Wednesday 17 April 2019

2019 Reading Challenge | Books 16-20 Round-Up

I seem to by flying through books this year and it's already time to write my round-up of books 16-20! You can catch up with 1-5, 6-10 and 11-15. Don't forget to add me on Goodreads too!

Cape May by Chip Cheek - 3/5 

"September 1957

Henry and Effie, young newlyweds from Georgia, arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon. It's the end of the season and the town is deserted. As they tentatively discover each other, they begin to realise that everyday married life might be disappointingly different from their happily-ever-after fantasy.

Just as they get ready to cut the trip short, a decadent and glamorous set suddenly sweep them up into their drama - Clara, a beautiful socialite who feels her youth slipping away; Max, a wealthy playboy and Clara's lover; and Alma, Max's aloof and mysterious half-sister.

The empty beach town becomes their playground, and as they sneak into abandoned summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink a great deal of gin, Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with irrevocable consequences that reverberate through the rest of their lives..."

It's 1957, Effie and Henry are 18 and 20, newlyweds, and visit Cape May for their honeymoon to Effie's family holiday home as she remembers wonderful summers there. It's Fall so the place is deserted, apart from one other house which they discover belongs to Clara Strauss, a lady who Effie doesn't think fondly of. They develop a new friendship with her, her lover Max and his younger sister Alma.

The book mainly focuses on this honeymoon period in Cape May in the 50s. Effie and Henry discovering each other properly for the first time, but also how the other half live (sex, drinking, losing their innocence) and the whole experience changes them. It is filled with sex scenes, I'm no prude, but there are maybe a bit too many than are needed and they don't really add much to the story.

I went through the book loving parts of it but then feeling let down and a little bored, which is my reason for the 'middle of the road' rating. The honeymoon, and main part of the book, I feel is stretched and a little thin and repetitive, but those last scenes after they leave Cape May and we hear about their future were probably my favourite parts. The scenery descriptions in the book were wonderful too.

Thank you Netgalley and Orion Publishing Group for the ARC. 

The Rumour by Lesley Kara - 4/5 
"When single mum Joanna hears a rumour at the school gates, she never intends to pass it on. But one casual comment leads to another and now, there's no going back.

Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flintstead-on-Sea.

Sally McGowan was just ten years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death forty-eight years ago - no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman. 

So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives among them? 
How dangerous can one rumour become? 
And how far will Joanna go to protect her loved ones from harm, when she realises what it is she's unleashed?"

I really enjoyed this book. It's set in a small seaside town where everyone knows everyone. A rumour starts between the school mums at pick up time that a child killer is living amongst them with a new identity under witness protection.

Rumours keep flying around the town and you start to feel wary of everyone. I didn't see the twist coming at all! A very good read.

As Long As We Both Shall Live by JoAnn Cheney - 3/5 
"'My wife! I think she's dead!' Matt frantically calls to park rangers, explaining that he and his wife, Marie, were out hiking when she stumbled off the cliff edge and fell into the raging river below. They start a search but aren't hopeful: no one could have survived that fall. It's a tragic accident.

But when police discover Matt's first wife also died in suspicious circumstances - a fire in their family home - they have a lot more questions for him.

Is Matt a grieving husband, or has he just killed his second wife? Detectives Loren and Spengler dig into the couple's lives to see what they can unearth. And they find that love's got teeth, it's got claws, and once it hitches you to a person, it's tough to rip yourself free.

So what happens when you're done making it work?" 

I went into this book excited by the blurb - a man whose two wives both die in suspicious circumstances years apart? I was expecting him to have been let off of the first one somehow, then a huge investigation starts after the second, but it was sort of all over the place.

It started very strong. The timeline flips between the circumstances surrounding Matt's first wife Janice's death, then his second wife, Marie's, in present day. It then goes into an investigation but a subplot is introduced here, regarding one of the detectives (whose name is Ralph Loren and I honestly couldn't stop thinking of Ralph Lauren every time) but I didn't care too much for that. I just wanted to hear about the wives' deaths and what actually happened.

In the interest of keeping my review spoiler-free, although the writing and descriptions were great, I honestly felt myself getting a bit bored of the incessant twists and turns. I had quite a few eye roll moments and I groaned a little at the ending. It felt like too much.

I did like the references to how women can be just as strong as men, it's all about empowering women and I really liked the female officer, Spengler. It had the makings of a great book. The actual main plot was decent but too many twists for me.

Thank you Netgalley and Pan Macmillan for the ARC. This book will be published on 16th May 2019.

The Girl At The Door by Veronica Raimo - 3/5 
"A tense, provocative and nuanced novel about a rape accusation in an idyllic commune.

I was in my sixth month when the girl came knocking.

The girl came empty handed. On the threshold, her hair down, her jeans tight.

