the-missing-girl-novel
mum life, Mum time, Reviews

Book review: The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana

I don’t think I’ve written a book review since I was at high school, and even then it was reluctantly written as part of my higher coursework. I absolutely used to love reading when I was younger, and loved nothing better than a book that got under your skin or into your heart. However I didn’t always feel like I could put into words the amount of enjoyment from any given book.

the-missing-girl-novelI’m giving it a go now, as a book hasn’t gripped me as much as Jenny Quintana’s The Missing Girl in a long, long time. Part of that might have something to do with the fact that I’ve not read at this rate in a long time either, but I digress!

The debut novel by Quintana is a mystery, unfolded by Anna Flores, sister of a missing girl. The basic premise is – without giving away any spoilers – that a pre-teen Anna dotes on her older sister Gabriella. She seems well liked in her local village, and is the most beautiful girl ever, according to her younger sister. As the title suggests, one day Gabriella goes missing, simply disappearing without a trace.

30 years later, the girls’ mother passes away, and Anna makes a return to her hometown to bury her mother and hopefully dig up some clues and solve the mystery as to what happened to her sister back in 1982. After a lot of suspicion, possibilities and theories, the mystery is finally solved at the very end.

There are quite a few things I love about this book, both in terms of the actual plot of the story and the way it was written. Quintana opted for a split chronological narrative, with chapters alternating between 1982 and 2012. This adds to the tension as you know that at some point 1982 Gabriella is going to go missing, but you don’t know the how’s and the why’s. Similarly it helps build up a better character picture, as you almost feel like you’re reliving the memories with Anna.

The other thing that I really enjoyed was how the story was completely told from the viewpoint of Anna Flores. This meant Quintana hopped between the thoughts, feelings and understandings of the situation as both an adult and a 12 year old girl. She captures the essence of a pre-pubescent girl perfectly, giving an insight as to how a young girl in the 80s perceives everything from relationships between family and friends to understanding arguments and reasoning.

Considering I’ve not been much of a reader in the past decade (I blame uni textbooks, they were enough to put anyone off), I genuinely couldn’t put this novel down. I devoured it in just 2 weeks, which when you consider I also have a demanding 4 month old baby, is some testament to the author. Completely gripping to the last page, I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a book that keeps you on your toes and guessing every possible theory.

I read the book via Kindle, as it was on a special offer at the time, but the book is also available in paperback, audiobook and hardback. For more about Jenny Quintana, you can find her on Twitter.

mum life, Parenting

Oh no, the sleep regression has started!

So I feel as though I’ve been a bit spoiled lately, compared to some other mums. Our little man was starting to sleep through the night on and off from about 8 weeks old, which was way back at the end of November.

It wasn’t every night at first, but when it started becoming more regular, there was a simultaneous relief between myself and Craig that things did in fact get easier, even with a colicky baby. As the hours of continuous evening sleep slowly seeped back into our systems, we began feeling more human again. I especially enjoyed regaining my ability to finish sentences and not break concentration/yawn in the middle of important conversations.

I don’t want to sound smug, as I know we were very lucky that the wee man started developing that routine so young. I know mums that have 8 and 9 month olds, even 2 year olds, that still don’t sleep through the night and need to wake up for a feed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all plain sailing either; the first few nights saw us both remain sleepless as we expected baby M to wake. And 99% of nights see us getting up to find a dummy 2-3 times, but believe me there’s a world of difference between semi-consciously shoving a dummy into a stirring baby’s mouth and going straight back to sleep, than being woken up twice a night for almost an hour at a time as baby cries, feeds, winds and changes.

So it’s fair to say we’ve enjoyed some sort of variation on normality for the last couple of months. Sure it’s less sleep than we got pre-child, but it’s something we’re managing well. Or at least we were until this last week. Aside from the initial shock of broken sleep in the first few weeks as a new parent, nothing else deals quite such a devastating blow than having to wake up for random and unexpected night feeds when you’re used to almost getting your 7 hours a night again.

It honestly felt like we were going back to square one again, and I felt far from thrilled about it. First it was 2am, then 4am the next night, with no warning or level of hunger or alertness to gauge. It was like being a new mum again, only dad was back at work and couldn’t catch up on his sleep the next day. Neither could mum to be honest, but that was more down to the wee one’s social calendar being fuller than a TOWIE cast members.

I’d heard about sleep regression from friends, and had read about it in the baby books and apps and countless online articles that exist to simultaneously put our minds at ease and fuel our anxiety as new parents. Basically, it’s thought that from around 4 months old, babies can develop what’s known as sleep regression, i.e. they start waking up again through the night where they may otherwise have slept through. There’s no known reason for it to happen, and is referred to as something akin to growth spurts or teething pains – unpredictable and something we just have to ride out. However with growth spurts and teething there are usually little tried and tested methods to fix it, such as upping the volume of milk/food for baby or offering a form of pain relief. But there’s no such magical cure for sleep regression.

So I guess I’ll continue to function on little sleep for now, whilst rambling along and not making any sense by the time I reach the end of my blog post…

mum life, Mum's finds

A Thortful Valentine’s Day

When it comes to Valentine’s day, or any occasion in fact, I love giving a good card. Whether it be punny, sentimental or an in-joke, I like to give a card with meaning to it.

This is why I love online card sites which offer the chance to personalise cards, and can usually offer something better than the average high street store. When I was looking for a Valentine’s card this year for my other half, I came across the site Thortful. Friends had used it before and raved about it, so I decided to give their selection a try.

