Life with two Smalls and a fistful of daydreams

CMAaAny Dream Will Do by Jason Donovan

Well, it doesn’t have to be the Jason Donovan version actually, I’d prefer it to be ‘the guy who sang it in my big sister’s school production in Germany’ version but that’s not available on the internet. I will have to just keep watching the video round at my parents’ house to experience that particular joy. (I’m amazed that video still works to be honest, given that I watched it over and over and over and over and over and over again for years…)

The Jason Donovan version was number one on my birthday in 1991 though, so I figured it was a good version to choose.

I know this song word for word – both the main part and the backing vocals. My Mum and I must have sung it together hundreds of times walking to school/the train station/wherever. I remember once finishing it at the train station having started somewhere on the walk down and a woman nearby saying she didn’t know whether to join in or just applaud at the end!

I think that’s why I love it so much. It’s a song almost everybody knows and it just lends itself to singing in a group or belting out on your own if you feel like it. It’s great for a sing along and is a total ear worm (so I apologise if you are now singing it!)


(From my 3rd birthday ToTP and everything!)

If you have Spotify you can follow the playlist for my Music Alphabet by clicking this link – I will update it each time I add a blog post :)

Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene

Illustrated by: N/A

Series: The Hollow Gods (Book #1)

Published: Hodder, January 2015

Edition: Paperback

Print Length: 404 pages

Narrated By: N/A

Genre: Adult Fiction, Epic Fantasy, Fantasy, Mythological Fiction

Where Did I Get It? I kindly received a copy from the publisher via Bookbridgr in return for this review.

Blurb: Yron the moon god died, but now he’s reborn in the false king’s son. His human father wanted to kill him, but his mother sacrificed her life to save him. He’ll return one day to claim his birthright. He’ll change your life.

He’ll change everything.

Smiler’s Fair: the great moving carnival where any pleasure can be had, if you’re willing to pay the price. They say all paths cross at Smiler’s Fair. They say it’ll change your life. For five people, Smiler’s Fair will change everything.

In a land where unimaginable horror lurks in the shadows, where the very sun and moon are at war, five people – Nethmi, the orphaned daughter of a murdered nobleman, who in desperation commits an act that will haunt her forever. Dae Hyo, the skilled warrior, who discovers that a lifetime of bravery cannot make up for a single mistake. Eric, who follows his heart only to find that love exacts a terrible price. Marvan, the master swordsman, who takes more pleasure from killing than he should. And Krish, the humble goat-herd, with a destiny he hardly understands and can never accept – will discover just how much Smiler’s Fair changes everything.

Opening Line(s):

Samadara felt the baby kick shift, a sudden pressure against her bladder. He was nearly ready to leave her and she had run out of time to save him.

My Review: Epic fantasy was my favourite genre for years. Then I had kids and suddenly I found them hard to read because I couldn’t dedicate the same concentrated time to them as I used to. I found listening to them on audiobook worked well when I was doing the housework but it somehow wasn’t quite the same. I haven’t picked up a physical book copy of an epic fantasy in quite a while.

Then I got sent Smiler’s Fair and I remembered what I’d been missing. The opening chapter was just brilliant. Graphic and unrelenting but brilliant and I was immediately hooked.

It took a little while to get into the swing of the story – there are several main characters, all with their own stories to tell, and this means that at first it all feels a little disjointed. You get a good picture of the world they live in from all different angles but it takes a couple of chapters from each character before you really get sucked in.

The characters themselves are great – all vibrant and very different. My favourites are Dae Hyo and Eric. Dae Hyo because he is head-strong and bullish but also loyal and fierce and smart despite his drinking habits, Eric because he is, for me, the most human character of them all. He’s imperfect and he knows it but he has dreams of better things even when nothing is working out. And he’s funny.

The character’s stories interweave cleverly – some meeting early on, some paths never crossing. There was a lot going on but I never lost track even though I had to keep putting it down and just grabbing five minutes reading time here and there.

