Mumday Monday – Half a World Away by Mike Gayle

This book was recommended to me enthusiastically by so many people that when I saw the Kindle version available to buy for the ridiculous price of 99p it was a no brainer.

And, well, just WOW. What a beautiful, funny, emotional, moving book. I loved everything about it. Everything!

The story is told from the dual perspectives of the very different but inextricably linked Noah and Kerry. Noah is a barrister with a wife and daughter. Having been adopted aged 2 into a wealthy family he gained a great education, graduated from Oxford and entered into a prestigious and lucrative career.

Kerry, is a single mum, lives in a less than desirable area and works as a domestic cleaner. She found herself in a care home for children from the age of 10 until she finally left aged 18.

Noah and Kerry are brother and sister, but they have never met. In fact, Noah doesn’t even know of Kerry’s existence until one day she writes to him.

The story explores issues surrounding the differing fortunes of the two siblings, and in telling it from both of their points of view, both of their thought processes and emotions when they start to build some kind of relationship. Both of these characters are absolutely wonderful. Neither appear to have an unkind bone in their body, and we really see how they are both desperate to do the best by everyone that they care for.

The writing is just perfect, it really pulled me in and didn’t let me go until I’d turned the final page. I became so invested in the lives of these beautiful people that, through the many tears that I cried towards the end, I really mourned having finished this book; it’s one that I’m certain will stay with me for a long time.

This is the first of Mike Gayle’s books that I have ever read but I’m going to be searching out the rest of his back catalogue. And I’ll be pressing “Half a World Away” into the hands of everyone I know!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Half a World Away is published by Hodder and Staunton and is available to buy now.

Mumday Monday – Inheritance by Jenny Eclair

One family, 4 generations, a Cornish mansion and a some seriously poor decision making are the ingredients that make up this fabulously written family saga by Jenny Eclair.

When Bel receives an invitation to her adoptive brother Lance’s 50th birthday party at the family’s Cornish mansion, Kittiwake, she panics. She doesn’t much want to see her mother, and after all, Kittiwake is the place where is all began. Where she was left in a drawer by her birth mother and discovered later by the housekeeper.

Inheritance is a story of a family harbouring secrets and of how the actions of one person can set off a sequence of events that impacts on generation after generation.

Jenny Eclair is a master storyteller and this book showcases her talents perfectly. The story itself is fairly dark, containing untimely deaths, infidelity, child abandonment, and domestic violence. The characters are, almost without exception, utterly vile, though I did have a soft spot for Benedict, Bel’s adoptive uncle, who is a sort of loveable rogue.

But while the narrative did keep me gripped and it was fascinating to see the plot slowly unravel through a mixture of present day accounts and flashbacks to the 1960s, what I love most about this book is Eclair’s writing style. Despite the dark subject matter, the text is full of wry humour and I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion.

If you haven’t read one of Jenny Eclair’s books and you enjoy a good old family saga then try this one, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Mumday Monday – The Lido by Libby Page

I know, I know, I’m once again very late to this party but seriously how great is this book?! After a bit of a creepy book and thriller binge in October it was exactly what I needed – a total feel-good joy.

Kate works as a journalist for the Brixton Chronicle and is sent out to write a story on the closure of the local lido. She asks octagenarian Rosemary, who has been swimming at the lido for basically her whole life for an interview, which she agrees to on the understanding that Kate first goes for a swim.

Kate lives in a house share in Brixton, where she barely exchanges words with her flat mates. She is lonely, depressed and suffering from anxiety attacks. When she starts swimming at the lido regularly, cultivating a friendship with Rosemary and campaigning to save the lido she begins to overcome the loneliness that has been threatening to overcome her.

Rosemary has been widowed a couple of years previously and keenly misses her husband George. As the story progresses we find out more about their love story and how it is tightly wound into the lido’s history. In campaigning to save the swimming pool we feel as though Rosemary is also trying to preserve her memories of her husband and her own life history.

