Summer Reads

After hardly getting a chance to read at all in June, the past few weeks have seen me get through quite a few books to my ‘to be read’ pile.  And with the holidays almost over up here in Scotland, I thought I would share with you what I’ve been reading this summer.

Fly Away Home – Jennifer Weiner

Sylvie Woodruff is married to senator Richard, and has spent most of her adult life being the perfect senator’s wife.  When Richard makes the headlines for all the wrong reasons, Sylvie takes herself off to her family’s beach house in Connecticut to consider her future.  The book also follows the stories of Sylvie and Richard’s daughters Diana (an ER doctor with her own family problems) and Lizzie (a recovering addict), and looks at their relationship as sisters and their relationship with their mother.  I really enjoyed the way the story was told from the perspective of the different characters, and I thought the characters themselves were believable, particularly Sylvie who doesn’t really remember who she is apart from a politician’s wife.  Chick lit with a twist, would recommend!

The Girl Under The Olive Tree – Leah Fleming

My mum gave me this book and I have to say it didn’t immediately jump off the shelf at me – historical fiction is not something I read very often.  However, once I started reading I could not put it down.  Set mostly in Crete during the Second World War, it tells the story of Penelope, a British woman who, against her family’s wishes, becomes a Red Cross nurse and remains in Greece under the occupation of the Nazis.  She then returns to Crete 60 years later, and has to face her past and some of the secrets she thought she had left behind.  It is clearly a very well researched book, with lots of historical detail, and very descriptive.  It is such a compelling story, and you not only get a feel for the atrocities that went on in Greece during that time, but also the sense of friendship and kindness found among strangers.  The only criticism I had was at the start I felt it was a bit jumpy between the past and the present day, but it didn’t really affect my enjoyment at all.  Definitely a five star read!

House Rules – Jodi Picoult

I know Jodi Picoult is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I really enjoy her books.  They always leave you with a lot to think about and House Rules is no different.  Jacob Hunt is an 18yo boy with Asperger’s Syndrome.  Although he has a higher than average IQ, he struggles to relate to human emotion, and if his daily routine is thrown off kilter he is prone to (sometimes violent) outbursts.  When his social skills tutor goes missing and is then found dead, Jacob finds himself accused of her murder.  The story is told from the perspective of various different characters, including Jacob, his mum Emma, brother Theo and Jacob’s lawyer, and it is interesting to see all these characters developing.  A lot of research clearly went in to not just the character of Jacob as the person with AS, but also how it affects those closest to him.  I have to say though, I was fairly sure I knew “whodunnit” very early on, although this didn’t spoil the story at all as I wanted to make sure I was right! 

The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

I received this as part of a #BringBackPaper book swap run by Jocelyn over the The Reading Residence.  I’d heard all about it and have seen the film trailer but had never bought myself a copy.  For anyone who doesn’t know the storyline, it’s about terminally ill Hazel, whose life changes dramatically when she meets the gorgeous Augustus at a teenage cancer support group.  I know, cheery stuff, right?  I think the subject matter and the hype around it were what put me off actually going out and getting it for myself.  It is a beautifully written book, of that there is no question, although some of the dialogue I found a bit unlikely for two 17yo kids.  Having said that, they are not “normal” teenagers – Hazel has known she is going to die for quite some time, and Augustus lost a leg to cancer, so maybe they would speak in that way.  Did I cry?  Honestly?  Not as much as I thought I would.  There is lots of humour to break up the sadness/melancholy, and there are definitely some touching moments between the two main characters, but I wasn’t the blubbering wreck I thought I would be.  Overall, I thought it was a good book, a 3 and a half out of 5, and I want to see the movie, but for me it didn’t quite live up to its hype. (*runs off and hides from all the John Green fans*)

The Honey Trap – Thea Wolff

This has been sitting on my shelf for ages, and I picked it up because I wanted something light hearted after House Rules and The Fault in Our Stars.  Issy is a single mum making ends meet by working at The Honey Trap – an agency that tests men’s fidelity for suspicious wives and girlfriends.  Her life starts getting complicated when her son finds a severed finger in their back garden, and then she breaks the golden rule of the agency by sleeping with one of the clients.  I couldn’t get into this at all unfortunately – the story was very odd and I wasn’t keen on the writing style.  Give it a miss!!

Would love to know what others have been reading over the summer.  Any recommendations?!

Activity Overload?!

For someone who is only four, B has a pretty busy wee life.  As well as two full days in nursery (from 9am til 5pm), she also has a ballet class, a gymnastics class and a drama class.  She’s learning to ski, and although she doesn’t have proper swimming lessons, hubby is teaching her to swim and they tend to go to the pool once a week.  Add into that playdates, trips to the library/park/garden centre, it’s a wonder we have time just to hang out at home!!  I do think it’s important to encourage interests and hobbies from an early age, but how much is too much?

