Tuesday, 31 July 2012
a wonderful blog post about Keyes' forthcoming book The Mystery of Mercy Close (not published until 13 September - can't wait!). I'd noticed Moyes' books on the bookshelf and had definitely seen the advertising for her most recent book, Me Before You, but I'd always dismissed them as chick lit. There's more than a fine line between quality female-oriented fiction and crap books about a woman desperate for a man - which ironically Moyes touches on in the aforementioned blog post - and I look for more substantial, complex plots in my books. Anyway, a RT from Keyes led me to Moyes' blog and on the basis of that post I thought I ought to give one of her books a go. In a nutshell I'm really glad I did.
While Me Before You is at heart a love story, it's far from a stereotypical girl meets boy kind of story. Lou has been made redundant from her job at the Buttered Bun cafe. Still living at home with her parents and in a lacklustre relationship with 'running man' Patrick, her prospects aren't exactly sparkling. Will has been in a horrific accident which has left him quadriplegic and living a life that he feels isn't worth living. Lou signs up for a six month contact as Will's carer and the impact they have on each other is deeply moving.
You know that a story about a quadriplegic is going to be emotional but this book pulls at your heartstrings in the most unexpected ways (sorry - can't say more without being a plot spoiler!) and I welled up on more than one occasion reading this.
But Moyes echoes Marian Keyes' style of finding humour in the bleakest of human situations and there was plenty to smile about too. Not quite laugh out loud but certainly amusing. Lou's family reminded me of the Walsh family that features in several Keyes' books and the portrayal of family life with its inherent quirks and squabbles brings a warmth and smallness to a story that also deals with huge and bleak issues.
I love the fact that all the characters, even the secondary ones, go on a journey in the book. In that six months everyone's life changes in some way and as a reader I felt satisfied with the outcomes for all of them. I'm a real stickler for loose ends being tied up at the end of the book and I wasn't left wondering what happened to any of the characters. However, I do think a sequel/follow-up would be worth a read and that's a very good thing!
The Bookaholic Mum Rating
Wednesday, 25 July 2012
Dolly is a blue camper van, based on a real-life camper van also called Dolly. Apparently the owner was inspired to commission a children's book by the guestbook entries written by families who hired the van.
The book is about Dolly's first outing with her new family - Molly, her mum and dad and their dog Fergus - involving picnics, kite-flying and seaside adventures. It's set in Eastbourne and if you're familiar with the town the book features some recognisable landmarks - Beach Head, the pier and the Dotto train.
The story is a simple one and S (3 and a half) seemed to enjoy it. The illustration style is very childlike - almost like they could have been done by a child but at the same time obviously not - there are some wonderful details tucked away - for example a mermaid on the Beachy Head spread and a couple of sheep sitting at a table while the family have their picnic. A little thing I know, but I loved the fact that Mum drove Dolly and not Dad - nice to see a children's book avoiding stereotypical roles for mums and dads.
I imagine this would be a great book to read if you were actually going somewhere in a camper van, or visiting Easbourne. But equally if you were just going on a day trip and doing some of the activities featured in the book - like flying a kite, having a picnic or eating an ice-cream on the beach - it would be very sweet to read Dolly's Diary at the end of the day and use it to remember a lovely day out. In keeping with the 'diary' reference in the title, the inside covers are designed almost like blank diary entries so you could use the book to record a real holiday perhaps and it could become a bit of a keepsake.
The book is clearly being set-up to launch a series of further books about Dolly and her adventures. There's certainly some scope for the storylines and developing Dolly as a character.
You can buy the book from the Dolly's Diary website - which also features some colouring-in templates (great for non-creative parents!) and a snap-style matching game you can play online.
Tuesday, 24 July 2012
Thursday, 19 July 2012
The Thread by Victoria Hislop is an epic tale spanning more than 80 years of Greek history, from World War 1 through to the present day, but woven through it are the stories of a group of people which makes the book feel personal and intimate. I loved it!
Set against the backdrop of immense social and political changes in Greece and the city of Thessaloniki in particular, the book tells the story of intertwined lives of Dimitri and Katerina. Dimitri is born as a great fire sweeps the city, forcing his mother, Olga, to flee from the mansion where she lives with her wealthy fabric merchant husband Konstantinos, and live in the less well-heeled area of Niki Street where she grew up.
Katerina’s story begins five years later, when she is moved from her home in Asia Minor as part of a forced population swap of Greek Christians with Turkish Muslims living in Thessaloniki. Amid the chaos Katerina is separated from her mother and ends up with a woman called Eugenia and her two little girls. After months as refugees, they eventually settle in Niki Street in Thessaloniki and build a new life there.