'Are you the professor's wife?' the girl asked me. 'I have to speak to you,' she said.

'The professor raped me,' the girl said." 

This book is set in Miden, a society constructed after something called the Crash. It is run by Commissions, you need to be vetted before you can live there, it is a place where positivity is enforced and you even need permission for people to visit.

It is told from the perspective of Him (the professor) and Her (the professor's sixth month pregnant girlfriend) - we don't learn any names throughout. One day, "The Girl" tells the pregnant girlfriend that her professor raped her a couple of years back.

The story follows life for the two of them in Miden, after moving from their country, as well as the Commission having to basically decided whether or not the professor is guilty by having his friends and peers fill out questionnaire's about his character.

The writing style, I didn't gel with, and a lot of it confused me. The information about Miden was peppered into each chapter and I think I would have preferred a proper bulk background of the commune at the beginning.

Thank you Netgalley and 4th Estate for the ARC. This book will be published on 11th June 2019.

Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister - 5/5 

"It's the end of the night. You're walking home on your own.

Then you hear the sound every woman dreads. Footsteps. Behind you. Getting faster.

You're sure it's him - the man from the bar who wouldn't leave you alone.

You make a snap decision. You turn. You push. Your pursuer tumbles down the steps. He lies motionless, face-down on the floor. Now what?

Call 999 
Wait for the police to arrive. For judgement, for justice, whatever that may be. You just hope your husband, family and friends, everyone you love, will stand by you.


Stay silent. You didn't mean to do it. You were scared, you panicked. And no one saw. No one will ever know. If you leave now. If you keep quiet. For ever.

Which will it be?" 

I don't think I'll ever not like a book that Gillian McAllister has written.

Joanna is being harrassed by a man in a bar whilst on a night out with her friend. When walking home, she hears footsteps approaching, getting faster. She panics, pushes him and he falls down concrete steps. He doesn't move.

The chapters flit between 'Conceal' - Joanna choosing to run from the scene and pretend is didn't happen; and 'Reveal' - what happens if she stays and calls an ambulance.

It's so cleverly written, the timeline is exactly the same but just tells you what happens with either decision. It's such a great read and you really can imagine yourself in that position and feel the way Joanna is feeling.

Have you read anything good lately that I should check out?
Friday 12 April 2019

Casdon Morphy Richards Toy Kitchen Set - Review

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

I really love the Casdon range and we have reviewed the Hetty Cleaning Trolley, Chip 'n' Pin Till, Shopping Trolley and Wooden Kitchen in the past.

Both my children love pretend play, especially if they are acting out "grown up jobs", and E will always tell me about playing with the role play toys at nursery such as the fruit and veg stall, shop or house.  

E was so excited to be sent the Casdon Morphy Richards Kitchen Set, as one of her favourite things to do at home is to pretend to cook at her wooden kitchen. This set would be a perfect accompaniment to that.

Inside the box is:
  • Kettle with level gauge indicator
  • Toaster with two pieces of toast
  • Coffee machine with carafe 
  • Two cups
  • Two saucers
  • Two plates
  • Two teaspoons
  • Two forks
  • Two knives
  • Play food - bacon, sausage and egg

Without even properly looking into each item, I thought E would be able to use her imagination well with these but it's the little extras that really make this set great.

As I mentioned above the kettle has a level gauge indicator and you can flick the switch just like a real kettle. The coffee machine has a lid at the top that you can open to pour water into then it filters through into the carafe below. E absolutely loves this aspect as we have a coffee maker at home and it makes her feel just like mummy.

The toaster is very cool too. Not only can you twist the knob on the front to hear clicks but once you've inserted the bread into the slots, you can push the toast down using the lever and after a few seconds it will pop up.

The set is really true to the Morphy Richards style with the gorgeous style, colour and logo. E could play with this set for hours, either making breakfast for us or setting up a cafe for her dolls and teddies which is really cute to watch.

The quality is fantastic and great for little hands to play with, from age 3 and up. The Casdon Morphy Richards Kitchen Set retails at around £17 but Amazon currently have it for £12.99 - go snap it up!

You can find out more about the full range at the Casdon website


Wednesday 10 April 2019

The One Where FRIENDS Turns 25!

(AD - I received the items that are featured for the purpose of this post and video. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

I can't believe that this year, the TV show FRIENDS turns 25! I'm 27 so I didn't watch it when it first aired but I do remember being 12 years old, watching the finale and crying my eyes out when Chandler said "Where?" about going for coffee in the last scene.

I am completely obsessed with the show and, unpopular opinion: Ross is the best character. Don't even come for me.

Pyramid Shop have brought out a range of merchandise to celebrate 25 years of FRIENDS, a show that is still adored to this day.

Check out my YouTube video below to take a closer look at some of the things they have available to buy.

