 

Kids go free offers
A lot of the newspapers on sale in your local shops offer vouchers so that you can take the kids away for free, or at least at a discounted rate. In many cases all you have to do is collect a number of vouchers from your paper – which is only going to add up to a few pounds at the very most – and you could save a significant sum off taking the family away. 

It’s always difficult to save up for a family holiday, especially when the schools break up and prices rocket, so keep your eyes peeled – even if you never actually read the paper itself, it’s worth the investment for the savings.
Get cycling!
The best, and cheapest way, to see Britain is by pedal power. So many of us own bikes but rarely use them. Sometimes it’s because we live in the city, sometimes it’s because we don’t know where to go. Whatever the reason is you can see so much more of where you live if you just get out on your bike and go for a family ride.

You can see parts of the countryside you might not normally see by car, and you might realise that you enjoy it so much you decide you want to take your bikes with you on your next “staycation” so you can get out and see wherever you’ve gone on your holiday. The likes of the Lake District or parks such as Center Parcs are great to see by bike and, in the case of the latter, it’s actually encouraged!

This is a commissioned post.


I feel like my title may be a little misleading, as though the majority of the time I find the whole parenting experience a breeze which is really not the case at all.  Parenting is a constant challenge, a never-ending period of adjustment, of making mistakes and of trying to learn from those mistakes.  Of course it is also an amazing privilege and I look at my children with wonder and awe every single day, especially when they are sleeping!

But sometimes there are those times (and I hope I’m not alone in this) when I find myself shutting the door to the bathroom and sliding the lock across just to get five minutes peace, to perch myself on the edge of the bath with my head in my hands and think ‘what on earth am I doing wrong?!’

This week has been one long stretch of those moments.  It’s funny because I came back from a blogging conference on Saturday to big hugs and tales of how well Meg and Eli had behaved.  Then on Sunday we were out having lunch as a family and a perfect stranger came over and told us how lovely our family was; how well behaved Meg and Eli had been and she congratulated us on doing such a great job.  It was a random and heart-warming moment when we secretly high-fived each other and our clearly awesome parenting skills.

Then Monday morning rolled around.  Since 6am on Monday morning this week has just been a total write-off.  We’ve had boxes of cereal thrown across the kitchen spilling their contents everywhere (seriously, I had no idea tiny little hoops could travel so far…), we’ve had refusals to get dressed, we’ve had kicking and screaming and shouting and fighting and that’s just from me.  I jest, sort of.  There have been more moments than I would like to admit this week when I have just lost my temper and resorted to shouting in order to get out of the house just slightly less late than we would otherwise have been.

There have been time-outs and toy removals and tactics of ignoring the chaos unravelling around me.  Every trick I’ve ever read or seen or heard of has been employed and yet still Meg and Eli have pushed the boundaries and stretched my patience to its absolute limit.

I’ll admit I was actually dreading today when Eli wouldn’t have preschool.  I was picturing myself hiding upstairs in the study and pretending I had work to do so that I wouldn’t have to listen to him whinging and whining.  I couldn’t imagine how my week could get any worse and I didn’t want to find out.

And then this morning it all seemed to go without a hitch.  The kids woke up and got dressed and ate their breakfast pleasantly.  They put their shoes on and got into the car without a single protest.  Eli asked whether we could go on a bear hunt in the woods with Pepper and he walked the entire time without a peep of a moan.  Currently he is playing with his superhero figures whilst I get some work done.  Playing nicely without a toy being thrown or smashed or taken to pieces.  

I am under no illusions that it might not last; that this might be just a brief reprieve before it all kicks off again but it has served as a reminder to me that parenting is sometimes the hardest and most challenging journey you can go on but those times when you want to press the palms of your hands to your eyes so hard just to stop the roil of frustration, those times when you look through your cupboards to see where the pills are which have transformed your child from a gorgeous little angel into a squawking little horror, those times when you break down when your husband walks through the door because you are convinced that somehow you are doing everything wrong and you have inadvertently begun to rear tearaways…those moments don’t stay forever.  