The book strikes a successful balance between the macro level of Thessaloniki’s socio-political developments and the micro level of Katerina and Dimitri’s journey from childhood through their adult years. I found the historical elements of the story fascinating; Thessalonki starts off with a religiously diverse population encompassing, Christians, Muslims and Jews but over time becomes more homogenous as first the Muslims are forced to move out as part of the population swap and then later, the city’s vibrant Jewish community are driven out by the Nazis. Hislop gets under the skin of these huge changes by letting us get to know individuals in these communities. The story of the Jewish expulsion had me in tears.
Thessaloniki is practically a main character in itself. There are beautiful descriptions of the changing city-scape and Hislop paints a striking contrast between the wealthy seafront area with its magnificent mansions where Olga lives a lonely life, and the cosy houses on the cobbled Niki Street where friendships between different kinds of people flourish.
Relationships are a key theme throughout the book. The surrogate parent-child relationship between Katerina and Eugenia is incredibly touching and reflects the same level of love between Olga and her biological child Dimitri. Despite being hrown together in the most terrible of circumstances, Katerina and Eugenia’s love grows and deepens over the years. The book also focuses enduring friendships that have developed across social boundaries – the wealthy Olga and her maid Pavlina, Dimitri and his university friends – and religious boundaries – the many families in Niki Street. I found this really honest and real. Despite different beliefs and circumstances people can and do find common ground on which friendships flourish. But of course, this isn’t always the case and the dysfunctional father-son relationship between Dimitri and Konstantinos illustrates how differing political and life views can have a ruinous effect on a relationship. The love story at the heart of the book – between Dimitri and Katerina – is simultaneously subtle, complex and solid. As a result of all the socio-political change, they don’t have a simple journey but as we know from the beginning of the book, they are together well into their old age.
Another element of the book I found fascinating was the role of women in Greek society during this time period and what they had to do to survive. The stories of Olga and Katerina have many similarities but also many contrasts. Both are forced into functional marriages that make them desperately unhappy, but they deal with that in very different ways, Olga being more passive than Katerina. There is also an interesting contrast in Olga’s role as a clotheshorse for her domineering husband, while Katerina discovers a skill for sewing and embroidering and embarks on a career as a seamstress. However, both women are ultimately bound together by their shared history and friendships in Niki Street and their love of Dimitri.
There are so many layers to this story that it’s one to read again and again. I have only read it once but I think the more you read it the more you will get out of it. I thoroughly recommend it!
Thursday, 12 July 2012
|Eric Carle's Caterpillar / Bookaholic Family's Caterpillar!|
There’s a very good reason why this blog is called Bookaholic Mum and not Craftaholic Mum. I’m happier reading a book with my kids than making a collage, getting messy with finger paints or god forbid, making a papier mache model! It’s largely the mess that puts me off but there’s also my lack of creative, artistic skills and inclination to contend with. I have much admiration for parents who can whip up a craft activity to rival Mister Maker, but sadly it’s not my forte. Frankly I’m glad the girls have an amazing childminder who does all this sort of stuff with them and takes them to a weekly Mucky Pups class so I don’t have to do it!
But lately I’ve been feeling that I’m doing the girls a disservice and I’ve also been inspired by the blogosphere, where there are lots of mums doing book-inspired activities, plus lots of picture book illustrators who provide activities and resources on their websites. Last weekend I came across a new blog – Mini Book Worms – who are hosting an Eric Carle themed month. The Hungry Caterpillar is a much-loved book in our house (probably like most houses with little ones) so I felt inspired to take part.
But doing what???
A quick search online revealed hundreds of ideas (some involving finger paints and papier mache!!) but given our lack of craft supplies in the household, I thought I’d keep it simple and do some colouring or make a picture. When I asked S if she’d like to make a picture of The Hungry Caterpillar she said she’d prefer to do a butterfly! Fair enough! So back to the internet for another search of butterfly activities! I soon came across something a bit more exciting than a colouring in template – I found an activity where we could make a butterfly using nothing more than an empty toilet roll tube and some paper! Blue Peter eat your heart out!
The toilet roll tube is the body of the butterfly and then there templates to make the wings, face and hands (yes I never knew butterflies had hands either but there you go!). You can print out the templates already coloured, but of course it’s more fun to colour them yourself if you’re 3. So S painted the tube while I carefully cut out the paper tempates. First up was the three heart shapes for each butterfly wing – layered on top of each other for effect! I guess if you are a true crafty mum or dad you’d have stocks of heavier weight paper which would work perfectly for this but not in the Bookaholic household. So we just used the printer paper! After painting the hearts with water paints it became obvious that these were going to be very flimsy wings so I then had to cut out some backing from one of my magazine covers and glue them on. I had to do the same with the face but the hands were ok to just stick straight on the tube. The hands and face were a bit small so S just coloured those in with her Twistables. All in all it kept us occupied for about 45 minutes on a very rainy Sunday morning and S was extremely proud of the final butterfly – it now has pride of place on a shelf in her room (after a short spell on the living room mantelpiece!).