The Hollow Gods world is well thought through and full of both the familiar and the strange. I loved the vastness of it and the details of every part the characters visited. From the grassy plains to the strange, snowy north lands each location was alive and vibrant – so often in epic fantasy the landscape can blur into the background but in Smiler’s Fair it was always there almost as another character in each scene.

Smiler’s Fair has reawoken my love of epic fantasy and dragged me out of my reluctance to pick them up. Now I can’t wait for The Hunter’s Kind to come out so I can find out what happens next. Plus the cover looks awesome so I need it on my shelf to look pretty next to Smiler’s Fair.

My Rating: 5/5*





82It has been a very Monday-ish Monday so the day was rounded off by Caius blowing things up in GTA V for an hour or so whilst I watched.

83I love that this little dude still gets played with by the Smalls. London 2012 feels like such a long time ago already and yet some memories of it still feel like yesterday.

84Sorry for the fuzzy phone photo. Tori was playing on her iPad whilst we waited for her doctor’s appointment to get some industrial cream for her eczema and dry skin.

85Swimming lesson day today so Arthur is all ready in his swimming kit waiting to leave and having a quick play with Tori’s Polly Pocket set.

86Lots of creative Duplo play happening today – the Smalls have rediscovered the Duplo recently and it is really getting their imaginations going!

87My Mum found my old bridesmaid dress at her house and Tori played dress-up in it for a while. She looked like a proper princess – I just can’t believe she’s almost big enough it fit in it already, I was 9 when I wore it!!

88More Duplo at the end of the day, winding down after coming home from Daddy’s house.


Last Thursday (26th March), the latest instalment of Christopher Fowler’s Bryant & May series was released. The Burning Man continues the incredibly popular crime series starring John May and Arthur Bryant – a pair of brilliant but aging detectives who run the Peculiar Crimes Unit in London.

TheBurningManTo celebrate the release of The Burning Man, Christopher has joined me here on CFHW for an interview. So without further ado…

Hello Christopher!

Right, I am a complete newbie to your Bryant & May series so I’m curious about EVERYTHING! Firstly, what are your 3 favourite things about your main characters Arthur Bryant and John May?

I like the fact that their age is a passport to opening doors. I like the way they disagree all the time but find a way to agree, the way you do with your oldest friend. And I like the fact that they can get away with doing shocking things because people respect them for being ‘bad old boys’.

Hehe, yes, it’s amazing what we let our elders get away with sometimes! So what inspired you to invent the Peculiar Crimes Unit? (Assuming you invented them – I’ve not heard of the department in real life!!)

My father was a scientist who worked in an experimental wartime communications unit, very much like the PCU. He and his colleagues were very young, and were working towards a discovery that later changed the world. The full story is told in my memoir ‘Paperboy’, which he sadly didn’t live to read.

Wow, that sounds exciting – you kind of forget that departments like that really exist out of movie theatres because they’re so rarely talked about. (Probably down to them being Top Secret I expect!)

Is crime a favourite genre for you to write? I know you have written lots of different things over the years – do you have favourites or just enjoy mixing it up?

I send PRs crazy constantly changing what I write – I’m just about to have my first SF story published – so yes, you could say I love mixing it! But crime is fun because it’s problem solving, and that’s very satisfying. There’s a lovely quote from Barnes Wallis, the inventor of the bouncing bomb, who said ‘There is nothing more satisfying than showing that something is impossible, then proving how it can be done.’ That was what interested me about crime writing from an early age.

The Bryant & May books are set in London – is it a London we will recognise or has it been changed for the books?

I think there’s a lot that’s very recognisable, not just in buildings and streets but in atmosphere. London‘s pace of change accelerates but we remain Londoners, because London is a spiritual state. We don’t make London, London makes us. We’ve only been here for 5 minutes before we’re standing our ground while apologizing for being in the way. Everyone recognises that.

I am really looking forward to reading The Burning Man and I really love the front cover – is it hard deciding what to put on the front of a book? Do you have it visualised in your head when you are writing it or does someone else help you come up with the ideas?