Underneath the boundary pushing and the rule stretching and the periods of sometimes downright disobedience, is your loving child.  You might not always see them but they are there.  And these times when parenting is tough is just another learning curve.  It rubs away the rough edges and reveals the parent you never knew was hiding underneath.  I would never have described myself as a patient person but I know now that I am 100 times more patient than I was prior to having children.  I am 100 times more giving and more gracious and more loving.

As parents it is our job to teach and to guide, it is our privilege to show our little people the right ways to behave and respond but I also think that sometimes it is them teaching us.  I know that is certainly true for me.

I want to encourage the mama who feels like parenting is too hard right now…who is wondering how she can survive another day of drama and chaos…who feels tears brimming and her heart sinking when she hears ‘M-u-u-u-u-u-m’ because she knows what is coming…it will get better.  It will get easier.  And you will come out of this trying season having learned more than you ever thought possible.  Those beautiful children you are raising are just being children and, believe me, I know that sometimes it is hard to see it but hang on in there.

You are not alone and although it sometimes feels like you might be seeing wave after wave of proud mama posts (and I admit I do my fair share of those too…) there are also those out there who are having a hard time.  Who are finding parenting hard.  I will raise my hand and say that has been me this week without a doubt but I cling to the knowledge that I am not alone and that it will end.  

And you know there is always the future to look forward to.  When you can sneak into your child’s bedroom at 6am when they are 14, 15, 16, peel open their eyelids and shout ‘get up, it’s morning.  Don’t you know the sun is up and it’s morning!’…just to get your own back.

And now I have to sign off as I’ve just caught sight of Eli walking past the study brandishing a felt tip pen and that can only mean one thing…my walls are in danger of being treasure-mapped.


If I could go back in time and tell my younger self anything it would probably be not to fight so hard against everything my mother told me.  I was a typical teenager, full of angst and determined to be right about absolutely everything.  I’m sure it caused far more arguments than was strictly necessary.  Isn’t that always the way of things?

So when Littlewoods asked me to write a post to share about their #MumsKnowBest campaign it wasn’t hard to think about times when my own mum knew better than me:-

* There was the time I dyed my hair at home against my mum’s advice and it turned out bright orange.  Just in time for the school team photos.  I had to spend the entire year walking past at least six photos of myself in the PE department with humming hair.  Attractive.

* The time I refused to tie my trainers properly during a netball tournament because that just wasn’t cool and I ended up falling and twisting my ankle so badly I couldn’t carry on for the remainder of the games.

* The time I got my ears pierced for a second time when I was out with some friends in some dodgy back street establishment and they ended up horribly infected because I couldn’t wait like my mum had told me.

* The time I was convinced I wanted a harpist at my wedding despite my mum pointing out that it really wasn’t ‘us’.  The bridezilla in me fought tooth and nail but in the end I conceded and then found out my Dad had booked an amazing live band which turned out to be perfect.

But the one thing I really wish I had listened to my Mum about was something she told me after Meg was born.  She told me to soak in every minute because the time goes by so quickly.  She reminisced about being able to remember when we were all babies and how it didn’t seem that long ago.  

At the time I just thought she was saying it because all her children were grown up and she was, older (sorry Mum) but actually she couldn’t have been more right.  I have no idea where the last six years have vanished to; I can’t believe that Eli is old enough to start school in September, that Meg will be seven on her next birthday.  It seems like madness.  Partly because I still don’t feel old enough to have an almost seven year old and partly because it just seems to have happened in the blink of an eye.  Just like my mum told me it would.  I wonder if she will ever stop knowing best…you don’t stop being a mum just because your children are grown up, do you?

Has your mum ever known best?

It makes me smile because I am now in the same position as my mum all those years ago.  I hear echoes of things I was told by my mum as I tell Meg and Eli.  Simple things from ‘fasten your shoes properly’ to bigger things like ‘you’ll cut a hole in your t-shirt if you keep waving those scissors around’.  I hope that I can be the voice of wisdom to my own children as much as my mum was to me, and that Meg and Eli listen to me a little bit more than I listened to my own mum, although I’m sure that won’t always be the case!

This post was written in collaboration with Littlewoods.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.