Thanks to the Mini Bookworms for the original inspiration and DLTK Kids for the craft idea.
Saturday, 7 July 2012
Diane Chamberlain’s books are very much in the same vein as Jodi Picoult’s, coming from the angle of ‘what would you do if….?’ In this case, what would you do if you were homeless and desperate for money to look after your child? And what would you do if a man left his young daughter with you without telling you where he was going or when he’d be back? This book tells the story from the point of view of both of these characters, plus the girl’s mother, whom she has never known. I really like this narrative style as you get different insights into the same event.
Travis is a loving father to Bella, but when his house burns down and his mother dies he ends up in a desperate situation. He meets
in a coffee shop and a tentative friendship ensues, with Bella as the conduit. Erin
has recently lost her own daughter and although she has been avoiding other
children, she is drawn by Bella’s charm and intrigued by the situation she and
her father seem to be in. Travis takes a gamble that Erin will take care of Bella while he tries to earn some money, but Erin's trust in Travis is stretched when he doesn't return. Meanwhile, Bella's mother, Robin, is finding herself questioning her fiance and his family and the life she is about to commit to. Her teenage sister-in-law to be has just had a baby which opens the floodgates of memories and emotions for Robin, who hasn't seen Bella since she was a newborn.
While at times a little bit predictable, I found the story gripping nonetheless. I really wanted everything to work out for Travis and Bella. The plight of little Bella really pulled on my emotions (perhaps more-so as a mother of a similar-aged daughter). I also really related to
a mother who has recently lost her own daughter in a tragic accident and is
working through the grieving process. Her relationship with Bella is the last
thing she thinks she wants but ends up being immensely helpful for her. The
heartstrings also get a strong tug from Robin's story. But this isn't just an emotional story, there's plenty of action and my heart did race at times - not good for pre-bedtime reading!
There are a number of compelling secondary characters and sub-plots - I'm sure there could be a whole other book about the Hendrick family and the other residents of Beaufort. And perhaps, hopefully, there will. I will certainly be working my way through Diane Chamberlain's back catalogue until her next book!
Friday, 6 July 2012
Where's My Sock?
Written by Joyce Dunbar
Illustrated by Sanja Rescek
First line: Pippin was cross. Pippin was really cross. Pippin was as cross as cross can be!
I thought it was quite amusing that S chose a book about socks at the library last week. She currently has a bit of an obsession about socks. None are ever quite right. A common complaint is that they are itchy! But this story isn't about itchy socks, it's about lost socks. Specifically a lost yellow sock with clocks! Pippin and his friend Tog embark on a great sock hunt, pair up odd socks and eventually find the missing sock. It's quite a sweet little story and S has enjoyed it a lot.
This book was published by The Chicken House in 2006. Amazon only seem to be selling second-hand copies but perhaps a local bookshop could order it for you? Or maybe you could get it from the library like we did? Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Thursday, 5 July 2012
Storyseekers, where Rosalind has been writing about her dream of developing a baby/toddler class to encourage reading for pleasure. I think this is a wonderful idea and something I have had musings about myself. As a mother of two young children, currently 3 and 1, I’ve been to many baby/toddler classes. I’ve been to baby yoga, baby signing, music classes, gym classes and even baby salsa! But apart from rhyme time at the local library I haven’t come across a story/book based class and I definitely think there’s a market for it. I would love to do something like that (what a fantastic opportunity to show off the silly voices I love to do when reading to S and B!!) but alas I am working full time at the moment and can’t see how I could give it up and chase the dream. Maybe when the girls are both at school and perhaps if I win the lottery and can afford to give up the day job!!
In other words, in my dreams! But since we’re talking about daydreams I might as well indulge my other fantasies, (no, not the fifty shades sort!) for living a book-infused life…
So in my dreams I have successfully published a number of novels and combine my ongoing writing with running a multifaceted story café. My story café would be part children’s bookshop, part community hub, with space for my baby/toddler classes as well as reading groups and local writers (published or aspiring) to come and write, and part café selling wonderful cake and scones (I’m a big scone fan!). We'd have lots of visits from and activities hosted by authors and illustrators, and we'd run creative writing classes and courses. We'd sell a wide range of children's books and perhaps a select range of adult books too.
As I'm a published author in my dreams (!), I'd have some wonderful business partners helping me run the story cafe so I could have some time for my writing. (I have tons of ideas for books, copious notes and even some half-written novels, but I'm not much of a completer-finisher and lack of time is one of my main excuses for not getting an actual book written!).
What a wonderful life it would be, spending my days immersed in reading and writing, with lots of other booklovers young and old!