Diva Reads #4

Diva reads April

So I’ve been busy this month. Busy doing a lot of reading and not much else, but that’s okay, because it means I get to share my findings with you guys.

I stumbled upon this first author mentioned by accident, and the first book of hers I read was so fantastically tragic and twisty that it made me download a second book, immediately after I’d read the last page of the first.

Lucinda Berry

When She Returned – This book set in modern America has an undercurrent of betrayal throughout, building to a crescendo at the end. It’s so good it had me flicking pages faster than I could blink in a desperate bid to get to the end.

It tells a story of a modern marriage and a completely opposing cult lifestyle that are world apart but intricately linked. There’s no happy ending either, which is a surprising relief because sometimes I get to the end of the book and am met with disappointment at its highly unbelievable ending, but this just adds an additional twist making the turning of that very last page all the more satisfying.

Missing Parts – Another exceptionally twisty read. I’ll admit it didn’t surprise me quite as much as the first but the story was quite different.

This one, about a mum who struggled to bond with her daughter who was then diagnosed as critically ill. It left a bad taste in my mouth, but equally demanded I put myself in the protagonist’s shoes. Full of betrayal and tragedy, this book will keep you on your toes until the very last page.

CL Taylor

Strangers – Cally Taylor is one of my all time favourite writers, I read all 7 of her books in a seriously short space of time and she never disappoints. Strangers is set in my home town of Bristol and that only adds to the relatability for me.

There are three main protagonists in the story, I probably related to Alice the most but each had both endearing qualities as well as misgivings, making them believable. It also wraps up well and for a stand alone book I feel that’s important. I don’t think you’ll ever be disappointed as a thriller fan with a C.L Taylor book and this one is no different.

Belinda Bauer

Black Lands – This was pretty dark. It had a classical murder mystery vibe, set up on Exmoor in typical Moors Murder vibes. The difference being this wasn’t your typical whodunnit. In fact it wasn’t a whodunnit at all. Another thing to set this book aside from your average crime thrillers is, the protagonist is a child. It’s very well written and captivates you from the first page. However the actual storyline was a bit over the top tragic and not much excitement, in my opinion.

Rubber Necker – Another Belinda Bauer thriller. She was recommended to me by author C.L Taylor and there’s absolutely no denying she has a talent for writing unusually dark and atypical thrillers. Completely different from backlands Rubber Necker tells the story of a young man with Aspergers who stumbles upon a conspiracy that has tragic consequences.

Tayari Jones

An American Marriage- I cant say too much to give this story away as it’s House 21’s May book club edition. What I will say though, is it really opens your eyes to a poor judicial system, overbearing pride and wavering love. It’s well written informative fiction with several protagonists each with their own endearing and flawed characters.

All of these books were read on Kindle and can be downloaded from your amazon kindle store.

Don’t forget to let me know what you think by emailing me here divamumsteph@hotmail.com

Love For Lockdown

People keep saying things to me like ‘can’t wait to go out when is over’ as if it’s expected that we are all super excited about socialising again. We must surely all be desperate to get to that overcrowded bar with friends we’ve been avoiding for ages?

No, I’m kidding – normalcy is an exciting prospect, but it seems we’re all presumed chomping at the bit to get back out and paint the town red, and the truth is, I’m not.

Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to get my freedom back, buy what I want in shops of my choosing, and get my lashes done, but socially I feel quite content in my little family bubble, for now at least.

Just my husband, daughter and I, plodding through the everlasting days with nothing to rush for. Working to an untimely schedule. The only million dollar question being, what’s for tea?! Mealtimes providing fattening structure to our days.

That’s not to say I don’t like people, or want to see my friends and family, I do desperately. But… and there is a but. Before lockdown, I always got an overriding sense of FOMO. I’ve mentioned before how living with a chronic illness and not being able to do all the things I could do pre diagnosis, can sometimes leave me feeling left out of social events. It’s probably true that it’s a lot to do with me, and less to do with the organisers of said events, but…. lockdown, isolation, quarantine, whatever you want to call it, has actually massively reduced my fear of missing out.

I mean obviously, because we’re all missing out now aren’t we? Or are we?

What’s your perspective?

Let’s skip to the facts, coronavirus is a killer, it imposed on our world as we knew it a few months ago, and it’s definitely nothing to be THANKFUL for. However it is making me appreciate life’s simple pleasures.

It’s making me feel less of a let down about not being socially available. I don’t have the constant conflict of having too much in my diary, or not enough, subsequently playing havoc with my insecurities. It’s awakened me to getting the best use of my time too. I even wrote a schedule last week and felt suitably joyous when ticking it off. A lot of people love a Mrs Hinch style list, and I’m usually not one of them. I’m the people admiring said list slayers from the sidelines whilst winging it and getting much of nothing done. Ticking off the days activities this past week has given me a sense of achievement, one that I don’t get from the daily grind of the 9-5. I think it’s fair to say that I’m coping ok. It’s not easy for any of us, and I won’t pretend being imprisoned in your two up two down semi is a holiday, but we’re making the best of it. My daughter just turned four and she was due to have a party and we were off on a caravan holiday.