Self-proclaimed home of up and coming creatives, Thortful is different from your average card website as it contains collections from independent artists, businesses and general creatives. I’m all for supporting individual talent and creativity, and like to know that I’m getting something a bit more individual, with more heart in it than mass produced, samey rubbish from supermarkets and the like.

There are loads of collections on Thortful for pretty much any occasion, and I immediately came across a range I knew my other half would love. I would show you it, but it’s not Valentine’s day yet and I don’t want to ruin the surprise! Here’s a picture of the sturdy (and not so love-like) grey envelope though. The card I chose was by JG Artwork, run by mother and entrepreneur Jodie Gaul.

Another great positive about this site is that the card I ordered arrived literally the next day via Royal Mail, when had only purchased the card in the middle of the afternoon. Automatic next day delivery is ideal for me as I can’t always usually guarantee that I’ll be able to get out to get a card, or even remember a birthday until the last minute thanks to baby brain!

If you’re now intrigued by Thortful, why not have a look for yourself? If you buy anything via this link, you’ll also get 30% off. It’s worth mentioning that this isn’t a sponsored post, and I don’t receive my commission for this. It’s merely an incentive offered to all customers after purchase. Friends can get 30% off via a certain link, whilst the customer gets a discount on their next order. It’s handy, because I for one will definitely be going back to them for another card in the near future!

Baby M's firsts, Mother and Baby classes

January Roundup: So Many Firsts!

So starting the year we didn’t really have any resolutions in our household, but we did anticipate an exciting year of firsts ahead. With baby M only a couple of months old at the turn of the year, we knew we had loads of new and exciting things to expect in 2018.

It’s only the beginning of February, and already he has accomplished (not sure that’s the right word. Learned probably?) so much in the past month. From first tastes to first rolls, here’s how our January went:

First food
I know all the guidelines say not to wean your child until at least 4 months, with the official government line being 6 months and not a minute before. However I’m pretty sure the government officials deciding that didn’t have a 17lb, 3 month old baby who was gubbing 40oz of milk a day with his belly physically rumbling at every feed. And that was him on hungry baby milk! So around 15 weeks we started introducing first tastes – fruit purees and spoonfuls of baby rice here and there. It’s been a fun and mixed journey (more poo chat for another day!) but it’s safe to say he’s been far more content and satisfied since he’s started the slow and steady journey to solids.

First massage
Baby massage was always something I was keen to sign baby M up for, as I’d heard that it’s meant to work wonders for colicky babies. Unfortunately, I was unable to book onto the free massage block at the local library (if you’re not fast you’re very much last in these situations!) but I didn’t let that deter me. So I went in search of some other classes around the area, and came across Teddy’s Baby Massage, which was advertised in my local Costa. After speaking to Michelle who runs the classes, we were able to secure the last spot in the Helensburgh block for January. Our first class was on 10th January and we haven’t looked back since. I’ll be sad when these classes come to an end next week, but with a handy massage guide and plenty of oil, the wee man will feel the benefit long after thanks to plenty of home massages.

First hartbeeps
I’ve already written about Hartbeeps, the baby play and development classes, and it’s something that the wee fella absolutely loves. With songs, nursery rhymes, toys and dress up, it keeps him totally entertained and stimulated for the full hour so he’s ready for a much needed rest afterwards! I’m looking forward to Baby M progressing through other Hartbeeps classes, Baby Beeps and Happy House, as he grows.

First yoga
We ran into the same issue with the local, free, Baby yoga classes as we did with massage – block of classes were fully booked on the day they went online for registration. In this instance, I decided to add our names to the waiting list, to see if anything would come of it. I wasn’t as fussed about yoga as I was for massage, though I’d heard there were some great benefits for development of bones and motor skills, as well as moves that would help ease the dreaded wind pains. Luckily, we got a notification near the end of the month to say that there was now a space for us. We missed the first half of the block but still had our first class in January with one more left to go. Since we started, I noticed a great difference in the wee man’s movements and am pretty convinced that baby yoga helped us achieve the next first!

First roll
Ok so it happened just last week on the 31st, but that’s still January! We were at our weekly baby massage class when the wee surprise occurred. It was time for the back massage section of the class, which usually pains Baby M as he hates tummy time if it lasts any longer than 20 seconds. However, much to my delight, he seemed quite happy on his tummy. No screams, no rigid body. And then it happened. He just rolled right back over onto his back. Convinced it was a fluke, I tried not to make a big deal out of it, and carefully placed the little wriggler back on his tummy. As I attempted to continue the back massage he did it again! So far he’s refused to do it when any of his family are watching, and if he’s on his back he can only get as far as rolling onto his side before he gets stuck, but we’re getting there!

First bookbug
Bookbug is yet another local, free service in the area for which spaces are like gold dust. As you can imagine, this early bird was not early enough and so didn’t quite catch the worm. Though yet again, a few weeks into the current block, we were notified to say that we were top of the waiting list and a space had opened up. Bookbug is exactly as the name suggests, a class that encourages your little ones to become book bugs. As far as I know it seems to be a government initiative, with sessions held at libraries up and down the country. For 45 minutes nursery rhymes are sung, babies and toddlers play games and of course sit down for some story time. It turns out the wee man’s big cousin, who’s just turned one, is also at the same bookbug class, so there’s a familiar face for mum and baby!

I can’t believe we’ve accomplished so many firsts in January, it means I’ll need to reevaluate the “firsts list” for the rest of the year already!