I lucked out with illustrator David Frankland, who catches the tone exactly – I’m not a huge fan of the US covers mainly because they have less weight. I usually suggest an idea or two to David, and then get out of the way fast. He’s come up with the right image every time so far.

That’s handy! Must have been such a relief to find someone so attuned to your books.

It sounds like there are going to be a fair few fireworks in The Burning Man – what lured you into the idea of using fire as a theme?

That was because I live in a flat in King’s Cross, and every November, between Guy Fawkes Night and Diwali it seems like the entire city is playing with fire. I also thought of fire as a cleansing spirit, which is how it’s used in the book’s murders…and I’ve done a water novel; ‘The Water Room’.

Finally, just for fun, if you were going to a dinner party and could have any three fictional characters there as well, who would you choose? And what would be on the dessert menu?

I would choose Gladys Mitchell’s Mrs Brady, the most underrated female detective of them all, Lyra from ‘The Amber Spyglass’ because I like strong girls who know their minds, and Gervase Fen, the very funny lecturer/detective from Edmund Crispin’s wonderful murder mysteries. And as I don’t do dessert, we’d have the cheeseboard and a lot more wine!

I like the sound of that dessert – Thank you, Christopher!



I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of The Burning Man as soon as I read the blurb – not something that usually happens with me mid-series! But then I am a bit of a sucker for anything with fire in it…

Bryant & May and The Burning Man by Christopher Fowler

London is under siege. A banking scandal has filled the city with violent protests, and as the anger in the streets detonates, a young homeless man burns to death after being caught in the crossfire between rioters and the police.

But all is not as it seems; an opportunistic killer is using the chaos to exact revenge, but his intended victims are so mysteriously chosen that the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to find a way of stopping him.

Using their network of eccentric contacts, elderly detectives Arthur Bryant and John May hunt down a murderer who adopts incendiary methods of execution. But they soon find their investigation taking an apocalyptic turn as the case comes to involve the history of mob rule, corruption, rebellion, punishment and the legend of Guy Fawkes.

At the same time, several members of the PCU team reach dramatic turning points in their lives – but the most personal tragedy is yet to come, for as the race to bring down a cunning killer reaches its climax, Arthur Bryant faces his own devastating day of reckoning.

Many thanks to Christopher Fowler for the interview and also to Sophie at Transworld Books for inviting me to join in The Burning Man Blog Tour.

If you want to know more why not head over to Christopher’s own blog or follow him on Twitter to keep up to date.



75Well, after the weekend of driving to Cambridgeshire and back, during today’s driving lesson I got told to get my test booked. So I did. 12th of May, here I come. Erk.

76Today was sponsored by this stuff. Sometimes I wish I drank coffee.

77As a surprise for the Smalls we had booked tickets to go and see Octonauts Live. I think Tori was a bit happy with this idea ;)

78Do not be deceived – this is not pizza, it is biscuits. Peanut butter and jam pinwheel biscuits to be exact.

79Pasta for lunch today – that red pesto was spicier than I was expecting. Very nice though.

80Arthur threw a tantrum and tried to take on his chest of drawers. The chest of drawers won. (Artie is fine, was just a tiny cut that bled enthusiastically.)

81Today was Seth’s christening and it was lovely to have a catch up with some of the family we don’t see very often and to have lots of cuddles with the star of the show. Tori and Arthur were very taken with their 2nd cousin. (The red here is my Mum’s t-shirt at the back… just in case you missed it lol.)

Gumwrappers and Goggles (The Tale of a Jet) by Winifred Barnum Newman

Illustrated by: Winifred Barnum Newman

Series: N/A

Published: Gnu Sky Publishing, 2014 (Orig. 1982)

Edition: Hardback

Print Length: 51 pages

Narrated By: N/A

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Classic Fiction, Picture Book

Where Did I Get It? I kindly received a copy from the publisher in return for this review.

