Playgroups and Prosecco by Jo Middleton

ppPlaygroups and Prosecco: The (mis)adventures of a single mum by Jo Middleton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

January 3rd 
Jaffa Cakes – 7. Times I was forced to watch a small child do a dance involving a dusty piece of ribbon found under the sofa – 4. Inappropriate thoughts about Zac Efron – undisclosed. 

Single mum Frankie’s whole life revolves around her kids. But when your toddler has a more active social life, something has to change. Forget ‘me-time’, Frankie would settle for some adult conversation, and watching something other than the Disney channel.

The local playgroup may be ruled by Instagram mums with perfect husbands but Frankie accidentally forms a splinter group of single parents. After all, Mummy really needs a playdate of her own. (Now pass the prosecco.)

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Playgroups and Prosecco is one of the best mum books I’ve read, it had me absolutely howling with laughter at the relatable toddler behaviour and playgroup mafia wars.

It isn’t an aspirational parenting book, but Frankie’s way of mumming through life was just so accurate to what is a lot of mum’s reality. We are all doing our best, and sometimes we’re a bit rubbish but we try! The book was extremely funny in a very natural way. Some of these types of books exaggerate somewhat to the point of spoiling the joke, but Jo Middleton just tells it as it is and recognises that kids acting like normal kids are far funnier than any amount of made up over the top stories.

As well as a lot of relatable mum stories, I really enjoyed Frankie’s progression throughout the book with her friendships and work life. It was fantastic to read a book where the focus wasn’t on her love life and finding a man to save her from single mum life. Frankie’s Tinder experiences were funny because they were framed around Frankie’s obvious contentment to live alone with her girls. Focusing on making friends and finding a fulfilling and yet flexible working life was a far more positive, uplifting plot and I really love that this shift away from always having to put a romantic relationship at the centre of women’s fiction is happening.

This is the perfect book to curl up and read with a glass of wine having just had the bedtime struggle with the kids. I sped through the pages and truly felt like I was one of Frankie’s friends.

The Mummy Lessons by Helen Wallen

mummyThe Mummy Lessons: The laugh-out-loud novel for all exhausted parents and parents-to-be by Helen Wallen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After a tough pregnancy, Emily is determined to tackle motherhood like a pro. But she quickly learns that Insta-Perfect-Parenting (and sleep) is hard to come by, no matter how much money you spend in Mothercare.

Irritatingly, her friend Molly seems to be breezing it. But with a business venture as well as a baby, is she taking on too much?

Liz looks as though she might have it all worked out. But when a tragedy derails her new relationship, she has some serious decisions to make.

Celebrating female friendship, the highs and lows of motherhood, and the lifesaving power of a jumperoo, THE MUMMY LESSONS follows a year of highs and lows for Emily, Molly and Liz as they learn the hardest lesson of all: life doesn’t always follow the rules . . .

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

I thoroughly enjoyed Helen Wallen’s first novel, “Baby Boom” so I was really keen to get stuck into book 2, “The Mummy Lesson’s” and find out what Emily, Molly and Liz were up to.

From the first page it felt like I was catching up with old friends and I sped through the pages getting lost in Emily and Molly’s mummy journeys. Everything I enjoyed from the first book was present in this sequel, the warm natural friendships between the women, the honesty about what it’s like to be a mother and the hilarity of the Whatsapp chats, but with an added dramatic storyline for Liz which kept me firmly on the edge of my seat terrified that Gerard and Liz might come to an end (Team Giz forever!)

I enjoyed the character development between books for Emily and Molly. Becoming a mother changes you in ways that are deeply personal and individual and it was so good to see each woman handle her new role in her own way. Equally, it was nice to see that when all three friends met up their friendships were exactly the same and none of them were left out.

As well as the realistic parenting parts of the book, the dramatic storyline added real tension to the plot. Liz is the character I relate to the least and I felt like we got a bit more of her in this book. She became a bit more vulnerable which was really interesting to read. I can’t help but feel like Liz’s story wasn’t completely resolved though, which has left me really hoping that book 3 is in the works!

I really recommend Helen Wallen’s books to anyone who enjoys a fun, hilarious contemporary page-turner. You don’t have to be a parent to enjoy these books, there’s plenty of plot and character for everyone to enjoy them. If you are a parent though you’ll laugh at the sheer accuracy of some of the descriptions in these books.

Baby Boom! by Helen Wallen

Baby Boom! by Helen Wallen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recieved an e-ARC of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

As the mother of an almost 14 month old toddler I am familiar with the mummy blogger tribes that fill instagram feeds with honest pictures, witty captions and links to hilarious blog posts. In fact, some of these bloggers helped me through some of the lonelier days of my year long maternity leave so when I saw that Helen Wallen of “Just a Normal Mummy” had turned her hand to fiction I couldn’t wait to get reading.

“Baby Boom!” is written in the same warm, inclusive, yet honest tone of the blog. It’s not a book interested in choosing sides when it comes to the best way of parenting, or even handling pregnancy and for that reason it was a refreshing read. Following three best friends in their late twenties/early thirties, two of whom become pregnant in very different situations, the book explores the highs and lows of pregnancy, relationships and motherhood.

For me, one of the nicest parts of this book was the friendship between Emily, Liz and Molly which was portrayed in the most natural and real way. Their Whatsapp conversations were hilarious to read and really made me feel as if I were a part of their friendship. Most strikingly though was the fact that at no point did the book become about them falling out. Before reading this book I didn’t realise how big a feature of women’s literature best friends having arguments is. Of course friends do argue, but in this instance it was just nice to have three women, in very different situations supporting each other in the best way they could above all else.

The only part of this book I didn’t love was the poetry at the beginning of each chapter which I find a bit twee. This type of poetry isn’t to my taste and I felt like they were a bit unneccesary to the book. However, I know a lot of “Just a Normal Mummy’s” followers enjoy her poetry within her blog so I understand why it has been included.

I wish I’d had this book to read on maternity leave, in that stretch of time before you have your first baby when you finish work and have nothing to do but wait for your baby to be born. That time when you only really want to be occupied by baby related things but also need to stop thinking about your impending labour before you go mad. It’s the perfect escapism and I will be buying a copy for any pregnant friends in future to enjoy.

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