All posts in MummyB’s Book Club


Keep Your Friends Close — A review

Two things happened yesterday.   The sun came out and I read a book.     The second of those points is not unusual.  I often read a book but what I don’t do very often do is read a book in one sitting.    The last few weeks have been more bonkers than I can begin to explain.   Preparing for Africa,  supporting the relay, working, trying to keep this blog going, looking after the house, being a mum, it has all been a bit crazy.    And time for me to switch off has been zilch.

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The Little Book of Big Wisdom

They say that the best things come in small packages.   Well I do when people take the mickey out of me only being 5’4 and now shorter than two of the teens.  Three if youngest is wearing her spiky shoes.

So when a little book landed on my doorstep called The Little Book of Big Wisdom I was intrigued.

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Henley Literary Festival 2013

And so another amazing year for Henley Literary Festival ends.   If you haven’t been before then I really suggest you look into going next year.  It’s a “must do event” for us now.

Monday morning and I was at “From Blog to book” hearing how Helen McGinn and Maggy Woodley have translated their phenomenally successful blogs into books.   Both in very different ways.   They gave us lots of tips on how to do it if we are that way inclined.  You will be relieved to know though dear reader that I am not, I can’t see anybody being remotely interested in my blog becoming a book.

Highlight of the week though had to be Saturday night with Emma Freud, Emma Kennedy and Cherry Menlove.   Talking about their books, their love of cooking and then Emma K and Cherry taking part in the “Great Henley Cook Off”.

“History in the making” said Emma Freud.

As we witnessed live cooking on stage and then sharing of what had been created in just five minutes.   We also got to share cronuts.   If you haven’t heard about cronuts, well you are missing out on something rather special, let me tell you.  Emma Freud told a great story about “the cronut situation” in New York and how she had driven to London to get some just for us, the audience.

Only at Henley would a speaker go to that much trouble.

There is a certain camaraderie about events at Henley.  A feeling that you are in the speaker’s front room.   That this is not a formal talk at a literary festival, but more of a chat over a glass of wine.  And indeed there is wine at some of the events, thanks to Laithwaites.   And cake at others, thanks to Gower Cottage.   Or even cronuts.

Other guests this year were Giles Coren (who apparently was fabulous, if a bit sweary), David Gower, Damian McBride ( I did cheekily tweet him and Iain Dale and ask that they leave any protesters alone, this being Henley after all), Stella Rimmington, Roy Hattersley, Barry Norman, Irvine Welsh, Rachel Joyce (for whom I had tickets but didn’t get to because I had a sick car), Peter Snow…. the list goes on.

Whether you are a fan of crime or autobiography, travel or history, want to learn how to self publish, or get a book deal with a publisher, this event has something for everybody.   In a backdrop of stunning locations, from the glorious Bix Manor to a town centre hotel to the rowing museum to the theatre that holds 250.

Can you tell I am a massive fan?

Do sign up for next year.   This event is going from strength to strength which means that next year is going to even more amazing.

I can’t wait!

Henley Literary Festival website

or follow them on Twitter @henleylitfest


MummyBarrow loves — Books

I have read so many great books recently that I thought I would do a round up post of them all.   The book club is sadly neglected as I have been swamped with other things and haven’t had time to do it but will resurrect it next year hopefully.   In the meantime I wanted to share with you some books I have enjoyed in the past few months, not all of them fiction.

In fact the first one is one I have loved for a while and took out for another read recently.   Well I say “read” I mean stare at the pictures as they are so beautiful.   This book just makes me want to be a better person all round.   It sounds idyllic and I want to crawl inside the book and live this life.

I am of course talking about Cherry Menlove‘s “The Handmade Home”.   In a chapter entitled “Early Autumn Evenings Around the TV” Cherry tells you not only how to make paprika popcorn in cones, strawberry daiquiris and pizza but gives you a list of DVDs you should choose from and how to make big TV cushions.


We are going to be seeing Cherry speak at the Henley Literary Festival this evening and I cannot wait.  I missed her at Britmums this year so it will be a thrill to be in the same room and I am hoping some of her creativity will rub off on me.   Either that or I can just shove her in my oversized hand bag.