There are so many things to love about this book. It is about love, friendship, community, equality, diversity, mental health, loneliness, politics and is an ode to Brixton and to London. The friendship between Kate and Rosemary is everything. They bring different things to the table but it is clear that in the end Rosemary needs Kate as much as Kate needs Rosemary.

Written in fairly short chapters, Libby Page’s writing style is beautiful. What shines through is her clear love of literature, swimming and London. I love that Rosemary used to work in the local library and there are references to its closure and how a community doesn’t know what it’s got until it’s gone, a theme that keeps recurring throughout the book.

I’m now super excited to read her second novel, the 24-hour Cafe, which I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for in January. I have no doubt that it will be just as brilliant as The Lido.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Little Seed – a Moon and Me Original Story by Andy Davenport; illustrated by Mariko Umeda

At the end of a long day at home with two children, more often than not we have a bit of CBeebies time before Daddy gets home and everything inevitably descends into pre-bedtime madness. Watching a bit of “Moon and Me” and having a bit of calm before the storm is one of my favourite times of day.

So when Scholastic sent us a review copy of this beautiful hardback gift book we were super excited!

The story follows the structure of a typical Moon and Me episode.

“Hush, Hush” says the Moon…

“It’s time to go to sleep.”

It is the story of how Pepi Nana meets Moon Baby, writing a magical letter to the Moon to ask for a visit and a story. All our favourite characters are featured, along with some original songs.

The illustrations feel dreamlike and whimsical and, with muted tones, they make the book ideal for a soothing bedtime read.

The book itself looks and feels of beautiful quality and would be perfect for a Christmas gift. What I would say is that it does feel quite long for a little one and, in my opinion, it would be best appreciated by a real “Moon and Me” fan or a child between 3 and 5.

INSTAGRAM GIVEAWAY!

I’m teaming up with the lovely people at Scholastic to giveaway a copy of this beautiful book along with two TV tie-in Moon and Me books. All you have to do is like this post on Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/p/B4btXuVAnsJ/?igshid=1wgdf5j1w6hf7
follow me and tag a friend in the comments that might also be interested in winning!

Entrants must be over 18 and be willing for me to share their home address with Scholastic. The giveaway is not affiliated with Instagram and the prize will be coming directly from Scholastic. Giveaway closes at 7pm on Sunday 10th November. UK entrants only.

GOOD LUCK!

The Little Seed is available to buy now.

Pick a pumpkin by Patricia Toht and Jarvis

This book has been all over social media in the run up to Halloween and deservedly so. It is not only a visually beautiful book in a way that photos just can’t capture, it is also a lovely rhyming story that covers all the building excitement in the preparations for Halloween, right from the first visit to the pumpkin patch through to dressing up and treat or treating.

Verse? Yes

Peril? None

Illustrations ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Jarvis’ trademark illustration style is just the perfect complement to Patricia Toht’s poetic verse. Each spread is packed with subtleties such that you discover lovely extra details each time you read the book. The colour palette’s oranges, reds, blacks and browns are beautifully evocative of autumn and create a wonderfully atmospheric feeling of darkness in the latter half of the book. The spread containing the Jack-o-lantern is absolutely breathtaking.

Repeatability rating (mine) ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Of all the Halloween-related books that we own or have borrowed from the library this year, this is undoubtedly my favourite. I would just say that, much like any other seasonal book, I would probably only be picking it up in September, October and November, so its repeatability is, in that way, limited. But it’s one we’ll definitely be coming back to next year!

Repeatability rating (WR) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

There is something about this book that has really captured Wee Reader’s imagination. It could be the mention of sweets, cocoa and toffee apples… but no, it’s much more than that. He loves to look at all of the different costumes and spot skeletons, ghosts and witches. But it is also the first book that he has ever insisted on trying to recite to me. I can see him trying to memorise it and, after only a couple of readings he could complete the second half of many lines. He is completely bewitched by it and it is so so lovely to see.

Influence ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Apart from requesting a sack to fill with sweets (er, no, you’re 2), and being desperate to dress up (okay, here’s a pair of glow-in-the-dark skeleton pyjamas), it is the urge to memorise and recite the text that has been the most notable influence. I’m not sure there can be a much greater indication of how much he loves this book.