You can purchase all of the items shown in the video from Pyramid Shop.

Friday 5 April 2019

2019 Reading Challenge | Books 11-15 Round-Up

I've recently finished another five books so it's time for my next Reading Challenge round-up. You can read my round-ups of 1-5 and 6-10. I'd also love to connect with you guys on Goodreads so come add me here.

The Family Lie by Jake Cross - 4/5 

"You whispered goodnight to your daughter. You didn't know that would be your last goodbye.

You wake up in the middle of the night.

Your five-year-old daughter is gone.

Your husband is nowhere to be seen.

Your family think they took her.

The police think he's guilty.

But he wouldn't do that, would he?

He's a loving father. A loving husband. Isn't he?"

This is a really great thriller. You are instantly hooked with Anna waking to find her partner Nick and daughter gone. She immediately thinks they've been taken and contacts police. At this point I wondered why she didn't just think her husband had run off with his daughter, the police think this too, but soon he shows up drugged and confused.

The story focuses on Anna and Nick working with the police to try and find out who has their daughter and why. It is full of twists and turns, at times I thought maybe too many, but each one serves a purpose and it's all tied up well. Very well written and I liked the flashbacks for explanation. 

Thank you Netgalley and Bookouture for the ARC. The Family Lie will be published on 23rd April 2019.

This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay - 5/5

"Welcome to the life of a junior doctor: 97-hour weeks, life and death decisions, a constant tsunami of bodily fluids, and the hospital parking meter earns more than you.

Scribbled in secret after endless days, sleepless nights and missed weekends, Adam Kay's This Is Going To Hurt provides a no-holds-barred account of his time on the NHS front line. Hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking, this diary is everything you wanted to know - and more than a few things you didn't - about life on and off the hospital ward."

This book is amazing. I couldn't put it down and I finished it in a day.

Adam Kay is hilarious and I actually laughed out loud at a lot of it and read it out to Chris. There are some very sad diary entries too - the last one and the 'Aftermath' were particularly heartbreaking. 

It is nice to see an insight into life as a doctor and you come away with a newfound respect for the NHS and how wonderful the staff are.

A Version Of The Truth by B.P. Walter - 3/5

"We all see what we want to see...

2019: Julianne is preparing a family dinner when her son comes to her and says he's found something on his iPad. Something so terrible, it will turn Julianne's world into a nightmare and make her question everything about her marriage and what type of man her husband is or is pretending to be.

1990: Holly is a fresher student at Oxford University. Out of her depth and nervous about her surroundings, she falls into an uneasy friendship with a group of older students from the upper echelons of society and begins to develop feelings for one in particular. He's confident, quiet, attractive and seems to like her too. But as the year progresses, her friends' behaviour grows steadily more disconcerting and Holly begins to realise she might just be a disposable pawn in a very sinister game.

A devastating secret has simmered beneath the surface for over twenty-five years. Now it's time to discover the truth. But what if you're afraid of what you might find?" 

The story is told from two different timelines. In 2019, Julianne is married to James. It's Christmas time and they are planning dinner with their friends Ally and Ernest. Their son Stephen comes across something suspicious on James' Dropbox and alerts her.

In 1990, Holly is at Oxford University and makes friends with Ally and subsequently James and Ernest.

I don't want to give too much away but the plot covers gang rape, elitism, homophobia and sexual perversion. I couldn't put it down but at the same time, I didn't enjoy it and felt angry and disgusted at most of the characters. It reminds me a lot of Anatomy Of A Scandal which I read at the beginning of the year.

The Little Book Of Autism FAQs by Davida Hartman - 5/5

"Empowering and practical, this guide is the perfect companion for parents who are finding it difficult to tell their children about their autism diagnosis. It provides a realistic yet uplifting approach to autism, treating it not as a disability but as a difference.

Not telling children about their autism diagnosis can have a significant negative impact on their mental health; by equipping parents with a language of positivity around autism, the book will make a difference to many children on the spectrum. It advises on how and when to talk to autistic children with both high and low care needs, and provides guidance on supporting children's relationships with peers at school, as well as how to broach the conversation with the child's siblings.

Concise and easy to read, The Little Book Of Autism FAQs answers parents' questions with accessible language, preparing them to approach this difficult conversation in a constructive manner."

I really think that everyone should read this whether you have a child on the autism spectrum or not. It's short, blunt and to the point so you really understand more about autism and what autistic people feel.

There are Q&A sessions with autistic people of all ages, tips on how to tell your child about their diagnosis with actual bits that you can lift out and repeat verbatim when having the talk. It has a lot of recommendations for books and YouTube videos which I've written down to go back and pick up or watch.

I've come away feeling very empowered after reading and I now feel comfortable about talking to my son about his diagnosis. All the forms I've filled in and reports that I have received about my son have all read negatively so far, which this book touches upon, but it helps you to focus on the good.