Next up three novels that all had me gripped and all in different ways:

The Shock of The Fall by Nathan Filer, a new author. This book left me a bit stunned after I had finished it. Well worth a read, particularly if you read quite quickly and have a spare rainy afternoon to curl up on the sofa. You won’t be able to put it down

I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.

Life after Life is the latest by Kate Atkinson who in my eyes can do no wrong. This is a 470+ page turner and set in 1910. You need to concentrate in the opening chapters as it tells two stories in parallel but after that it is an effortless read and pulls you in.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances?

Think Groundhog Day, think Sliding Doors, think. Actually don’t think. Just put it on your Christmas list.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent is another debut novel. This one set in In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnúsdóttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of her lover. She is sent to an isolated farm for her last months to live with a family who are horrified to be living with a murderer. But is she a murderer?

Agnes’s story begins to emerge and with it the family’s terrible realization that all is not as they had assumed. Based on actual events, Burial Rites is an astonishing and moving novel about the truths we claim to know and the ways in which we interpret what we’re told.

And then last up on the list of great books I have read this summer is an autobiographical book by Viv Groskop. Now we couldn’t miss Viv at Britmums as she had THE most amazing sparkly hot pants on to present the BiBs.  So I got a couple of hugs from her when collecting both my award and that of Team Honk’s with Annie and Penny.  Viv is hilarious.  Female comedians often leave me cold. Or should I say, did until I both heard Viv and then read her book

Viv’s book I laughed, I cried. How one woman took on stand up and (almost) ruined her life is a diary of her decision to do 100 gigs in 100 days. Not just the logistics of how you do when you have a husband and small children but also just how you get a comedy club booker to book you when you don’t really have a track record. How terrifying it must be to stand in front of an audience. Will there even be an audience?

Along the way she is heckled, flattered, hated, hit on and told that she is ‘reasonably funny – but you don’t really have any material, do you, love?’ So is this the start of an exciting new life? Or a delusional experiment doomed to failure?

Reading this book, I did too laughed and cried. It is brilliant. And Viv’s husband sounds like an incredible man!

All these books are out now from retailers everywhere (preferably an independent on your high street rather than one of those online ones that don’t pay taxes)


Lisa Faulkner — The Way I Cook — A review

If you follow me on Twitter you will know that I am a huge fan of Lisa Faulkner’s.  Not just for her voiceovers on Heir Hunters (which is often the sound track to my morning) and because I have never quite forgiven the BBC for murdering her in Spooks, but because she is an amazing cook.     Rightly so she won Masterchef and remains one of my favourite winners of all time.   The shock on her face each week as she made it to the next round just made me want to launch myself into my telly and give her a hug.

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The Hungry Student Cookery books by Charlotte Pike

I have a confession to make.   I love recipe books.  Can’t cook.   But love recipes books, and as I have mentioned in other posts I read them from cover to cover.

A few months ago I was contacted by a lovely lady on Twitter who told me she had some recipe books coming out and would I like to try them.   Well, hello?  Of course I would!   They duly arrived and I read them from cover to cover, oohing and ahhing at them.  Making a note of which recipes I wanted to cook.

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Perfect — July

I am really sorry the book for Mummy Barrow’s Book Club  is so late this month and didn’t happen at all last month.  But it has been a bit crazy around here.   I hope my choice of book will make up for it though.

This book is, quite simply, Perfect.

It comes from Rachel Joyce, author of quite possibly my most favourit-ist book of all times ever, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.   This new book is called Perfect and is out this month so any copy you buy will be hot off the press.

This is what the blurb says

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Girl Reading — May 2013

This month’s book selection is one I have grabbed off my ever growing pile of books that I have yet to read.   I like the title though as it tells us nothing of the book or story.    It is a debut novel by Katie Ward who you know must be good when their is quote from Hilary Mantel that says

Ward is wise, poised, and utterly original.  Her eye and her words are fresh, as if she is inventing the world

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Mum can you lend me twenty quid — April 2013

I have deliberately chosen a very different book this month.  A book that is not a novel but a book that I think everybody should read.   Especially anybody who has children of their own.

It is called “Mum can you lend me twenty quid” by Elizabeth Burton Phillips.    The blurb on Amazon doesn’t really do it justice:

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