I’ve been very conscious for the last couple of months that things will change once she starts school.  Going from two days a week at nursery to five days a weeks at school (albeit shorter days) will be a big change for her, and I expect for the first term at least she will be pretty exhausted.  She’ll have homework and new friends to get to know, playdates, birthday parties, existing friends to try and fit in as well.  Something will have to give.  But what?

The first decision we had to make was about her dancing.  I will confess to encouraging her dancing, because it was my ‘thing’ when I was younger.  I did ballet, tap and Highland until I was about 10, and I did Scottish Country Dancing from the age of 6 until I was 17, and actually qualified as a teacher!  Anyway, when we got back from Center Parcs in May, we had a letter from the dance school about classes after the summer holidays.  B is currently in the pre-school ballet class, so obviously a move to the P1/2 class makes sense.  However, the letter said that “most children” choose to do two types of dancing – ballet and either tap or jazz.  Hmmm, well the dance school would say that, at more than £6 for a half hour lesson!!  I didn’t even really give it much consideration.  B’s current class is on a Tuesday afternoon, and the P1/2 class runs straight after the pre-school one, and we will probably have to go straight from school.  Another class on the same day would mean B not getting home until almost 6pm, which is a long day if she’s been at school since before 9am.  It’s also pretty expensive – not just the cost of the class, but the outfit and shoes, costumes for shows, exams and all these things will soon mount up.  So we’re sticking just with ballet (so are her friends who go to the same class, so I don’t know who these “most children” are!!).

Next up, gymnastics.  B has been going to gymnastics for just over a year now.  She does a little bit of badge work every week, and now has four badges, then the rest of the 45 minute class is kind of free play around the gym equipment – balancing beams, trampolines, climbing stuff, plus mats for forward rolls and stuff.  There are two ladies who supervise, but apart from the badge work bit they don’t ‘teach’ the kids anything as such.  B loved it when we first started going, but recently has found it a bit boring – repetitive I guess.  She was offered a place at the next class up, but it’s at 3.40pm on a Wednesday – the centre is right at the other side of town, and it would be a major rush to get there from school, so we said no thanks.  I didn’t think B would be too fussed, but the last couple of weeks before the holidays, they were taken through to the “big girl’s gym” with all the proper gym equipment, and she got to jump in the pits which she thought was super exciting, and now she is really keen on sticking at it!! I’m sure we could probably find a class on a Saturday, but that would mean giving up drama.

We started taking B to drama at the start of this year, partly because she loved the Xmas show she did at nursery last year, and partly to see if it would give her a little bit more confidence, as she was quite shy.  It’s an hour on a Saturday, and there are two things I really like about it.  The first is that it’s a ‘pay as you go’ affair – you don’t have to pay for a whole term in advance, so if we’re away for a weekend, or if she has a birthday party or is not well, it really doesn’t matter.  The second is that I tend to leave A at home with hubby, which means I get an hour to sit in the café and read my book!!  😉  But the main thing of course is that B really enjoys it.  There’s singing, dancing, dressing up, games, and if she stuck with it, she would have the chance to take part in shows.  I’m not a pushy mum at all (at least I really hope I’m not!!) but B loves singing and prancing about, and I want to encourage her to enjoy those things before she’s at an age where she’s self conscious about it.

Because drama is just a drop in class, she sometimes misses it to go to a skiing lesson at the dry slope near our house.  Skiing is very much hubby’s thing.  He was brought up very close to Ben Nevis and could go skiing every weekend during the winter.  He’s tried to teach me; it almost ended in divorce!!  I’m too old and too scared – if we ever went on a winter holiday I’d be sticking to the après ski!  Anyway, B absolutely loves it and is actually very good.  She’s had several private lessons now, and actually has her own skis and kit!  She could join the kids’ ski club which I think you sign up for in blocks of 12 weeks, but hubby seems to think the private lessons are still the way to go for now, probably once every four or five weeks.  While it holds absolutely no interest for me whatsoever, I think it’s great that she will have the opportunity to learn as a child.

The other thing I’ve put B’s name down for is Rainbows.  There was no such thing as Rainbows when I was a kid, but I was a Brownie and a Girl Guide.  The one I have her name down for is at the community centre beside her school, so I’m hoping it will give her a chance to socialise with some of the girls from her class (she doesn’t go to the school nursery so will only know one or two kids when she starts P1).  She has to be 5 before she starts though, so that won’t be as soon as she starts school.  Although now I come to think of it. it may actually clash with her ballet day.  Hmmm, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it!

So that gives us ballet and eventually Rainbows on school days, and drama and possibly skiing on weekends.  I really think this is plenty when she is going to have to adjust to the school routine, and if it looks like being too much for her then we will rethink.

I would love to know what other people’s pre-schoolers and school age children do outside of school.  Do you think we do too much?  Not enough?!  Would love to hear your views!

 

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