When cancelling these I cried for days, I didn’t know how to explain it to her. After a week at home I asked her again what she would like to do for her birthday and she said……Feed the ducks please mummy, we have a local moat at the back of our house and so feeding the ducks is what we did. Along with hunkering down in the Lay-Z Spa for most of the day. Which may I add was a lockdown online impulse buy.

My heart swelled with pride at this almost four year old’s ability to adapt to getting pleasure from the simplest of activities.

It’s my own birthday this week too and I feel uncharacteristically calm about not having any plans. It’s no secret I am a diva and usually I pack in more than I’m up to achieving at this time of year, then get pretty upset when I crash and burn. Lockdown is providing me a safe haven with my family and I don’t have to feel sadness over people not coming out for another birthday booze, or disappointment that I didn’t lose the weight I wanted to for intended booze up, because I’m not having one.

I know this probably sounds ridiculous, maybe even a little sad, but I feel quite the opposite about it. I would love to see my family on my birthday, but I’m also glad I’ll be spending it with my very nearest and dearest, and I didn’t have to consider any other kind of strenuous activity.

I know in the long term, this new found comfort will fizzle and I will be back to climbing the walls – but for now I’m just rolling with it. Whilst keeping me and mine safe.

My only concern left for lockdown apart from the obvious and outright depressing (keeping our jobs/ home schooling etc) is how many snacks my kid is eating. The child is likely to ‘I want a snack’ us to our deaths if she’s not careful. I’ve tried and failed explaining to her we aren’t allowed to panic buy KitKats!

Article also available to read here https://www.house21.co.uk/news-opinions/love-for-lockdown/

Recommended Reads #3

I promised to keep them coming.

What have I been reading the last couple of months? LOADS! I’ve been reading loads as usual. On average I get through a book in three nights.

I’ve now read all of C.L Taylor’s books and am patiently awaiting her 7th release. My favourites are definitely ‘The Missing’ ‘The Escape’ and ‘The Accident’ I liked ‘Sleep’ as I really related to the characters particularly Anna, but I found Christine’s role a bit far fetched and that kind of ruined it for me a bit. ‘The Accident’ is my most recent favourite and I could relate to Sue as both, a girl in a relationship with a narcissist and a mother, it definitely kept me guessing and I understood her battle with mental health also.

Some other good reads are ‘Watching You’ by Lisa Jewell, set in my home town of Bristol. A good twisty thriller written in a traditional English style, which you don’t come across often anymore and so it makes pleasant reading. Lisa is a powerful story teller and her thrillers always have a great protagonist.

Another of my new favourite Authors is ‘Mark North’ his first book ‘Hold My Hand’ is set between Bath and Oxford and that was what drew me in, having been born and bred in Bath I like books I can relate to in terms of geographical memory. I like to read about streets I’ve walked, I find it helps me connect. His second book ‘Keep Her Close’ is all Oxford based but equally as good. His Protagonist Josie Myers is a good strong female lead and I’m intrigued to see where her story goes in the next instalment. I do find a lot of Crime Thrillers & Cop Saga’s do tend to be samey but if it’s a genre you enjoy I would recommend this writer.

Another author who’s work I admire and I’m currently reading a book of his is Mark Edwards. Im almost at the end of ‘Follow You Home’ I love the way Mark manages to convince you of some supernatural activity before dropping the obvious explanation, making you question your own sanity for a moment or two. He did a similar thing with ‘In Her Shadow’ and I really enjoyed reading that too. Follow you home is dark and gripping making you look at the world at its worst but in an addictive and compelling way that will keep the pages turning until the very last.

Bristol Places to See!!

Bristol mum’s, I promised my readers more ‘free fun’ tips. As days out with kids go, I’m getting pretty good at recommending free places to visit.

However they’re not for the unimaginative. In order to enjoy these great outdoor spaces you have to be able to think outside the box!

Bristol has so many amazing places to visit, where just a stroll can turn into the most magical of days for your little people.

Today we visited Bristol Harbour. See these coloured houses? Who do you think lives in them?

Is it a school for princesses? Or does Queen Poppy and the troll community reside there? Is it home to Ryder and his team of pups? You decide!

The boats are getting ready to sail across stormy seas and aboard are pirates and cocomora (Moana) if you look closely enough you can even see them.

Whilst stopping for a coffee before heading off to Leigh woods, we discussed our fairy finding tactics. Remembering that the Trolls from Frozen live in the woods too. Along with a few noisy pterodactyls and their nests. With this is mind we decided to explore each open tree trunk and moss covered rock as we ventured around the wood. What’s even better mum’s and dads is, this is actually considered exercise and I hit my daily step count in just a few hours!

There’s a lot to be said for getting out in the wilderness. The aimless wandering, coupled by great green scenes are surprisingly therapeutic. Let’s not pretend I’m a great outdoorsy type with a longing for nature and tree hugging. I’m really not, I’m a typical city suburb, pre kid, day drinking lover. However, I had to get savvy when it came to entertaining my ever demanding three year old. When she became so used to the farm trips, the theme parks and the fayres, we couldn’t afford to sustain these weekend ‘luxuries’ so we had to think of free stuff to do in its place. With the help of google maps we’ve found so many amazing places to visit in Bristol and it’s surrounding areas and still have so many more I want to see.