Overall rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

If you buy one Halloween book this year, make it this one. A stunning asset to any bookshelf.

With thanks to Walker Books and Toppsta for our gifted copy.

Mumday Monday – The silent companions by Laura Purcell

I was all kinds of ready for a spooky Halloween read but it turns out I was in no way prepared for the the insane creepiness of this book. Without question I’ll be thinking about it for a long time and, let’s just say it’s a good job I don’t live in an old stately home because, if I did, I’d have my bags packed right now and be running for the hills.

Newly widowed Elsie moves to the country estate belonging to her late husband with Sarah, her husband’s cousin. The servants aren’t the friendliest bunch but she tries to make the best of it. When she hears noises from above one night her investigation takes her to the locked door of the mysterious garrett. When she is eventually granted access she discovers an old diary and a strange and disturbing wooden figure, that looks distressingly like herself.

At the opening of the book we find Elsie in what is essentially an asylum, mute and having been injured in a fire. It becomes clear that she is accused of being a murderer, though we don’t know whether she really is or not. We revisit the asylum as the story progresses and we begin to understand how Elsie has found herself in such a position.

The narrative is told alternately from Elsie’s point of view and through entries from the 17th century diary. As we read more from the diary we begin to think we understand a little bit about what might be behind the house’s strange goings on. But if I thought I had the measure of it, I was very wrong!

What I loved about this book was how the three time periods were very cleverly wound together to aid the slow and steady build of tension. The 17th century characters are pretty much without exception awful but I mostly really liked Elsie and Sarah and I did really empathise with Elsie, being young and pregnant, finding herself newly widowed and shipped off to a house in the middle of nowhere.

I have seen this book compared to The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters but I thought it was, in most ways, so much better! It does of course have some similarities, but the pacing of The Silent Companions is just perfect and to my mind it has a significantly more satisfying ending than Waters’ novel. It’s also a heck of a lot scarier!

This is Victorian gothic fiction at its absolute best, I loved it.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Have you seen my blankie? by Lucy Rowland and Paula Metcalf

Want to buy a wonderful picture book that’s tenuously related to Halloween (in that it features a witch) but is just brilliant all year round? Then this is the book for you!

Princess Alice wakes up one morning and finds that her beloved blankie is gone! Her brother reckons a giant took it, so off she goes on a quest to get it back. When she finally finds a dragon using it to make his bed more comfy Alice is determined to help him find a sleeping solution that doesn’t involve pinching her comforter. But finding something suitable is not as easy as she’d hoped…

Verse? Yes

Peril? None

Illustrations ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The level of incredible detail and woodland colour palette give this book the look and feel of a classic fairytale. I love how the princess is given a wonderfully innocent expression, so intent is she on finding her blankie that she seems unmoved by the fact she’s coming across some potentially dangerous fairytale characters. Wee Reader particularly loves the dragon (of course) and thinks that he’s the sort of dragon he’d like to be friends with…

Repeatability rating (mine) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I love this book! With a princess who is both kind and a bit badass, witty rhyming text, and a lovely heartwarming story this was always going to be a winner for me. It’s also absolutely beautiful to look at with plenty for Wee Reader to discover on each page. We could read this every night and there’d be no complaints from me!

Repeatability rating (WR) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Wee Reader loves the idea of befriending a dragon and this one is infinitely preferable to the one from Room on the Broom. It has been really sweet to see how he empathises with Alice, willing her to find her blankie so she won’t be sad any more. Oh and he enjoys the part where she checks inside the toilet to see if her blankie is in there (because 2 year old boys…). He was adamant that I wasn’t allowed to take this one back to the library this week.

Influence ⭐️⭐️⭐️

New vocabulary included the word “hankie”, (which has been quite amusing since he’s had a cold this week).

Overall rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

I love it when we find a previously undiscovered gem at the library and this book is total perfection. It’s definitely one we’re going to be reading for a long time to come.

Have you seen my blankie? is published by Nosy Crow and is available to buy now.