Blurb: Back by popular demand, TJ Luv, from the classic 1982 Gumwrappers and Goggles, flies again with the help of his friend and mentor, Amelia, The Good Air Fairy, in a beautifully updated version of this beloved tale written and illustrated by noted Artist/Author Winifred Barnum-Newman

Opening Line(s):

Tucked away in the dimly lit corner of a huge airplane hangar was a slightly plump, gray jet plane. He was smaller than the big jets, and his drab color almost camouflaged him in the dark shadows of the corner.

My Review: Ever since our copy of this lovely reprint arrived in the post I have had the niggling feeling that I read it when I was little. I couldn’t remember the story exactly but it was familiar and the characters had that ‘old friend’ sort of feeling about them. It is entirely possible, being an ’88 baby, that I did – I’m sure copies of it will have been around as I was growing up – but if I didn’t then the fact that it felt so reassuring from the get-go can only be a good thing.

Originally published in 1982 and back again now, Gumwrappers and Goggles is a brilliant book. The balance of words to pictures is just right for Tori (aged 5½ years) – she can have a good go at reading it herself with a little help or it makes a good story to sit down and share together.

I love little TJ the jet – he is a very sweet character that Tori really engaged with. His development through the story is easy and natural as Amelia the fairy encourages him to find the magic inside himself and let his confidence shine through when it matters the most.

Every page of the book is illustrated either in full colour or with black and white sketches so there is plenty to talk about when you are reading together. The characters are charming and glowing with personality – even the sunshine has its own character as he watches TJ go about his days. Little things like this bring the story to life and add an extra sparkle to the pages – you can tell the author really cares about the story and the characters in it.

With a lovely message about believing in yourself and fighting for what you love, Gumwrappers and Goggles is just as relevant and fun for kids now as it was when it first hit the shelves in 1982.

My Rating: 4/5*



Ah, zombies. Those things that, if you ask my mother, are black and white and stripey. (We think she may have got them muddled up with zebras, but shhh…)

I can’t watch zombie films or TV programmes, they give me nightmares for weeks – even Shaun of the Dead and that’s barely even a ‘real’ zombie film. I’m just lame.

Books however, I can deal with books. I actually quite enjoy zombie stories – there’s something about the disconnect of reading about zombies instead of watching them that takes them from nightmare inducing to enjoyably creepy.

The Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant is one of my favourite series about zombies – it is clever and witty and well thought through, deliciously terrifying and the characters are great. I have blogged about the books a few times before so they may well sound familiar. You should go read them, they are awesome. (Review of Feed and a post about the main character, Georgia)

I also quite enjoyed Tim Lebbon’s Coldbrook – more of a traditional horror story than the Newsflesh books and not quite as brilliant but still very much worth reading. (Review here.)

I think the reason zombies are such great ‘bad guys’ for scary stories is because they seem the most plausible out of all the undead creatures. Vampires are easy to scoff at, but with the forward movement of science and the human tendency to do things we know we shouldn’t, the idea of someone working out how to reanimate a corpse and getting it a bit wrong is entirely plausible. Or a modified-virus that renders people brainless but shuffling around in a deadly manner? Also scarily plausible. Or even something all the more gruesome – people’s hearts and/or minds being replaced with something such as clockwork, rendering them technically dead but still functioning to somebody’s orders. A great example of this at work is Liesel Schwarz’s A Clockwork Heart (Review here).

There are so many different ways you can explore the ideas behind zombie and they can be fun to play with – there are no rules for their cause, creation or overall behaviour that you ultimately HAVE to follow which means the variety of zombie stories out there is endless. There have even been zombie romance novels and adaptations of classics to involve zombies (Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is going to be a movie soon, I kid you not) – they can be great fun as well as mind-numbingly terrifying. I had a go at writing a zombie story myself a couple of years ago, too. (I published it on my blog in three parts: Part I, Part II and Part III)

So yes, zombies. Generally not black and white striped in my experience, but still awesome.


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