Yesterday we visited Clevedon and searched for dinosaur eggs on the rocks and crabs in the pools. We found one too, a crab that is! All you need to be able to enjoy these places is a car to get you there.

You’re never too old to forage and hunt and believe in magic. It was so nice to be outdoors having a laugh and getting excited about random coloured rocks instead of in front of Netflix or queuing for the toilet at Longleat and pushing to the front to get a millisecond glimpse of the penguins. Don’t get me wrong I love these things too, but for a change of scenery and a tightening on your purse strings, I’d recommend trying my ideas out too.

Below are links to the amazing Clevedon Beach (Perfect for dinosaur hunting) and the stunning Leigh Woods. I literally saw just a fragment of it today so will definitely be heading back soon.

I should state Clevedon pier does charge to enter but you don’t need to be on it to appreciate its scenic value.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/leigh-woods

https://clevedonpier.co.uk/

Beautiful Clifton

If you’ve never seen the suspension bridge it’s a photographers paradise. The view is immense. As well as the view though, Clifton has loads to offer. From the deli in Clifton Village serving the best pastry’s the city has to offer, to woodland walks in Leigh Woods. If you’re after somewhere to take the kids on the weekend Durdham Down is huge and there’s plenty of space to kick a ball, they also have a small play park too. Let’s not forget, The White Lion Bar at Avon Gorge Hotel if you fancy a pint. When I’m in Clifton I feel relaxed.

Oldbury Court Estate

The perfect place for a family day out. Has a good size play park and an amazing canal walk through Snuff Mills to the equally beautiful Eastville Park.

Coffee huts stand either end and are open all year round. In autumn the colours of the trees are truly stunning. Even the dog will love this place. A bit further up near Fishponds High street is The Porto Lounge, where you can grab a bev or a bite to eat.

Things I’ve learned this Easter 🐣

The holiday is over, we’re slowly approaching the warmer climes and ice creams have again become the daily expectancy of my three year old. But what has the Easter holidays taught us?

Well it’s taught me a few things, that’s for sure.

1. It’s taught me that you don’t mess with a toddler’s scooter, no way no how! Stone on the path? Better get it the fuck out the way mate. Wheel’s dirty? Mummy, clean scooter, now please! Helmet hurts, don’t want to ride that way! Hey where’s my scooter? Out the way kids, diva coming through!! And so on! Was either the best of worse buy of the year, I’m still undecided!

2. It’s taught me never to order a meal out for my three year old. She will only refuse to eat it and proceed to scream whilst we are trying to eat ours about how ‘yucky’ the chips are (they are her favourite food, FFS) May as well take some crisps and be done with it.

3. It’s taught me that I need to be careful about what I say.

‘Stop moaning mummy’ actually came out of her mouth yesterday, seems she’s got my number marked!

4. It’s taught me, free fun is the best fun. Who needs Lego land and Longleat when you have a wilderness on your doorstep? Live need a wood? Make believe play is for you! We slayed monsters, made fairy gardens, fished for newts and skimmed stones on the stream. And it was FREE!

5. A bit more on the free fun saga. It’s taught me no matter how much money you spend if your child is cranky a trip to the fayre won’t remedy that. You can have the best day planned, but toddlers make their own rules. If they don’t want to do something no amount of money will change that. Don’t take it personally, sometimes kids have bad days too.

6. It’s taught me that children as young as three, absolutely do have their own minds. I bought Ciara these amazing Dorothy style, red glitter Converse for her birthday. She categorically refuses to wear them, I’ve even tried hiding her other shoes to try and force them on her. Hasn’t worked. Moral of the story, don’t spend £35 on your three year old’s trainers. (Unless you’re prepared to just stare at them.)

7. And finally, it’s taught me that time goes too quickly. The long drawn out half term I was dreading just two weeks ago is now over. The birthday party we planned for Ciara almost 6 months ago has now been and gone. She’s another year older, as am I. Time is precious, it really does fly by when you’re having fun. Make the most of it, take it in, even the drama and the tantrums, because one day in the not so distant future they will end too and it’ll all be just a collection of memories.

Easter has never been big on our celebratory calendar. Before Ciara arrived I can’t even remember the last time I got an Easter Egg. We aren’t religious and therefore it’s never had any sentimental or meaningful value, but now it marks a new tradition for our family. One that involves picnics and Easter egg hunts in Nanny’s garden.

Below I list some of the places we visited this Easter local to Bristol, that were fun and free:

Willsbridge Mill. https://www.avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/reserves/willsbridge-valley

St George Park https://www.bristol.gov.uk/museums-parks-sports-culture/st-george-park

Weston Super Mare Beach https://www.visitsomerset.co.uk/explore-somerset/weston-super-mare-p500433

Chew Valley Lakes https://www.avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/reserves/chew-valley-lake