Thank you Netgalley and Jessica Kingsley Publishers for the ARC. The Little Book Of Autism FAQs will be published on 19th September 2019.

Everything But The Truth by Gillian McAllister - 4/5

"It all started with the email.

Rachel didn't even mean to look. She loves Jack. She's pregnant with their child. She trusts him.

But now she's seen it, she can't undo that moment. Or the chain of events that it has set in motion.

Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn't Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost?" 

Rachel and Jack are having a baby after she fell pregnant very soon after getting together.

A few months into the pregnancy and something happens where she realises that she doesn't truly know the man that she's having a baby with, and she's keeping a secret from him too.

You can feel Rachel's desperation and paranoia and she digs deeper - a little more than just Facebook creeping - to find out the whole truth. The scenery descriptions of Rachel's hometown of Newcastle and Jack's hometown of Oban are wonderful and you can really picture yourself being there. 

Have you read anything lately that you would recommend?
Thursday 4 April 2019

Teeth Whitening at The White House Clinics, Belfast

(I was gifted the following treatment from The White House Teeth Whitening Clinic but all thoughts and opinions are my own.)

I had braces for a few years as a teen so I have always liked how straight my teeth are. Unfortunately, my vice is coffee so they haven't stayed as white as I'd like them to be. I was very excited to be invited along to The White House Teeth Whitening Clinic, situated on the Lisburn Road in Belfast.

The booking process is very simple. Once you are on The White House website, there is a live online booking page where you can select a time that suits you at your closest location (Belfast, Edinburgh, Manchester or Exeter). You will receive an email confirmation then a text where you can reply to confirm your attendance.

I had booked in for 9am (their first session) on a Tuesday morning as I knew Chris could drop me off on the school run. The Lisburn Road can be very busy at that time of day with schools and people getting to work. Dr Lina Hameed, who would be carrying out my treatment, was running late but she made sure to ring me twice to keep me in the loop which I really appreciated and I instantly got a good vibe from the place. She was very apologetic but I know how traffic can be so I didn't mind at all.

Once we got inside, I was given a consent form to read and sign before going forward, explaining how the process would work and what would happen and I was also asked if I was pregnant or a smoker.

The treatment takes approximately one hour in total. Firstly, we had to determine what my current tooth shade was by comparing them on the Vitapan Shade Guide. My starting shade was 3m1 which is roughly in the middle of the guide. I do have a little staining inbetween my teeth and was advised that the treatment couldn't help with that as I'd need a scaler but it would whiten the colour of my teeth.

I was made very comfortable in a quiet room with a TV mounted to the wall (I was even offered the remote to change the channel if Frasier wasn't my thing - I didn't change it, I love Frasier) and the treatment began. The doctor inserted a cheek retractor and blue seal barrier then the specially formulated whitening gel was applied over my teeth. The laser light accelerator was placed over them for 15 minutes. This was done three times with the gel being replaced each time.

The gel application felt a bit odd on my gums as it's kept in the fridge and I do have sensitive gums but there was no pain whatsoever. The first session under the laser gave a pulsating feeling but that went away for the next two.

Upon finishing the treatment, my teeth were again compared against the Vitapan Shade Guide. This time they came out at 0m1 which was at the top of the scale so I was very impressed. Dr Lina felt that my teeth reacted well due to their mineral content. I was blown away by the results as I didn't think they'd come out as white as they did and it was a wonderful experience.

I was advised not to eat or drink anything that would stain a white t-shirt for the following 24 hours, no smoking for 24 hours and to avoid any toothpastes that are coloured or have red/blue stripes. I was also told that the results would last anywhere between 9-18 months. You can book in for top ups or purchase an at home kit to maintain your treatment.

The one hour teeth whitening treatment costs £169 which I think is a very good price as I came away feeling really happy with my teeth. You can find out more about The White House on their website and also keep up to date on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Tuesday 2 April 2019

What I Won - March 2019

March has been the quickest month ever! I feel like I'll blink and it will be Christmas again. I really lost my comping mojo last month. I couldn't really be bothered to enter many, meaning that I wasn't winning much. It's a vicious cycle! Here's what I did manage to win last month and you can read February wins here.

Facebook Wins
£20 El Chapo voucher from Menu NI

Perfect White range from Beverly Hills Formula

100ml bottle of Jimmy Choo Illicit perfume from Boutique Social

Instagram Wins
Cacao mint protein balls bundle from Bounce Balls

Nail bundle from Claire's 
Project Science book from Miles Kelly Publishing

Twitter Wins
£10 Amazon voucher from Marmalade Insurance 

Hairdorable toy from Studio

I didn't realise quite how little I'd won in March until doing this post and, come to think of it, the year so far hasn't been great. Must do better!

Did you win anything nice last month?